It’s not the Great North’s capital, but with all its big city bustle, Toronto may as well be. The thing that stands out is the city’s diversity. It doesn't matter which nation wins the World Cup. In Toronto, there will be a party. That diversity translates to an incredible food and arts scene, and world-class people-watching across Chinatown, Little Italy, Greektown, Koreatown, Little India and beyond. An added bonus: The dollar exchange favors your USDs. (Airline: Air Canada)
When to go
Summer, when bare upper arms shimmer after going sunless during the winter and everyone is in a giddy mood after months of huddling indoors.
Where to stay
Pantages is a boutique hotel in the heart of downtown, with in-suite kitchenettes and simple design that give you good bang for your buck. Walk to just about anywhere you’d want to be. If you’re bringing the kids, check out the Hotel X Toronto, equipped with a 3,000-square-foot play center with a sports court, toys, books, video game consoles, caregiving services and a rooftop swimming pool. Or lift your pinky finger to the moon at The Fairmont Royal York, a châteauesque historic hotel that houses the queen when she’s in town, yet still has rooms priced for the commoner.
What to do
With a selection that ranges from durian fruit to vintage shoes, Kensington Market is a lively mosaic of independently owned restaurants, fresh produce stalls, cafés and clothing shops set among historic Victorian row houses where hundreds of Torontonians hang. From July 28 to Aug. 1, check out Caribana, North America’s largest cultural festival, studded with a carnival parade, pool parties, word-class DJs, live acts, a sneaker ball and more. And keep an eye out for LeBron James and Drake, who have become mainstays at the festival. The Art Gallery of Ontario, meanwhile, is one of Canada’s most photographed architectural sites. Inside, you’ll find the works of European masters, African artists and Indigenous Canadians among the museum’s nearly 100,000-piece collection.
Where to eat
Horse bavette, wild boar and pork blood pasta are traditional Italian dishes often edited from North American menus. Find them at Buca. Or choose from beloved classics like pizza and eggplant parmesan. Over at the casual Banjara, dinner combos come with rice, naan, daal curry, aloo gobi, veggie pakora and rice pudding. In addition to chicken and goat, there are lots of vegetarian options, like cashew nut balls, cauliflower and chickpea dishes. Saving Grace is a quirky nook where the chalkboard menu changes daily. In true Toronto flair, mismatched chairs and yard sale plates create a hip vibe. Try an avocado espresso smoothie, pupusas or eggs Rajasthani, but get there early. This spot is hot.
A few other recommendations...
A book to pack
The Robber Bride by Margaret Atwood. Set in Toronto, this novel follows three friends betrayed by a former classmate who is believed to be dead. When the classmate reappears, very much alive, old animosities resurface.
A movie to watch
Take This Waltz, a romantic comedy-drama about a married woman from Toronto’s Little Portugal who gets restless and has an affair with an exciting lover.
A record to put on
Anything by the rapper Drake, whose LPs and singles are littered with references to Toronto, from Italian trattorias to West End strip clubs. Start with Take Care, from 2011.