Toronto Travel Prep Guide

Toronto Travel Guide

Toronto, Canada can sometimes get confused with just another city, as it’s neither the capital nor the cultural favorite like Montreal. However, there’s so much more to it than skyscrapers! The neighborhoods like Kensington Market, Distillery District, Queen Street West, and Chinatown offer so many chances for exploration. The yearly Toronto International Film Festival is one of the city’s most popular events. Shops, ethnic eats, and street art all make Toronto a great destination for all types of travelers.

If we’ve left anything out or you’d like to join the conversation, please leave comments below!

Toronto Travel Expenses Tips

Toronto is a reasonably priced destination for travelers, especially when compared with other North American cities like New York or Miami. As long as you know how to cut corners, you’ll be able to get plenty of bang for your buck in Canada.

Enjoy the free attractions.
You don’t have to spend a fortune to appreciate Toronto. For example, the street art that covers the city is completely free, as are the parks! Tour Guys offers a number of free tours of the city. The Art Gallery of Ontario has free admission on Wednesdays from 6:30 to 8:30 pm. The Bata Shoe Museum offers “pay what you like” admission on Thursdays from at 5 pm. The Scarborough Historical Museum also offers the same system every day.

Skip cabs and cars.
Leave the car behind because you won’t need it unless you’re venturing out further. Public transportation is easy to use, including the metro, buses, and trams. If you’re trying to go even cheaper, there’s bike rentals. Toronto is also extremely walkable and doesn’t have too many hills. I had no trouble walking from the bus station to my hostel.

Stay in one of the neighborhoods.
The advantages of staying outside of the Central Business District are many. Not only will you save some loonies, but you’ll also get to experience Toronto like a local. I recommend the Kensington Market area.

Toronto Travel and Packing Guide
Instead of staying in the center, try one of Toronto’s other neighborhoods like the Kensington Market area.

Essential Gear to Pack for Toronto

Pack for Toronto like you would just about any other big city. It certainly depends on the season, but summers are mild and winters can be extra chilly with snow. Learn how to pack light for cold weather travel.

Comfy shoes– If you plan on walking during most of your visit, which I recommend, be sure to bring comfortable walking shoes.

Light waterproof jacket– Not only is this good to have in case of a sudden rain storm, but it will also keep you from having to buy a cheap poncho at Niagara Falls!

Cash– Change over your money to use on public transportation. Cards are accepted just about everywhere else, but I didn’t have coins one night on the train and had to borrow.

Toronto Travel and Packing Guide
Check out Toronto’s street art while exploring the city on foot.

Books to Read Before Visiting Toronto

There are a number of books set in the city of Toronto but not all reach national acclaim. But these are a good few to start with before your trip.

Cat’s Eye by Margaret Atwood– A controversial painter returns to her home city of Toronto for a retrospective of her work. While there, she remembers her childhood and friends. Grab a copy on Amazon.

Headhunter by Timothy Findley– A librarian is reading a book when a character jumps out of the page. She frantically searches the streets of Toronto in search of him before it’s too late. In the meantime, a number of children end up in institutes with the same disease. Grab a copy on Amazon.

The Killing Circle by Andrew Pyper– A failed novelist joins a writer’s group in hopes of finding inspiration. During this time, a serial killer is terrorizing Toronto. He listens to the tales of a fellow writer, which sound familiar to what’s going on in real life. Grab a copy on Amazon.

Consolation by Michael Redhill– Telling two stories at separate points in time in Toronto, a geology professor throws himself from a ferry and a young apothecary is struggling to make his life in a new country. Grab a copy on Amazon.

Lemon by Cordelia Strube– A high school girl named Lemon has a dysfunctional life and decides not to try and fit in any longer. Grab a copy on Amazon.

Toronto Travel and Packing Guide

Movies to Watch Before Visiting Toronto

Fans of shows like Degrassi may know the skyline well, but the independent film scene is also thriving in Toronto.

Breakfast with Scot– Based on the novel of the same name, a gay retired hockey player lives with his sports lawyer partner in Toronto. Their lives are changed in when they take in his brother’s stepson. Grab a copy on Amazon.

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World– Another film based on a popular series, Michael Cera stars as Scott, who must battle the ex-boyfriends of the girl he likes in honor to win her heart. Grab a copy on Amazon.

This Beautiful City– The lives of four Toronto residents collide one night when a woman jumps from her window in a suicide attempt and runs into a couple trying to recover from addiction. Grab a copy on Amazon.

The F Word/What If– The film had different names in some countries, but it starred Daniel Radcliffe. He stars as a medical school dropout who falls in love with his best friend, who happens to be with her live-in boyfriend. Grab a copy on Amazon.

Toronto Travel and Packing Guide

Top Things to Do in Toronto

Toronto has the most attractions and museums of any Canadian city, so you certainly won’t get bored. If you plan on visiting a number of them, get a CityPass or other combination pass. And don’t forget about the outdoors as well!

CN Tower– The most imposing structure in the Toronto skyline, go to the top for the best views or even a walk along the edge!

Toronto Travel and Packing Guide
You can get fantastic views of the city from Toronto’s CN Tower.

Niagara Falls– While not in Toronto proper, this easy day trip showcases the beautiful waterfall that straddles the American and Canadian borders.

St. Lawrence Market– This food hall predates the current trend, offering butchers, bakeries, and much more.

Casa Loma– Once a private home, this castle is now a museum and event space where you can see how the other half lives.

Hockey Hall of Fame– Sports fans will appreciate a trip to the museum devoted to Canada’s favorite pastime.

Centre Island– The island across the harbor from downtown has its own theme park and petting zoo, open seasonally.

Toronto Travel and Packing Guide
Niagara Falls is a great day trip from Toronto and a gorgeous sight not to be missed.

