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An Epic 3 Day Toronto Itinerary For First-Time Visitors

Toronto's waterfront

Whether planning a long weekend in Toronto or traveling as part of a Canada tour, having the perfect Toronto itinerary helps complete your bucket list. 

Scouring the web for all the Toronto must-dos and discovering some hidden gems, I created a busy schedule with all the best places to see with three days in Toronto.

I accompanied my husband, Brian, on a business trip to Toronto. While Brian was born in Toronto, it was my first time visiting Ontario, and I didn’t know what to expect. Since Brian was in a conference all day, I could explore downtown Toronto in the cold October weather.

Brian’s company paid for his flight and hotel and gave him a food allowance. By tagging along, I needed to purchase a flight and food.

By booking our flights with WestJet, I purchased a “companion ticket” using their WestJet rewards for CAD 99 plus taxes. Traveling from Vancouver on the west coast, this was a deal I couldn’t pass up.

Quick tips on traveling to Toronto

Top picks for hotel stays:

Fairmont Royal York – Has luxurious rooms, superb service, like its other Fairmont hotels.

Shangri-La Hotel – Offers a sustainable property with Asian flair.

Need a rental car?

Get your inexpensive rental here.

Arriving at Toronto Pearson, I was shocked by the difference in weather. Even though I hadn’t packed warm clothing, I stuck to my 3-day Toronto itinerary, determined to experience the best of this east coast city.

Where To Stay In Toronto

Visitors to Toronto can choose from a large selection of hotels suited to different budgets. We stayed at the Westin Harbour Castle (1 Harbour Square), within walking distance of the convention centre.

Casa Loma and the Distillery District in Toronto, Canada
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We had incredible views of the CN Tower, Toronto Island, and sweeping vistas of the city. Other Toronto downtown hotels include:

Toronto’s Fairmont Royal York is a historic property with timeless elegance. With just a few minutes’ walk to all the action, the location couldn’t be more perfect. The grand hotel exudes a great atmosphere with magnificent views.

For top-notch service, the Shangri-La Hotel offers an elegant Asian-inspired décor. The rooms are luxurious, the amenities fabulous, and the afternoon tea spectacular.

The Radisson Blu Toronto Downtown has a tranquil lakefront setting. The rooftop pool is perfect in summer, and the fireplaces in some rooms are ideal in the colder winter months. 

Hotel X Toronto is more of a resort than a hotel. Sports and fitness fanatics will love their fitness studio, indoor tennis courts, and choice of two swimming pools. The urban oasis also has a cinema and rooftop bar close to Ontario Place and the waterfront.

Even if you live in Ontario, some Canadians spend a long weekend in Toronto to enjoy the downtown vibe, attend a sports event, or enjoy its many attractions. Even if you have a shorter or longer itinerary, you can substitute places that suit your needs.

Toronto Itinerary, Day One

On your first day, start the morning at the Royal Ontario Museum in the University of Ontario district.

Royal Ontario Museum

  • Location: 100 Queens Park
Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto
Royal Ontario Museum

The Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) is a museum that houses collections of art, world culture, and natural history. With over one million annual visitors, it is the largest museum in all of Canada and one of the most visited in North America.

The exterior of the building is as interesting as what’s inside. Resembling a giant crystal, the museum is known to many as “the crystal.”

As one of Canada’s premier cultural institutions, the ROM is beloved for its diverse collections, exhibitions, and cultural programs. Depending on how much you read, you can expect to spend up to a couple of hours exploring its exhibits.

The ROM offers an immense array of amazing exhibits for all to explore, learn and enjoy!

Legislative Assembly Of Ontario

  • Location: 111 Wellesley St W
Legislative Assembly of Ontario
Legislative Assembly of Ontario

Walk south through Queen’s Park to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario. You can enjoy a complimentary tour to see inside the old government building.

Free tours are offered on weekdays in 30-minute time slots. Be prepared to go through a rigorous security check to enter the building.

The building has stunning architecture, beautiful stained-glass windows, and lovely paneled wood. Your tour will include the chamber if it isn’t in session.

In the legislative chamber, elected officials make decisions and pass laws for the province. The tour guides are very knowledgeable and will answer questions on the legislative process.

