However, when you want to go off the beaten path, it's hard to figure out the hidden gems a city has to offer. Use our helpful list of unique things to do in Toronto to plan your next Canadian vacation.
1) Indulge at SOMA Chocolatemaker
Visit the local favorite chocolate factory in both the Distillery District and King Street West. SOMA Chocolatemaker makes unique delicious gelato, cookies, truffles, bark, hot chocolates, and more, with private tastings available for chocolate lovers.
2) Get Spooky at The Lockhart
If you’re a Harry Potter fan, you’ll want to visit The Lockhart Cocktail Bar for a magical dining experience. This whimsical cocktail and tapas bar features Harry Potter-inspired menu items such as “The Dementor’s Kiss” cocktail and house-made chocolate frogs. Also, they are open for brunch and trivia nights, even to muggles.
3) Visit Niche Museums
Bata Shoe Museum
Experience over 4,500 years of history at the unique Bata Shoe Museum. From Chinese bound-foot shoes and Queen Victoria’s silk slippers to ancient Egyptian sandals and sealskin boots, there is so much to see within the museum’s galleries. With over 13,000 shoes and foot-wear related items, the collection spans cultures across the globe. Ranking as one of the most unique things to do in Toronto, you will not want to miss this stunning collection.
Hockey Hall of Fame
Home to the Stanley Cup, the Hockey Hall of Fame provides a truly exclusive, interactive experience for sports fans. A great destination for all ages, the museum features animated life-size versions of the greatest players, hockey films, uniforms, a replica of the Montreal Canadiens Dressing room, and more.
4) Rifle through Libraries & Book Stores
Arthur Conan Doyle Room at the Toronto Library
Showcasing collections of the legendary writer’s work, the Arthur Conan Doyle Room in the Toronto Reference Library contains first and latest editions of his texts along with secondary material and references. Further, secondary material includes critical and biographical research related to Doyle’s texts, with much of the collection related to Sherlock Holmes.
The Merril Collection
Science fiction and fantasy fans should journey to the Merril Collection of Science Fiction, Speculation, and Fantasy at the Toronto Public Library to geek out. Containing more than 80,000 research items of said genre-related work and beyond, the museum represents an impressive cataloged collection. View audio, visual, and textual items along with rotating programs and exhibits.
The Monkey’s Paw
Home to the world’s first Biblio-Mat, this antique book and print shop will quickly become your new favorite rare bookstore. The Monkey’s Paw boasts a collection of 20th-century texts, focusing on visual culture and antiquated, niche subject matter. Additionally, guests can check out the world’s first Biblio-Mat, a randomizing book vending machine that still works with a $3 token. They also selectively buy second-hand books. Please note that the store just moved to 1067 Bloor St. W.
Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library
Located in the University of Toronto Library, the Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library hosts the Department of Rare Books and Special Collections. Guest can peruse manuscripts and texts from William Shakespeare and various 20th-century writers, as well as 17th-century etchings. The collection has grown to include 740,000 volumes and 4,000 linear meters of manuscript holdings.
5) Admire Art & Natural Installations
The Rainbow Tunnel
Originally painted in 1972 by BC Johnson, the vibrant rainbow mural now stands as a protected, celebrated piece of Toronto’s culture since 2013. For photo opportunities, park at Moccasin Trail Park and take the East Don Trail.
Nearly one billion years old, the Yorkville Rock was taken in fragments from the Canadian glacial shield and then reassembled in Yorkville Park. The rock weighs 650 tons and is composed of ancient mountain range segments that eroded ages ago. Also, visitors are allowed to sit and bask on the rock, so don’t be afraid to climb it.
Love Locks Sign
Spelling out “Love”, this colorful installation in the Distillery District allows guests to add their symbol of affection with their own lock. You can bring one and sign it or purchase from a local vendor before adding it to the sign. Definitely bring your smartphone or camera to snap a few pictures!
Pan Am Path
Pan Am Path links Toronto’s neighborhoods with its nearly 50 trail miles. As part of the Pan Am and Parapan Am games of 2015, The Friends of the Pan Am Path constructed an art relay with multiple installations spanning the city. Visitors can view these installations throughout the trail to enjoy unique local art.
In the alley between Spadina and Portland Street lies eclectic Graffiti Alley. Wander through the alley to view constantly changing works of legalized street art murals. As a major part of the efforts to host legal graffiti work, the alley has become a Toronto staple and is definitely worth a visit.
6) Check Out Toronto's Unique Homes
This bizarre Leslieville home houses hundreds of dolls, toys, plastic signs, and more, and is also known as the “Doll House” on 37 Bertmount Avenue. Owner Shirley Sumaiser has collected memorabilia for over twenty years, displaying items in the front garden and inside to create a kooky museum. You’ll definitely want to check this out as one of the most unique things to do in Toronto, as long as rows of dolls don’t scare you too much.
