Toronto, Canada's largest city, boasts a vibrant urban atmosphere blended with lush green spaces, providing a balance of nature and city that is tough to beat. Established in the 18th century, this capital city of provincial Ontario is part of the Golden Horseshoe—an area stretching around Lake Ontario that contains about one-fourth of the country's entire population.
Start a tour of Toronto with CN Tower, the city's most prominent icon. Located next to the southern entertainment district and close to the harbor, the tower stands more than 1,800 feet high and is the tallest free-standing structure of its kind in the western hemisphere. The glass floor of LookOut observation deck offers a clear view down on Toronto, while the dizzying exterior of the EdgeWalk level is accessible to visitors who are brave enough to don a harness and sidle along its outermost ledge.
After a thrilling walk high above the city, find solid ground at the Toronto Islands, across the harbor from the tower. A top Toronto attraction, the small, interconnected islands are a 10-minute ferry ride from shore but feel like a world apart from urban life—especially since cars are not allowed. Centre Island offers an amusement park, and there are scores of beaches, picnic areas and bike paths to explore.
Back in the main city, your next stop might be Toronto's Distillery Historic District, east of the harbor. Hailing from the mid 1850s, the district was once the site of Gooderham and Worts distillery, which ceased whisky production in 1990 with the growing popularity of beer and wine. The city revamped the buildings into a pedestrian-only complex, now filled with restaurants, art galleries and charming boutiques. Cobblestone paths and over 40 Victorian-era buildings add to the historic vibe. The district hosts several outdoor music and art events throughout the year.
Although the once-formidable major distillery has been transformed, there are two nods to its alcoholic history in the district, with Mill Street Brewery and Ontario Spring Water Sake Company producing signature small-batch concoctions. Both offer behind-the-scenes glimpses of modern-day distilling, complete with product tastings.
Toronto restaurants provide another array of taste options to match the city's ethnic diversity. More than 100 languages are spoken in the area, so it is not surprising that there are so many cuisines represented, including classic Canadian dishes. Start a tour of Toronto restaurants with Canoe, situated on the 54th floor of TD Bank tower. It is notable for inventive steak and seafood creations and unbeatable views of the city. Another local favorite, The Black Hoof, focuses on exotic meats and charcuterie that might include cured venison, duck prosciutto or octopus salad. When exploring ethnic options, consider Guu Izakaya, an always-crowded Japanese pick with a large selection of small-plate dishes.
The breadth of Toronto attractions is formidable, from the stylish Financial District to a harbor front that sports more than a mile of shops and restaurants. The mix of historic buildings, natural spaces and urban delights makes for a memorable trip.