The Greater Toronto Area (GTA) is centred on the city of Toronto, in Ontario's Golden Horseshoe. It is generally considered to extend west to the border with Hamilton, east to the border of Port Hope, and north to the shore of Lake Simcoe. It is by far Canada's most populous urban/suburban area, with 6.7 million inhabitants (2021); nearly half of Ontario's population. The GTA is a commercial, distribution, financial and economic centre, and is the second largest financial centre in North America.
|City of Toronto |
the most populous city in Canada, the centre of the country's financial sector, and an energetic, diverse destination for travellers
the eastern suburbs, and a growing technology hub
the very wealthy far western suburbs, but with a lot of land still in agricultural use
the populous near western suburbs with a combined population of 1.5 million, around the same population as the whole Edmonton metro area.
the northern suburbs, with some interesting heritage districts, and ethnic enclaves
- 1 Ajax — founded around a World War II munitions factory, it grew into a bedroom community for Toronto after the war
- 2 Brampton — one of Canada's fastest-growing cities with a significant Sikh and Indian population
- 3 Burlington — a pleasant, wealthy suburban community that is home to the amazing Royal Botanical Gardens
- 4 Markham — a growing suburban community and technology centre with several charming heritage districts, and a significant Chinese population
- 5 Mississauga — Toronto's largest suburb and Canada's sixth largest city
- 6 Newmarket — its Main Street Heritage Conservation District includes several historic sites
- 7 Oakville — an affluent suburb of Toronto whose downtown has a quaint, small-town atmosphere
- 8 Oshawa — the home of a massive auto manufacturing facility that has been gradually closing down through the 2010s, it is trying to transition to an education and health sciences hub.
- 9 Pickering — the city bordering Toronto, it is also home to the Pickering Nuclear Generating Station
- 10 Richmond Hill — a growing suburban town with a significant Chinese and Persian population.
- 11 Vaughan — famous as the home of the McMichael Canadian Art Collection, with a significant Italian and Russian-Jewish population.
- 12 Whitby — during the Second World War, it was the location of Camp X, a secret spy training facility established by the "Man Called Intrepid".
Greater Toronto consists of the City of Toronto and four surrounding regional municipalities: Durham, Halton, Peel, and York; which in total contain 25 urban, suburban and rural municipalities.
The region generates about a fifth of Canada's GDP and is home to 40% of Canada's business headquarters. In 2010, over half of the labour force in the Greater Toronto Area was employed in the service sector, with 19% in the manufacturing, 17% of the labour force employed in wholesale & retail trade, 8% of the labour force involved in transportation, communication & utilities, and 5% of the workforce was involved in construction.
The Toronto CMA also has the largest proportions of foreign-born residents (46%) as a share of the total population out of all metropolitan areas in the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development.
The Greater Toronto Area was home to a number of First Nations (Indigenous) groups who lived on the shore of Lake Ontario long before the first Europeans arrived in the region. At various times the Neutral, Seneca, Mohawk and Huron nations were living in the vicinity. The Mississaugas arrived in the late 17th or early 18th century, driving out the Iroquois.
By the 17th century, the area was a crucial point for travel, with the Humber and Rouge River providing a shortcut to Lake Simcoe and the upper Great Lakes. These routes were known as the Toronto Passage. The area would later become very crucial for its series of trails and water routes that led from northern and western Canada to the Gulf of Mexico. Known as the "Toronto Passage", it followed the Humber River, as an important overland shortcut between Lake Ontario, Lake Simcoe and the upper Great Lakes. For this reason area became a hot spot for French fur traders. The French established two trading forts, Magasin Royal in the 1720s, although abandoned within the decade and Fort Rouillé in the 1750s, which was burnt down and abandoned in 1759 by the French garrison, who were retreating from invading British forces.
