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72 Hours in Toronto

Updated: Jun 20

The ultimate guide to a weekend in Toronto. Explore the beaches, check out a sporting event and taste the local bites in this perfect itinerary for an extended summer weekend away!


picture of 4 brightly colored chairs in front of the water and toronto skyline with text overlay "72 hours in Toronto"

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Getting Around - streetcars, metro system, buses and private transport

Accommodations - moderately budgeted hotels near the waterfront/downtown action

Saturday - St. Lawrence Market, Toronto Islands and CN Tower

Sunday - brunch, Blue Jays baseball game, harbor cruise on Lake Ontario

Monday - Chinatown, Toronto's own Times Square, historic Distillery District

Shopping - the Stackts and Kensington Market

Local Bites - Toronto's multicultural environment offers delicious options for a true foodie


Banner saying "Welcome to Canada. Bienvenue au Canada" with a rainbow banner above it

Getting Around


The best way to explore a new city is by foot, but not everything in Toronto is close. The city has public buses, streetcars and a metro system. Buses and streetcars require exact cash for tickets purchased when riding (or they can be purchased in advance at various Presto stands). The subway has 4 lines that bisect the city, but most stops are north of the downtown/waterfront area. You can also use Uber or local taxis to get around if the public transit system is too overwhelming. Just remember, all fares are in CAD!


Accommodations


There are seemingly endless options for hotels, inns, Airbnb's, etc. in the city, but here are a few favs centrally located with a little character on a moderate budget.

Outside nighttime view of the Broadview Hotel with bright lights and artdeco architecture



We stayed at the Broadview Hotel for three nights. The room was well decorated, albeit small, but with all the expected amenities. The boutique hotel has been beautifully restored with several restaurants on site, along with a gorgeous rooftop bar. The streetcar stops at the corner below and it’s within walking distance to several restaurants and bars, as well as a short distance to the historic Distillery District. If you want a fuller list of the options in Toronto, look here.



Friday Night


If you get in early enough, head to the waterfront for dinner or grab a drink at the rooftop bar at the Broadview hotel. We flew into Toronto during the pandemic and the airport, sadly, was a bit of a mess. We sat on the tarmac for 1+ hours before deboarding and faced a long line at customs. Unfortunately, our plans for a drink on arrival were squashed.


However, if you can make it to a late-night dinner, I would strongly suggest Reyna on King. It’s a small tapas-style restaurant with Mediterranean and Spanish influences. Reservations encouraged. The Lamb Baklava is a must-try! I ate four pieces over the course of two visits in one weekend! They are THAT GOOD!


Saturday


In the morning, head to St. Lawrence Market for a coffee and a peameal bacon sandwich to start the day. The market is closed Sunday and Monday so make sure you get your fix beforehand. The Carousel Bakery was amazing, with homemade honey mustard on our fresh BEC sandwiches. The line is long, but it moves fast and is certainly worth the wait! Cash only.



From there, walk down to the ferry line at Jack Layton Terminal between Bay Street and Yonge Street on Queens Quay. You can take a ferry out to the Toronto Islands. Tickets should be purchased online in advance but are not time and date specific and include the roundtrip. There are three different ferries going to Ward, Harlan or Centre Island. During the summer months, Centre Island ferries leave every 30 mins on the hour/half hour. There are several restaurants available, including The Upper Deck (Centre Island), the Riviera (Ward’s Island), and Island Café (Ward’s Island).


You can walk from Harlan’s Point to Ward’s Island (the full length) in about two hours, so the island is easily navigable on foot, yet you can comfortably spend 4-6 hours exploring:

  • Rent a bike

  • Relax on the beaches

  • Stop by Gibraltar Point Lighthouse

  • Visit St. Andrew’s by the Lake Church

  • Try some water activities (can rent SUPs)

  • If you have children, check out Centreville Park or the petting zoo

  • Bring a picnic but save room for a Beaver Tail at the food trucks by Centre Island Beach ... so yummy!

Note: Harlan’s Point Beach is clothing optional, but there are also sandy beaches at Wards’ Beach or Centre Island



After soaking up the sun and exploring the islands, make your way back to the mainland and head to Amsterdam Brew House for drinks/dinner on the waterfront.


We made sunset reservations for the CN Tower, including the Skypod. The main observation level is 1,136 feet high, with the Skypod another 33 levels higher. The views at sunset are spectacular, though the glass could use a good cleaning! Don’t sign me up for window washing at that height!





After the CN tower, head across the street to the Rooftop at Soco for drinks… reservations are strongly encouraged!


