Now that the provincial borders have been reopened, new adventures are on the horizon. There’s a summer vacation destination for you no matter your preference: Sandbanks, Bruce Peninsula, Ottawa, and more. If you’re looking for something to do on a long weekend, you can explore Toronto and its surrounding areas perfectly in 3 days with your favourite person. Here is the itinerary we suggest to you.
1. The start (Let’s go to Toronto!)
My boyfriend and I left by train from Montreal right after work on Thursday evening and made our way to the heart of Toronto. The train is a simple, affordable and accessible way to travel. VIA Rail ticket prices between the two cities start at $50 (for one way). When you get to Toronto, there’s no shortage of Airbnbs. This practical option allows you to have some autonomy (especially with all the sanitary measures in place). After a 5 hour and 30-minute train ride, we arrive late at night at our Airbnb apartment in the Entertainment District.
2. First day (Discovery time!)
For our first day, we wanted to walk as much as possible to discover the city. This called for an early wake-up time. You can start by heading to one of the classics: City Hall in Toronto. Just steps from the Entertainment District, it’s hard to miss.
Passing through Nathan Phillips Square, stop to admire the unique shape of Toronto City Hall (it looks like an alien ship). You can also pop into the Eaton Centre to shop. Then, make your way to the famous St. Lawrence Market (yes, it’s open on Fridays).
St. Lawrence Market
On your way to St. Lawrence Market on Front Street, you will come across a strange fountain adorned with statues of dogs, the work of Montreal architectural firm Claude Cormier + Associates. You will also pass in front of the Gooderham Building, comparable to the Flatiron building in New York. St. Lawrence Market is a super nice place to have lunch (or an oyster platter, treat yourself)! Check out the opening hours and more information here.
Not too far from the market, you will discover the Distillery District, a historic district of Toronto with several restaurants and art galleries. The walk there is really charming! We stopped to eat at the popular Cluny Bistro restaurant, where the terrace is covered by an arch of faux greenery and lights, and the food is delicious. The interior of the restaurant is also pretty. When you’re finished with your snack, take advantage of the many galleries and shops in the area.
You can then return to your accommodation the long way via Sugar Beach. You can take in the magnificent views as you stroll hand-in-hand.
We bought some dinner ingredients at a supermarket before going back to our Airbnb (one of the big advantages of having a kitchen). Now we needed a good sleep because we were about to have a big day the next morning.
2. Second day (Hold onto your hat!)
On Saturday, we got up bright and early to start our busy day. We departed on foot to Casa Loma (it took about an hour) and grabbed croissants and bagels and coffees on the way. If you take Spadina Avenue, you can veer off to admire Graffiti Alley and go through Toronto’s Chinatown. After seeing Casa Loma, we drove to Niagara Falls (about 1 hour 30 minutes by car).
Graffiti Alley is exactly as it sounds: it’s three city blocks of colourful graffiti as far as the eye can see. The neighbourhood is charming too. There are plenty of cafes and local shops. Chinatown is right next door if you’d like to discover new fruits and vegetables in the markets.
We didn’t really have any expectations for our tour of Castle Loma. We thought we’d be in and out of the castle within an hour, but this was not the case. The audio-guided tour was so exciting that we didn’t see the hour go by. The gardens are sublime, but the icing on the cake is definitely the view from the towers. We dare you to find a better view of Toronto! You can find all the info on Castle Loma here.
After that, we rented a car with Turo, the equivalent of Airbnb, but for cars. It was super easy to find a suitable ride nearby. So we took the road to the Niagara-on-the-Lake region in style.
Be sure to make a pit stop at the Greenlane Estate Winery for a tasting of 4 wines and to enjoy the vines. One wine in particular really pleased our palettes, and we decided to buy a bottle. You can always choose another vineyard to visit; there are plenty in the region!
The Niagara Falls
We then drove to Niagara Falls and walk along the edge, from the American side to the Canadian side (saving the most beautiful for the end, of course!) The sunset over the falls is breathtaking. You can take even a zip line, but we were too hungry for that, so we stopped at a good burger joint instead.
On our way back to our car, we passed Clifton Hill, which reminded me of a Disney-style street with fun and entertainment. Cinemas, rides, haunted houses, bowling alleys and candy shops are grouped to entertain the young and old. I insisted on making us go into a haunted house. My boyfriend was walking so fast that I wondered if it was out of fear or if he was just in a hurry to finish!
We drove back to Toronto that evening and returned the Turo car to its owner. Then we went to bed.
3. Third day (Rainy, but boring)
For this third and last day, we decided to take full advantage of the little time we had left since we were leaving by train for Montreal in the afternoon. We checked out of our Airbnb by 9:00 am and left our luggage in storage in front of the station. That way, we could have peace of mind while we explored.
Since it was raining, we decided to do mostly indoor activities. Thankfully, the Ripley’s Aquarium was very close by, next to the famous CN Tower. Tickets for both activities are quite expensive but are worth the cost if it’s your first time in Toronto. We then had dinner before heading to the AGO (Art Gallery of Ontario), a 20-minute walk away.
The aquarium tour consisted of several sections, including a long glass tunnel that brings you underwater. While parading on a conveyor belt, we were surrounded by sharks, turtles and all kinds of fish. It was truly magical. At the end of the visit, you even have the opportunity to pet stingrays!
Beware if you are afraid of heights! The glass floor at the very top of the tower allows you to see the city below, more than 500 meters below. The craziest tourists can even do open-air suspension walks around the tower (for an additional fee). Check out all the info here.
AGO (Art Gallery of Ontario)
The AGO is a must-see in Toronto for art lovers. The exhibitions are numerous and display works of all styles and eras. Check the opening hours carefully before planning your visit.
4. The return (we will be back!)
It was now time to take our afternoon train back to Montreal. We arrived back home in the evening. It was a jam-packed weekend, but we made a lot of beautiful memories. It also felt like we now knew Toronto like the back of our hand.
If we had more time (and it was summer), we would have liked to go by ferry to the Toronto Islands to bike, go to the beach and take in the view of downtown Toronto. There are also plenty of museums that we didn’t have time to visit. I guess we’ll have to go again!
When’s your next trip to Toronto?
This article was originally published in French and adapted in English by Britney Claveau.