The Little House on 128 Day Avenue was built in 1912 by Arthur Weeden who simply noticed a small lot for sale. The approximately 312 square foot house was renovated in 2007 and has received much media attention over the years.
Although the Cube House will likely relocate to another location after the land was recently purchased, visitors can currently view this innovative structure at 1 Sumach Street. Built in 1996 by architect Ben Kutner and his partner Jeff Brown, the Cube House was inspired by Piet Blom’s Cubic Houses in Rotterdam. Intended to mimic that community with a series of cube homes, the project never reached completion. However, the house has served as an eclectic visual structure since its construction and has even served as a residence for a local news producer.
Toronto’s Half House
Seemingly a structure out of a fairy tale, the Half House at 54 1/2 Saint Patrick Street dates back to the late 19th century. In the mid-twentieth century, a land holdings company began to demolish local structures, carefully leaving this piece of history half in-tact. Although you can’t walk inside of it, the home stands as an excellent photo opportunity.
7) Explore Great Heights at the EdgeWalk
As the world’s highest full-circle, hands-free walk, the EdgeWalk leads participants on a 5 ft wide ledge circling the top of the CN Tower’s main pod at 116 stories. Guests daring to try this extreme attraction remain attached to an overhead safety rail in groups of six with trained guides. The 1.5-hour experience allows guests to take in one-of-a-kind views of Lake Ontario and Toronto for nearly 30 minutes with access to a keepsake video, photos, a certificate of achievement, and the Tower’s sightseeing areas.
8) Test Your Senses at The Vog Vault
For a perception-twisting experience, head to Fluevog Toronto at 686 Queen W to visit The Vog Vault. Originally serving as a bank vault, the illusion room is the perfect place to capture seemingly anti-gravity poses. When you’re not in the vault, stroll around the store for vintage-inspired shoes and accessories.
9) Stargaze with AstroTours at the University of Toronto
The University of Toronto’s Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics present free public tours held by graduate students. Visitors can listen to accessible discussions on the history of these fields as well as the science behind our favorite blockbuster hits. Held on the first Thursday of most months, guests can see stars through the department’s telescopes, watch planetarium shows, and more.
10) Illuminate the Night at Festivals
Toronto Light Festival
Offering warmth and light during the winter evenings, the Toronto Light Festival runs from January 18 through March 3 each year in the Distillery District. The festival displays local and international light artists’ installations across 13 acres and 45 buildings. Best of all, the festival is free!
Nuit Blanche presents a free all-night event displaying contemporary art by hundreds of local and international artists. Each year holds a different theme, challenging artists and visitors to bend their sense of perception and culture.
11) Discover Lesser-Known Green Spaces
UT's Bamboo Garden
Nestled in the Terrance Donnelly Centre at 160 College Street, the indoor bamboo garden gives a perfect respite for reading, studying, or eating.
Creating a breath of fresh air in an urban landscape, Crothers Woods offers 128 acres in Leaside for lush hiking and biking trails open to the public.
Allan Gardens Conservatory
The 19th-century complex encompasses six greenhouses with over 16,000 square feet of tropical, temperate, and seasonal plantings. The conservatory is open year-round and features a park outside with a dog-walking area and playground.
Other green spaces include:
12) Cross through Toronto's Underground
According to Guinness World Records, the PATH is considered the largest underground shopping network in the world. As an indoor complex, the PATH is deemed one of the best unique things to do in Toronto and provides shelter during extreme weather. Also, the complex links to over 50 office towers and major tourist destinations such as the CN Tower and The Hockey Hall of Fame. Moreover, the PATH contains excellent retailers, restaurants, and other services for day and evening entertainment.
13) Skullstore Oddity Shop
For the strong of heart, the Prehistoria museum and associated Skullstore Oddity Shop collects and sells historic jewelry, minerals, and living organisms. Further, the store sells human remains to respectful clients, so this establishment may not be for everyone. However, those into macabre history will appreciate this attraction as one of the most unique things to do in Toronto.
14) Marvel at BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir Toronto
When it comes to admiring magnificent architecture, unique things to do in Toronto include paying respect at BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir Toronto. Canada's first hand-carved limestone and marble Hindu temple, this mandir (Hindu temple) was engineered according to ancient Indian principles without the use of steel, nails, or ferrous material reinforcements. The temple was made in Rajasthan, India and then shipped to Canada. The temple is open and free to guests, although a dress code and proper behavior must be followed.
Discover the Best Unique Things to Do in Toronto
Truly offering eclectic experiences, Toronto has countless activities to suit any traveler's tastes. Now that you're ready to experience the bizarre, niche, and marvelous, which attraction will you visit first?