Keep up to date with the weekly Sightseer newsletter. Sign up today.
The days leading up to a Toronto summer are like a child playing peek-a-boo behind their mother’s skirt. A will-it-or-won’t-it game of sunny days and cooler temps until … blessed synchronicity. Suddenly there are three or four warm-ish days in a row that trip some sort of switch.
Lawnmowers are gassed up, patio furniture emerges and front steps welcome neighbours. Balconies bloom into tiny gardens, park grasses get a patchwork of blanketed covers, and friends – much paler than when you saw them last – reunite.
This year those reunions may be at a distance, but anyone who thinks a pandemic will slow Torontonians’ summer love hasn’t seen us at full tilt. When summer is your season, you don’t give it up without a fight.
And even if we aren’t literally dancing in the streets – Salsa on St. Clair and the Toronto Caribbean Carnival, a.k.a. Caribana, are both virtual this year – expect to find us seat dancing in our cars with the radio on and the windows open.
Canada travel guide
You can be sure we will be coming together as best we can around the city’s eats, as well.
We are a pho-for-lunch (Golden Turtle), jerk-chicken-for-dinner (Simone’s Caribbean Restaurant) kind of town. Plus, picnics are our jam. Stocked with éclairs from a new-to-you bakery, such as Roselle in Corktown, moussaka from Atlantis in Greektown or plump pieces of curry chicken paired with soft naan from Lahore Tikka House in Little India, we’ll happily head for the parks – and there are more than 1,500 parks and ravines in the city to choose from – to enjoy our treats.
And though there are parts of this summer’s experience that are bound to be different, the things we love will keep us smiling: The calm of an after-dinner gelato run on the Corso Italia (try La Paloma), the joy in socially distanced sunsets at Riverdale park and the cosmopolitan backdrop as seen from the Toronto Islands.
This summer the former home of the Thompson hotel on Wellington Street West will reopen as 1 Hotel. With a sustainability-first mission that doesn’t sacrifice a luxury experience, guests can expect a design aesthetic that leans into repurposed materials and green design elements, as well as local produce offerings on the room service menu and the brand’s signature farm stand in the lobby. The Drake Hotel’s long-awaited expansion project is also set to finally make its debut, with 32 new guest rooms to showcase. Fans needn’t fear: The historic location on Queen Street West will keep its eclectic, artsy vibe and signature sips and nibbles on the rooftop. And over at the Annex, the hot weather will see the relaunch of its popular patio, including Ghanaian burger pop-up Aunty Lucy’s Burgers; a new mural artist who will transform the ground level exterior; and the ability to book private spaces perfect for a movie night or an evening watching the game with your social circle (if permitted).
You think you know the city, but until you’ve strolled a neighbourhood with a curated soundtrack of local artists in your ears, have you truly experienced it? The Stroll T.O. program is perfect for our new-found love of long walks and it matches perfectly with a season built for exploring on foot. Or, take in Toronto from a different vantage point with Heli Tours. Peer down on landmarks you’ve only ever seen from the ground, such as the CN Tower or Casa Loma, while soaring above the city in a helicopter.
In the summer, two wheels (or three) are always better than four. Toronto’s cycling routes include options that suit all ages and abilities. A ride with Toronto Bicycle Tours shows you parts of the city you may have been missing on your own. For a deeper look at nature, head to the Evergreen Brick Works. Its family-friendly Agents of Discovery program – a mobile app that combines augmented reality technology and location-based challenges – is a great way to appreciate the beauty of the Don River Valley area.
Bust out your roller skates and head for the Bentway. The popular winter ice-skating location under the Gardiner Expressway is transforming into a roller-skating pathway. Bad news for the kiddos, though: This pop-up is adults only. You can rent skates by the hour, along with helmets and protective pads.
If your summer dreams include getting on the water but your talents are questionable, this Toronto outfitter can help. Choose from private charters, public shared sails or lessons on Lake Ontario aboard luxury sailing and motorized yachts. Tune in to a guided tour or simply lean back and enjoy the time on the water.
For the past six winters, Torontonians have been able to look forward to pop-up art installations, dubbed Winter Stations, around the city. This year welcomes Spring Stations. Watch for announcements about the collection of international artists whose work is on display throughout June and into late July.
A miniature world that takes you through five distinct Canadian destinations, including Quebec and Niagara, this family-friendly exhibit is a detailed and animated opportunity to take in famous landmarks and iconic cityscapes from across the country.
Toronto Island SUP
Stand-up paddle boarding is relaxing; doing it at night is an adventure. Grab your illuminated torch paddle and follow your guide around the Toronto Islands. Guests 14 and older can take part in the two-hour tour that starts at sunset.