An alternative to visiting the government building is exploring the Art Gallery Of Ontario instead. Located at 317 Dundas St W, the five-story gallery has over 90,000 sculptures, models, paintings, and artworks.

Inside the Legislative Assembly of Ontario
Inside the Legislative Assembly of Ontario

Ontario Science Centre

  • Location: 770 Don Mills Road

The Science Centre makes an ideal place to visit if you’re traveling with kids or want to be inside. The never-ending interactive and learning exhibits provide hours of fun for all ages.

The centre features an OMNIMAX Theatre with up to six films showing daily. During your visit, you can learn about flight and what’s new with drone technology, see flying toys, and enjoy special events which are constantly changing.

Even if you’ve visited before, there’s always something new to discover at Ontario Science Centre.

Visit Toronto Islands

From the Toronto waterfront, take a ferry to Toronto Islands. In the summer, you can enjoy one of its many beaches, including one that’s clothing options (at Hanlan’s Point.)

The islands have many parks with diverse wildlife, and you’ll get a unique perspective of Toronto across the water. If it’s warm, pack a lunch and take advantage of the picturesque picnic areas at Gibraltar Point Lighthouse Park.

Gibraltar Point Lighthouse, Toronto Island
Gibraltar Point Lighthouse

Located on the south shore of Toronto Island, this park offers stunning views of Lake Ontario, a popular spot for family picnics and evening barbecues. Don’t forget to visit the Gibraltar Point Lighthouse while you’re here!

If you’re traveling with children, take the kids to the Centreville Amusement Park. Built to resemble an old western town, the thrill-seekers’ park offers over 30 amusements and rides.

Biking is one of the most popular activities on the islands. Cyclists will enjoy the 20 kilometres of paved pathways, running from one end to the other at a total distance of 4.5 kilometres.

You can bring your own bike on the ferries for no extra fee or rent one from Centre Island Beach — bikes come in traditional styles, tandem bikes, or four-seater quadricycles!

Dinner At The CN Tower

No trip to this Canadian city is complete without visiting the iconic CN Tower near Union Station in the entertainment district. Since it was my first visit to Toronto, Brian surprised me with a romantic dinner at CN Tower.

View from the CN Tower
View from the CN Tower

If you’re planning to eat dinner at the 360 Restaurant, reservations are recommended and expect to pay a hefty price for your night out.

The two-course dinners cost CAD 70, and the three courses CAD 85, but diners may choose a la carte too. Remember that the price includes access to the observation deck after your meal.

Arriving for dinner, we received an intimate table for two next to the window. Since I’m celiac and lactose intolerant, I stuck with the two-course meal, and Brian had the a la carte 14 oz rib-eye steak (his favorite).

Before the elevator ride, photographers take souvenir photos offered for purchase during dinner. The service was beyond amazing, and the food was delicious.

As we dined, the 360 Restaurant revolved slowly, allowing us to enjoy the twinkling lights of Toronto.

It was the perfect recipe for a Toronto date night, and even though the entire evening set us back almost CAD 350 (photos included), it was worth every penny.

Upon completing our meal, we descended to the observation deck to walk over the glass floor and enjoy the views of Toronto one more time. If dining at the CN Tower is out of budget, visit the observation deck during the day to admire the city views.

Toronto Itinerary, Day Two

On day two, start the day at the Distillery District.

Distillery District

  • Location: 55 Mill Street

Located east of downtown, the Distillery District offers a mix of residential and commercial spaces. Its heritage buildings, cobblestone streets, and winding walkways contrast the concrete jungle only blocks away.

Love locks, Distillery District, Toronto
Love locks, Distillery District

While many original buildings date back to the 19th century, the developer preserved many old wooden beams, ironwork, stone, and brickwork. It took a skilled team of tradesmen many years to complete the visionary dream, and the Distillery District opened in 2003.

Once an old distillery district owned by Gooderham and Worts, it’s now a trendy destination for locals and tourists. This pedestrian-only zone houses an array of restaurants with outdoor patios, interesting antique boutiques, art galleries, and a vast collection of art installations.

Being an artist, I was mesmerized by the giant spiders, love lock installation, and creative art structures dotted around the entire area.

You will not find any chain stores or popular franchises in the Distillery District. Instead, you can discover a unique gift for the hockey fan at The Sport Gallery. Or how about a colorful pair of trendy socks at Floorplay Socks?

