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A Local’s Guide to Toronto’s Waterfront: Must-See Spots and Hidden Gems

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Toronto’s waterfront is quickly becoming the city’s newest hotspot. With street layouts reimagined to prioritize streetcars, bikes, and pedestrians, the area is transforming from a stretch of nondescript condos into a lively, walkable community bustling with locals and tourists alike. Here are our top picks for an unforgettable day by the lake during your Toronto visit.

Toronto’s waterfront, with its blend of cultural, active, and leisure opportunities, is a testament to the city’s evolving landscape, offering something for everyone from art enthusiasts to adventure seekers and those simply looking to relax by the lake.

Immerse Yourself in Culture at Toronto’s Waterfront

The Harbourfront Centre, located on Queens Quay, has been a cultural cornerstone in Toronto for over four decades. It’s the ideal spot to explore new crafts at the Craft and Design Studio, experience contemporary dance at NextSteps, or indulge in art at the Power Plant Gallery. A summer favorite is the Dancing on the Pier event series, offering live music and dancing under the stars.

Fort York is reinventing itself while honoring its historical significance. Known for showcasing Canada’s largest collection of War of 1812 buildings, it now also serves as a vibrant venue for art and music, hosting festivals like Beerlicious and Vegandale. The Bentway Skating Trail and Beer Garden, located along Fort York’s southern wall, is a favorite spot for Instagrammers.

Ripley’s Aquarium, though not directly on the waterfront, is a mere 10-minute walk from Lake Ontario. It houses 20,000 aquatic animals, making it a must-visit. The Dangerous Lagoon’s moving walkway, surrounded by sharks and sea turtles, is a highlight.

The Redpath Sugar Museum offers insights into Canada’s sugar production and the historical role of the Redpath Sugar Factory on the waterfront. Nearby Sugar Beach hosts ‘Sail In’ cinema viewings in August, Canada’s largest outdoor cinema event, with movies shown to viewers onshore and offshore.

Active Adventures Along the Waterfront

Toronto’s revamped waterfront invites those seeking an active day out. The new bike and walking path along Queen’s Quay offers a scenic route for explorers. Bike rentals are available from Wheel Excitement or Bike Share Ontario for a leisurely ride along the water.

A recommended bike route is from Spadina Avenue to Cherry Beach on the Martin Goodman Trail, stopping at BeaverTails for a treat. Another scenic ride is from Queens Quay to Trillium Park, offering stunning views and photo opportunities.

For a unique adventure, rent a kayak and paddle out to the Toronto Islands, an idyllic setting for a day out. The Harbourfront Canoe and Kayak Centre provides rentals and popular group paddles in the evening.

Best Spots for a Drink on the Waterfront

Amsterdam Brew Pub, with its expansive patio, is the perfect spot to enjoy a cold drink by Lake Ontario. Boxcar Social, another favorite, boasts an extensive selection of scotch and whisky, along with draft beers, making it an ideal spot for a summer evening.

Steam Whistle Brewery offers tours close to Ripley’s Aquarium, sharing the history of their iconic Roundhouse location and the brewing process, complete with beer sampling.

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