The first large influx of European settlers to settle the region were the United Empire Loyalists arriving after the American Revolution, when various individuals petitioned the Crown for land in the Toronto area. In 1787, the British negotiated the purchase of more than a quarter million acres (1,000 km²) of land in the area of Toronto with the Mississaugas of New Credit.
|Climate chart (explanation)|
The Greater Toronto Area is classified as a humid continental climate. In winter, which begins in December and ends in March, typical high temperatures will range from −5 to 2 °C (23 to 36 °F) and low temperatures from −11 to −6 °C (12 to 21 °F). Occasional cold spells hold daytime highs below −10 °C (14 °F) for several days, while low temperatures sometimes drop below −18 °C (0 °F). Mild spells are also a feature of Toronto's winter, with temperatures occasionally surpassing 5 °C (41 °F) for several days. Spring is short and often mild, although snow sometimes falls as late as April. Summer is warm, sometimes hot and humid and begins in June and ends in late September. High temperatures typically range from 24 °C (75 °F) to 31 °C (88 °F) while low temperatures hover around 15 °C (59 °F) in the suburbs and 18–20 °C (64–68 °F) downtown and near the lake. Although fairly sunny, summers do feature occasional heavy, thundery showers. Heat wave conditions featuring temperatures between 32 °C (90 °F) and 35 °C (95 °F) are not uncommon. Temperatures are lower near the lake and higher inland. Although rare, the mercury sometimes rises above 38 °C (100 °F). Autumn alternates between wet and dry periods. Temperatures fall sharply in November and by December, cold and snowy weather is common. The summer of 2016 was one of the hottest summers on record with 38 days at or above 30 °C (86 °F).
- Toronto Pearson International Airport (YYZ IATA) is located in Mississauga. It is well-served by many North American and international airlines.
- Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport (YTZ IATA) is on the Toronto Islands, connected to the Harbourfront by ferry and pedestrian tunnel. Airlines mostly serve airports in Ontario, Quebec and Atlantic Canada, as well as Boston, Chicago, New York-Newark, and Washington DC.
- Flixbus, Megabus, Ontario Northland, Red Arrow, Rider Express, and TOK Coachlines provide intercity service focused on the Toronto Union Station Bus Terminal. Some trips also serve Mississauga, North York, or Scarborough.
- GO Transit provides regular regional transit services by bus, extending to a few locations outside the region. Major terminals are in downtown Toronto, North York, Mississauga, Burlington, and Oshawa.
- VIA Rail operates intercity trains between Windsor, Kingston, Ottawa, and Montreal as part of its coverage of the beaten-path Windsor-Quebec corridor. Some corridor trains make stops in Burlington, Oshawa, or Brampton. There are onward connections in Montréal for Québec City. A trip across Canada by train requires three legs, Halifax-Montréal, Montréal-Toronto and Toronto-Sudbury-Vancouver.
- GO Transit runs commuter trains between Toronto and its suburbs, mostly during rush hours in one direction. The Lakeshore East and West lines run all day and on weekends between Hamilton and Oshawa.
The entire region is connected to the rest of Ontario by modern highways and major roads. Highway 401 connects Windsor with Quebec, through Halton, Peel, Toronto and Durham. Highway 400 is the route to cottage country, running north to Barrie and beyond. Many routes are congested even outside of rush hour.
By public transitEdit
GO Transit operates the commuter transit services serving municipalities within and near the GTA. It operates 7 commuter rail lines, radiating from Union Station at the base of Toronto's financial district. The Lakeshore West and Lakeshore East lines operate every day from 6AM to 1AM between Burlington and Pickering. Three other lines have limited mid-day service to Unionville (Markham), Aurora and Brampton. Otherwise, all other GO rail destinations are commuter-oriented, inbound to Union Station during morning rush hour and outbound during evening rush hour. GO buses often complement GO Transit rail service for destinations or time periods not covered by GO trains. Many GO bus route originate at four stations along subway Line 1 Yonge–University; they are Union Station, Yorkdale, York Mills and Highway 407.
