Our Favourite Things to Do in Toronto in Summer (& Spring)

by Ellie Cleary

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In spring, sleepy, snowy Toronto begins to stir and awake from its winter hibernation, and spring / summer is one of the best times to visit Toronto! Here are some of our favourite things to do in Toronto when the weather gets warmer. 

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Things to do in Toronto in Summer & Spring

Often overlooked by it’s loftier (literally) neighbours on the west of Canada, Ontario doesn’t get as much a look into visitors to Canada’s itineraries as say Banff, Lake Louise, or Vancouver. Canada’s largest city does have plenty of reasons to visit though.

Nestled in amongst the great lakes, Toronto gets pretty cold in winter and its residents tend to hibernate (as residents of Toronto over the last year we can vouch for this!) but as soon as the mercury turns red and temperatures start to rise to more respectable levels, the city starts to come to life. Patio terraces open, parks turn pink and then green, and boat trips to the island beckon in time for summer.

Unless you’re a snow bunny, we recommend spring and summer as the best time to visit Toronto, with plenty of things to do in the city and beyond. Given that we’ve only been here a year (!) we asked some fellow local bloggers to chip in with some of their favourites, too!

Favourite Things to do in Toronto in Spring

seeing cherry blossoms in Toronto in Spring

The cherry blossoms in High Park get pretty popular! Photo by Lora Pope.

See the Toronto Cherry Blossoms

Spring in Toronto is a wonderful time to be here. Canadians endure long, harsh winters so when spring comes the streets come alive and the city has a sense of renewal.

One of the best parts about spring in Toronto is seeing the cherry blossoms hit peak bloom in High Park, filling the city with beautiful colors and joy. This years peak bloom is predicted to be from May 2nd-May 8th, meaning 70% of the blossoms will be open at this time. The cherry blossoms only stay open for roughly four to ten days, depending on the weather.

Each year the cherry blossoms draw tens of thousands of people to High Park, so prepare for big crowds. The city has banned vehicles from parking in High Park this year during cherry blossom season due to the popularity. Instead, consider biking to the park or taking the subway. There are also 14 other parks around the city where you can find Sakura trees, including Trinity Bellwoods, Toronto Island, and Woodbine park.

2019 was a special year for the cherry blossoms, as it marks their 60th anniversary in the city from when Former Japanese ambassador Toru-Hagiwara donated 2,000 trees on behalf as the citizens of Tokyo as a gesture of appreciation following World War II.  It’s always a joy to see the cherry blossoms bloom each spring in Toronto. I can’t wait to go see them and commemorate this special anniversary!

Contributed by Lora of Explore with Lora

Looking for somewhere to stay in Toronto? Search Hotels here!

Wander Kensington Market on a Pedestrian Sunday

As of May, car-free Sundays are back in at Kensington Market: located off Spadina Avenue and home to the best ethical and sustainable buys in Toronto. From 26th May 2019 until October, the last Sunday of every month will be car free so you can happily wander and enjoy street food, peruse local vendors and soak up the entertainment in a more relaxed mode.

Watch One of Toronto’s Marathons

If you are an avid runner then you would be delighted to know that one of the best things to do in Toronto for runners is to join a marathon (or half marathon or a 5K) race in Toronto and see and explore the city that way.

There are 2 marathon events in Toronto, one in May and one in October. Both marathons are in the nice shoulder season allowing runners to benefit from the comfortable weather. Both marathons in Toronto cover a number of different neighborhoods and some of the most beautiful parts of Toronto allowing you to see the city while running. 

The May Marathon in Toronto also has a 10K option whereas the October Marathon doesn’t. If you are interested in seeing the downtown area of Toronto along the water on a flat course then the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon in October is perfect. During this course you will see Yorkville, City Hall and most of downtown Toronto. The Toronto Goodlife Marathon race in October is perfect for those who want to start from uptown and run south to downtown Toronto while benefiting from the downhill slope. During this course you get to see the castle in Toronto, Casa Loma, as well as the Distillery District.

Regardless of which marathon you choose in Toronto you will be able to see the best parts of Toronto in a non-traditional touristy way.