Art Gallery of Ontario– This art museum’s collection includes works from Africa, Oceania, Europe, and, of course, Canada.

Bata Shoe Museum– It seems like an odd choice for a museum, but this one has four galleries of footwear ranging from ancient China to the modern day.

Royal Ontario Museum– Memorable exhibits at this museum include Chihuly glass, dinosaur fossils, and Egyptian mummies.

Tours– There’s a tour for every interest including street art, beer, history, and even pork. I recommend Urban Adventures and Tour Guys. Or search on Viator.

Toronto Travel and Packing Guide

Where to Stay in Toronto

There’s an accommodations option for every price range, starting from the hostels and going up to luxury hotels.

Planet Traveler is a luxurious hostel with a rooftop patio, full kitchen, and computers for you to use.

The Drake Hotel is a chic boutique hotel in the heart of the hip Queen Street West district.

Thompson Toronto is a luxury hotel with the best rooftop pool in the city.

The Ivy at Verity is a boutique property with unique rooms, each different from the next.

AirBnB is another option, which is ideal for a more local experience and additional space.

Food and Drink in Toronto

You may not think of Canada when it comes to well-known dishes, but you will certainly eat well in Toronto.

Poutine– Ah yes, a Canadian classic. The hand cut fries are topped in brown gravy and cheese curds and can be found all around town. Some varieties are standard while others are topped with pulled pork and other offbeat toppings.

Toronto Travel and Packing Guide
Don’t forget to try poutine while you’re in Toronto!

Craft beer– Toronto has a surprising number of craft and local breweries like Steam Whistle, Left Field, and Granite breweries.

Caesar– Don’t call it a Bloody Mary! This Northern interpretation uses Clamato juice instead of tomato juice.

Butter tart– These tarts are totally decadent with butter and sugar in a pastry crust.

Toronto Travel and Packing Guide
Butter tarts are rich pastries worth trying while visiting Toronto.

Anything at Tim Horton’s– You can’t go to Canada without stopping by this quintessential coffee shop for a cup and a doughnut.

Toronto Travel & Packing Guide - Destination Guide to Toronto, Canada

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Written by Caroline

Caroline Eubanks is a native of Atlanta, Georgia, but has also called Charleston, South Carolina and Sydney, Australia home. After college graduation and a series of useless part-time jobs, she went to Australia for a working holiday. In that time, she worked as a bartender, bungee jumped, scuba dived, pet kangaroos, held koalas and drank hundreds of cups of tea. You can find Caroline at Caroline in the City.

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Gear We Use

Organization

Packing Cubes – Organize your luggage with the lightweight, durable and compressible Eagle Creek Pack-It Specter Compression Cubes.


Backpacks + Daypacks

Pacsafe – Since they come with extra theft-resisting features, Pacsafe bags make you a more confident traveler. We especially love this bag.

Sea to Summit – Of all the Sea to Summit products, our most recommended is the fits-in-your-palm, super packable Ultra-Sil Daypack.


Personal Care

Nalgene Toiletry Bottles – These leak-free toiletry bottles and tubs come in all sizes – even super tiny, helping minimalists pack it all without bulk.

Turkish Towels – They’re thinner than most travel towels, and they actually cover your body! We can’t get enough of Turkish towels for travel.


Clothing

Speakeasy Supply Co. – They make the awesome hidden pocket infinity scarves that are perfect for stashing secret cash, lip balms, and passports.

Anatomie – Anatomie travel pants come with luxury prices, but they offer many benefits for travelers. See our review of the famous Skyler pants.

Travel Resources

Booking Airfare

Dollar Flight Club – Get flight deal alerts for your preferred departure airport. There is both a free and premium version (recommended for more sweet deals). Members save on average $500 USD per flight!

Skyscanner – Skyscanner is our preferred site for searching flights. They offer unbiased search results and are free from hidden fees. You can also book your hotels and rental cars.


Accommodation

Airbnb – Airbnb is the best place to book out apartments around the world. Sign up using this link to get $37 USD off your first stay booking + $14 USD towards an experience booking!

Booking.com – Search for hotels, hostels, and apartments using this one resource. Use it for flights, car rentals, and airport taxis as well.

Hostelworld – For hostels, Hostelworld remains our number one source for booking stays. Choose from straight up hostels, budget hotels and bed and breakfasts.

Trusted Housesitters – Save money on travel accommodation by becoming a housesitter. Housesitters often have extra duties, like caring for pets and gardens.

Reader Interactions

Comments

  1. Sal says

    Thank you for featuring my hometown! Yay! This is a pretty great list!
    One edit though, the Chihuly exhibit at the Royal Ontario Museum (or the ROM as we say here) is only going on till January.
    Also, during the summer, there are lots of street festivals going on around the city, like Salsa on St Clair and Taste of the Danforth (those are just two events that go on but during the summer there’s something going on pretty much every weekend)
    Also, while the Centre Island theme park is open seasonally, you can still take a ferry over to Toronto Island (costs 7.50- buy your tickets online ahead of time!) and walk around. You can get some really great views of the skyline and it’s also just a nice walk. Great beaches for swimming, too!

  2. Melody says

    I’m not sure I would call summers in Toronto mild. We may be rather far north, but the summers here get hot and humid. 35C to 40C+ and humidity over 80%. If you’re from the south, it would feel mild, but to anyone from a drier climate, it can be quite oppressive.
    On the flip side, winter can be downright cold. Cold and wet. With lots and lots of snow.
    But us Canadians love it!

    But, most importantly of all, is Peameal Bacon! It’s a Toronto original and a Canadian icon. http://www.foodnetwork.ca/shows/great-canadian-cookbook/blog/the-history-of-canadian-peameal-bacon/

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