There are various local transit operators to serve the different municipalities within the GTA. The TTC is the largest, running all the buses, streetcars and subways within Toronto. York Region Transit operates buses in York Region, to the north of Toronto. YRT also runs 6 bus rapid transit (BRT) lines, known as VIVA; most connect to a TTC subway station. Durham Region Transit operates local bus service in Durham Region, east of Toronto, serving cities and towns between Toronto and Oshawa. MiWay operates bus service in Mississauga to the west of Toronto. Most of its services are centred on the Square One shopping centre and many of its routes connect to subway Line 2 Bloor–Danforth at Islington station. Also, to the west of Toronto, there are three small cities (Brampton, Oakville and Burlington) that have their own local bus systems.
Toronto International airport (YYZ IATA) in Mississauga is served by GO commuter buses (to Yorkdale/York Mills), Mississauga, Brampton and Toronto local buses and a TTC bus (at regular fare, $3.25) directly to TTC's Kipling subway station in Toronto/Etobicoke. There's also the UP Express, a train direct to Union Station in Toronto/Downtown with on-board wi-fi (cash fare $12.35, or $9.25 with a Presto card, credit card or mobile app payment, as of Mar 2021).
All the above services use the Presto card, which is particularly useful if you plan to use more than one of the above transit services. The Presto card entitles the user to various discounts and privileges. It also eliminates the hassle of carrying exact change for each trip and it simplifies transfers, as fare rates and transfer rules vary for each local transit operator. Using the Presto card twice on the UP Express will pay for the $6 up-front cost of the card. The Presto card is also valid in Ottawa and Hamilton. If you are a senior, be sure to have your card set up for senior fares.
The regional transportation agency, Metrolinx, operates the Presto fare system which allow users to pay transit fares throughout the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area as well as in Ottawa. Presto media includes Presto cards, and may include Presto tickets, personal credit cards and bank debit cards depending on the transit operator.
Presto simplifies transfers between GTA transit systems, and provides discounts when transferring between GO Transit and another GTA system using Presto. Presto saves the hassle of finding a vendor selling strips of tickets for each operator. Tickets for one operator are not valid for another; however, Presto is valid for all operators supporting Presto. Some transit systems have phased out tickets forcing the use of exact cash, passes or Presto.
|Brampton Transit and Zum buses||X||X|
|Durham Region Transit (east of Toronto)||X||X|
|GO Transit commuter trains and buses||X||X|
|Hamilton Street Railway buses||X||X|
|OC Transpo (buses and O-Train in Ottawa)||X|
|Toronto Transit Commission (TTC buses, streetcars and subway)||X||X|
|UP Express (trains between Pearson International Airport and Union Station)||X||X||X|
|York Region Transit north of Toronto (YRT and Viva buses)||X||X|
Presto is not valid for Via Rail trains nor for intercity bus routes not operated by GO Transit.
About Presto cardsEdit
The Presto card is a multi-use, stored-value card that one taps on a Presto reader in order to pay or validate s fare. The main benefit of the Presto card is that all of the above transit operators support it. Seniors (65+) and youth (13-19) can have their birthday recorded on their card to receive any reduced fares for their age group. The disadvantages of Presto cards is the upfront $6 fee and, for seniors and youth, having the card set up for reduced fares before riding.
You can buy a Presto card for $6 (non-refundable) plus a minimum $10 balance. Cards can be ordered by phone (☏ +1 877-378-6123) or online for mailing within 10 business days but only within Canada. Presto cards can also be purchased from the following vendors:
- UP Express service counter at Pearson International Airport sells Presto cards for adults and seniors.
- The GO Transit service counter at Union Station and the TTC Customer Service Centre at Davisville subway station.
- Shoppers Drug Mart stores within the GTA, Hamilton and Ottawa.
- Fare Vending Machines at TTC subway stations sell Presto cards for adult fares only.
