16 Cool Facts About Toronto’s Iconic Attractions

Here’s what you probably didn’t know about Toronto’s must-see attractions and neighbourhoods.

Toronto skyline looking south west in summer

Ever been in the presence of a Martian meteorite or taken a walk through a blockbuster movie set? In Toronto, you can. There’s probably a thing or two you didn’t know about our city’s popular landmarks and neighbourhoods, each with an interesting story to tell. 

Note: Check in with each attraction’s current status as some are operating on reduced hours or may be temporarily closed. Also, explore the city safely by informing yourself on their current health and safety guidelines prior to your visit.

1. The CN Tower weathers all storms. (290 BREMNER BLVD.)

Towering over the city at 1,815 ft, Toronto’s landmark attraction is famous for offering unparalleled views of the city. A little known tidbit is that as the tallest structure in the city, it’s no stranger to lightning. In fact, it gets struck around 75 times per year. Do a quick CN Tower search on Instagram and you’ll come across jaw-dropping photos of the gorgeous occurrence. Thankfully, the Tower’s build is more than equipped to handle it, with electrons easily flowing through and causing zero damage—just incredibly cool photos. Who knows, next time you visit maybe lightning will strike. 

Where to eat nearby

The CN Tower’s 360 Restaurant serves fine Canadian cuisine paired with an outstanding, revolving view of Toronto.

Girl looking at a shark at Ripley's Aquarium

2. Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada houses 12 sharks. (288 BREMNER BLVD.)

Among the 16,000 marine animals at Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada live 12 impressive sharks. That’s right, 12. You must be thinking, what do they eat? Surprisingly, the Aquarium only feeds them three times per week due to their naturally slow metabolisms. The building’s also made with special shielding to protect the sharks from disturbances via the electrical systems. When the sharks are happy, everyone’s happy. See their magnificence in person or watch them from the Shark Cam.  

Where to eat nearby

Grab a quick bite at Ripley’s Café, or enjoy casual eats and arcade games across the street at The Rec Room.

Royal Ontario Museum exterior at night

3. The Royal Ontario Museum displays Martian meteorites. (100 QUEENS PARK)

Is there life on Mars? Who knows! What we do know is that there are meteorites at the ROM, three of which are Martian. Meteorites (or space rocks) are surprisingly common, with over 100 having landed on Earth to date, some even originating from the moon. Find them at the ROM’s Earth’s Treasures department during your next visit or browse the ROM’s online database. Start with the NWA5298, the first of their Martian meteorite acquisition. 

Where to eat nearby

Head down the street to Cibo Wine Bar for delicious Italian cuisine, an exquisite selection of wine and a lively, rustic ambiance.

4. The Art Gallery of Ontario owns one of Toronto’s most popular pieces. (317 DUNDAS ST. W.)

Before Yayoi Kusama’s Let’s Survive Forever enchanted the city, one of the AGO’s most popular acquisitions was Henry Moore’s Large Two Forms. In fact, it’s considered one of Toronto’s most photographed works of art. The avant-garde, corporeal structure is the largest of Henry Moore’s sculptures displayed at the museum. Find it at the AGO’s rear, in Grange Park.

Where to eat nearby

Fill up at the AGO’s very own AGO Bistro, designed by Frank Gehry. The seasonal menu incorporates only the freshest ingredients, sourced locally.

5. The Toronto Islands has the oldest lighthouse of the Great Lakes. (9 QUEENS QUAY W.)

If you love history, then this 200-year-old monument is for you. And if you’re in search of ghosts for Halloween, here’s a good place to start. The Gibraltar Point Beach Lighthouse is one of Toronto’s oldest buildings dating back to 1809 and is also supposedly haunted by its first keeper, John Paul Radelmüller. As the story goes, he disappeared under mysterious circumstances and still guards the lighthouse to this day. Ferries to the island depart from Queens Quay daily. Tickets can currently only be purchased online

Where to eat nearby

Grab a bite with a view at Island Café, directly across the Ward’s Island ferry dock.

