Toronto, Canada’s largest city and capital of Ontario, offers a beautiful multicultural mix and a vibrant economic, tourist, cultural and gastronomic life. Bordered by Lake Ontario to the south, it attracts many visitors every year for a good reason: it’s a rich and attractive city where there’s no shortage of activities and discoveries. In some quarters, it even reminds me of New York!

If the hour-long drive to admire the more-than-famous Niagara Falls turns you off, and you want to make the most of your time there, I suggest you enjoy the city without wasting too much time in transport with my 5 activities close to Toronto, no more than half an hour away!

1. Explore downtown Toronto

Less than 30 minutes away by car, there’s already downtown to discover, and there’s no shortage of possibilities. You can try the iconic CN Tower and its panoramic view of the city, stroll along Toronto’s waterfront, or marvel at the specimens of local and exotic wildlife across several themes at Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada (288 Bremner Boulevard Toronto, Ontario M5V 3L9 open 9:00 to 23:00).

On the cultural side, I recommend a visit to the Royal Ontario Museum, where you can’t miss the Tyrannosaurus skeleton, ancient Egyptian relics, Native American artifacts and much more! Open daily from 10:00 to 17:30 except Mondays, located at 100 Queens Park, Toronto, ON M5S 2C6, Canada.

The Art Gallery of Ontario is not lacking in interest either, both for its building, whose extension was designed by Toronto-born architect Frank O. Gehry, and for its collections: master paintings and sculptures (Rodin, Rembrandt, Picasso…), a major Henry Moore collection and African art are among the highlights. Located at 317 Dundas St W, Toronto, ON M5T 1G4, Canada, opening hours vary from day to day, so check their website.

Why not round off the day with a show at Roy Thomson Hall?

Toronto by night

2. Stroll through the Distillery District

Toronto’s historic district, famous for its renovated industrial buildings housing art galleries as well as boutiques, restaurants and bars, the Distillery District attracts travelers in search of calm and authenticity (I already told you about it in this article). Like an interlude in the city, you can contemplate the picturesque architecture, savor afternoon sweets, enjoy tasty meals, have a drink and soak up the lively, bustling atmosphere.

I suggest you visit it with a guide, who will be sure to take you on a journey through the history of the district, with anecdotes and highlights. It’s a truly unforgettable experience.

The address is 55 Mill St, Toronto, ON M5A 3C4, Canada.

3. Visit Darlington Provincial Park

Are you an outdoor enthusiast who loves the great outdoors? I invite you to discover Darlington Provincial Park, located east of Toronto at 1600 Darlington Park Rd, Bowmanville, ON L1C 3K3, Canada.

Not far from downtown, Darlington Provincial Park is a hub of nature activities. You can hike, bike, canoe, fish, swim or simply relax on the sandy beaches.

In winter, you can go snowshoeing, cross-country skiing or hiking. From May to October, you can also camp here. A night in a tent on the shores of Lake Ontario, all within easy reach of the city – tempting, isn’t it?

4. Take a trip to Toronto Islands Park

Here’s an outing not to be missed during your stay in Toronto. While the city is bustling with activity, nearby you’ll find a vast park dedicated to relaxing and enjoying the great outdoors.

Start your trip by taking the ferry from the Jack Layton Ferry Terminal, 9 Queens Quay W. There are 3 possible destinations (east, center and west) via ferry, on the archipelago of 15 small islands that make up the complex: Centre Island, Hanlan’s Point, Ward’s Islands.

Sports activities such as cycling, paddle-boarding, volleyball, mini-golf and kayaking are available, as are an amusement park and a small farm for the little ones. When it comes to discovering the city, try the city panorama for great photos of Toronto’s skyline, or take a stroll along a long stretch of beach.

When it comes to eating out, there are a number of establishments dotted around the archipelago: cafés, bars and pizzerias where you can satiate yourself or enjoy a drink, unless you’d prefer to use one of the barbecues provided for visitors. In the latter case, you’ll need to come early if you want to make use of one, and don’t forget your own charcoal – it’s not provided!

The archipelago offers a breath of fresh air from the hustle and bustle of the city, yet is still very close by, so in my opinion it’s a place to visit without fail.

5. Travel through rare books

If you’re a lover of history, heritage and culture, you’ve got a great address close to the Royal Museum. Since the 1970s, the Thomas Fisher Library has been housing rare, precious and antique books and manuscripts in a remarkable building. You’ll find it on rue St-Georges, at the corner of rue Harbord. It’s located at 120 St George St, Toronto, ON M5S 1A5, Canada, and is open every day except weekends, from 9:00 to 17:00.

Among the many documents housed here (740,000 in all) are a 4000-year-old Babylonian tablet, drafts and manuscripts by contemporary Canadian authors, works attributed to Gutenberg’s printing press and works decorated with woodcuts. The library is attached to the university and is open to the general public. Check the opening hours on the library’s website to make sure it’s open when you visit.

Toronto, the big city between skyscrapers and nature

I hope this short selection of activities close to Toronto will help you prepare an unforgettable trip to the Canadian metropolis.

As I’ve shown in this article, you can choose from a variety of places and themes to enjoy what the city has to offer: thanks to its privileged location and geography, its history, and its importance, you have a wide range of possibilities including sports activities, nature outings, family fun, gourmet strolls, architectural discoveries, striking viewpoints, delving into history and historical and artistic visits.

There’s sure to be something for everyone to take away with them after their stay in Toronto.

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