Toronto is Canada's largest city and the birthplace of Drake. There are other celebrities too, but well, they're not Drake.
In the glorious city of Toronto you can never be bored, it simply won't allow it! Maybe it's Toronto's ravenous hunger for fast-moving food trends or the complimentary timeless establishments rooted in years of tradition. There are endless festivals, including one of the largest pride parades in the world! There are the colourful and quirky neighbourhoods that seem like world's apart from one another with their bespoke boutiques and corner cafés. If you want to catch a live hockey game, you can do so at the Air Canada Centre but then again, you can have your pick of major league sports with rugby, soccer, baseball, and basketball all on offer.
Considering that it's a town of arts and culture with a heavy emphasis on entertainment, it's no wonder that Toronto has been on the map as a destination for all sorts with 43.7 million tourists visiting in 2017 alone. Torontonians don't hum and haw about their tourism either, it's recognized as a place where people will be friendly and cordial, even if English (or French) isn't your first language.
For anyone who's considering a trip to T.O., it can be quite overwhelming. There are heaps of Toronto specific resources like Torontoist, Toronto Life, and blogTO that are covering the latest and greatest restaurants, concert venues, pubs and parties. Lucky for you we're supplying a cut and dry list of overrated and 'just right' rated experiences you can have in Toronto. Enjoy!
20 Overrated: The Aquarium - once you've seen one, you've seen them all
The Ripley's aquarium is pretty cool there's no doubt about it so don't take this the wrong way we just don't think it deserves to be ranked as the #1 thing to do in Toronto by TripAdvisor.
Once you've seen an aquarium, you've sort of seen them all and while this one pulls all the stops with its glass tunnel through the shark tank and 'petting area' where you can be one with the stingrays - it's not really unique to or representative of Toronto culture.
For the price tag of nearly $30 per person, it could rack up quickly for your group.
19 Overrated: Sweet Jesus - More like, "sweet jesus those lines are long"
The long line reaching down the block would have you believe that there is a magical secret buried within the soft-serve ice cream or that it's dipped in gold when really it's pretty sub-par on the flavour scale. If you are all about those Insta pics then, yeah, maybe it's worth waiting in line to get a pic of your cone but once that's over, you'll probably be left wondering what all the fuss is about.
The truth is that this brand was started by a (genius) Toronto Marketing Agency One Method as a viral experiment. They say that if it doesn't taste ridiculously good it doesn't make the menu but we happen to think that's some hyped up fudge.
18 Overrated: Yonge and Dundas Square - smells you wish you never smelled
To say it's like a 'Canadian Times Square' isn't even alluring because Times Square is pretty overrated in itself.
If you should find yourself (through the smog) to the major intersection of Yonge and Dundas you will mostly notice the alarming amount of intrusive advertising, deafening sounds of traffic and smells you wish you never smelled.
Why anyone would intentionally travel into this Bermuda Triangle of shopper chaos (one corner is occupied by mega mall Toronto Eaton Center) is beyond us. If you are yearning for that hustle and bustle vibe, make your way a block over to Queen and Yonge and take the streetcar East or West - you'll get the most of Toronto in a much more palatable way.
17 Overrated: Yorkville - it's lost most of its charm
Once famous for the saturation of celeb sightings during the Toronto International Film Festival, it soon fizzled out once the hot spot area moved to the West End. Yorkville was once a landmark neighbourhood but over the years of renovations and condos, it has sadly lost most of its 'charm'.
While this neighbourhood is home to some of the finest hotels and shops in the city, if you aren't very well-off or shopping obsessed, there isn't much else to do. Also, if you want to be treated with any semblance of respect, you'll have to dress up for your day out because this is where the snobs of Toronto come to rub elbows.
16 Overrated: Canoe - Pretentious portion sizes
Canoe is a restaurant that is the talk of the town namely for its immaculate views from the top floor of the TD Tower in the heart of Toronto's financial district. That's the 54th floor. Even if the views are exceptional, what arrives on the plate leaves something to be desired largely due to the pretentious portion sizes.
If you're ravenous, you'd be better off going to one the city's famed steakhouses and if it's the view you're after, grab a pre-dinner cocktail at the One Eighty located on the 51st floor of the Manulife Center.
15 Overrated: The Thompson Hotel - cramped, dark and dingy rooms
The Thompson Hotel has the reputation as the 'it' spot in the city's West End. Perhaps the biggest bonus of this over the top 'VIP' price tag hotel is its diner that is open 24/7.
Other than a half decent bowl of midnight mac and cheese, you will be paying upwards of $500 per night for cramped, dark and dingy rooms and a rooftop hotel pool that's rarely open or littered with bros.