- Hamilton GO Centre in downtown Hamilton
Senior citizens (65+) and youth (13-19): when or after you buy a Presto card, have the card set up for your age group. You will be required to show a government-issued document (e.g. passport) for proof of age. The setup can be done at the GO Transit service counters at Union Station (either Bay or York concourse), the UP Express service counters at Union Station and the airport, the TTC Customer Service Centre at Davisville subway station or at any Shoppers Drug Mart store in the Greater Toronto Area. The GO Transit and UP Express service counters mentioned are generally unstaffed; however, if you stand at the counter with a lost look on your face, a staff member will eventually approach you to offer assistance.
At subway and GO stations, there are Presto machines to display the card balance and to load more money onto your Presto card.
Some of the above listed transit agencies offer a discounted fare (called a co-fare) for Presto card holders when transferring between GO transit trains or buses and the local transit operator. If there is a co-fare arrangement, a discount will be applied automatically to your Presto card when you complete the transfer. Co-fare terms vary by local operator. There is no co-fare arrangement with the Toronto Transit Commission.
Alternatives to the Presto cardEdit
The Presto ticket (different from the Presto card) is used on the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) for its public transit services. Unlike a Presto card, a Presto ticket has no stored value, and can only be used once for a specified period on TTC vehicles; it cannot be used on non-TTC vehicles. See the fares section of the Toronto article for details on Presto tickets.
A personal credit card can be used instead of a Presto card for GO Transit, UP Express and several other public transit systems in the Greater Toronto Area. For GO Transit and UP Express, you can tap a credit card on a Presto reader but remember to tap off with the same card at your destination; you will be charged the regular Presto fare (i.e. no senior or youth discounts) and some co-fare discounts might not be available. For other systems that accept credit cards, tap your credit card against the Presto reader on the bus and your card will be charged the cash fare (i.e. no Presto or senior/youth discounts). When using a credit card, keep other credit cards in your wallet away from the Presto reader to avoid accidental double charging. Note that Presto readers for the Toronto Transit Commission and OC Transpo do not accept credit cards as of January 2023.
UP Express allows a rider to tap a bank debit card on the Presto reader, but remember to tap off with the same card at your destination; you will be charged the regular Presto fare (i.e. no senior or youth discounts). A $15 pre-authorization fee may be charged against your debit card. When using a debit card, keep any credit cards in your wallet away from the Presto reader to avoid accidental double charging.
GO Transit operates a system of regional trains and buses within and near the Greater Toronto Area. Many of these services, especially trains, are oriented to weekday commuters travelling to and from downtown Toronto.
The following table summarizes service levels on all seven GO Transit train lines. There may be seasonal variations; riders should check the GO Transit website for precise train times. In the following table: "rush-hour, peak direction" means inbound to Toronto during the morning rush hours, and outbound in the evening; "mid-day bidirectional" means two-way service between the morning and evening rush hours; "limited bi-directional service" means inbound service runs roughly from late morning to mid afternoon and outbound from about noon to early evening; "weekdays" excludes holidays.
