Although the famous Niagara Falls are nearby, Toronto isn't a city with a checklist full of attractions. But its summer festivals, the spicy corners of its markets, the beachfront boardwalks and the music pouring out of its neighborhood eateries will slowly and surely seduce you.
This is Canada's business capital and largest city: a clean, safe and vibrant metropolis where real estate prices are high and blood pressure levels are low. The center of Anglo-Canadian culture and media, it's also one of the great ethnic melting pots of the world.
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What To Do
Toronto is built for walking. The two-hour Humber River Discovery Walk is an interesting route, but true outdoor enthusiasts will enjoy the Don River Valley ravine walk. Just east of the beach area, Scarborough Bluffs has several parks with paths leading down to the lake and up to sweeping views.
What To See
Toronto is an experiential city that reveals its secrets slowly. Apart from icons like the cloud-brushing CN tower, the best experiences you'll have in Toronto come from wandering through its ethnically flavored neighborhoods, checking out Victorian architecture and quirky museums.
In Toronto, the only question is where not to shop. Each ethnic neighborhood and major thoroughfare has its own grab-bag assortment of shops, satisfying the quirkiest and most conventional of shoppers. The city's high taxes shouldn't discourage you - refunds are often to be found.
Toronto's nightlife keeps everyone busy long after dark, with plenty of entertainment during the daylight hours, too. In summer there are free outdoor festivals going on all the time. Even without any caffeine in their Mountain Dew, Torontonians keep up a heady level of carousing.
All of Toronto's main festivals and events take place between May and October, when there's little chance of snow and plenty of light by which to see them.
Summertime festivals begin with mid-June's Caravan, a nine-day cultural exchange between the city's ethnic groups. The annual Pride Week culminates in an outrageous out-of-the-closet parade on Church St. The excellent Downtown Jazz Festival attracts local and international players in June and early July. With scarcely a beat lost, Toronto's music scene segues neatly into the Toronto Bluesfest, enlivening the Harbourfront in early July.
Also in July, flags drop at the Molson Grand Prix. In August, Caribana, an ever-growing Caribbean festival, celebrates with a weekend of reggae, steel drum and calypso music and dance. Its finale, and main attraction, is a huge Rio-esque parade.
Come September, the internationally renowned Toronto International Film Festival has cinema buffs swooning in the aisles. And for the bookish at heart, the Harbourfront International Festival of Authors, in late September and early October, is the largest literary event of its kind anywhere.
Food and Drink
America calls itself a 'melting pot', but Canadians prefer the term 'cultural mosaic' for themselves. The metaphor is never more apt than when it describes Toronto's internationally-flavored restaurant scene. In the '70s, waves of immigration brought the world to local forks and fingertips.
When to Go
Toronto has a warm summer (June to mid-September) filled with festivals and events, making it the best time to visit. July and August can get muggy, however. Many visitor-oriented facilities, attractions and accommodations reduce hours or close outside of summer, but the ones that remain open almost always have reduced rates and smaller crowds. Fall (mid-September to late October) is crisp and beautiful - all of Ontario is renowned for its autumn colours. Toronto gets downright frosty in winter (November to March), with cold spells averaging between 2°C and -10°C (35°F and 14°F). Luckily, indoor arts (symphonies, theater, opera) and sporting events (especially ice hockey) are at their liveliest during the snowy season.
Citizens of dozens of countries - including the USA, most Western European and Commonwealth countries, as well as Mexico, Japan, South Korea and Israel - don't need visas to enter Canada for stays of up to 180 days. US permanent residents are also exempt.
Nationals of around 150 other countries, including South Africa and China, need to apply to the Canadian visa office in their home country for a temporary resident visa (TRV). The website maintained by Citizenship & Immigration Canada (www.cic.gc.ca) has full details, including office addresses and the latest requirements. A separate visa is required if you plan to study or work in Canada.