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Weekend in Toronto

Are you looking for a quick, fun, and easy getaway? Toronto is all at once cosmopolitan, full of natural beauty, and has amazing food. You will love it!

Toronto has been one of my favorite cities to visit in Canada. We’ve visited plenty of Canada before, exploring Jasper National Park, the Icefields Parkway, and much more, but we’d never stopped in Toronto…until now.

I love traveling around French Canada. It has the ability to take me out of North America, and feel more European, which I sometimes need a little European fix, and so it’s a good way to get it cheaper than flying over an ocean.

We found that Toronto is a huge cosmopolitan city, and there’s lots to do regardless of your age or interests. Our first time just whetted our appetite, and we can’t wait to go back for more.

In this article:

Our Visit to Toronto

Inhabited for over 10,000 years by indigenous peoples and favored by French trappers, the British swooped in after the Seven Year’s War to establish the city of York, now Toronto. (source).

It was incorporated and then made the capital of Ontario in 1867. It was quickly becoming an industrial city that, with a few exceptions, allowed the city to grow and grow, welcoming immigrants from all over the world. (source) Today, Toronto’s impressive skyline hosts more than 40 skyscrapers (source).

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Jim and I were looking for a quick jaunt up into Canada after attending my mother’s 90th birthday celebration in Wisconsin. We looked at the map and realized just how easy a trip it would be. 

We’ve always wanted to visit Toronto, which is known for its culture, food, and beautiful green spaces.

The view of the Toronto Tower, Ontario.

Things to Do in Toronto

A weekend in Toronto is just not enough time to really experience all that Toronto has to offer, but I feel for this first time foray, we did a good job. We hit some iconic spots, tried some local fare, and really enjoyed the outdoorsy feeling that you get wandering around the city.

Here’s what we recommend:

  • CN Tower
  • Royal Ontario Museum
  • St. Lawrence Market
  • Hockey Hall of Fame
  • Trillium Park
  • Nathan Phillips Square
  • Berczy Park
  • Philosopher’s Walk
  • Gardiner Museum
  • Ontario Science Centre
Downtown Toronto is very walkable.

CN Tower

The CN Tower is hard to miss. We enjoyed views of it from all around the downtown area and during our sunrise jaunt. It’s one of the many reasons people visit Toronto, and you can go up to take in the view, eat in the restaurant, or, if you are an adrenalin junkie, walk around the edge. That, however, is not for me. I’m a bit of a wimp.

The Royal Ontario Museum is one of the many indoor things to do in Toronto.

Royal Ontario Museum

The Royal Ontario Museum is probably the most important stop during your weekend in Toronto. It gives you the background, the history of where you are, and how it connects to the rest of Canada. One of the best things about the museum is that the whole first floor is free, which is great if you’re on a budget. You can see some amazing artifacts, including an Egyptian mummy, some Chinese statues, and a few really cool dinosaur exhibits. The museum also has a great section dedicated to First Nations, which celebrates the country’s diversity. It’s definitely worth a visit!

A meander through the famous St. Lawrence Market is one of the main things to do in Toronto.

St. Lawrence Market

The St. Lawrence Market has been around since 1800, offering a wide variety of foods and souvenirs. There was an abundance of delicious food at the St. Lawrence Market. We could have spent the whole day there trying out all the food options, but we had other things to do. We did venture downstairs to the basement where we found a juice blender and had the best fresh peach juice I’ve had in years for only six Canadian dollars. In addition to the various food outlets, such as Italian restaurants, delis, bakeries, cheesemongers, fishmongers, and butchers, there’s also an art gallery on the upper floor.

The art gallery, unfortunately, is only open on Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays, so we didn’t have the chance to visit it. After the St. Lawrence Market, we were unsure where to go next.

The Hockey Hall of Fame is one of the biggest Toronto attractions.