If you love shoes, John Fluevog has a fabulous collection of styles to satisfy every discerning buyer. If you’re a foodie, dining at the Distillery District is a must. It was terrific to see Balzac’s Coffee Roasters and Arco Coffee instead of your traditional Starbucks.

Distillery District, Toronto
Fluevog store, Distillery District, Toronto

If you’re a chocoholic like me, check out Cacao 70, where every moment of the day is the sweetest. At Cacao 70, they invite you to crunch, sip, slurp and savor your way to a state of chocolate heaven. That’s music to my ears, haha.

Many dining venues offer outdoor patios with fire pits and lanterns. These patios provide the perfect spot to enjoy a pint or two or another date night.

St. Lawrence Market

  • Location: 93 Front Street East

Toronto’s St. Lawrence Market is a Toronto city landmark that has been offering goods to Torontonians for two decades. Reminiscence of Vancouver’s Granville Island, the historical marketplace was a treat for the eyes and nose.

Walking into the two-story building, I delighted at the smells of delicious food. St. Lawrence Market is the place to be when you’re hungry. 

The choices are vast, with peameal bacon sandwiches, Portuguese egg tarts, lobster rolls, and endless selections to tease your taste buds. This is a great place to grab lunch.

Exotic meats at the St. Lawrence Market, Toronto
Exotic meats at St. Lawrence Market, Toronto

Food ingredients are fresh, with incredible cheeses, seafood, meats, and fresh produce. I even found a vendor selling ostrich thighs, kangaroo loin, camel striploin, emu burgers, and crocodile filets.

Tourists should not miss this Toronto hotspot with a fantastic atmosphere, ready-made food, and unusual ingredients.

Gooderham Building

  • Location: 49 Wellington Street East

As iconic as the CN Tower, Toronto’s Gooderham Building occupies a triangle plot of land at Church Street and Wellington Street E. Also known as the Flatiron Building, the historic 19th-century red brick building give so much character to Toronto’s modern skyline.

Gooderham Building, Toronto
“Flatiron Building”

The building is best recognized for its pie shape with four and a half stories, arched windows, and a copper roof.

Built by the wealthy Gooderham family, who owned a distillery business, the Toronto landmark is now a historical site protected by the Ontario Heritage Trust.

Today, visitors can’t access the office building but can enjoy lunch at the Flatiron & Firkin Pub in the basement.

Whether you have a few days in Toronto or just one day, capturing that iconic photograph of the wedge-shaped structure looking down Front Street is worth a visit.

Also, walk around the building as the wide end features a stunning trompe l’oeil mural. Added in 1980, the façade incorporates the building’s windows into the faux fabric, draping beautifully from the contrasting red brick.

Gooderham Building mural, Toronto
Gooderham Building mural

Nathan Phillips Square

  • Location: 100 Queen Street West

Nathan Phillips Square attracts both locals and visitors alike. The open-air attraction hosts many events, from musical performances and festivals to ice skating and Christmas markets in the winter.

But most who visit come to take selfies of the larger-than-life Toronto sign. In the evening, the city illuminates the giant sign, which colors the area. During my trip to Toronto, the city drained the fountain for renovations.

There is so much history in the buildings surrounding the square in the downtown core. The old city hall and Ontario Court of Justice contrast significantly against the Toronto skyline.

Osgoode Hall

  • Location: 130 Queen Street West

Next to Nathan Phillips Square, Osgoode Hall may look out of bounds with its iron fencing. However, it’s open to the public and completely free. After a security screening similar to that at the airport, I was free to do a self-guided tour.

The building reminded me of a stately palace in England with spectacular Victorian architecture. Currently, the Law Society of Canada uses the structure for law studies. 

Walking into its two-story hall, I was blown away by the stained-glass ceiling, old paintings, and feeling of grandness.

The corridors leading to different building sections seemed to go on forever, but everything was well-signed. The pinnacle of Osgoode Hall is the law library on the second level. 

Inside Osgood Hall
Inside Osgood Hall

The larger library features etched glass windows, an exquisite plaster ceiling, and a spiral-iron staircase.

Visitors can take photos in Osgood Hall without a flash in the library. Since law students study throughout the day, Osgoode Hall is not an ideal stop for families with children.

