Things to do in Toronto

Cocktails and Ambition | Things to do in Toronto

Visiting Toronto? Here’s What You Must Do

I was lucky enough to have my Californian friend, Paige, visit for a few days this month. For her visit, I knew I had to devise an entertaining itinerary to fulfill her ‘grand-tour of Toronto’ needs. This got me to thinking – what are some affordable places you must visit while downtown for a day? What must you eat?

First of all, we took the GO-train. There’s no better way to get to the heart of the city. You avoid traffic and therefore save time, you don’t have to pay for parking, and you don’t contribute pollution to our already dying planet. The GO-train is a large piece of the GTA experience.

Dineen Coffee Co

It was before noon when we arrived downtown which means we were both in need of a good coffee. Paige is what one would call a “coffee shop connoisseur” – not simply just interested in coffee, but more specifically in the coffee shop itself. I knew I had to take her to Dineen Coffee Co. on Yonge Street. This coffee shop is all windows and is best for people watching while sipping on an extremely yummy (and not over-priced) oat milk latté. The details are seen in the floor decor and decorative walls make your experience at Dineen all the more luxurious. I am definitely not the first to place this on the top of the list for ‘best coffee in Toronto’ and I definitely won’t be the last, but regardless, this information needs to be passed on.

Visit the Eaton Center

After a coffee, we decided to walk around until we hit the Eaton Centre. Every city has a city center with a mall and some shops that all the local’s visit and Eaton center is definitely one of them. This mall has nearly everything from cheap fast fashion clothing stores to high-end brand name stores that you can’t walk into unless you make a certain amount of money. We shopped around for a while and then decided to move on to the next event on the itinerary.

Visit Nathan Philips Square

While in Toronto, you can’t be downtown and not visit Nathan Phillips Square. Seeing the massive Toronto sign is key in ensuring you’ve had a true Torontonian experience. After snapping a few photos and posing beside the massive letters, we kept on walking down Queen street.

Go Thrifting

The thrift and vintage scene downtown is one of the coolest in my opinion, so I wasn’t going to let Paige leave without seeing just that. We stopped at Black Market Clothing on Queen Street West next – a vintage clothing store with agreeable prices (everything is $10 or under). This must-do activity obviously included a shopping montage trying on whatever you can find. After purchasing some clothes, we realized how hungry we were because it was time for lunch.

Lunch was one of the hardest decisions because there are so many choices downtown. The ethnic foods are amazing, but we wanted something simple with no fuss. I made an executive decision to guide us towards The Burger’s Priest. This burger joint is exclusively Canadian with only 19 locations (17 of which are in Ontario specifically) so of course this was part of the tour. Burgers and fries go down smoothly after walking around the city for a few hours.

Visit the Coffee Lab

The next stop on your Torontonian experience tour is the smallest café in the city – The Coffee Lab on Spadina Avenue. A quick espresso to keep fuel in the tank was necessary from the one-man show that is The Coffee Lab. Definitely a must-see while in the city.

Union Summer Pop-up Market

By the time we walked back towards Union Station, it was the end of the work day. People flooded the streets and some ran to catch their ride home. Union Summer – a pop-up market-place-slash-beer-garden-with-live-music – was open for the season so we stopped and sat in the shade until it was time to get on the train.

After a day walking the streets of the city, Paige understood the allure of Toronto meaning my mission had been accomplished. Follow Paige’s Instagram account @myspaige to see the shots she got of Toronto that are soon to come!

If you have someone visiting that has never seen the city I definitely recommend trying to hit one or more of these must-do activities, weather permitting of course.  Don’t be afraid to leave a comment about what your must-do Toronto activities are when you’re in the city – I’d love to hear about it!

Written by Ana Mota