The location, as convenient as it may be, is in a very bustling neighbourhood so you'd be lucky to get a room away from the street noise. If it's true luxury you want, your best bet would be the Park Hyatt.
14 Overrated: The Keg Steakhouse - It's just, well, meh.
Everyone loves a deal and The Keg makes it simple to get a finer dining experience with all the fixings at a fraction of the cost of a regular steakhouse. It's a favourite for many Canadians who have come to depend on the menu that remains relatively unchanged since its inception nearly 50 years ago. It's not that it's a bad restaurant, it's just a bit of a 'meh' option in a city that is rich with so many options! The fish is also pretty disappointing. And not to add insult to injury here but if you have any dietary restrictions don't count on dessert.
13 Overrated: Captain's Boil - high on gimmick and low on quality
Do you like making a huge mess at the dinner table? Do you like it when things are really overly seasoned hiding any of the original flavour of what you're eating? Does eating out of a hot plastic bag get you excited?
If the answer to ANY of these questions is 'no' well then welcome to the club. This restaurant is expensive for some mediocre seafood that is served to you in a hot spice-laden plastic bag which some people have described as 'a fun experience.'
It's high on gimmick and low on quality which throws it into the overrated pile quicker than you can say 'Red Lobster please.'
12 Overrated: Smoke's Poutine - it's not authentic
This is going against popular opinion but here goes. Poutine originated in the 1950's somewhere in Quebec and is one of Canada's many prideful inventions. It is French fries with cheese curds and steaming hot chicken/beef gravy. That's it, three high-quality ingredients that make up this magical meal (yes it is a meal on its own) and we're good with it.
Those who revere the poutine for this simple combination are hard to come by as it became trendy to start adding other overpowering ingredients like bacon, jerk chicken, jalapeños, pulled pork and vegetables which disrupts the aforementioned delicate balance. We aren't saying it's bad but it's not authentic and that makes it overrated.
11 Overrated: The Christmas Market - incredibly overcrowded and overpriced
Okay, before I get accused of being a Grinch let me just say that I really, really, really, wanted to believe in the Toronto Christmas market. When you think about cozying up with hot chocolate and/or mulled wine and perusing vendors who serve up quality crafts and nibbles it is like the perfect mix for a Christmasy Sunday Funday.
Sadly, Toronto hasn't lived up to its predecessors on this front and it ends up being an incredibly overcrowded and overpriced event which in tandem, makes it pretty unenjoyable.
If you visit some of the oldest and most world-famous Christmas markets in places such as Vienna, Strasbourg, or Florence you can see a vast difference in the intention from their artisanal goods and traditional foods. Sadly, in Toronto has missed the mark capitalizing on trend alone.
Try These Places Instead...
10 Actually worth it: Edward's Gardens - A little bit of relaxing nature
Edward's Gardens are the perfect place to relax for an afternoon hike, picnic, or even just to see the changing of the leaves. It's open all year round and free to anyone who wishes to visit - there are even free walking tours provided!
It's incredibly accessible by TTC and there is also free parking provided. Take in the multitude of perennials, rose gardens or arboretum (tree museum) and allow the serenity to wash over you. There's an onsite café that provides indoor and outdoor seating that overlooks the gardens. Locally sourced organic treats are on offer along with options for any dietary restrictions.
This educational center that is run mostly by volunteers striving to provide a source of free fun, really can't be beaten.
9 Actually worth it: Toronto Street Meat Vendors - The best in the world
I know, it sounds like bad advice but if you like a good old-fashioned hot dog from time to time, Toronto has the best in the world. That's right we said it! Not boiled in mucky water or so undersized that you have to order 3 just to feel a bit satisfied - Toronto hot dogs and sausages are flame grilled and plentiful. They even toast the bun.
No stranger to the game, Toronto's first street vendors go as far back as the 1800s when it started with roasted chestnuts and shaved Italian ice. Today there are hundreds of options to choose from when it comes to grabbing a 'dog but we recommend ditching the 'fancy franks' ($7+) and sticking with the tried and true traditional vendors of street meat ($2.50). You'll know them when you see them by the impressive selection of beverages, carefully arranged condiments and crowd of eager Torontonians looking for a quick lunch.
8 Actually worth it: The Toronto Islands - Just watch out for the paranormal
Whether it's taking in one of the most optimal views of the Toronto skyline from the Ferry ride over, renting a Surrey bike from the family-run bike rental garage and touring 'by foot' or taking a dip in Lake Ontario at the clothing optional beach - 'the island' has a little something for everyone. Did we mention there's a midway? On Center Island, you'll find a log ride and bumper cars as well as classic carny games.