People exploring Toronto's Distillery Historic District

6. The Distillery Historic District has a reputation for ghost sightings. (9 TRINITY ST.)

Speaking of ghosts, they seem to have a pattern of haunting Toronto’s oldest locations. The Distillery District is a pedestrian-only neighbourhood known for once housing the largest distillery in Canada (Gooderham & Worts), and with buildings dating back to the 1830s, ghost sightings have been reported by locals and tourists alike. In fact, they’re so common that they’ve inspired a handful of haunted Distillery District tours, including a haunted Segway tour and ‘private bubble’ haunted walks. Why not try this fun alternative to your usual Halloween party?

Where to eat nearby

Enjoy authentic Mexican eats surrounded by eclectic and stylish décor at El Catrin.

7. St. Lawrence Market was Toronto’s first public market. (93 FRONT ST. E.)

Originally called Market Square, St. Lawrence Market’s inception was due to an increase of York’s (Toronto’s) population. Settlers decided it was time to open a proper market to feed their growing city. It immediately became the city centre where locals would convene and hold social celebrations. Nearly 200 years later, St. Lawrence Market thrives as a culinary hub where foodies gather for local and artisanal eats. And as far as we know, no ghost sightings yet.

Where to eat nearby

The Market itself overflows with scrumptious food options at every turn and also hosts food tours. Try the Peameal Bacon, a local favourite.

8. The Hockey Hall of Fame has an interactive model rink. (30 YONGE ST.)

Looking to brush up on your hockey skills? Face up against Carey Price and Frederik Anderson to practice your slapshots at the Hockey Hall of Fame. We should probably mention that you’ll be playing against virtual versions of the hockey legends—still cool nonetheless! Practice your technique with a real puck and stick, inside of an immersive model rink as the virtual goalies protect their nets.

Where to eat nearby

Steps away from the Hockey Hall of Fame is The Bottom Line, a yummy sports bar owned and operated by former NHL-er Wayne Cowley.

9. Casa Loma moonlights as a blockbuster movie set. (1 AUSTIN TERRACE)

Casa Loma is primarily known for being North America’s only castle. Built in 1914, its beautiful Gothic-revival design, immaculate flower gardens and overall opulence can’t be found anywhere else. For this reason, it’s become a prime location for film shoots, some of which are Hollywood hits. You may recognize it in X-Men, Chicago and most recently, Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World. Keep that in mind during your next visit as you walk through Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters.

Where to eat nearby

For a meal as regal as Casa Loma itself, try BlueBlood Steakhouse, located in the castle. Opt for the decadent meat and seafood dishes.

10. The Toronto Zoo began with a single deer. (2000 MEADOWVALE RD.)

It’s hard to imagine that the largest zoo in Canada and 3rd largest in the world, with over 5,000 animals, started with one deer. It’s true! At some point in the early 1890s, Daniel Lamb was gifted a deer, which prompted him to open Cabbagetown’s Riverdale Zoo. And the rest is history. Today, the zoo has over 2.87 km2 of walking trails within seven geographic areas. From the African Savannah to the Gorilla Rainforest, safely explore the zoo by foot or by car.

Where to eat nearby

There are ample food options on-site including favourites like burgers and beavertails.

11. The Toronto Sign at Nathan Phillips Square got a makeover. (100 QUEEN ST. W.)

Nathan Phillips Square’s iconic Toronto Sign wasn’t originally built to be a permanent city fixture. Created solely for the 2015 Pan Am and Parapan Am Games, the 3D installation became so popular and well-received that Toronto decided to keep it. Except it wasn’t constructed to last more than a couple of years. It fared pretty well considering Toronto’s winters but was replaced by a more durable sign in September 2020.

Find it at the same spot looking almost identical but with added brightness for the Insta. The current vinyl wrap is an artwork titled Patterns of the People, designed by Toronto artist Danilo Deluxo McCallum to honour the United Nations International Decade for People of African Descent (IDPAD).

Where to eat nearby

Treat yourself to The Chase, a scenic rooftop restaurant that serves fine, fresh cuisine in a beautiful setting.