|Train line||Toronto to/from||Service|
|Lakeshore East||Oshawa||7 days per week, early morning to midnight, every 15-30 minutes|
|Lakeshore West||Burlington (Aldershot)||7 days per week, early morning to midnight, every 15-30 minutes|
|Hamilton West Harbour||7 days per week, early morning to late evening, hourly service|
|Hamilton GO Centre||Weekdays: Rush-hour, peak direction only|
|Niagara Falls (Ontario)||Weekdays: Rush-hour, peak direction only|
Weekends: 4 trains per day
|Barrie||Aurora||Weekdays: Rush-hour, peak direction plus mid-day bi-directional service|
Weekends: Limited bi-directional service
|Barrie||Weekdays: Rush-hour, peak direction plus one extra evening round-trip|
Weekends: Limited bi-directional service
|Stouffville||Markham (Mount Joy)||Morning to mid-evening service|
|Stouffville (Old Elm)||Weekdays: Rush-hour, peak direction only|
|Kitchener||Brampton||Weekdays: Rush-hour, peak direction plus mid-day bi-directional service|
|Kitchener||Weekdays: Rush-hour, peak direction plus a few round-trip runs after midday|
|London||Weekdays: Rush-hour, peak direction only|
|Richmond Hill||Richmond Hill||Weekdays: Rush-hour, peak direction only|
|Milton||Milton||Weekdays: Rush-hour, peak direction only|
Passsengers using GO train service beyond Kitchener to London, Ontario must have a smartphone and purchase e-tickets as the stations in Stratford, St. Marys and London have neither Presto readers nor GO ticket vending machines. As of October 2021, service west of Kitchener is a pilot project that might be discontinued in future. Via Rail also serves the three stations west of Kitchener, and may provide faster train service but at a higher fare.
For tourists and visitors, GO Transit offers the Niagara Weekend GO Train Service to Niagara Falls year-round.
GO trains operate in trains of 6-to-12 double-decker passenger coaches. Each GO train has a Customer Service Ambassador, who is responsible for making station announcements, answering questions, and dealing with emergencies. The CSA is stationed in the Accessibility car (the 5th car behind the locomotive).
The GO bus network is much more extensive than the GO train network serving areas or time periods without GO train services. Most GO bus routes operate out of bus terminals at various locations within and near the Greater Toronto Area.
In many cases, a GO bus will not stop unless you indicate you want to be picked up, even if you are standing at a bus stop. You must flag the bus down by raising your hand or ticket in the air as the bus approaches.
GO fares are the same on buses and trains, and are distance-based. Bus operators do not accept cash; tickets must be purchased before boarding at a ticket machine, or online. GO Transit no longer has ticket counters at railway and bus stations. Fares for seniors (65+) cost 50% of regular fares. Children 12 & under can ride for free on all GO Trains and buses. Presto card users get a discount of 11.15% for using Presto instead of one-trip tickets. When transferring between GO Transit and a local transit operator to complete a trip, you may be eligible for a fare discount called the GO co-fare. For Presto users, the discount is automatic after completing the transfer between GO Transit and any local operator using Presto. Co-fare conditions vary by local transit operator.
If you use the Presto card for fare payment, you must tap the card in at the start of the trip, and tap out at the end. If you transfer between a GO train and a GO bus, or between two GO buses, you must tap off the first vehicle before tapping onto the next. For GO trains, customers tap in and out at the station entrance/exit. For GO buses, you must tap both on and off inside the bus door. Remember to tap off when you disembark in order to avoid paying an excessive fare. For GO Transit, the Presto card must have a minimum balance of $5.30 (as of 2018). To cancel a trip after tapping in but before departing, press the "correction" button on the reader, then tap again. (Newer Presto readers have a menu instead of a special button for corrections.)
A credit card can be used for GO Transit and UP Express to pay the regular fare (i.e. no senior or youth discounts). Tap your credit card on a Presto reader at the start of the trip and remember to tap off with the same credit card at the end of your trip. If your wallet has multiple credit cards, keep other credit cards away from the Presto reader to avoid multiple fare payments.
If you have a smartphone, you can buy e-tickets to pay your GO fare. Some GO promotions such as the weekend pass are available only with e-tickets. Purchase your e-tickets online, after which an email will be sent to your smartphone's email address containing a link. Click the link on your smartphone to activate your e-ticket at least 5 minutes before you board your GO train or bus as it takes 5 minutes for the GO computer to validate your ticket. Once activated, the e-ticket is valid for 4 hours.
GO trains operate on the Proof-of-Payment system; passengers must possess a valid ticket or a tapped-in Presto card for the entire length of their journey before boarding a train. Tickets cannot be purchased on board, and there are no gates or staff before boarding to ensure you have a fare for a particular train. GO Transit enforcement officers conduct random inspections of tickets, issuing expensive fines to anyone without the correct fare.