Submitted by Serena of Serenas Lenses

Starting the Toronto Marathon

Preparing for the Toronto Marathon – Photo courtesy Serenas Lenses

Browse one of Toronto’s Many Farmers’ Markets

With the arrival of Spring, by May farmers markets in Toronto are in full swing and are a great way to stock up on Canadian grown produce. Some of our favourites are:

  • Leslieville Farmers Market – Sundays – Located at Queen East and Woodward Ave, just before Coxwell
  • St Lawrence Farmers Market – Saturdays – Head to the tent like pavilion at the back of St Lawrence Market on Saturdays for great value produce from local farmers
  • Sorauren Farmers Market – Mondays (3pm-7pm) – Located in Sorauren Avenue Park in the West End Parkdale area of Toronto
View from the CN Tower Toronto

View from the CN Tower Toronto – Photo by James of Travel Collecting.

Head up the CN Tower for a View of Toronto in Spring

As green creeps over the city, head to the skies (well almost) to enjoy the crisp views.

The favorite thing I did in Toronto was go up the CN Tower.  There are several highlights, starting with the elevators.  They are on the outside of the tower and have glass walls and some have glass floors as well.  They whiz up to the observation deck in less than a minute (that’s 15 miles/ 22 km per hour) – a great start to the experience.

It’s all about the views, and the tower, one of the tallest in the world, is 1,815 feet/ 553 meters tall.  There are two main observation decks, including an outside deck.  The lower of the two decks has a glass floor.  This was actually the first glass floor in an observation deck (they have one in Willis Tower in Chicago too).  It’s quite safe, but it is nonetheless kind of terrifying to first step out on glass with an unobstructed view all the way down to the ground far, far, far below (1,122 feet/ 342 meters to be precise).   The upper observation deck now also has a glass floor, so you can look from that down through the lower glass floor as well.

You can actually go even higher.  For an additional fee (worth it, in my opinion), take another elevator up a further 33 floors to the Sky Pod. You will now be 1,465 feet/ 447 m above the ground.  On a clear day, you can see Niagara Falls.  It wasn’t that clear when I visited, but the view over Toronto and Lake Ontario was still spectacular.

If all that is not enough, you can also do the EdgeWalk, where you spend half an hour attached to a harness outside on a narrow ledge, hanging over the edge 116 floors above ground.  Not for those with a fear of heights!

Prices start at $38 for the regular observation decks, and go up to $53 including the Sky Pod.  The EdgeWalk is an additional $195.  Not cheap, but sure to satisfy your inner adrenaline junkie.

Contributed by James of Travel Collecting

Toronto islands in summer

One of our favourite things to do in Toronto in Summer is to head to Toronto Island(s)

Things to do in Toronto in Summer

In summer it’s almost as if Toronto becomes a different city: The cityscape is transformed from grey to vibrant green; the shorts come out, smiles appear everywhere on the faces of Torontonians, and the city comes alive with live music, outdoor theatre, and many a trip to the Toronto Islands.

Here are some of our favourite ways to enjoy the city when the sun is out.

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Things to do in Toronto in Summer

Enjoy the Toronto Beaches

There are quite a few beaches on Toronto, on the shores of Lake Ontario, but there’s a whole area of Toronto called “the Beaches”, located to the east of Leslieville. It holds a soft spot in our hearts as this was the first place we stayed in Toronto. If you want to stay longer in this area, don’t miss the wonderful Airbnb we stayed in.

Note that the water in Lake Ontario is not recommended for swimming – either here or on the islands due to the amount of contamination that goes into the water from industry. 🙁 

If you are in Toronto and looking to get away from the hustle and bustle of downtown, then head to The Beaches! Located in Toronto’s east end, this peaceful and social neighbourhood is a great place along Lake Ontario to get some fresh spring air, relax in the summer sun, or watch the leaves turn in the fall!

Besides the lakefront areas (as the name suggests), The Beaches are actually quite residential with loads of great boutique shops, cafes, and restaurants along lively Queen Street. You might stop in for a coffee at Bud’s Coffee Bar or have a drink and a bite to eat at one of the many patios that line the street.

Naturally, The Beaches are home to some of Toronto’s best beaches. Woodbine Beach is one of the largest and is a hugely popular hang out spot in the summer season. You might even feel like renting a paddle board for a morning or evening paddle along the rocky shores of Ashbridge’s Bay.

If you really want to stretch your legs, the wooden boardwalk stretches for kilometres – passing through wooded areas and along the beachfront. There are courts for beach sports, smaller green spaces, and even dog parks – all along the beachfront. Don’t forget to photograph Leuty Lifeguard Station – it’s a been a Toronto icon on Kew Beach since 1920!

Contributed by Eric from Ontario Away

The Beaches, Toronto

Woodbine Beach – Photo Courtesy Ontario Away

Visit the Toronto Botanical Gardens

Toronto can feel like a bit of a concrete jungle at times, but there are plenty of spots which we find ourselves regularly retreating to to reconnect with nature and just enjoy time outdoors in one of Toronto’s green spaces – which come into their own in summer. We have our own shortlist of favourite green spaces in the city, the Toronto Botanical Gardens being one of them! 