Sunday


Wake up and stroll up the block from The Broadview Hotel to brunch at Lady Marmalade. If you are like us, you may need dessert after breakfast (or maybe in place of). If so, be sure to check out the cute window shop of Roselle Desserts on King Street. Their cake cups are sinful! Go early because they sell-out quickly. Only open on Friday evening and Saturday and Sunday 11 am – 3 pm. Check out their Instagram for current offerings. They have a small outside seating area behind the building if you can’t wait to indulge in your sweet treats!


At Roselle's bakery with three deserts on display and green plant in the background

After filling our bellies, we headed to Rogers Centre to watch the local Blue Jays take on the New York Yankees. The stadium is incredible with a retractable roof and in the heart of downtown. If you aren’t in Toronto during baseball season, there are lots of other sports to check out, including hockey, soccer, lacrosse, rugby and basketball. By attending a live sporting event you get to mingle with the local community and experience true fan culture.


Inside Rogers Centre during a baseball game with the field and stadium seating in view

If sports are not your vibe, head to the water and jump on a sailboat! Tall Ship Cruises offers several different excursions, including private charters. Sail during the day or at sunset on the open waters of Lake Ontario. A great activity for families, with bar and food menus available.


Toronto is home to some world renown bars with unique cocktails and tasting experiences. We created our very own bar crawl of a few of the best spots! Check out one or all four for a full night on the town!

  1. Civil Liberties – this speakeasy vibe is a laid-back craft cocktail bar. No reservations. The bartenders are true craftsmen and will learn about your favorite flavors, spices and liquor to create a unique cocktail just for you! We had a great time at this spot.

  2. Bar Mordecai – inspired by a Wes Anderson film, this bar/lounge is like walking into a hotel bar of yore with a hipster clientele. The cauliflower and salmon small places are excellent, but make sure you order a cocktail. Yes, I traveled all the way to Canada to order Kentucky bourbon, but the Gold Dust Woman was perfection.

  3. Mothers – a stylish little bar that plays on flavor. The cocktail menu is split into three sections: Yesterday (classics or minimalists), Today (quirky, fruity and sweeter options), and Tomorrow (brand new options infused with unique flavors).

  4. Bar Raval – a Spanish-inspired bar serving tapas with a variety of beers, wines and highballs

Monday


After an extensive bar crawl, you may need to have a lie in. If not, I’d suggest heading to Chinatown for some Chinese pastries to soak up the alcohol from the previous night. You can take the streetcar to Queen Street West at Spadina Avenue. Wander around Chinatown but be sure to stop at Ding Dong Pastries & Café for pineapple rolls and BBQ pork buns.



From there, head over to Toronto’s very own “Times Square” at Yonge-Dundas Square. Continue south to Toronto’s Old City Hall and Nathan Phillips Square. In the winter the square hosts a small ice-skating rink, but otherwise, it’s home to the very ‘gram worthy TORONTO sign.


Toronto sign with water fountain in front of it and tall skyscrapers behind it

For lunch, check out the modern, Mexican cuisine at El Catrin Destileria in the historic Distillery District, a pedestrian only neighborhood with shops, bars and other eateries. El Catrin has fresh, fresh, fresh tuna tostados and a fabulous margarita flight! Reservations encouraged.


View of El Catrin Distillery outside seating with wooden fencing and metal sign

To burn off those tequila calories, walk over to Sugar Beach. It’s not much of a “real” beach set in the heart of downtown and numerous high-rises, but the pink umbrellas are picture-perfect and a great way to relax by the water.


Picture of Sugar beach with pink umbrellas and white lounge chairs

If you are looking for local shopping, check out the Stackt Market, an assortment of shipping container shops with unique wares from international retailers. Another spot, Kensington Market, is an eclectic maze of narrow streets and alleys with some of the city’s best vintage shopping.


Last, but certainly not least! Toronto is a major foodie town with a wonderful array of ethnic food from around the world! The international community is well represented in the restaurant scene, and I encourage you to check out something new!


Baro – where traditional Latin culture and cuisine are reimagined with distinct modern flair

Pukka – forward-thinking take on Indian cuisine; family-style sharing plates with full-size flavor

Chubby’s Jamaican – simple take on traditional Caribbean cuisine balanced with healthy, culinary twists

Gusto 101 – rustic Italian eatery with pasta, pizza & wine… yum!

Pinky’s Ca Phe – a rare gem! Wonderful Vietnamese spot with a hole-in-the-wall vibe… and superb food

Sotto Sotto – upscale Italian bistro with fine wines and meats

Pearl Harborfront – panoramic views of the waterfront with authentic Chinese – go for dim sum

Boxcar Social on the Harborfront – grab a coffee or a quick bite to eat as you walk along the water

72 hours is not enough time to soak up all this city has to offer, but I hope the first visit will whet your appetite for future stops in Hogtown! Until the next adventure 😊

 

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