GO trip plannerEdit
Here are a few tips for using the GO Transit trip planner. If you are departing or arriving at Toronto (downtown), enter "Union Station" rather than "Toronto". "Union Station GO" is the railway station, "Union Station Bus Terminal" is for GO buses, "UP Express Union Station" is for the airport train and "UNION STATION TTC" is the TTC subway station, all four of which are in close proximity. For downtown Hamilton, select "Hamilton GO Centre". However, for hourly train service to Hamilton, select West Harbour GO as Hamilton GO Centre has mostly bus service. Most GO train stations are identified by station name followed by the acronym "GO". Thus, "Newmarket GO" is the GO train station in Newmarket while "Newmarket GO Bus Terminal" is 2KM east of the railway station.
While it is expensive to park in downtown Toronto, driving remains convenient for many areas of the GTA (or necessary in the outskirts of GTA). Pay attention that Highway 407, Highway 412 and Highway 418 are tolled. They charge based on distance and time of driving (highest charge during weekday rush hour, lowest at night and on weekends). You do not see toll booths. All tolls are charged electronically. An toll-free alternative to Highway 407 is Highway 401. The toll-free alternative to Highway 412 is Lakes Ridge Road N, which runs its entire length parallel to Highway 412. The toll-free option for Highway 418 is Solina Road.
The City of Toronto is the biggest draw for visitors to the region and a good starting point to explore other reaches of the area. The CN Tower is North America's tallest free-standing structure, and takes visitors up nearly 450 m (1,480 ft) to observation decks, a restaurant, and a glass floor. From the observation decks, look toward the horizon to appreciate the sprawling scale of the GTA; silhouettes of high-rise apartments to the west in Mississauga are about 20 km (12 mi) away, and the shapes of tall smokestacks in Hamilton are are over 50 km (31 mi) away. Look downward to see how daily life throughout the GTA converges on a busy downtown core; day and night, the trains, buses, airplanes and expressways passing by the tower connect the downtown to the rest of the region and beyond.
Canada's history is woven into the GTA's oldest neighbourhoods. Monuments, protected buildings, and historic markers turn these areas into destinations for seeing what life was like several generations ago. Toronto's Old Town preserves some of the region's oldest buildings still accessible to the public, such as the St. Lawrence Market, the Cathedral Church of St. James, and various buildings in the Distillery District. Just north of Downtown is Casa Loma, an impressive castle completed in 1914, open for tours and overlooking the city from a small ridge. Head further north to North York to see Black Creek Pioneer Village, a living museum near York University.
In Toronto's suburbs, Old Oakville, has a few small buildings restored to the pioneer era, with costumed interpreters. Parkwood Estate Gardens in Oshawa is a grand private estate featuring architectural, landscape and interior designs of the early 20th-century English Arts and Crafts period. It operates as a museum and public garden. Unionville Main Street historic village developed in the 1840s in what was then Markham Township. As typical of a small village, it boasts numerous quaint period buildings in an idyllic surrounding.
Museums and GalleriesEdit
The Art Gallery of Ontario and the Royal Ontario Museum are among the largest in the country, with permanent collections and special exhibitions that could take your entire day to explore in detail.
In Vaughan, the McMichael Canadian Art Gallery focuses on Canadian art, including the Group of Seven and First Nations, Métis, and Inuit artists. In Brampton, the Peel Art Galley Museum and Archives presents local historic and contemporary art, and international pieces of interest to the communities of Peel while museum artifacts tell the stories of the towns and communities to the west of Toronto.
Science and NatureEdit
In Toronto, the Ontario Science Centre is a vast hands-on museum with exhibits for all-ages, covering science and technology topics such as geology, physics, health, and astronomy. Immersive educational films are shown daily in Ontario's only IMAX dome. The Toronto Zoo occupies a huge area of land near Rouge Park in Scarborough, home to many exotic animals and Canadian wildlife.