Hockey Hall of Fame/ Spirit of Hockey

We thought about visiting the National Hockey Hall of Fame, but it charged $25 for admission, and as we’re not huge hockey fans, we bypassed it and went instead to the Spirit of Hockey next door. Don’t miss the Canadian or National Hockey Center. The Spirt of Hockey is basically a small mall that is hockey-themed and sells all manner of hockey-related items and souvenirs.

They even had a Tim Hortons that was all hockey-themed. There’s a nice little courtyard where you can enjoy some coffee, visit a drugstore, and buy souvenirs. You can spend some time there and have a great experience.

Getting up early to see the sunrise over the Toronto skyline is one of the many free things to do in the city.

Sunrise at Trillium Park

We planned to wake up early to catch the sunrise at Trillium Park in Toronto where we could get a beautiful view of the city skyline. We parked right there, in an empty lot, and walked down to the water’s edge where there were three other couples taking photos. It was a beautiful morning, and I highly recommend it if you don’t mind getting up early.

The Toronto Sign in Nathan Phillips Square is one of the cool things to do in Toronto.

Nathan Phillips Square

We wanted to visit the famous Toronto sign in Nathan Phillips Square. However, it was way too crowded on the first day and there was no place to park. So, we decided to head over there after our sunrise break.

Jim found a spot to sit in the car, not a real parking spot, while I jumped out for the photo. It was just before 8 a.m., and the Toronto sign was still lit. Luckily, there was nobody around, and I managed to get a beautiful picture of the sign with no one else in it.

If you want to get a good photo of the Toronto sign without jockeying around the people, go early. I believe the light turns off at 8 o’clock, so we went just about 5-10 minutes before it turned off, and it was the perfect time to get a good photo.

One of the best free things to do in Toronto is visit Berczy Park and its cute dog fountain.

Berczy Park

Downtown, there’s Berczy Park which was a surprisingly nice green space near St. Lawerence Market. We parked on the street in front of the park and found the coolest little fountain, called the dog fountain. There were many different dog breeds spitting water into the fountain, looking longingly at the golden bone on top. Just to be fair, there is one cat on the edge of the fountain as well.

The entrance to the Philosopher's Walk is a fun thing to do in Toronto.

Philosophers Walk

Right downtown, you are smack dab in the middle of the university with its breathtaking old English-style stone buildings and ivy-covered walls. It’s truly pleasant to take a stroll around the area, and in fact there is a path called the Philosopher’s Walk. 

The Gardiner Museum in Toronto is all about pottery and ceramics.

Gardiner Museum

Just across from the Royal Ontario Museum, we came across the Gardiner. It’s a ceramics museum, which we didn’t visit, but seemed well worthwhile. We put it on our list for next time, mainly because they offer classes and we love it when we can do something.

The Ontario Science Centre is a great indoor thing to do in Toronto.

Ontario Science Centre

The Ontario Science Centre is another museum we didn’t have time for, but we plan on going when we return. We stopped out front and took a look. We love anything science-related and hands-on museums, so we know it’s a must-do.

The Royal Ontario Museum entrance.

Best Time to Visit Toronto

Average High and Low Temperatures in Toronto.
Annual precipitation in Toronto.

As you can easily see from the graphic above, summer is by far the best time to visit Toronto. In saying that, however, it’s a happening city, and no matter when you go there’s going to be plenty to do and see.

The Toronto Tram is a fantastic way to get around the city.

Getting Around Toronto

I love that it’s very walkable and easy to get around without a car. Public transportation is affordable and convenient, especially considering how expensive parking was. You can purchase a daily pass for the public transport system, which is valid for 24 hours and allows you to explore the city hassle-free. 

We rented a car in Wisconsin and drove up to Toronto, so we didn’t have to worry about public transportation. But in hindsight, if you’re planning to visit Toronto, I recommend it. Parking cost us around $20 for every 20 minutes, which can add up quickly. Street parking using meters was a much better option, though harder to find.

A biking lane and ebikes for rent in Toronto.

