Psst. I’ll let you in on a secret…
Canada isn’t always a frozen hostile wasteland – Who’d have known?!
Yes, the winter time is extremely cold and I’d never seen so much snow in my life when I arrived in January this year. But if you’re heading to Canada in the summer months, prepare yourself for an amazing ‘cry-with-happiness’ surprise…
The snow melts, temperatures soar, the never-ending lakes call your name and the most fun and festive events erupt from every corner!
So as we head back to winter, here are my Top 10 things to do in Toronto (and GTA) in the Summer time. (Can someone hit the rewind button, please?)
- Join the crowds at a Toronto festival
As soon as the temperatures start to climb, street festivals begin to take place throughout the city. Check out the full list of the best HERE. This year, my favourites were:
- Taste of the Danforth
After phoning in to Virgin Radio for Battle of the Exes and winning a $100 coupon to spend there (hilarious), how could I resist?! Walk along the huge street festival, sample as much Greek food as you can stomach and dance along with the live entertainment. So much fun.
- Kensington Jazz Fest
Being a fan of both cool and quirky Kensington Market, and of live jazz music, this festival is absolutely made for me. After initially being quite disappointed with every venue charging high prices for entry, we discovered multiple alleyways where live jazz bands erupted like flash mobs and performed to excited crowds for free. As one of my favourite memories living in Canada so far, I cannot recommend this festival enough!
- Polish Festival
Are pirogues not the most amazing food ever made? If you’re a fan of sauerkraut, kielbasa, potato pancakes and cabbage rolls – Look no further than Roncesvalles, Toronto! It’s like you’ve grabbed a day flight to Poland and there’s enough traditional food, ice cream and music for everyone to enjoy.
- Set your clocks to Lake Time
If you’re lucky enough to know somebody who owns, or whose family owns, a property in Ontario cottage country – Don’t let them out of your sight!
Alternatively (and perhaps less stalker-ish) you can also rent lake cottages for weekends on listing websites such as CottageRental. Get your booking confirmed quickly as they sell-out fast, and for good reason…
Words cannot express the feeling of relaxation when you’re surrounded by pure silence other than the sound of rippling lake water and the occasional boat or jet-ski flying by.
Try your hand at water-sports, soak away your woes in the hot tub, top up your tan and be one with nature! This is true Canadian living.
- Let your inner child run free at the Fair
Fairgrounds appear all around the GTA during summer months offering crowds tasty treats, fun games and exhilarating rides. Towns such as Port Perry host their traditional smaller fairs where you can get to know local farmers and their animals and see old-school tractor pulls(!)
If large-scale is more your thing, check out The Ex at Exhibition Place in Toronto – The biggest fair I’ve ever been to with huge rides, food stalls and games stretched for miles!
Either way, I’m in love with the spirit and energy found at fairgrounds and both kinds are totally worth a visit.
- Go on a city graffiti tour
There are some incredibly talented artists in Toronto who decorate the city with colourful murals that are waiting for you to discover. Take some time to walk around on foot and spot the various artworks. My favourite graffiti hotspot is Rush Lane, Spadina at Queen – Every building, staircase and trashcan is covered in brightly-coloured images and inspiring quotes (and it’s great to brighten up your city photo album.)
- Be a red-neck at Truck Pulls and Smash-up Derbys
I admit that at first I was (VERY) skeptical about the prospect of sinking my boots into deep mud and watching vehicles burn out as they smash into each other or try to pull heavy objects… After attending several events like this throughout the summer, I actually found them to be so much fun! All ages attend, cheer on the drivers and yell in delight over the sound of screaming engines. Speed, dirt and the smell of gasoline surround you as you stand under the hot sun sipping on a beer with friends. It’s a pretty cool way to meet locals and add to your red neck experience!
- Exercise and soak up the nature at High Park, Toronto
One of the things I love about Toronto is that there is still so much nature around you. Far from the concrete views of some cities in the world, there are lots of areas with ancient trees and large parks to explore. One of the best is High Park.
If you need a place to run, join the many others burning calories around the various circuits amongst the trees. If you have children, there’s a large lake with ducks to feed and an impressive playground area. I absolutely loved getting some fresh air and catching up with a friend as we walked for hours. A great day out in the sunshine!
- Grab a cocktail with a view
As temperatures climb, so many bars and restaurants open up their patios for business, and if you can grab a seat on a rooftop patio – Even better! There’s nothing quite like the skyline of Toronto. Add a mojito into the mix and you’re pretty much in heaven.
- Get that beach-life on the Toronto Islands
Escape the bustle of city life and board a boat across to Wards Island! You can grab the most amazing photos of the city skyline on your journey across the water and the rewards just keep on coming. It’s as though you’ve taken a road trip out of the city to a National Park…
Get surrounded by kayakers, stand-up paddle boarders, sunbathers, swimmers, families enjoying picnics and building sand castles, friends cycling along the wooden boardwalks, soccer games and more. What an incredible place to be able to escape to – So close in distance to the city and yet you can sit on a picture-perfect beach watching the waves lap at your feet. Bliss.
- Brush up on your Country Music
After arriving in Canada, I was not prepared for how huge country music is here! When a popular country song comes on, everybody knows all the words and I felt like Cady in Mean Girls when she thinks a band on the radio is the Spice Girls…
“I love her. She’s like a Martian.”
KX96 is an awesome radio station to listen to and get acquainted with the genre. You’ll soon be loving it and there is actually nothing better than laying in the sunshine, drinking a beer and listening to a country classic. It’s like the theme tune of summer time.
Not only this, there are various country events you can attend that you can really throw yourself into it. Boots & Hearts is a huge multi-day Country Festival that takes place annually in August. Join thousands of plaid-wearing revellers and see all the biggest country stars perform live.
Alternatively, keep an eye out on TicketMaster for individual stars performing at Air Canada Centre or Rogers Centre. I was lucky enough to see Jason Aldean this summer and the crowds gave off such an addictive atmosphere of free-spirited happiness – I’m hooked.
10. Cheer on the Blue Jays!
OK so I’m not really a sports fan, but it’s impossible to avoid the passion in the air during baseball season in Toronto! I struggled to attempt my commute to work as I was entirely surrounded by fans dressed in white and blue on a daily basis as they headed to the Rogers Centre to watch their beloved team. The atmosphere in the city is definitely energetic and you can hear the cheers from the crowd for miles.
If you’re lucky enough to grab tickets, it’s not just about the sports game. Entertainment and competitions take place throughout and you can load up on the tastiest game classics: beer, nachos and hotdogs. It’s definitely a great experience.