Toward the western edge of the GTA in Burlington, the Royal Botanical Gardens preserves over 900 hectares (2,200 acres) of nature sanctuary that forms part of the Niagara Escarpment Biosphere Reserve. With several gardens, an arboretum and conservatory, the complex is one of the largest botanical gardens in North America.
Arts and CultureEdit
Toronto has a busy live theatre calendar, including locally produced shows, shows being prepared for Broadway, and touring shows. Venues are focused in the Entertainment District and Yonge-Dundas. Smaller theaters located in the suburbs also offer quality programming throughout the year, including many shows for children. North of Toronto, York Region is home to the Richmond Hill Centre for the Performing Arts. Peel has the Brampton Rose Theatre and Mississauga Living Arts Centre, and Halton has the Oakville Centre for Performing Arts. These venues also host each city's local symphony orchestra, as well as visiting musical performers.
The Toronto International Film Festival, over 10 days in early September, is one of the leading film festivals in the world. Unlike the Cannes Film Festival, TIFF is open to film fans, showing a massive 245 films to almost half a million movie-goers in 2019. Through the rest of the year, the festival's headquarters at the TIFF Bell Lightbox is open to the public for screenings of Canadian and international cinema, special exhibits, and research at the provinces' film library
Toronto is represented in most of North America's major sports leagues, including the Toronto Blue Jays (baseball), the Toronto Maple Leafs (hockey), the Toronto Raptors (2019 National Basketball Association champions), the Toronto Argonauts (Canadian football), and Toronto FC (soccer/association football). Woodbine Raceway is a major horse racing venue in Toronto/Etobicoke.
Other professional or regional leagues can be a great way to experience popular Canadian sports up-close, or when the major leagues are sold old. For Hockey, check out the Toronto Marlies, (playing in the American Hockey League), the Mississauga Steelheads or Oshawa Generals (both in the Ontario Hockey League). The Raptors 905 play basketball in Mississauga, while Lacrosse is played by teams in Oakville and Whitby.
Outdoors and RecreationEdit
Rouge Park is a 63-km² urban national park crossing the boundaries of the cities of Toronto, Markham and Pickering and the Township of Uxbridge. It has 13 hiking trails ranging from 500 m to 5 km and from easy to challenging.
Public beaches, playgrounds and picnic spots dot the Lake Ontario waterfront. The Toronto Islands are most central, but feel a world away thanks to the short ferry ride from the city and the panoramic view over the lake. The Burlington Beachway near the Hamilton border is popular among families in the west end of the GTA. The Great Lakes Waterfront Trail runs parallel to the shoreline connecting many of the parks together, but note some segments of the trail are on-road and shared with traffic.
Further from the lake, the Niagara Escarpment touches the GTA in Milton, providing the region with access to the Bruce Trail, scenic look-outs at Rattlesnake Point, and a small ski and snowboard hill popular with beginners at Glen Eden. In Vaughan, the Kortright Centre for Conservation provides 16km of trail through forests, marshland and meadow, and runs nature and environmental education programs for children and adults. Events range from demonstrating maple syrup production to displaying renewable energy technology. Uxbridge offers winter sports and hiking through the Oak Ridges Moraine, in the east reaches of the region.
Canada's Wonderland is a Cedar Fair theme park in Vaughan.
The Canadian National Exhibition is an annual agricultural exhibition and carnival that combines food, technology, gardening, live entertainment, arts, sports, shopping and the Canadian National Airshow. Held each year in late-August until the first Monday in September, it has grown since 1879 to become a modern end-of-summer tradition not just for residents of Toronto, but for families throughout Ontario. For a taste of the small town fairs that once defined spring or summer throughout the rural parts of the GTA, head to the fairgrounds in Whitby (June) or Milton (September).
