Growing up near Niagara Falls, New York, my first international experiences involved crossing the Canadian border and making the two-hour trek up to Toronto, Ontario. Although my visits were frequent, I was consistently mesmerized by the juxtaposition of colonial British architecture with mirror-like skyscrapers. My appreciation for the northern metropolis only grew as I got older, but upon moving to Texas, my visits became few and far between.
This past holiday season I had the opportunity to return to the “6ix,” as Toronto native Drake calls it—the city was originally composed of six smaller cities—and I leapt at it, falling in love with the frozen Canadian streets all over again.
Given the accessibility from the U.S. and the similarities in culture—along with the weak Canadian dollar— visiting has never been easier. Plus, Toronto is full of endless offerings for tourists, families and college students alike. If you’re thinking about going, hesitate no longer. You will not regret it.
Here’s what's not to miss in Toronto.
This kitschy, artist neighborhood is an old Toronto locality that has held onto its multicultural roots and is considered by many to be the heartbeat of the city. With bohemian shops, vintage boutiques, and international cuisine, hipsters flock to this walkable hood.
Looking for brunch in the city? This is your spot. Offering hearty plates, including poutine and a waffles bennie, all at reasonable prices, KOS is the perfect place to start a day in Kensington Market.
Hot Docs Ted Rogers Cinema
A historic cinema in The Annex neighborhood, Hot Docs offers impressive lineups of international documentaries and is also a venue for the Toronto International Film Fest.
With six locations throughout the city, this coffeeshop and pastry hub is a hotspot for locals and tourists alike. In addition to its quirky and photogenic, bright yellow coffee lids, Jimmy’s offers great seasonal flavors such as cardamom white chocolate mocha alongside a lineup of standard coffees.
Come for the Instagram-worthy brick roads and backdrops at this national historic site that once housed a 19th century whiskey distillery. Stay for the craft beers, cocktails, and hockey games on every screen in sight.
If the brisk Canadian wind chill gets you down, there’s nothing better than a big bowl of ramen. Ryoji just opened in Toronto a few years ago, but has an impressive reputation in Okinawa, Japan. This new mainstay serves up traditional and inventive takes on the ultimate Japanese comfort good.
This new ice skating trail runs underneath the main downtown highway. Sprinkled with various art installations and hosting workshops from skating basics to skating to the beats of renowned DJs, this is a true Canadian experience.
Step into the world of Harry Potter at this Hogsmeade-worthy watering hole, adorned with spells written on the walls, a staircase covered with book pages, and a wall of Dobby portraits. The Lockhart offers house-made infusions and flavors, and creative cocktails inspired by the book series, such as Better Beer, the Gin Weasley, the Marauder, and a “campfire” Old Fashioned. This bar is sure to entertain every fan of witchcraft and wizardry.