36 Hours in Toronto: A Toronto Itinerary
Believe me, I've spent more than 36 hours in Toronto in my life. In fact, I've spent more of my time on this earth in the city of Toronto than anywhere else, so I suppose it's about time I put together a solid post on it.
Since I've been back in Canada (August 2017), I've been rediscovering what makes this country special to me. Believe me, I've been writing about it a fair bit. I quite literally just had an article come out for Northeastern Ontario days ago talking about that aforementioned rediscovery.
It occured to me that it was about time I had a full fledged post on my site about Toronto, which is where I'm from and where I grew up, after all. However, I didn't want to be boring and write a generic post, so to spice it up a bit, we're going with the header, "36 Hours in Toronto: A Toronto Itinerary." And to make it even spicier, I'm going to curate the list, not just write it.
Basically, I've tapped a whole bunch of my friends in travel on the shoulder to talk about what's the one thing they would do if they had a limited time in Toronto. What results is a slew of personal recommendations that you can use to build out your own itinerary when you visit my home city.
NOTE: This post may contain some affiliate links. That means, simply, that I may get commissions from some of my recommendations. That being said, my opinions are fully my own.
36 Hours in Toronto
As I mentioned above, I tapped some of my friends in travel on the shoulder, and asked what they would do if they had limited time in Toronto. I talked to a range of people with a range of interests, so I'd like to think this post will have something for everybody. In my humble opinion, we've got adventurous things to do in Toronto, family things to do in Toronto, romantic things to do in Toronto, unique things to do in Toronto, and much, much more.
I also thought that since I'm actually from Toronto, it'd be a blast to curate a list from folks in the industry rather than write a post myself. Needless to say, I'll be writing more about Toronto in the future, but I thought that, for this post, it'd be fun to hear what others had to say and bring it to you, my reader.
Before we do, I just wanted to ever so quickly touch upon what everybody always seems to ask me before they arrive.
If you like this content, you'll love "The Ultimate Ottawa Weekend: An Ottawa Itinerary"
Where to Stay in Toronto
In my humble opinion, thinking about where to stay in Toronto or places to stay in Toronto just isn't as complex as most other cities. Toronto as it stands tends to have a fairly large downtown core, and as long as you're within it, you're more than fine.
I would, however, recommend that you do stay centrally though, as public transit is sorely lacking in Toronto (at least for the time being.) For example, one of my favourite areas in the city is Leslieville, but unless you love Uber or taking the streetcar, it's not necessarily going to be an ideal vantage point.
That being said, I can't very well offer you nothing. If I were you, I would indeed aim to stay "downtown." What I want to do is, at the very least, clarify what downtown constitutes. Basically, it's the area east of Spadina Avenue and west of Jarvis Street. Then I'd say its roughly the area running from the lake to around Bloor Street or a little north. If I were visiting my first time, I'd stay roughly within those boundaries, but make note of worthwhile neighbourhoods like Leslieville, Little Italy, Riverside, and so on for another time.
You can use this pre-set search box below to find then best places to stay in Toronto within the downtown region.
What to Pack for Toronto
What you pack for Toronto is going to be very season dependent, but I’m going to make a short list of a few things that if I was visiting Toronto, I’d like to have with me. Naturally, you should still pack your clothes, but think about throwing a few of these items in your preferred luggage.
Fodor’s Toronto: with Niagara Falls & the Niagara Wine Region: The below list, ideally, will be a big help, but it doesn’t hurt to have a guide with some extra detail specifically about Niagara Falls, which really isn’t all that far away.
A trendy day pack: Toronto is one of those cities that isn’t terribly easy to get around in and, in light of that, it makes sense to have a sizeable and stylish day pack that you can bring out with you. The idea is that you could pack this baby in the morning, head out on the town, and use it store and souvenirs. It’d be nice to have for after Toronto, as well!
A Toronto Blue Jays hat: If you’re coming to Toronto, you should make a trip to the Skydome (now, unfortunately, the “Rogers Centre), and if you’re going to see the Jays, you should be rocking the gear. There’s no point buying at hat at the Skydome for ten times the price, nab yourself one before you take off.
