It’s the diversity, easy living and energetic buzz of Toronto that drive visitors to explore the city, no matter the season
A young city, by European standards at least, Toronto has grown rapidly since the 1950s and is best defined by its multi-cultural population rather than a particular history or landmark. Here proud Torontonians live, work and play all year round, eschewing traditional icons such as the CN Tower and Fort York in favour of ice skating and street festivals, embracing the city’s ever-evolving seasonal offerings whatever the weather.
Toronto’s summer calendar is crammed with outdoor events, concerts and festivals – and somewhere amongst it all residents still find time to savour balmy evenings spent sipping chilled Ontario wine. The city’s multicultural spirit is most evident on summer weekends when any number of colourful, all-singing, all-dancing festivals take over the streets. Taste of the Danforth and Taste of Little Italy celebrate everything Greek and Italian, swapping cars for stalls hawking freshly made gyros or pizza, local bands and the odd Ferris wheel. Caribana, North America’s largest cultural festival, beats out feel-good vibes for three weeks with music, art and theatre showcasing culture from Jamaica, Cuba and Trinidad. Its crowning glory is a 10,000-strong parade of performers dressed in elaborate costumes and masks, dancing to soca, reggae and calypso rhythms until the small hours.
After all that movement and colour, the quiet shores of Lake Ontario are a welcoming haven. The Toronto Islands, just 15 minutes by ferry from downtown, offer an ideal city escape. Spend a relaxing day exploring the parks and canals by canoe, paddleboard or bicycle, admiring quaint pastel cottages trimmed with white window panes, or sunbathing on the beach. Look back over your shoulder and you’ll be surprised, every time, by how geographically close the city skyline is yet how remote it feels.
Shorter days and cooler nights herald the arrival of Canada’s most visually spectacular season, autumn. The streets are crowned with maple leaves in rich shades of yellow, orange and red, while Torontonians effortlessly embrace cross-seasonal dressing with camel-coloured coats, stylish sneakers and an accessorising pug. Stroll along the fashion and art strip of Queen Street West with the cool kids: try Vancouver label Kit and Ace with their focus on easy to wear cashmere items (perfect for the perpetual traveller), stock up on Canadiana-chic gifts like moose-engraved coasters at the Drake General Store and sip coffee from White Squirrel Coffee Shop, named for the elusive family of albino squirrels inhabiting nearby Trinity Bellwoods Park.
Early autumn is also prime time to sample Ontario’s cornucopia of produce, with the best offerings at St. Lawrence Market. Well-established on the visitor’s trail after National Geographic ranked it one of the world’s top food markets, locals still head here for the Saturday morning farmers’ market with its sustainable fresh seafood, locally grown vegetables and mouth-watering selections of antipasti, perfect for that night’s dinner party. Embrace your inner tourist and gorge on a peameal bacon sandwich from Carousel Bakery; chunky Canadian back bacon rolled in cornmeal, piled high on a soft white bun, no condiments required.