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Toronto's largest museum and art gallery have both enlisted well-known architects for major renovations: a Royal Ontario Museum extension by Daniel Libeskind and an Art Gallery of Ontario expansion by Frank Gehry, who grew up in the surrounding neighbourhood. But Toronto is also home to a number of excellent smaller museums, focusing on subjects as diverse as ceramics, shoes, and hockey.
If you're planning to visit many of the major sites, it may make sense to buy a CityPass. It offers admission to the Royal Ontario Museum, CN Tower, Casa Loma, Hockey Hall of Fame, Ontario Science Centre, and Toronto Zoo. All are described below. (Canadians looking to purchase the CityPass online can get it through Expedia.ca. You can also buy it at any participating attraction.)
Arts and Culture
Royal Ontario Museum
This museum, known as "the ROM", is the largest in Canada and has fascinating world culture and natural history exhibits. All the galleries in the new "crystal" wing designed by Daniel Libeskind are now open, including an excellent dinosaur gallery. You can get in for half-price on Fridays 4:30 - 9:30 pm, for free Wednesdays 4:30 - 5:30 pm, and, if you're a full-time student of a Canadian university, for free all day Tuesdays.
See the ROM official site and ROM reviews. Public transit: subway to Museum station (University / Spadina line) or St. George station -- Bedford Rd. exit (Bloor Line).
Art Gallery of Ontario
This gallery reopened in November 2008 to enthusiastic reviews. Home to a sizable collection of European and Canadian works, it's particularly well-known for its Henry Moore sculptures and "Group of Seven" Canadian landscape paintings. See TripAdvisor's Art Gallery of Ontario article for more details, as well as the AGO official site and AGO reviews. Public transit: St. Patrick subway station (University / Spadina Line) or 505 Dundas streetcar.
Gardiner Museum of Ceramic Art
This recently-expanded museum directly across from the ROM has a large permanent collection of ceramics and hosts various temporary exhbits. See the Gardiner Museum official site. Public transit: Museum subway station (University / Spadina line) or Bay subway station (Bloor line).
Bata Shoe Museum
Founded by the owner of a major shoe company, its main permanent exhibit traces the history of the shoe going back centuries. Temporary exhibits focus on such things as native footwear and celebrity shoes. See the Bata Shoe Museum official site and Bata Shoe Museum reviews. Public transit: St. George subway station (Bloor and University/Spadina lines).
Ice hockey is Canada's unofficial national sport, and much of its memorabilia is housed here. The HHOF is also the permanent home of the Stanley Cup. See the HHOF official site. Public transit: about a 5 minute walk from Union Station (Yonge / University / Spadina subway, Go Transit, and Via Rail station).
Rogers Centre (formerly SkyDome)
This large, retractable roof stadium hosts Major League Baseball, Canadian Football, and other events and concerts. Tours typically visit a SkyBox and field level; the roof is generally closed between events. For tours, see the Rogers Centre tours page. To attend a game, see Sports & Activities. Public transit: ten minute walk from Union Station along Front Street West or via SkyWalk, or any streetcar from Union Station to Rees St. (Union Station - Yonge / University / Spadina subway, GO Transit, and Via Rail station).
Air Canada Centre
Home to the Toronto Maple Leafs (NHL), the Toronto Raptors (NBA), the Toronto Rock (NLL) and many concert and other events, the ACC is conveniently located and connected to Union Station. Leafs games typically sell out quickly, as do certain concerts. Raptors and Rock games usually are pretty full, but some tickets will be available for most games. You can go to the ACC box office, ticketmaster or other third party ticketing agencies to purchase your tickets.
A major site during the War of 1812 between Canada and the United States. Fort York is now surrounded by downtown Toronto. See the Fort York official site. Public transit: 511 Bathurst streetcar.
Victorian warehouses and cobblestone streets are now home to art galleries, shops, a theatre, and even a microbrewery. See the Distillery District official site. Public transit: 504 King streetcar to Parliament Street.
Old Town Toronto
See the Old Town Toronto official site. Public transit: Walk east from Union Station along Front Street (Union Station - Yonge / University / Spadina subway, GO Transit and Via Rail station).
Todmorden Mills Heritage Museum and Arts Centre
See the Todmorden Mills official site. Public transit: subway to Broadview station (Bloor line). From there take any 87 Cosburn or 100 Flemingdon Park bus and get off at Pottery Road. Walk down the hill on Pottery Road to the mills (approx. 420 metres).
Black Creek Pioneer Village
See the Black Creek Pioneer Village official site. Getting there: easiest with a car; by public transit take the subway to Finch station (Yonge line) and catch a 60 Steeles West bus to Murray Ross Parkway, then walk south about 300 metres to the entrance.
This tree-lined university campus has an interesting mix of historic and new buildings and an enrollment of over 50,000 students. See the campus maps on the university's web site. Public transit: St. George subway station (Bloor line), Museum subway station (University / Spadina line), or Queen's Park subway station (University / Spadina line) or 506 College streetcar.
