There is a ton of good stuff worth doing in Toronto, from the well-known to the overrated and off the beaten-path. Here is the list of things I’d want to do if I had 5 days in Toronto.

Exploring

Riverdale Farm

A free, functioning farm in the middle of a city that is open all year round! Aside from the pure novelty of a farm in the middle of downtown Toronto, it’s a really fund place to walk around. If you go in the spring time you’re likely to find newborn goat kids and lambs.

goats

Evergreen Brick Works

 If you ask a Torontonian what you should check out, chances are half of them told you about Brickworks. That’s because this old quarry and brick plant is actually is pretty awesome. A lot of the old buildings have been re-purposed and some of the paths through the park is along an old rail line.
Railroad bridge

Sugar Beach

Sugar beach is not actually a beach, it’s a sandy area on a pier on the water’s edge. It’s across from the Red Path Sugar Refinery and if you happen to be there when a boat is docked you can see them unloading the raw sugar in the fall.
Sugar Beach

Roundhouse Park

Do you like old trains? I like old trains, so of course I like this old locomotive roundhouse that’s now a park. There are old trains, historic railway buildings, an old station from the Canadian Pacific Railway, and a miniature railway throughout the park.

R.C. Harris Water Treatment Plant

Yes, it’s a water treatment plant. It’s still awesome. And don’t worry, it doesn’t smell bad. The art deco building is fantastic and the grounds are open to the public.
water treatment plant

Tommy Thompson Park

This man-mad peninsula was essentially an industrial dumping ground for a long time. Basically every time there’s a major development in the city such as the demolition of a large building or whenever the harbour is dredged, the trash is disposed of here. Now it’s sort of a park. You’ll get a great view of the city and there’s all sorts of good wildlife. It’s even known as being an “important bird area.” It’s only open on the weekends and for a park on top of a dumping ground, there are a lot more people than you’d expect to find here.

Food & Drink

The George Street Diner

This place looks like a dump but has some of the best diner food outside of New Jersey (trust me, New Jersey has the best diner food). Order the meatloaf or the Irish breakfast (you’re welcome). Don’t bother coming here on the weekends cause you’ll wait forever, but if you have the time to come during the week you won’t be sorry.

York Station Bar

This difficult to find bar is on the 2nd floor of the Royal York Hotel. You’ll probably get lost trying to find it, but it’s worth it once you taste the most perfect Old Fashioned. Even Don Draper would be impressed. The train themed bar is only open until 7 pm Monday through Friday. It’s been staffed by the same bartender since it first opened in 1977 who also happens to be the best bartender, ever.
royal york

Bellwoods Brewery

There are a lot of craft breweries in Toronto, but this one is my favourite. It’s in an old auto-body shop with some tasteful industrial upgrades. The artwork on the bottles is fantastic, which somehow makes everything taste better. They rotate their taps so you’re likely to find different options from time to time. If you’re into IPAs then you shouldn’t say no to Cat Lady IPA.
bellwoods

Cold Tea

The most popular secret bar in Toronto. During prohibition, ordering “cold tea” at a speakeasy would get you some nice illegal booze.
Cold Tea
Hands down the best cocktail bar in Toronto. Owned by local celebrity chef Jen Agg, you can also check out Black Hoof across the street if you want a fancy meal (and more delicious cocktails).
cocktail bar

Bloor Hot Docs Cinema

Ok, it’s not a bar or a restaurant, but they do sell beer at the concession stand. If you like documentaries and old movie theatres, then this is the place for you. The double decker theatre first opened in 1913 and now screens all sorts of documentaries you probably never heard of. Don’t let that scare you off, it’s worth a visit.
bloor cinema

Neighbourhoods

Distillery District

This small neighbourhood is located on the old grounds of the Gooderham and Worts distillery, which at one point produced half of the spirits in Canada. After prohibition came to Ontario, the distillery survived by legally exporting booze outside of Ontario to resellers in the US where it was illegal to produce alcohol (sort of a weird loophole, right?). The distillery closed in 1990 and is now home to restaurants, bars, shops, and a few apartment buildings. It’s a popular spot and you’re likely to find a lot of out-of-towners when you go, but somehow it’s still really charming.
Distillery District

Kensington Market

If you’ve ever been to the Haight-Ashbury in San Francisco, Telegraph Ave in Berkeley, or St. Marks St. in Manhattan, then you’ll know what to expect when you visit this beloved neighborhood. Originally known as “the Jewish Market,” today you’ll find eclectic stores, bars, and restaurants. It seems that whenever I ask a Torontonian about their favourite neighborhood or where their favourite bar is, it’s always in Kensington Market.
kensington market

Toronto Islands

You’ll have to pay $7.50 for round trip ferry ride over to the islands and it’s worth every penny. There are a ton of things to do over on the islands, even in the winter when most of the stuff is closed for the season. A lot of stuff is closed in the winter, but that means you can walk around and do fun stuff like walk through an empty amusement park (which is usually funner than walking around an open amusement park). You can explore the residential parts of the island, enjoy the free Far Enough Farm that is open all year round, take in some fantastic views of the city, and walk along the seawall on the eastern edge.

Eastern Gap seawall

This seawall is part of Ward’s Island Park, which is my favorite area in the islands. It was built in 1975 when the Eastern Channel was expanded to accommodate larger ships as the new port entrance. You’ll see the Port of Toronto across the channel. The wall helps to prevent the channel from widening any further. As you’ll see, it’s in pretty bad shape. It also has some awesome views of downtown Toronto.

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