The absolute best Toronto business socks: You want to know how much I love these socks? I got married in a pair of them. They’re downright fun to wear, and they’d be even more fun to wear on your trip to Toronto, or to serve as a memento later on. You’ve got to see them to believe them, and I always tend to be a fan of things like that.
An Auston Matthews Toronto Maple Leafs jersey: He may as well be the mayor of Toronto, and if you’re rocking the jersey, especially as a tourist, you can pretty much grant yourself instant legend status.
What to Do with 36 Hours in Toronto
I tapped my friends on travel on the shoulder, and this is what they said you just couldn't miss! The idea is that you can look through the list and see what suits you, and build out your own Toronto itinerary based on their advice.
Obviously, you won't be able to do it all in 36 hours, but you can look at the list and see what you feel you need to accomplish with limited time in Toronto! While it might look like a lot, some of these sites (the Toronto sign, for example) aren't all that time consuming, so I'd love to know how many you're able to knock off the list!
If you remember, I'd love to hear in the comments about how you used this Toronto itinerary to create your own, and what you were able to accomplish with 36 hours in Toronto. If anyone is actually able to complete all of this I will most certainly bow my head. At the very least, this gives you something to aim for, and it wouldn't shock me if you were able to take out 65% of this list without too much difficulty simply based on geography. It's that elusive 35% where the challenge comes in (Canada's Wonderland, for one!)
Also, if you’re on a road trip, here are a few tips on driving from Ontario to Quebec.
Stefan from The Nomadic Boys says:
The CN Tower is one of the most iconic buildings in Toronto and one of the places we’d include in our 3 days’ itinerary here. It is one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World, and when adding in the height of its antenna on top, it's the tallest freestanding structure in the western hemisphere, standing proud at 553m/1,815ft. It was built in the 1960s by the Canadian National Railway (CN) because they wanted a communications tower tall enough so that any radio or TV communications from it would not be obstructed by the many other high-rise buildings in the city.
As well as being able to visit the tower for the best views across the city, it also has a revolving restaurant to dine at. We had one of our favorite romantic meals here at the tower's “360 Restaurant”. The food is delicious, with a mix of fresh sea food, steaks and other local classics. Definitely one for a special occasion.
Thais from World Trip Diaries says:
When in Toronto, a visit to Casa Loma is a must! It's a (huge) house - now a museum - that is stunning, incredibly well kept, and just too cool! The audio guides are lent to all visitors who wish to have them, and they are funny and highly informative.
You can eat there, have a coffee, and walk around the gardens. You can also visit the garage, and see the vintage cars which were collected, and see a few rooms decorated as they used to be. There's even an Escape game there for those wishing for something different.
We loved roaming around the house, between rooms, underground passages, toilets, hallways, and the towers, of course. It could be dark and a bit creepy at times, but it's just fun!
The views of Toronto from the towers are unbelievable - and as a bonus, you get to have CN Tower in the photo. Don't miss it, it's fun for everyone!
The Distillery District
Chris from Amateur Traveler says:
The Distillery District in Toronto is a complex of old brick distillery buildings that has been redesigned into a pedestrian only dining and shopping complex. The buildings used to be owned by Gooderham and Worts which was at one time the largest Canadian distiller. Restaurants at the complex run the gamut from fine dining to coffee shops, bakeries, sweets and, of course, brew pubs. The shops are more boutique and unique. Don’t expect to find chain stores here.
Photographers will love the old equipment that is still in some of the buildings and the modern art sculpture version of a giant still in the courtyard. The area is also the home of the Young Centre for the Performing Arts and the Soulpepper Theatre Company . From mid-November to Christmas the Distillery District hosts the Toronto Christmas Market. Walking and Segway tours are available as are beer based tours which seem even more relevant.
Faith from XYU and Beyond says:
Kensington Market is not so much a market but a collection of funky, diverse independent shops, restaurants, cafes and out of the ordinary experiences. Located in the heart of Toronto, Kensington Market is a vibrant eclectic area that both Canadians and tourists flock to.
At the Market, you can enjoy vintage shopping in Toronto's favourite store, which has been around for decades now Courage my Love. Head over to Mercanti Pizza where you can get your pizza high on what has been voted the Best Pizza in Toronto.