Located in East York, the Toronto Botanical Gardens are a delight to just wander around, or attend one of their special exhibitions, events or tours. There are Blossom Parties, Earth Day celebrations and much more – you can find a listing of events on their website

Visit the Toronto Islands

One of our favourite things to do in Summer is a visit to the Toronto Islands, and we’re not alone. Canadian blogger Carol from Wandering Carol shared some of her tips with us: 

The Toronto Islands are a great way to escape the concrete grind, and it’s a fun and fast ferry ride over from the harbour front. You can catch the ferry at the Jack Layton Ferry Terminal at Bay Street and Queen’s Quay, and the 13-minute ride takes you to a collection of interlinked islands. The ferries go to three different points: Centre Island, Hanlon’s Point to the east or Ward’s Island to the west. All the islands are interconnected and it’s about five km (three miles) from end to end.

One of the best ways to explore Toronto’s green oasis is by bicycle, and you can rent them on the island – Centre Island is the nearest stop for bike rentals – or you can take your own over on the ferry. Centre Island is also the stop for the family-friendly Centreville Amusement Park, where you’ll find popular children’s activities such as a merry-go-round, a small Ferris wheel and swan pedal boats.

Other things to do on the island include picnicking, kayaking or strolling the boardwalk along Lake Ontario. You can take a mini train around the island, grab a meal at one of the island restaurants or hit the beaches. Manitou Beach is the largest stretch of sand, while at Hanlon’s Point you’ll find Toronto’s only clothing-optional beach.

We’d add that for best views of the Toronto skyline fronting the lake, take the ferry back around sunset!

Toronto Islands trip

We could get used to these skyline views <3

Shakespeare in the Park

Continuing our theme of enjoying the great outdoors in Toronto, the city’s most famous park – High Park – offers plenty of things to do; including Shakespeare Theatre Performances in their outdoor auditorium in Summer. Performances run from July 4th to September 1st this year. Tickets sell out so you’ll have to be quick with these ones. 

You can find the performances and buy tickets on the Canadian Stage website

Visit Riverdale Farm

If you have kids in tow, a visit to Riverdale Farm is the perfect family-friendly outing. Located in Cabbagetown (one of our favourite neighbourhoods for its characterful houses and interesting history) in the Riverdale East park, the Riverdale Farm offers free admission and is a working farm – kids can see the animals being fed, learn about how a farm works, and get to know the different animals. 

Visit Lakeshore and the Tunnels Underneath Humber College

Head out of downtown Toronto towards Etobicoke, a modern sub-urban hub on the banks of the Lake for a different perspective of Toronto. The Colonel Samuel Smith Park is a great place to wander on a summer’s day, with views back towards the city, and we took a special tour of Humber College which took us into the tunnels of what used to be Lakeshore Psychiatric Hospital.

The Lakeshore Psychiatric Hospital was built in 1888 as the Mimico Asylum, and served as a home for many of Toronto’s deemed mentally ill until its closure in 1989. The tour takes you through the tunnels and into out of bounds areas of today’s Humber College and is a sobering trip through the history of the (lack of) care for those deemed to be mentally ill in the past. There’s a beautiful art exhibition, too.

Monthly tunnel tours are run, free of charge, and there are a number of other events organised by Humber for visitors, too – great for those interested in doing something completely different in Toronto! More information here

Celebrate Canada Day!

Every year on July 1st, most of Canada gets their patriotism on and their red and white out, to celebrate the birthday and independence of their country. Typical celebration of Canada Day includes picnics, plenty of barbecues, long weekends away in cottage country, and fireworks a plenty.

In Toronto itself there are big celebrations at the Harbourfront Centre, fireworks from the Ashbridge’s Bay Park in the Beaches, and there are also Canada Day cruises in the Toronto harbour area. Happy celebrating! 

What are your favourite things to do in Toronto in spring and summer? Let us know in the comments below! 

Read more about Toronto on Soul Travel

Moving to Toronto

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Things to do in Toronto in Summer - our favourite things to do as written by two residents!

 

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1 comment

Vivien De Greef June 14, 2019 - 9:25 pm

Hi Ellie, L
Looks like Toronto is the place to be during the summer!
We love Canada Day (even though we’re from Aus). But we have a lot of friends who are Canadian. Coming up soon. Hope you have a good one.

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