On the other hand, you can purchase a daily pass for the public transport system for only C$12.50, making it a more affordable option. The pass is valid from the day of purchase up until 5 AM the next morning, and you can buy it at any station. I’m not sure if you can buy it on a bus, but you can park your car at the end of one of the metro lines, such as Finch Street Station or W. Finch St. Station. The latter is near the hotel we stayed in.

A Peameal sandwich is a must try food in Toronto.

What to Eat

There are a few local dishes that everyone should have on their Toronto list.

  • Peameal Sandwich
  • Tourtiere
  • Butter Tarts

One of the main reasons we visited the St. Lawrence market, as we mentioned above, was to try the famous Peameal sandwich, a Toronto favorite. The sandwich consists of a roll with Canadian bacon and a choice of toppings…although who can pass up the maple mustard?

The bacon used is called “peameal bacon” because it was packed in peameal in order to be shipped back to England. It may not sound appealing, but it was quite delicious. We highly recommend trying it at the Carousel Bakery, which is located inside the St. Lawrence Market.

After a while, we got hungry again and decided to look for Tourtiere, which is a Canadian meat pie made with various types of meat, although mostly pork. However, it wasn’t easy to find a place that was well-known for it. We found one at Papillon, but it cost $23 and didn’t open until 4 pm. As we weren’t there around that time, we decided to try somewhere else and found Patisserie La Cignon. The pie itself was very tasty, and the other pastries from the shop were good as well.

We were excited to try the local delicacy, butter tarts. They are similar to sugar pie in the United States or the base of a pecan pie, as they only have a gel-like center. We found them to be quite delicious and they were available in mini form at many different places. We tried them at Doo Doos Bakery and Wandas Pie Sky. Butter tarts seem like one of those delicacies that you can find anywhere, and no matter that bakeries’ unique take on it, they’ll all be amazing.

For coffee, we were looking to try Balzac’s café. It’s a local chain in the Toronto area. I must say, it was the best coffee I have had outside of Vietnam. In North America, it was definitely the best coffee we had on our entire trip. If you are looking to try them, don’t despair, there are plenty of them located around the city. We tried two different locations while we were there and loved them both. We figured it was something a little different than a Tim Horton’s or a Starbucks.

Where to Stay

The hotels in Toronto were surprisingly expensive. Even on the fringe, they weren’t cheap. Persevering, we found a unique stay at the Seneca College Residence. When the dorms aren’t being used in summer, they turn them into a hotel. It was quirky and fun, but most importantly pretty affordable. It even had the Subway downstairs for a quick sandwich. This came in super convenient since we got there pretty late and were starving. We just checked in, grabbed a sub, and headed up to bed.

Corinne during a Toronto sunrise.
Jim in Tidwell Park.


Overall, our trip to Toronto was a fantastic experience. We loved the food, the people, and the culture of the city. It was a perfect weekend getaway, and as one weekend really isn’t enough, we’re planning to return as soon as we can fit it in.

Author Bio – Corinne is an avid camper and traveler. She’s been to all 50 of the US states and has four more Canadian provinces to visit. However, she’s not stopping yet. There’s always more to see of this great continent! Corinne loves local foods, getting outdoors, landscape photography, and road trips.

Suzanne Jones

Thursday 21st of March 2024

It's nearly 20 years since I was in Toronto. I'm wondering how much it's changed and would love to go and try those butter tarts!

Corinne Vail

Monday 1st of April 2024

I would say Toronto is definitely worth a revisit!

Sage Scott

Monday 18th of March 2024

Toronto is SUCH a great city! I have several of these items on my bucket list for my next trip, and now I've added more thanks to your suggestions. The sculpture outside the Spirit of Hockey made me giggle at the memory of a Canadian friend's famous quote, "We don't care if (insert something weird Americans do/say/argue about—the more divisive the topic the better in this example), just as long as you love hockey!"

Corinne Vail

Thursday 21st of March 2024



Sunday 17th of March 2024

Have never been to Toronto and have heard nothing but great things. After reading this article, I'm ready to start planning my trip!! Thanks for all the great tips. A weekend sounds like the perfect amount of time for my first visit (-: