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Jun 5, 2023

10 Offbeat Things To Do in Toronto

Toronto is a busy urban centre of skyscrapers and finance, but that doesn’t mean it’s all business. There’s a definite fun side to Canada’s biggest city and visitors will discover diverse art, culture, and food scenes in Toronto for all tastes and all budgets.

If you’re looking for a great city with hidden gems, there are plenty of unique and unusual things to do in Toronto

Here are 10 off-the-beaten path things to see and do in Toronto.

Ride a Tiki Taxi to Toronto Island

Did you know Toronto has an island? There are actually several, just offshore from the city’s downtown, making up the Toronto Island Park. (You may hear locals simply call it “The Island.”)

 

This car-free community boasts safe swimming beaches (including the clothing-optional Hanlan’s Point), Centreville Amusement Park, bicycle, kayak and stand-up paddle board rentals, a labyrinthian hedge maze, and the Gibraltar Point Lighthouse, the oldest existing lighthouse on the Great Lakes. It’s an easy day trip and offers a fantastic view of the city’s skyline—it’s also one of the best places to watch the sunset in Toronto.

 

In summer months, the fastest and most fun way to get to the Toronto islands is by a tiki-themed water taxi. These small boats seat 12 and are decorated in bamboo and bright colours with thatched roofs. Your captain may even have tropical tunes on the playlist for the 15-minute ride over.  

 

Website: https://www.tikitaxi.ca/

Address: Departs from 437 Queens Quay

Stroll through Graffiti Alley

If you’re a fan of public art, looking for free things to do in Toronto, in need of a perfect selfie backdrop—or all three—check out Graffiti Alley.

 

This 500-metre laneway is covered in brightly coloured murals, elaborate tags, black-and-white portraits and other bold artworks by many of Toronto’s best street artists. It’s constantly changing, but look out for Toronto mascots like racoons, Blue Jays, and Drake, or yellow canaries, the signature character of artist Uber 5000. If you’re lucky you may also see new art in progress.

 

The alley is popular year-round and takes about 30 minutes to fully explore. Find it just south of Queen Street West between Spadina Avenue and Portland Street.

Eat your way through Kensington Market

Kensington Market is Toronto’s most bohemian, eclectic, and yummy neighbourhood. The streets are filled with independent vintage shops operating out of colourful Victorian houses and delicious eateries offering a taste of the city’s diverse food culture, all packed within a few easily walkable blocks with not a Starbucks in sight.

What began as a Jewish market in the 1920s has evolved and expanded as different waves of immigrants settled here. You’ll now find food from around the world in affordable small cafes and takeaways. Grab some churros from Mexico, a Turkish coffee, Vietnamese bahn mi sandwiches or German döner. And don’t skip the Jamaican patties—a pride of Toronto. Or create a DIY picnic from the many bakeries, fruit markets and cheesemongers to eat in the newly renovated Bellevue Square Park.

 

A great time to visit Kensington Market is on Pedestrian Sundays, a car-free festival held on the last Sunday of the month from May to October.

 

Website: https://kensingtonmarket.to/

Address: Between Dundas Street West and College Street, bordered by Spadina Avenue to the east and Augusta avenue to the West.

Tour the Haunted Distillery District

The historic Distillery District is one of the nicest places to visit in Toronto, with picturesque cobblestone streets, cute boutiques and the many distilleries that gave this area its name. It’s also one of the most haunted places in Toronto.

 

From May to November, you can join a Haunted Walk through the Distillery District with a local guide who will reveal the scandalous and spooky history of this area. The small group tour takes you to key historical sites and covers gruesome accidents, tragic deaths and reports of paranormal activities that continue to this day.  

 

Website: https://hauntedwalk.com

Address: Meet at 55 Mill Street

Visit the World’s Largest Shoe Collection

Bata Shoe Museum is one of Toronto’s most unique museums, displaying more than 1,000 pairs of shoes, boots, and related artefacts from its collection of 15,000 objects: the biggest collection of shoes in the world.

 

Whether you’re more into sneakers or stilettos you’ll find something here to spark delight. The permanent exhibition All About Shoes traces more than 4,500 years of history, from ancient Egyptian sandals to 16th century Italian platforms and even footwear made from human hair. It’s fascinating.

