Unusual Things to See in Toronto
Toronto is a city known for its iconic skyline, bustling streets, and diverse culture. But beyond the usual tourist hotspots, there are hidden gems waiting to be discovered. In this article, we’re going to embark on an unconventional journey through Toronto, unearthing unusual and often overlooked sights that will add a unique twist to your visit.
1. The Monkey’s Paw: A Curious Bookstore:
Start your unusual Toronto tour with a visit to The Monkey’s Paw, a quirky bookstore nestled in the heart of the city. Known for its collection of rare and unusual books, it boasts a famous vending machine that dispenses random vintage books for just a token. You never know what literary treasure you might uncover!
2. Graffiti Alley:
Take a stroll through Graffiti Alley, an ever-changing outdoor art gallery in the Queen Street West neighborhood. The vibrant and constantly evolving street art makes for an Instagram-worthy experience. Keep your camera ready; you’ll find unique murals and hidden messages around every corner.
3. The Toronto Islands Hedge Maze:
Escape the city’s hustle and bustle by taking a ferry to the Toronto Islands and exploring the charming hedge maze on Centre Island. This peaceful, enchanting labyrinth provides an unexpected adventure for both kids and adults alike.
4. Snakes and Lattes: A Board Game Café:
Unleash your inner board game enthusiast at Snakes and Lattes, a café dedicated to providing an extensive library of board games. Sip on your latte while enjoying classics or discovering new games with friends and fellow travelers.
5. The Bata Shoe Museum:
Dive into the fascinating history of footwear at the Bata Shoe Museum, home to an extensive collection of shoes from various cultures and time periods. You’ll gain a newfound appreciation for the artistry and innovation behind something as ordinary as shoes.
6. The Music Garden: A Symphony in Landscape:
Indulge your senses at the Music Garden, where landscape architecture meets music. Designed in collaboration with cellist Yo-Yo Ma, this serene garden interprets Bach’s “Suite No. 1 for Unaccompanied Cello” through intricate landscapes, resulting in a sensory delight.
7. The Toronto Light Festival:
Visit the Distillery District during the winter months to experience the Toronto Light Festival. This illuminated wonderland features dazzling light installations and interactive art, casting a magical spell on the historic streets.
8. The Little Red Light House:
Tucked away in a city park, you’ll discover Toronto’s very own “Little Red Lighthouse,” reminiscent of the famous Little Red Lighthouse in New York. This charming structure provides a peaceful escape from the urban environment.
9. The Ontario Science Centre’s Transit Telescope:
Geek out at the Ontario Science Centre, where you can gaze at the stars and planets through their massive Transit Telescope. It’s a unique opportunity to explore the cosmos from the heart of the city.
10. The Distillery District’s Secret Alleys:
While the Distillery District itself is a well-known attraction, venture into the less-explored alleyways to uncover hidden art installations, historical relics, and intriguing nooks and crannies that often go unnoticed.
11. Kensington Market’s Vintage Shops:
Kensington Market is famous for its vibrant atmosphere and multicultural cuisine, but don’t forget to explore its vintage shops. You might stumble upon rare fashion finds, unique accessories, and one-of-a-kind treasures.
12. The Art of Time Ensemble:
For a truly unique cultural experience, catch a performance by the Art of Time Ensemble. This group combines music, dance, and literature to create unforgettable and boundary-pushing shows that challenge traditional artistic boundaries.
13. Casa Loma’s Secret Passages:
Casa Loma, a majestic castle in the city, is a known tourist attraction. But few visitors realize that it conceals a network of secret passages, hidden rooms, and tunnels beneath its grand facade. Take a guided tour to uncover its mysterious history.
14. The Leslie Street Spit (Tommy Thompson Park):
Nature enthusiasts will be delighted by the Leslie Street Spit, a man-made wilderness that is home to an array of wildlife and features stunning views of the Toronto skyline. It’s a hidden natural gem within the city.
15. Humber Bay Arch Bridge:
The Humber Bay Arch Bridge is a marvel of modern engineering and a sight to behold. It’s a stunning location for a leisurely walk or some breathtaking sunset photos, offering an unconventional perspective of Toronto’s skyline.
16. The Gibraltar Point Lighthouse:
Venture to the Toronto Islands and visit the historic Gibraltar Point Lighthouse, which has its own eerie legends. This picturesque lighthouse has witnessed centuries of the island’s history and is a delightful spot for history buffs and photographers.