12. Kensington Market was originally a Jewish market. (307 AUGUSTA AVE.)

Previously known as The Jewish Market, Kensington Market was predominantly inhabited by Toronto’s Jewish community (around 60,000 people) for the first half of the 20th century. A go-to market for the city’s immigrants, they often frequented the locally-owned shops for rare imports from around the world. Eventually, the Jewish community migrated north and Kensington attracted Caribbean immigrants instead. However, Kensington’s Jewish roots are still present among the many synagogues throughout the area.

Where to eat nearby

It’s hard to name just one spot as Kensington is filled with culinary gems. Local favourites include Seven Lives (tacos), Rasta Pasta (Jamaican-Italian fusion) and Otto’s Berlin Döner (German street food).

People at Bluffers Beach at Scarborough Bluffs

13. The Scarborough Bluffs conceal an Ancient Greek theatre. (201 GUILDWOOD PKWY.)

Hidden along the Scarborough Bluffs is Guild Park and Gardens, a beautiful sculptural garden, filled with Toronto’s salvaged architecture from times past, as well as dreamy rose bushes. You’ll feel like you’re walking among Ancient Greek and Roman relics when in actuality they’re remnants from Toronto’s ornate, historical buildings that were demolished. The best part of the garden is the Bank of Toronto’s salvaged archways, set up to mimic a Greek theatre. You can also overlook Lake Ontario and the rest of the Bluffs from the garden’s cliffs.

Where to eat nearby

Treat yourself to traditional Italian cuisine at Il Fresco, just a 5-minute drive or bus ride away. 

14. Yonge-Dundas Square sees 100,000 people daily. (1 DUNDAS ST. E.)

Bright, electric, lively and poignant. There are as many adjectives to describe Toronto’s Yonge-Dundas Square as there are people. Oh, and did we mention entertaining? If you need a jolt, spark of inspiration or simply something to see—there’s usually an event going on—head to the Square. It’s Canada’s busiest intersection with 100,000 people crossing it on the regular. Surrounded by major landmarks like Ed Mirvish Theatre and the CF Toronto Eaton Centre, the intersection’s popularity is no surprise. Plus, there’s free Wi-Fi.

Where to eat nearby

Head to Don Don Izakaya for delicious and shareable Japanese-inspired plates and one of the best Sake selections in town.

15. The Ontario Science Centre brings dinosaurs to life. (770 DON MILLS RD.)

At the Ontario Science Centre’s Dinosaurs in Motion exhibit, you can come close to imagining life in the prehistoric era or if dinosaurs were still around (definitely lots of roaring). The exhibit features life-sized dinosaurs complete with movement and sound. Luckily they’re mechanical, so you won’t have to worry about the experience turning into a real-life Jurassic Park. While you’re there, explore the Ontario Science Centre’s other interactive exhibits as well (over 500 of them!), including an immersive, hyper-realistic Rainforest. The Ontario Science Centre is currently closed but will be reopening soon.

Where to eat nearby

Grab a bite at one of the many eateries within the Ontario Science Centre or head to Hakka Garden for Indian-Chinese fusion.

People on a roller coaster ride at Canada's Wonderland

16. Wonderland’s Wonder Mountain wears many hats. (1 CANADA’S WONDERLAND DR.)

Canada’s Wonderland’s Wonder Mountain is more than just the theme park’s showpiece landmark. When it was first built, the Mountain was equipped with beacons up top to alert low-altitude planes from Vaughan’s nearby airport. Nowadays, the beacons are gone but the Mountain still serves as an air conditioner for the theme park. The chilled water loop that circulates from within the Mountain flows 30,000 gallons of water per minute, sending air to Wonderland’s restaurants, arcades, shops and more. Call it the world’s coolest air conditioner. Please note that Canada’s Wonderland is momentarily closed due to COVID-19.

Where to eat nearby

Wonderland itself is filled with eclectic food, from burgers, hot dogs and funnel cake, to Mexican eats, gourmet Mac and Cheese, beavertails and more.

See it. Snap it. Share it. In every neighbourhood, around every corner, through every door there's something that begs to be discovered in Toronto.

#OPENYOURCURIOSITY

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