If you’re looking for a great vacation destination to kick off summer, travel to Toronto in late May. It’s a particularly nice time to visit Canada, which celebrates its 150th anniversary this year. The country-wide celebrations are collectively dubbed Canada150.
Toronto is in the forefront of special year-long celebrations about the country’s heritage.
You can see them in full glory in May, with special events before the hordes of summer descend. This trip is especially good for families and history buffs, with something for everyone.
Here’s a basket of Toronto events and must-sees.
The CN Tower
For an aerial view of Toronto and the lake, nothing beats the CN Tower, which can be seen all over the city. Visitors can take elevators to its observation decks. There are four: the Glass Floor room (at 1,122 feet), the LookOut Level (at 1,136 feet), and, for dinner, the revolving 360 The Restaurant (at 1,150 feet). (The entire tower is 1,815 feet.)
Doors Open Toronto
The 18th Annual Doors Open Toronto occurs on the weekend of May 28 and 29. Doors Open Toronto is a celebration of historic architecture, with more than 150 historically significant buildings open to the public. This is one of the few chances to see many of the buildings, which are ordinarily not ordinarily open to public view.
The theme this year, in keeping with the 150th anniversary celebration, is Fifteen Decades of Canadian Architecture. Doors Open Toronto will have available buildings from each decade since the 1860s, as well as buildings in the era before the 1860s.
The Distillery District
Many of the buildings are in Toronto’s beloved Distillery District, which is a wonderful historic area, with cobblestone streets and lovely architecture. Founded in the 1830s as an area where whiskey and other spirits were distilled, it is now alive with spirits of another sort — the creative ones, as it is home to some of the largest festivals in Toronto.
Wandering around the cobblestone streets you will pass numerous restaurants and pubs. It’s great for sight-seeing and grabbing a bite al fresco.
The Toronto Islands
Once you’ve seen the islands from the CN Tower, take some time to get on the ferry and enjoy them as well. They’re a nice break from the urban vibrancy of Toronto itself. There are three islands, Centre, Ward's and Algonquin, which are all connected. The best for visitors is Centre Island, which has beaches, an amusement park with roughly 30 rides, a boating lagoon, and a petting zoo.
The Spadina Museum: Historic House & Gardens
Many of the museums and historic sites in the city are putting on special finery for the Canada150, in a celebration called “To Canada with Love.” None are more worth seeing than this elegant home, once a private residence and donated to the city. The Spadina Museum represents the 1920s and 1930s, a pivotal time in Toronto’s history — it transitioned into the vibrant city known today during those decades. Themed tours happen every weekend.
The Gibson House Museum
If the Spadina Museum and grounds represents urban, elegant Toronto, the Gibson House represents its nineteenth-century economic and political history. It was built by a Scottish emigrant who was one of the early land surveyors of the city. The architecture is Georgian, allowing visitors to step back in time and better understand the history of emigration from the British isles. The grounds are elegant and spacious; Gibson House is in beautiful Gibson Park.
The Hockey Hall of Fame and Museum
Ok, no visit to Canada — especially one celebrating its history and culture — would be complete without a nod to hockey. This is a centrally located museum with a whopping 65,000 square feet devoted to hockey history and memorabilia. It includes the original Stanley Cup and a great deal more celebrating Canada’s national pastime.
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