Around every turn in the area, you will find a superb coffee shop or cafe where you can sit outside and enjoy some great people watching. Yes, you will be offered some pot it's that kind of place but a simple no thanks will do.
Check out the international shops where you can pick up ingredients you have never heard of from Malaysian to South America you will find it all here.
Taste and sample your way around the world with an array of fine gourmet shops selling everything from cheeses to jams. Kensington Market has been a foodie paradise for a long time now and it's here where you can taste some of the best Toronto has to offer.
Last but not least, have some of Canada's favourite food - bacon, at Bacon Nation.
Attending a Blue Jays Game
Nicole from Travelgal Nicole says:
As a big sports fan I like to go to baseball games when I visit other cities and Toronto was no exception. The Blue Jays play at the Rogers Centre which is right down town near the CN Tower and within easy walking distance of most hotels. The venue has the first retractable motorised roof for a stadium which is great when dealing with the weather.
Even if you don’t know the rules of baseball you can still enjoy the game. I am not a Blue Jays fan I enjoyed going to the game and watching them play against the Yankees.
Plus you get to eat hot dogs and sing ‘Take me out to the ball game’ and even have a chance to win free tshirts at the game. There is always something going on between the music or the mascot which makes the game a lot of fun to attend.
If you like sports, you'll also like Medieval Times Toronto: Family Fun in Toronto for All!
The Toronto Islands
Pari from Traveling Pari says:
If you're visiting Toronto even for a couple of days in the summer, go see the Toronto Islands. What makes these islands a must-see in Toronto? Miles and miles of beaches... There are about 5 beaches on the Islands, even a clothing optional one!
If you prefer not to just laze around on the beach all day, then explore the island at your own pace by renting a bike. There's a bike rental place near the Centre Island beach that also has four seater option. Stop over at the supposedly haunted lighthouse, view airplanes take off and land at the Billy Bishop airport or just enjoy the skyline of Toronto from the many view points around the island.
You can also explore the shores of the island by renting a boat or canoe. If you are visiting with kids, visit Centreville - the amusement park with a miniature railway and carousel. All in all Toronto Islands promise you a peaceful and relaxing day.
Christopher Rudder from Rudderless said:
I eat, sleep and breathe Toronto.
The blood in my veins bleeds blue and red, as in Toronto Maple Leafs, Toronto Argonauts, Toronto Raptors and Toronto FC. (Football, Hockey, Basket-Ball & Soccer, respectively). In fact, nothing filled my heart with pride more than when I finally completed my long awaited 48 Hour Toronto Itinerary.
All that being said, if we’re going to talk about blood, bleeding and hearts, then we have to talk about the heart of Toronto, Yonge-Dundas Square.
Yonge-Dundas Square is Toronto’s equivalent (for lack of a better word) of New York City’s Times Square (just smaller). This bustling, vibrant, open and eccentric square is home to concerts, events, food fairs, celebrations and protests. Yonge-Dundas Square’s myriad of LCD displays brings a one-of-a-kind luminescence to Toronto and capture’s the city’s animated downtown vibe.
The Toronto 3D Sign
Neha from Travel Melodies said:
With LA holding its ‘HOLLYWOOD’ sign, it was TORONTO’s turn to sparkle with its own.
The 3D sign with city name written in capital letters built for Pan American games in 2015, was left standing owing to its immense popularity amongst tourists. It’s almost like a ritual when visiting the city, to get a picture clicked at this colorful Toronto sign flanked by the beautiful water fountain.
During winter, this sign adorns the magical backdrop for the public ice skating rink. Sometimes it's funny to watch people climbing up the letters or scooting inside the letter O to get a masterpiece click. Located in the heart of the city at Nathan Philip Square, this 3D sign is illuminated by LED lights controlled by wi-fi making millions of color combinations. Whatever time of day or year you visit, the symbol will give you special memories to behold for this Cosmopolitan city of the world. "
Stephanie from The World As I See It says:
One of the best places to visit in Toronto, especially for nature lovers, is High Park. Covering 400 acres, from Bloor Street down to The Queensway, High Park is a green oasis in the heart of downtown. As Toronto’s largest park it has a wealth of things to do. You can enjoy everything from a relaxing picnic to hiking the trails or taking in the gardens, a stop at the Black Oak Café to refuel or test your luck at the labyrinth, a visit to High Park will not disappoint.
