10 fun ways to be a tourist this summer in Toronto
Playing tourist in Toronto can actually be a whole lot of fun, even if you happen to live the city. There are so many activities and resources that cater to tourists that locals can also reap the benefits from, whether it be history tours or afternoon tea at one of the city's posh hotels. Naturally, the trick is to avoid some of the garbage-y tourist activities (but do try a sightseeing tour) in favour of those that retain a bit of novelty. Toronto's big hotels are like miniature cities, and it'd be a shame not to take advantage of their spa and pool facilities, restaurants and other amenities just because there will be a few tourists present. Embrace the wide-eyed look that visitors tend to wear and discover a Toronto that's hidden in plain sight.
Here are 10 fun ways to be a tourist this summer in Toronto.
Hit up a roof top patio at Toronto's newest boutique hotels
Toronto might not enjoy the glut of Boutique Hotels that, say, a city like Montreal does, but that's changing. Aiming to be destination spots over and above the accommodations they offer, newcomers Be SixFifty and The Beverley Hotel foster social scenes with rooftop patios that'll make you feel important to sip drinks on. The Beverley's patio, which features massive white umbrellas and a glorious view over Queen West's rooftops, is open from 11:30am until 12:00am most nights (2:00am on Thursday and Friday), while Be SixFifty aims to open its swank, cabana-dotted rooftop lounge a little later this summer. Can't wait that long to rub elbows with the well-heeled? Hit up the patio at The Chase.
Feast on Lobster at the Four Seasons
If you're looking for a glamorous experience in Toronto, the Four Seasons is about as good as it gets, complete with its Yorkville address. If you're not staying in the hotel, pay a visit to the restaurants, run by celebrity chef Daniel Boulud. Cafe Boulud is decked out with Mr. Brainwash paintings for a so hip it hurts decor, while the new Dbar has a handsome patio space and specializes in lobster (ideal if you're a homesick expat Maritimer and grew up poor eating lobster sandwiches). Spoil yourself with everything from lobster rolls ($26), lobster bisque ($15) and lobster salad ($26 - $38, depending on size).
Do some laps 32 stories up at the Trump
The Trump Hotel boasts a newly revamped spa area. The pool is on the 32nd storey, and provides a chance to relax in a salt water lap pool and whirlpool overlooking the skyline. They've also got saunas at which to drip the stress away. For those not staying the night at the hotel, the way to gain pool access is via the spa, at which treatments start at $40 (for a manicure).
Go shopping for Toronto paraphernalia
The Drake General Store sells WAMCO shirts, and North Standard Trading Post sells the ever-beloved Tuck Shop hats. Finch's does subway t-shirts, and Nicole Tarasick some gorgeous totes and tees. If you'd like to be charitable as well as fashionable, Peace Collective's t-shirts are the way to go, while Spacing has lots on offer for the more transit-oriented among us. Not to forget 1LoveTO, who's Toronto-repping shirts might be the most iconic of all.
Get fancy and do afternoon tea
Is there a better way to feel fancy than by taking afternoon tea? You get to luxuriate in opulent surroundings at places like the Windsor Arms, the King Eddy, and the Library Bar at the Royal York, all for a fraction of the price that a meal will cost you (it's $35 at each of the places listed). If you're looking for something a little bit more old world, try the Old Mill Inn & Spa ($20) or for something more modern head to t-budds ($24) near Yonge and Lawrence.
Check out the cheese cave at Ritz Carlton
The Ritz-Carlton is home to many nice things, but none perhaps quite so enjoyable as its cheese cave. Located in TOCA, the hotel's in-house restaurant, diners can peruse the cave before making their selections or have the cheese affineur guide you through the over 35 offerings aging away in the glass room within the restaurant. You'll be the centre of attention, but in a way that's bound to make everyone else jealous. Prices vary, but $20 per three samples is a safe bet.
Soak up some Toronto History
While you're bound to get some on-the-fly history lessons if you take a sightseeing bus, the better bet when it comes to actually learning something about the city is a dedicated history tour. Two of the best include Muddy York Walking Tours, which cover a broad range of topics from Toronto's lost rivers to our cinematic history. Tours typically cost $15. Equally as compelling are the tours run by the experts over at Heritage Toronto, which trek around by bike and bus in addition to on foot (non-walking tours start at $25). Topic include just about everything, but there is a special focus on Toronto neighbourhoods and the city's built environment. Check here for a full calendar.
Do some poolside downward dogs at top Toronto hotels
Can't decide between lounging by the pool or channeling your inner yogi? Well, you could always do both. Both the Sheraton Centre and The Hyatt Regency Toronto rooftop pools will also offer yoga classes this summer, running through until September. Drop-in classes start for as little as $12 at the Hyatt ($15 at the Sheraton Centre) and offer access to the hotel's pool facilities (naturally). Classes are also available at the Shangri-La and Ritz Carlton, though they will cost you more (starting at $30). For a full schedule of classes at each hotel, check out this calendar.
Go on an Old Toronto beer tour
Beer aficionados and history lovers can spend a full day in suds-soaked heaven on this sampling tour of the city's breweries. In addition to a spin through the Steam Whistle Brewery and tasting sessions at Beer Academy, Amsterdam Brewery and the Mill St. Beer Hall, the tour features pit stops at historic Fort York and Corktown (so you'll feel like you got some culture into your day). The tour, which includes transportation (mercifully), will set you back $129; join the gang for a "Brewmaster's Dinner" at Granite Brewery afterwards for an additional $50.
Taste your way through the city on a neighbourhood food tour
With so many overwhelming dining options to choose from, a food-focused walking tour or curated restaurant crawl can be a delicious way to discover new neighbourhoods and hidden gems. Let the Culinary Adventure Co. take you on a chef-led tour ($75-$150) and eat your way through one neighbourhood at a time, or, let Chowbella guide you on a themed adventure like a "Chocolate & Cheese Crawl" or "Global Bites" tour ($69). Dates, times and meeting locations vary, though private tours can be arranged for larger groups.
For more fun things to do this summer, check out our Toronto Fun Guide.
Writing by Sarah Ratchford, Derek Flack, Natalia Manzocco, and Liora Ipsum.
Photo by Bukharov