Toronto’s Graffiti Alley

  • Location: between Portland Street and Spadina Ave

Located in The Fashion District, Rush Lane or Graffiti Alley might seem like an odd place to visit. However, I was intrigued by the fantastic artwork of Toronto’s talented street artists.

Although the graffiti spans just a few short blocks, treasures are everywhere. The walk was immensely inspiring and a photographer’s paradise.

One of the best things about the area is that art constantly changes. However, some artwork pieces have stood the test of time, like the famous “fish wall.”

If you’ve ever googled Graffiti Alley, you will remember the orange and yellow fish wall where everyone takes a selfie on the bricked-up window.

This famous mural was the brainchild of Uber5000, one of the most prolific street artists in the city. It’s also one of the most Instagrammable spots in Toronto.

Mike Kennedy mural, Graffiti Alley, Toronto
Mike Kennedy mural, Graffiti Alley

One of the most touching murals is the tribute to Mike Kennedy (aka Wunder), a veteran graffiti artist. He inspired a lot of people with his fantastic artwork.

Nick Sweetman & Wales Ack created the impressive mural of Mike Kennedy. Next to the mural, a smaller art piece depicts Mike’s beloved dog.

Graffiti Alley was busier than I’d imagined. It’s not unusual to see locals conducting tours, artists gathering inspiration, and students studying the giant murals. So, if you’re looking for something out of the ordinary while visiting Toronto, Rush Lane is an unexpected gem.

Chinatown/Kensington Market

  • Location: Spadina Ave and Dundas St W

Situated close together in Toronto, Chinatown and Kensington Market provide a vibrant cultural experience. In Chinatown, explore the countless shops, bakeries, and eateries–all infused with the busy energy of one of the biggest Chinatowns in the world!

Afterward, stroll down to nearby Kensington Market and check out its collection of bohemian boutiques and counterculture enterprises.

Trendy bars, restaurants, and cafes attract hipsters who enjoy the free-spirited vibe.

Toronto Railway Museum

  • Location: 255 Bremner Blvd

Located near the CN Tower and Ripley’s Aquarium, the Toronto Railway Museum features an old roundhouse, a small indoor exhibit, and a larger outside space containing the train engines.

Engine at the Toronto Railway Museum
Engine at the Toronto Railway Museum

The engines and cars make a fun outing for those who love trains or families with children. While the indoor exhibit charges a small fee, the outside area is free.

It was fascinating to learn the history of Ontario’s railway and the operation of the roundhouse. A miniature train ride provides excellent entertainment for both young and old.

Nearby, the Rogers Centre hosts baseball games if you’re a sports fan.

Eaton Centre

  •  Location: 220 Yonge Street

After dinner, we walked briskly to Toronto Eaton Centre, a large downtown retail mall. The giant mall has more than 250 stores spanning a couple of blocks. As a shopping center goes, it has all the usual shops and eateries.

While I’m not a shopper, I admired its architecture and flying geese artwork suspended from the ceiling.

Toronto Itinerary, Day Three

We rented a car for our last day in Toronto since we wanted to see places further away. After checking out of our hotel, our first stop was Casa Loma, a 20-minute drive away.

Having toured numerous English castles, I was intrigued to see how a Canadian castle compared to those in Europe.

Casa Loma

  • Location: 1 Austin Terrace

At 64,700 sq feet, Casa Loma rivals some European castles with its Gothic Revival style and 98 rooms. Built by multimillionaire Sir Henry Pallett in 1914, the castle took CAD 3.5 M and three years to complete, a sizable amount at the time.

Casa Loma, Toronto
Casa Loma

Henry and Mary Pallett only lived in the castle for nine years. After the war and facing bankruptcy, Pellatt auctioned the estate to pay his debts. The structure and its belongings brought in a fraction of their value.

Today, the City of Toronto owns the property, bought in 1933 for the cost of its back taxes. Once the city took ownership, they planned to demolish it.

However, the Kiwanis Club proposed to operate it as a tourist attraction, securing its future in Toronto. Four years later, the estate opened to tourists and remains one of the only real castles in Canada.