Most don’t realize that High Park is home to some incredibly rare plant species. It’s also home to an array of wildlife, from birds to reptiles and amphibians. If you’d like to learn more they offer free walking tours on the first and third Sundays of the month. And if you’re visiting Toronto in the spring, a visit to High Park is a must to take in the beautiful cherry blossom trees.
Mark from Staycation Philippines says:
Canada's Wonderland is one of the largest theme parks in Canada. You'll never run out of things to do here. It has a ton of attractions for the young and young-at-heart. Kids will enjoy the usual carousel rides and bumper cars. At scheduled times, you can watch high divers doing acrobatic moves as they fall from the 60ft waterfalls of Wonder Mountain. For the thrill seekers, you should ride the Behemoth and Leviathan, which are the fastest and tallest in Canada.
If you love playing with water, head on to Splash Works where you can ride over and over again different kinds of slides. The most terrifying is the trap door waterslide plunge called Muskoka Plunge. If you’re going to try the Muskoka Plunge, please make sure your swim suit or board shorts doesn’t have the tiniest bit of metal on it or you won’t be able to ride. They are very strict on this. They would literally inspect you from head to toe and make you turn around while looking for metal buttons, holes, accessories etc.
Tip: Buy your ticket a few months in advance to get a big discount. If you think you’ll be going there more than once, it is cheaper to avail of the Season Pass.
Vicky from Buddy the Traveling Monkey said:
One of the most unique areas we found during our weekend in Toronto was Sugar Beach. This “urban beach” provides locals with great views of Lake Ontario and gets its name from the Redpath Sugar Refinery which it sits across from. Not surprisingly, we heard that the beach is very popular during the summer and a fun place to hang out. It’s centrally located between Toronto’s Entertainment District and the Distillery Historic District.
We visited Toronto during the winter time, so there weren’t any other people on the beach when we passed by it. But, we still enjoyed walking around and sitting on the Adirondack chairs. Going during the winter also allowed us to get this awesome shot of the beach covered in snow!
Edgewalk CN Tower
Janine from Fill My Passport said:
You have not LIVED until you have ventured up the CN tower to experience the Edgewalk. Not for the faint at heart, or those with a fear of heights, the Edgewalk brings an adrenaline-pumping alternative experience to adventure-seekers looking for that ultimate thrill.
Ascend to the main observatory deck and take in around an hour of safety procedures with combined gear fitting. Trust me. Although the process seems lengthy, it will give you that peace of mind while outside attached to that thick and somewhat unnerving cable….eek!
After the safety and gearing up time, you are then escorted outside to the edge for your nerve-racking walk to begin... When I set foot outside, I felt the butterflies flutter throughout my bones as I peered out on Toronto’s horizon. Although nervous and shaking, I was happy to be there and to see my city from this vantage point!
Instructors will take you on your short walk along the edge while demonstrating tame tricks to attempt if you have the guts. Some of the tricks included having your toes over the edge or leaning backwards in full trust of the safety cable. whoa! And no – you cannot attempt the tricks Rick Mercer did! (some tried…)
After the experience you will leave shaking, high on energy, and with a souvenir DVD and photograph to remember your time and for serious bragging rights.
If you are in Toronto even for a short trip and have a bit of wiggle room in your budget for the $350 price tag, this CN tower excursion is definitely one not to miss. Although it was one of the scariest moments in my life, I am proud to have done it and to recommend it to travellers to my home city.
The Scarborough Bluffs
Liliane from My Toronto My World said:
The Scarborough Bluffs can be found in the east end of Toronto. It's a stunning piece of nature and until you've seen it in person it's hard to believe it's part of Toronto. There's a couple of different elements involved here including water, beaches, parks and cliffs. The Bluffs encompasses 9 different parks.
The most visited one is Bluffers Park where the biggest draw is of course the beach that gives you direct access to Lake Ontario. But if BBQ, sunbathing and swimming aren't actually your thing then you're probably here for the cliffs. And boy do the cliffs not disappoint. From Bluffers Park you can see straight up to the cliffs. If you walk out towards the man made little islands you've got more privacy and the best views of the cliffs.
