Toronto's Most Underrated Things to do
Our selection of lesser-known but equally worth gems inside the city.
Ask any Torontonian what some of the city's best things are, and you'll likely get a range of answers. That's because some of the less-lauded fare is just as terrific as the spotlight-huggers. From low to high art, tremendous vistas and live concerts, here are a few of Toronto's lesser-hyped—yet just as worthy— sights and happenings. To really get a feel for the city, best to experience a few from each.
If you're visiting Toronto during the warm-weather months, grab the ferry from Queen's Quay and bring with you a delicious picnic, a cozy blanket, a camera, comfy walking shoes, and your sense of wonder. The ferry will shuttle you over to Centre Island, but you'll want to walk east to Ward's Island. Away from the hustle and bustle, come in the early evening for an alfresco dinner, and soak up the lilac-scented air and the multi-hued sunset. Prepare to be wowed as the sun dips and the city lights up, offering a glittering view of its skyline, iconic CN tower included.
The Bard In the Park
In the city's west end, you'll find the High Park Amphitheatre, where for close to 35 years now, the Canadian Stage company has been producing live "Shakespeare in the Park" performances. The shows are PWYC (Pay What You Can, with a minimum suggested donation of $15 a person), but you can opt to reserve a cushioned seat in the "premium zone" for $18. From July to early September, folks come armed with unobtrusive, low-lying chairs, blankets, and a few snacks to enjoy with the show. Past productions include Julius Caesar, The Comedy of Errors, and Macbeth.
If all of that picnicking has you craving some exercise, OM T.O. Fit for Fall might just be the ticket. A new event created by a local wellness magazine, the event takes place in early September in the historic and cobblestone-lined Distillery District. There's a full, continuous day of interval training, outdoor stretching, Pilates, yoga, and meditation classes led by some of the city's most dynamic instructors. This year, Toronto's own DJ Medicineman curated the aural experience for some of the classes. The event is free and open to the public.
Catch a Live Show
Toronto has a slew of live music venues, from funky, standing-room-only bars to behemoth, multi-thousand-person spectacles. Somewhere in the middle is The Danforth Music Hall, at the edge of Greektown on Toronto's east side. Originally built as a movie theater in 1919, it earned its Music Hall name when it started hosting live acts in the late 1970s. After a thorough remodel in 2011, local and international acts now play for appreciative crowds. Canadian acts like A Tribe Called Red, the Arkells, Buck 65, and The Tragically Hip have shared the stage with Echo and the Bunnymen, and Chet Faker.
A Hot Doc(umentary)
While the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) gets most of the city's big bucks and spotlight, the yearly Hot Docs series presents some of the world's best documentary films. Every spring starting in April, there's buzz about the gripping, moving, and insightful nonfiction films crafted with as much passion than their fictional counterparts. The festival also puts together their Doc Soup Sundays, featuring premieres of the world's hottest art, culture, and design docs, with special guest Q&As from January through June. Screenings take place at 11:00 a.m.
Mary Luz Mejia covers Toronto for Travel + Leisure. Follow her on Twitter.