17. Graffiti Garage at 100 Ossington Avenue:
While the exterior of this building is adorned with a captivating mural, the garage at 100 Ossington Avenue deserves special attention. It’s like stepping into a modern art gallery in the midst of a residential neighborhood.
18. The Aga Khan Museum:
Explore the Aga Khan Museum, dedicated to showcasing Islamic art and culture. The stunning architecture and exquisite collections provide a tranquil and enlightening experience that’s often overlooked by tourists.
19. The Paper Place: A Stationery Lover’s Dream:
For those with a passion for paper and crafting, The Paper Place in the West Queen West neighborhood is a dream come true. This store offers an array of unique paper products, from handmade cards to Japanese washi tape.
20. Toronto’s Street Art Circuit:
Uncover Toronto’s vibrant street art scene by following the Street Art Circuit, a self-guided tour through different neighborhoods. The circuit includes artwork from local and international artists, adding a burst of color to the city’s streets.
21. The Aga Khan Park: A Hidden Oasis:
Adjacent to the Aga Khan Museum, the Aga Khan Park is an exquisite green space with reflecting pools, lush gardens, and serene pathways. It’s a tranquil escape from the urban chaos.
22. The Toronto Necropolis: A Victorian Cemetery:
Discover a slice of history at the Toronto Necropolis, a Victorian cemetery nestled in the heart of the city. The ornate tombstones and serene landscape provide a unique opportunity for reflection.
23. The De Grazia Gallery:
Located within a beautiful church, the De Grazia Gallery offers an unconventional blend of art and spirituality. The gallery showcases the work of Ted De Grazia, known for his intriguing and colorful depictions of indigenous people and cultures.
24. The Royal Ontario Museum’s Bat Cave:
A favorite among young and old alike, the Royal Ontario Museum houses a secret: a massive replica of a bat cave that takes you deep into the world of these mysterious creatures. It’s an educational experience wrapped in adventure.
25. Hike the Scarborough Bluffs:
Escape the urban jungle for a day and embark on a scenic hike along the Scarborough Bluffs. These towering cliffs along Lake Ontario offer breathtaking vistas that feel worlds away from the city.
26. The Kortright Centre for Conservation:
Just outside the city, the Kortright Centre for Conservation offers a serene escape into nature. It’s a fantastic spot for hiking, birdwatching, and learning about environmental conservation.
27. Spadina House: A Glimpse into Toronto’s Past:
Delve into Toronto’s history by visiting Spadina House, a restored mansion from the 19th century. It’s a step back in time, showcasing the opulence and lifestyle of the city’s elite.
28. The TTC Lower Bay Station:
Hidden beneath the bustling Bloor-Yonge subway station is the abandoned Lower Bay Station. This well-preserved relic from the past is a time capsule of subway history and is occasionally open for public tours.
29. The Canadian Broadcasting Centre:
The Canadian Broadcasting Centre, home to CBC Television and Radio, offers free guided tours where you can peek behind the scenes of Canada’s national broadcaster. It’s an intriguing look at the world of media production.
30. The Masonic Temple:
Explore the Masonic Temple, a historic concert venue and former Masonic lodge. This intimate space has hosted legendary musicians and is a lesser-known gem for music enthusiasts.
31. The Toronto Reference Library’s Famous Mural:
Pay a visit to the Toronto Reference Library, where you’ll find a spectacular mural by renowned Canadian artist Charles Pachter. The mural celebrates Canadian culture and is a visual feast for art lovers.
32. The Hockey Hall of Fame’s Hidden Gem:
While the Hockey Hall of Fame is well-known, the Esso Great Hall, home to the Stanley Cup, is a must-see. Marvel at the iconic trophies and artifacts, including the original Stanley Cup bowl, steeped in hockey history.
33. Explore the Kensington Market Garages:
Within the vibrant Kensington Market, explore the colorful garages transformed into art installations. These creative displays add a unique and offbeat charm to the neighborhood.
34. Toronto’s Little Free Libraries:
Roam the streets of Toronto and keep an eye out for Little Free Libraries, small community book-sharing stations found in residential neighborhoods. Feel free to take a book and leave one in return, fostering a sense of community and love for reading.
35. David Dunlap Observatory: A Stargazer’s Paradise:
If you’re passionate about astronomy, visit the David Dunlap Observatory, home to Canada’s largest optical telescope. Attend a star party for a unique stargazing experience under the night sky.
36. The Cherry Street Stormwater Treatment Facility:
An unlikely attraction, the Cherry Street Stormwater Treatment Facility is an architectural marvel. The futuristic structure is a pioneering example of urban infrastructure that marries functionality with aesthetics.