If you're looking to get the aerial view of the Bluffs (which you're most likely going to see all over instagram) the park you're looking for is Scarboro Crescent Park. There's pretty severe fees associated with jumping the fence (like $5000) but what don't people do for that instagram shot? While I love the above shot, it's hard to argue with a great sunset view from the bottom of the cliffs and it's why the Scarborough Bluffs is a must do in Toronto. Plus it's got the benefit of being absolutely free!
Lisa and Eric from Penguin and Pia said:
If you’re in Toronto for three days, you might want to escape the hustle and bustle of downtown for a couple hours! For a peaceful walk and a sandy beach, hop on the 501 streetcar and head east to “The Beaches”. Located in the East End of Toronto, this neighbourhood has a lot to offer. Not only can you literally find a beach here (perfect if you want to enjoy the sun and swim in the summer) but there are also lots of cafes, restaurants, and water activities for you to try out.
One of our favourite parts of the Beaches is to walk along the boardwalk or to listen to the sounds of the waves while relaxing in some of the popular “Muskoka” chairs that you’ll find in the sand. If you head further into Ashbridges Bay Park - close to Woodbine Beach - you might even find a few hidden spots where you can enjoy the lakefront all by yourself. Oh, and don’t forget to check out the historic Leuty Lifeguard Station that calls the Beaches home!
Danielle from The Thought Card said:
On a bright and sunny day, head over to the Toronto Harbourfront Centre and grab a flavorful craft beer at Amsterdam BrewHouse (on the lake). All of Amsterdam’s brews are made with all natural ingredients and no preservatives.
Inspired by Amsterdam's biking culture in the Netherlands, this 14,000 square foot brewery boasts a brewery, eatery and retail store right on the shores of Lake Ontario. From the patio, wave at the small sailboats and kayakers or admire the glistening water.
Want to learn more about the beer making process at Amsterdam BrewHouse? Book a free tour with one of the brewmasters where you'll get to sample beers that haven’t been released yet. Lastly, check out the menu which conveniently suggests beers that pair well with each savory dish!
Ashley from A Southern Gypsy said:
Street art is one of my favorite things about exploring a new city! Lucky for me and other street art lovers, Toronto has no shortage. You'll find murals all over the entire city without even searching for it but the real sweet spot is Graffiti Alley.
Graffiti Alley starts at 1 Rush Lane and runs west from Spadina Avenue to Portland Street - about one kilometer long! The art is ever-changing, very diverse and you’ll find everything from amateur graffiti tags to very intricate murals.
I had a local friend take me and she was saying some of the pieces that were there just a couple weeks ago were already covered with something new which is both sad and kind of exciting because you’ll always be surprised no matter how many times you visit. This is such a unique not-to-miss spot in Toronto and you'll be struggling to pick a favorite mural by the time you walk the entire alley.
Getting Around Toronto While Completing Your Toronto Itinerary
I personally bike around Toronto a fair bit, but it’s not necessarily for the faint of heart. Public transit can do the trick while you’re here, but if you’re looking to cover serious ground (say, for example, a trip to Niagara Falls), then it may be worth considering renting a car in Toronto. Just be sure to remember that traffic can be heavy during rush hour, but if you’ve got an open schedule, then driving around Toronto and the surrounding area is a good bet.
Wrapping Up a Seriously Good Looking Toronto Itinerary
Firstly, thanks to everyone for their submissions, I think we came up with a great little list here. As I mentioned above, I'm fairly certain that no human could complete all this with 36 hours in Toronto, but the idea was to construct a list that enable people to construct their ideal 36 hours i Toronto based on the experience of others.
Blogging stopped being about storytelling a long time ago for me, and started being about providing value to my readers, so I hope this collaboration from many of my friends in the industry provided just that.
If you're looking for more to do in Toronto, check out my friend's 48 Hour Toronto Itinerary!
Toronto is indeed my hometown, so if you've got any questions hit me up in the comments and I'll be sure to get back to you! Also, let me know if there's anything you'd add to the itinerary or what your thoughts on Toronto at large are. I'd love to hear them!
Pinners are winners. Don't forget to pin-it!