Touring the estate, I relived Pallett’s dreams of this castle with the help of an audio tour. With heavy bronze doors, opulent chandeliers, 21 fireplaces, and 30 bathrooms, it wasn’t money well spent.

Casa Loma bedroom
Casa Loma bedroom

Pallett spared no money decorating the rooms with the finest furnishing, priceless artwork, and the highest quality of materials. Even the mahogany stables with tile floors cost a staggering CAD 250,000 in 1914, with the horses’ names added to the stalls in 18-karat gold.

Seeing the over-extravagance, it didn’t surprise me that Pallett lost his fortune. Outside, the gardens and fountains add interest to the property.

The views of downtown Toronto are spectacular from the castle towers and gardens. Expect to spend a few hours to half a day touring Casa Loma.

Niagara Falls

Our three days in Toronto allowed me to check one thing off my bucket list, Niagara Falls. We didn’t linger too long at Casa Loma because we had a three-hour road trip to Niagara Falls.

While the drive from Toronto was long, it didn’t dampen my enthusiasm for going to Niagara Falls. Arriving at the falls, I was blown away by the spectacular scenery. I was surprised that it was warmer in Niagara Falls than in downtown Toronto.

As it was early October, we didn’t have to battle any crowds, and we enjoyed the walk along the Niagara River to the Niagara Falls viewpoint.

Not wanting to get soaking wet on the Hornblower cruise (it was October, after all), we chose to tour the Journey Behind the Falls instead. Traveling 150 feet below Table Rock, I found the experience behind the falls interesting, loud, and wetter than I’d imagined.

Visiting Niagara Falls
Visiting Niagara Falls

Like the Hornblower cruises, the visitors center gives plastic ponchos to guests, which are needed when venturing onto the observation decks. You should not miss the tunnels behind the falls. Here, you can imagine the effort it took to drill these out of the rock.

Standing at the two portals behind the falls, the thundering sound of the water was deafening. I learned a staggering 154 million liters flow over the falls EVERY minute.

Hearing its fury and experiencing its spray made me wonder why individuals choose to go over the falls in a barrel.

Walking out onto the observation decks, we both got wet, even with ponchos. So, if you’re using a cell phone for pictures, protect it with a plastic pouch. Also, DSLR cameras need a rain sleeve to prevent water damage.

After a wetter-than-expected adventure, we strolled to Clifton Hill, an overly commercialized area with amusements. Reminiscent of a theme park, I felt the development spoiled the natural beauty of Niagara Falls.

Staying At Niagara Falls

Being a top tourist attraction, don’t expect hotel bargains at Niagara. Since we only stayed one night before our flight the next day, Brian chose a pricey hotel overlooking the falls.

The Oakes Hotel Overlooking the Falls gave us incredible views of the Horseshoe Falls right from our bed.

Niagara Falls sunrise
Niagara Falls sunrise

At night, the falls illuminated beautiful tones which continuously changed. I could have watched its changing hues for hours. The colors correspond to events—for instance, red and white for Canada Day.

Morning at Niagara gave me a better appreciation for this incredible natural beauty as the sun peeked over the horizon. The sunrise was breathtaking and left me speechless.

That amazing sunrise ended my 3-day Toronto itinerary as I journeyed back to Toronto Pearson International Airport for my flight home.

Final Thoughts

While my three-day itinerary in Toronto was jam-packed, I got to accomplish everything on my to-do list.

At the end of our short Toronto trip, Brian was impressed I saw places he didn’t know existed. Next time, I’ll be his tour guide, even though he grew up in Toronto.

If you plan to visit Ripley’s Aquarium, CN Tower, Royal Ontario Museum, Casa Loma, or the Toronto Zoo, consider purchasing the Toronto City Pass.

The pass includes admission to five attractions, saving you money. Since Toronto experiences four seasons, what you decide to do may depend on the time of visitation.

Do you have any unique places you visit when in Toronto? Leave a comment below.

Happy travels ~ Karen

The CN Tower in Toronto, Canada


Saturday 24th of June 2023

Greta article. We’re visiting at the end of august. Where did you watch the sunrise at Niagara?

Forever Karen

Saturday 24th of June 2023

We watched the sunrise from our hotel. We had a room overlooking the falls.

Ravi Singh

Tuesday 14th of September 2021

Toronto, Ontario is one of the best place to visit.