37. The Peace Garden at Nathan Phillips Square:
Nathan Phillips Square is famous for its iconic City Hall, but the adjacent Peace Garden is often overlooked. This serene oasis celebrates peace and diversity and is a lovely place for a quiet moment in the heart of the city.
38. Enoch Turner Schoolhouse: A Historic Gem:
Step into Toronto’s past by visiting the Enoch Turner Schoolhouse, the city’s first free school. The beautifully preserved building offers a glimpse into 19th-century education and civic life.
39. The Humber Bay Butterfly Habitat:
Enjoy a leisurely walk through the Humber Bay Butterfly Habitat, a haven for native plants and butterfly species. It’s a peaceful spot to reconnect with nature right in the city.
40. The Secret Swing on Toronto Islands:
A local secret, there’s a hidden swing on Toronto Islands, suspended from a tree, offering stunning views of Lake Ontario. It’s a perfect place to unwind and soak in the beauty of the islands.
41. The Guild Inn Gardens: A Hidden Art Sanctuary:
Visit the Guild Inn Gardens, a beautiful sculpture garden adorned with architectural relics from Toronto’s past. Wander among the outdoor artworks and discover hidden treasures in this peaceful haven.
42. The Distillery District’s Cobblestone Lanes:
While the Distillery District itself is popular, its cobblestone lanes and historic charm are often overlooked. These lanes are perfect for leisurely strolls, lined with art installations and unique boutiques.
43. Underpass Park:
Underpass Park, located beneath the Eastern Avenue and Richmond-Adelaide overpasses, combines urban design with recreational space. It’s a vibrant area that features basketball courts, playgrounds, and colorful murals.
44. The BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir:
Explore the intricately designed BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir in Etobicoke. This traditional Hindu temple is an architectural masterpiece, adorned with stunning marble carvings and intricate details.
45. The TD Gallery at Toronto Reference Library:
If you have an interest in history and art, the TD Gallery at the Toronto Reference Library is a hidden treasure. It hosts rotating exhibitions of rare books, manuscripts, and historical artifacts.
46. Queen Street’s Hidden Tea Houses:
Queen Street is not only known for its shopping and dining but also for its hidden tea houses. Discover quaint spots where you can unwind with a cup of your favorite brew and sweet treats.
47. The Toronto Music Garden’s Free Concerts:
Enjoy free classical music concerts at the Toronto Music Garden during the summer months. The garden’s unique layout is designed to interpret Bach’s music, providing a delightful backdrop for live performances.
48. The Kensington Market Drum Circle:
On occasion, you can stumble upon a spontaneous drum circle in Kensington Market. It’s a lively and rhythmic experience that’s emblematic of the neighborhood’s eclectic vibe.
49. The Humber Bay Park Bird Sanctuary:
Birdwatching enthusiasts will find joy in the Humber Bay Park Bird Sanctuary, which is home to a variety of migratory birds. It’s a peaceful retreat for connecting with nature.
50. The Yorkville Rock: A Piece of the Moon:
At the entrance to the Royal Ontario Museum, you’ll find a small but significant rock – a piece of the moon, to be exact. Touch this tangible piece of space history and contemplate the cosmos.
51. The Campbell House Museum:
The Campbell House Museum offers a glimpse into Toronto’s early history. The well-preserved historic house showcases life in the 19th century, making it a unique time capsule.
52. The Labyrinth at Trinity Square Park:
Trinity Square Park is home to a calming labyrinth that encourages reflection and mindfulness. Walk the labyrinth’s intricate path for a peaceful escape from the city’s buzz.
53. Corktown Common: A Hidden Urban Oasis:
Discover Corktown Common, a lush urban park that provides a tranquil escape with walking trails, wetlands, and stunning views of the Don River.
54. The Spiral Staircase at Old City Hall:
The Old City Hall boasts a beautiful, hidden spiral staircase that connects two floors. Although it’s not accessible to the public, you can admire it from the ground floor for a unique architectural perspective.
55. The Graffiti Underpass at Queen Street West:
Beneath Queen Street West, you’ll find a mesmerizing underpass covered in colorful graffiti art. It’s a stunning contrast to the bustling streets above.
56. Colonel Samuel Smith Park: A Hidden Gem on the Waterfront:
Colonel Samuel Smith Park is a hidden waterfront gem that offers beautiful views of Lake Ontario, hiking trails, and a bird-watching paradise.