 

Look out for shoes worn by celebrities such as John Lennon, Madonna and Queen Victoria, plus cutting-edge designs by Vivienne Westwood, Mr. Bailey and more. The building itself, located downtown near the University of Toronto campus and a short walk to the designer shops of Yorkville, is an architectural beauty.

 

Bata Shoe Museum is open daily with free admission on Sundays.

 

Website: https://batashoemuseum.ca/

Address: 327 Bloor Street West

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Get Lost in a Castle

Casa Loma may not look like a European castle, but this Gothic Revival mansion is one of Toronto’s most fairy-tale like attractions. Built as a private residence in 1914, formerly a luxury hotel and now a popular museum, Casa Loma has been used as a location for movies such as X-Men, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World and Titans and hosts jazz and soul music performances in its gardens throughout the summer.

 

For something a bit different, you can visit Casa Loma at night as part of an escape game. These immersive puzzles feature live actors in historical costumes and take place throughout the castle, from the towers to the underground tunnels. Themes include the roaring ‘20s, a dragon fantasy, or a game based on the popular Canadian TV series Murdoch Mysteries. Suitable for families with kids and large parties but if you’re travelling solo they’ll match you with a group.

 

In October, Casa Loma also transforms into an elaborate haunted house attraction called The Legends of Horror…. enter if you dare!

Website: https://www.escapecasaloma.com

Address: 1 Austin Terrace

Explore the Necropolis Cemetery

Looking for some peace and quiet in Toronto and aren’t squeamish about the dead? Take a stroll through the Necropolis, a picturesque Victorian-era cemetery not far from downtown.

Located near Riverdale Park in the Cabbagetown neighbourhood on the city’s East side, the Toronto Necropolis is a non-denominational garden-style cemetery spread over many acres, with views of the Don River. It features an impressive Gothic Revival chapel and entranceway, and graves dating back to the early 1800s.

The remains of more than 50,000 dead rest here, including many prominent Toronto politicians and entrepreneurs. Some famous graves to look for include horror movie director George A. Romero and World War I fighter pilot Roy Brown, credited with shooting down the infamous Red Baron.

Address: 200 Winchester Street

Start a laugh riot at Second City

Comedy legends like Eugene Levy, Catherine O’Hara, Andrea Martin, Dan Aykroyd, Gilda Radner, John Candy and Mike Myers all spent time in Toronto’s Second City theatre, and you can too.

 

This famous sketch comedy troupe puts on shows with ensembles of future superstars nightly at its Toronto headquarters in the downtown club district. Performances usually riff off trends and headline news or catch 50 Years of Funny, which celebrates famous sketches and characters from the group’s past. Guests are invited and encouraged to participate in shouting suggestions for improv scenes. Hilarity often ensues!

 

Website: https://www.secondcity.com/

Address: 1 York Street

Skate under a highway

The Bentway is a reclaimed urban space near the Toronto waterfront that has transformed a parking lot under the Gardiner Expressway into a gathering place for public art installations and recreation, including skating.

 

In the summer months, the Bentway’s 1.75km looped concrete trail is used for roller skating (yes, 1970s style old school roller skating!) with pop-up shop Suso Skate Co offering rentals for kids and adults. Then in winter it becomes an ice skating rink, with onsite rentals, DJs and hot chocolate.

 

Website: https://thebentway.ca

Address: 250 Fort York Blvd

Drink a space-age cocktail

Out-of-this-world concoctions are the specialty at Offworld, a sci-fi themed bar on West Queen West, once named the hippest neighbourhoods in the world by Vogue.

 

Guests are “scanned” for signs of alien infection before boarding seats surrounded by 3D holograms and giant virtual windows to otherworldly landscapes. The drinks menu offers one-of-a-kind cocktails, many served with dramatic dry ice. There are non-alcoholic drinks too, plus the ominous “Black Hole”—a chocolate rum drink that comes with noise-cancelling headphones programmed with the sounds of an actual black hole captured by NASA. Far out!

 

Website: https://www.offworldbar.com

Address: 739 Queen Street West

These are just some of the fun and unique things to do in Toronto that show off the quirkier side of this large city. Whether you are just passing through or making Toronto your final destination, you are sure to be entertained in this multicultural urban playground.

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Things to do in Toronto