There is no shortage to the fun you can have on a typical island day, even touring the adorable cottage-like homes on tree-lined streets can feel like you're in the country (not Canada's largest city). After, you can have lunch at the family-run Island Café that serves up 'light local dishes' in a pleasant atmosphere. But there are no ghosts! I hear you exclaiming - not true! In fact, there is a haunted lighthouse on Gibraltar's point which is the second oldest structure of its kind in all of Canada, drawing paranormal seekers from all over the world!
7 Actually worth it: Steam Whistle Brew House - now that's authentic!
The Steam Whistle Brewery is an optimal location so that if you're at the end of a long day of sightseeing after a game at the Roger's Center (or its proper name The SkyDome) you can mosey on over and get a tour! Steam Whistle is great because its no frill approach to brewing has meant a high quality, preservative-free pilsner. In fact, their brewing process still upholds the Bavarian Purity Act of 1516 and their single production pilsner only has 4 ingredients.
What you see is what you get with Steam Whistle and it's evident from the product itself to the friendly staff. Between the tasty beverages, bar snacks and the stunning backdrop of the Old John Street Roundhouse building, you're guaranteed a great visit.
6 Actually worth it: Sansotei Ramen - A hidden spot everyone should try
With 9 locations, 3 to choose from in Toronto, you can accommodate a quick ramen stop while visiting the multicultural food hub that is this city. Anything from your run of the mill chain, this is THE place to enjoy a big bowl of hot brothy goodness. At Sansotei, the menu is concise but you can't really go wrong. The pork bone broth is made daily and it is sumptuous! The efficiency is a bonus feature too since there is a lot to see while visiting T.O. that you don't want to be camped out in a restaurant the whole time.
For a unique yet, comfortable dining experience - add Sansotei Ramen to your food stops.
5 Actually worth it: Royal Winter Fair at The Enercare Center - a spectacle to behold
The Royal Winter Fair happens annually during 2 weeks in November at Toronto's Enercare Center and is a spectacle to behold. There are exhibitors, farmers, farm animals, the Superdogs and even horse shows! The purpose is largely agricultural education and learning about the journey our food takes from farm to table.
It's a Canadian tradition that started in 1922 and has welcomed thousands of visitors ever since! If you have a bit of an appetite (for learning) and are visiting during Canada's notorious season of the changing leaves, it's a match made in heaven.
4 Actually worth it: Cabbagetown - buzzing with charm
Cabbagetown is such a cool neighbourhood that they actually have their own flag! That's right it looks just like a flag of Canada but it's green and instead of a maple leaf, it's a cabbage. This community is buzzing with charm from the Victorian era houses (deemed the largest continuous area of preserved Victorian housing in all of North America) to the numerous vintage shops.
If you're hankering for a unique experience you can visit Riverdale farm at 201 Winchester Street. It's a working farm open 365 days a year that features chickens, horses, goats and more! Admission is free so you can save up your pennies for one of the cities best pizzas also in Cabbagetown at F'amelia (12 Amelia Street).
3 Actually worth it: The Toronto Public Library - One for the book lovers
Maybe not on every 'influencers' hot list but the Toronto Public Library is a great place to visit especially if you need emergency WiFi or the loo. The Toronto Reference Library located at the bustling intersection of Bloor and Yonge is a particular architectural wonder that features a curving atrium in the middle with plenty of natural light via skylights. It's so pretty that people have even gotten married there! It is also the biggest public reference library in all of Canada.
It makes for a great resting spot in the heart of shopping district. If you're not downtown proper, you can take your pick from 100 neighbourhood-centric branches which all have their own quirks that locals have come to love.
2 Actually worth it: The Mad Bean - And one for the coffee lovers
Do you like the taste of espresso but which it would go a little bit further? The Americano can save the day and this spot makes the best in the city. Sure it can be a bold claim with hundreds of options, all with their own unique devout following. This place is cool from floor to ceiling with an eclectic yet slightly edgy vibe, and it has the most welcoming staff ever.
Their coffee is all organic and fair trade but doesn't cost much more than a regular cup of joe anywhere else in the city and tastes much, much better. If you like perks (ha) they have a loyalty card that can get you a free coffee after just 1o cups, trust us, you'll get there.
1 Actually worth it: Martin Goodman Trail - The best way to stretch the legs
The Martin Goodman trail is the perfect way to see the city if you've got a bit of get up and go in you. Whether it's by bike or foot, you can see the entire Lakeshore from one end of the city to the other (56Km). Aside from an IG-worthy non-stop landscape, the famous trail also features the bridge over Mimico Creek, passage through Cherry Beach and runs parallel to the boardwalk of Toronto's East End beaches.
Strap on your best walking shoes, grab a water bottle and your favourite picture snapping device and get going! There's plenty to see...
References: Wikipedia, blogTO