To explore the oldest historical section of the St. University of Toronto St. George (downtown) campus, take the subway to Queen Street Station and exit at the north-west corner. Start at the Nona Macdonald Visitors Centre, which offers free historical tours of the campus during June, July and August (Monday through Friday at 2:30 p.m). You may also be able to arrange additional tour times (416-978-5000). The tour will take you to the oldest of the University of Toronto historical buildings, the University College. There is a wonderful ghost story associated with this building. It was created in 1853, but nearly entirely burned down in 1890. You can see one of the original remaining staircases inside, with a well worn out gargoyle carving at the bottom of the handrail, as students touch the wooden creature for good luck before exams. Explore the quadrangle, in the summer you may catch a play being performed here. Also visit the Diabolos', a cozy student-run cafeteria, where you can sip on your coffee and indulge in student-made muffins, while resting on a comfy sofa. Follow the link for more about the architecture of University College. The University College art gallery is also worth your attention.
You can then continue on to Knox College and wonder at the old-world beauty of its chapel and grounds. If at this point you feel like you need a more substantial meal and a break, wonder over to the old athletic centre, the Hart House. There you can either have an upscale meal at the Gallery Grill or at the cafeteria, the Arbor Room, which is known for delicious home-cooked food. Check the cultural event schedule and you may be able to catch a Jazz performance or a theatre play at Hart House Theatre, among many other engagements. There are a number of other buildings you may like to explore, and the staff at the visitors' centre will be able to point you to the ones that best fit your interest. The Royal Ontario Museum, the Ontario Provincial Legislature, the Bata Shoe Museum, as well as the Gardiner Museum of Ceramic art are a short walk away, as is China Town.
Science and Engineering
For over 30 years, the CN Tower was the world's tallest free-standing structure -- it was recently topped by the still-unfinished Burj Dubai. Take the elevator up for a breathtaking view of the city and its surrounding areas from the observation deck (346 metres or 1,136 feet up) or the SkyPod level (447 metres or 1,465 feet). The CN Tower was named for Canadian National Railways (CN), who originally built the tower in a railway yard as a telecommunications hub. See the CN Tower official site and CN Tower reviews. Public transit: ten minute walk from Union Station (Yonge / University / Spadina subway, GO Transit, and Via Rail station) along Front Street or via SkyWalk, or any streetcar from Union station to Rees St.
Ontario Science Centre
This museum was one of the pioneers of hands-on science exhibits and has just completed a major expansion and renovation. See the OSC official site and OSC reviews. Public transit: 25 Don Mills bus from Pape subway station (Bloor line) or 34 Eglinton bus from Eglinton subway station (Yonge line).
This zoo is located on a sprawling 710 acre site in the northeast corner of the city, and is known for housing and displaying animals in natural habitats. See the Toronto Zoo official site and Toronto Zoo reviews. Getting there: easiest by car. Public transit: 86A Scarborough bus from Kennedy subway station (Bloor line). By transit, total travel time from downtown is 60-70 minutes.
Toronto’s Harbourfront is a complex of unique shops and restaurants right on beautiful Lake Ontario. If you’re all shopped out, you can just enjoy a nice stroll on the boardwalk and take in the great views of the city skyline. Summer weekends bring festivals and outdoor concerts. See the Harbourfront Centre official site. Public transit: take any streetcar from Union Station (Yonge / University / Spadina subway, GO Transit and Via Rail station); Harbourfront Centre is adjacent to the first and second above-ground streetcar stops, and the streetcars continue along the waterfront.
These islands are a short ferry ride from the downtown harbour. They offer excellent views of the city, a small amusement park (best for young children), parkland, beaches, and a small car-free community of year-round cottages. See the Toronto Island official site and Toronto Island reviews. Public transit: any streetcar from Union Station (Yonge / University / Spadina subway, GO Transit and Via Rail station) one stop to Queens Quay/Ferry Docks, followed by a 15 minute ferry ride. In the summer, go during the week if possible: ferry lines can get very long on weekends.
This mid-sized outdoor amusement park is located on man-made islands in Lake Ontario. (See the Ontario Place official site. Public transit: 509 Harbourfront streetcar from Union Station (Yonge / University / Spadina subway, GO Transit and Via Rail station) or 511 Bathurst streetcar from Bathurst subway station (Bloor line). Ride either streetcar to the end of the line and walk south through Exhibition Place.) Please be aware that most Ontario Place attractions are closed permentantly. The marina and Molson Amphitheatre are still open
HTO Park/Sugar Beach
The closest beaches to downtown are new waterfront parks on Queens Quay. HTO park is just west of Rees Street with rolling hills and a sandy stretch dotted with yellow umbrellas make it perfect for suntanning or a picnic. Sugar Beach is at the foot of Jarvis Street. Since the beaches are in the midst of the busy harbour, swimming is not permitted here. For swimming try the Toronto Islands and Eastern Beaches both with world class Blue Flag swimming.
Toronto Music Garden
Inspired by Bach and designed by Yo-Yo Ma, this park, two blocks west of HTO, brings a unique garden and occasional summertime concerts to the waterfront. See the Music Garden official site. Public transit: any streetcar from Union Station (Yonge / University / Spadina subway, GO Transit and Via Rail station) or 510 Spadina streetcar from Spadina subway station (Bloor line); exit at the intersection of Queens Quay and Spadina.
Some of Toronto's malls and shopping districts are attractions in their own right. See Inside Toronto: Shopping for all the details.
Toronto is easy to explore on your own, or you can join one of many guided tours, some of which are listed bellow.
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