5 underrated activities for tourists visiting Toronto

by Alexandra Caufin

After the New York Times rated Toronto the place to visit in 2016, folks have flocked to check out the spectacle of #the6ix. From funky theme bars to Aboriginal art, here’s what we recommend checking out while you’re in town. [Image credit: iStock.com/surangaw]

5 underrated activities for tourists visiting Toronto

Wet your whistle at a classy theme(ish) bar

You’ve no doubt read the headlines about The Lockhart, Toronto’s watering hole with nods to J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter saga. But countless other theme(ish) bars pervade the city, giving you plenty of options for an inspired night out with the locals. Try The Black Dice for a Japanese rockabilly experience (complete with sake cocktails and 1950s jukebox that’s in great working order). If you’re into craft beer and arcade games, check out the Get Well or its sprawling younger bro The Greater Good.

For a speakeasy experience, visit The Libertine (just look out for the Tarot Card neon sign on Dundas West and head down the stairs to the sexy subterranean space). Hot tip: it’s most lively on the weekends.

And if you’ve got tiki fever, try Parkdale’s Shameful Tiki Room or Miss Thing's – also known as selfie central.

Take a hike (and see some Canadian art while you’re at it)

If part of your vacation plans involve a wee break from the urban hustle, head north to the McMichael, a national art gallery housing the largest collection of Group of Seven paintings in the country, as well as a huge collection of Canadian aboriginal art. Neighbouring the gorgeous lodge-like gallery is another incredible tourist site, The Kortright Centre for Conservation, which hosts 16 kilometres of lush hiking trails and inspiring LEED-certified (read: uber sustainable) buildings.

Visit a farmer’s market

If you’re saving a few bucks by eating in, there’s no reason you can’t make that an excuse for a city excursion anyway. Toronto hosts a series of sustainable farmers markets throughout the year where you can buy Ontario-grown organic produce, locally produced cheeses and meats, and Canadiana-style novelties like maple syrup and specialty honey. Each market has its own vibe – some boasting artisan goods, and others keeping it simple with strictly fruits and veggies.

Ditch the Distillery and check out TO’s iconic Steam Whistle brewery

The Distillery District may be gracing everyone’s Instagram feed these days, but if you’re looking to get off the beaten cobblestone path, we suggest a visit to Steam Whistle’s epic brewery neighbouring the Rogers Centre. Take a tour of where the magic happens and have a sample of Canada’s premium pilsner. Steam Whistle can support large groups of 10 or more as well – just make sure you make a reservation.

Spend the day in the Kensington Market

Complete with some of TO’s best vintage shops, grocers, and international eats, you’re likely to find whatever you’re seeking in Toronto’s most colourful and eclectic neighbourhood. Find a stylish set of old-school shades and make a one-of-a-kind charm necklace at Courage My Love (pop into A Homerun! and Bungalow for a more boutique vintage experience).

Pick up gourmet grocery goods at Sanagan’s Meat Locker, the innumerable open-air produce markets, and specialty spots like La Tortilleria (a tacqueria with Mexican groceries on offer). If after all that exploring you find yourself a wee thirsty or a lot peckish, stop into Grant Van Gameren’s Kensington mezcaleria for a cocktail, Seven Lives for tacos, or a slice at Wanda’s Pie in the Sky.

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