The Toronto Caribbean Carnival (formerly known as Caribana) is a huge Caribbean festival held over three weeks in July in early August, with parades and parties and music and dancing and food. It is the largest festival of Caribbean culture in North America, drawing over a million people, and serving as a reunion for people of the Caribbean diaspora in North America.
A huge LGBT Pride Festival and parade, held usually near the end of June, brings several hundred thousand people to downtown Toronto.
The busy main street of Toronto, Yonge Street, draws a more diverse collection of merchants with more independents than the malls.
There is a very authentic Chinatown in Toronto/Downtown, near the Kensington Market district. The Pacific Mall in Markham is also very Asian in character.
Toronto was once headquarters for two rival national department store chains, Eaton's and Simpsons, which both have either closed or been merged into other chains. The largest malls are the Toronto Eaton Centre and Hudson's Bay Centre in Toronto/Downtown, Yorkdale Mall at 401 and Allen Road in Toronto/North York, the Scarborough Town Centre in Toronto/Scarborough, Sherway Gardens in Toronto/Etobicoke and Square One in Mississauga.
Pickering (Ontario) operates an extensive indoor flea market on weekends.
A few national chains claim Toronto or its suburbs as home base; the Swiss Chalet roast chicken restaurants originated in Toronto and the Pizza Pizza delivery chain has strong enough ties to the city to have registered as a trademark the last seven digits of their heavily-advertised Toronto number, +1 416-967-1111. The Harvey's flame-broiled hamburger was first served in York Region. Many smaller regional chains grew from a successful single location to serve a growing suburban population.
Because of strong and growing immigrant communities, ethnic foods in Toronto are of good quality and comparable to those of the respective home countries. Dishes are often prepared by cooks and chefs from those countries and entice expatriates to travel around the region for a "taste of home". While authentic restaurants are found in each of the local main streets and downtowns, you'll also find dining gems scattered in some otherwise quiet neighbourhood strip malls and commercial areas, taking advantage of cheaper real estate and additional space to offer groceries or catering services in addition to dining.
In Toronto, you'll find Greek food on Danforth Avenue, Chinese foods in Chinatown, Caribbean food in Scarborough among others. Elsewhere in the GTA you'll find Indian foods in Brampton, Lebanese and Hakka cuisine in Mississauga, a variety of Chinese restuarants in Richmond Hill and Markham, or Italian in Vaughan. If a local refers you to their "local" spot for a particular dish, it may well be on the other side of the GTA and worth the trip.
Entire books have been written as collections of reviews of Toronto-area restaurants, which span every segment from takeaway foods to the most expensive of haute cuisine. Within Ontario, very high standards protect food safety and restaurateurs in most cities are legally required to post the results of regular inspections.
Toronto is home base to the Loblaw supermarket chain, one of the big three nationally (its rivals Métro from Montreal and Sobey's from Nova Scotia are also widely present). Loblaws city markets tend to be large stores with an assortment of sidelines, ranging from clothing to housewares.
Plenty of bars along Front St. in downtown Toronto.
The widest range of accommodation is found in Downtown Toronto, especially in the Entertainment District and Yorkville. Hotels outside the core tend to be found along major highways, especially in Burlington, Oakville, Markham, and Mississauga around Pearson International Airport. Many of these suburban hotels are national chains and cater to travelers arriving by car.
Hamilton (in the west) pretty much picks up where the Toronto sprawl ends (with a bit of overlap), but it's the urban heart and gateway for communities that don't tend to associate with Toronto, with an food and arts scene all its own.
Some options for further travel include:
- The Niagara Region - home to the Falls, the Shaw Theatre, a multitude of wineries, and many other tourist attractions.
- Prince Edward County and Eastern Ontario - an opportunity to get out of the city, even pick your own apples and strawberries in season.
- North of Barrie, Central Ontario - cottage country for many Torontonians. Head around the west side of Lake Simcoe toward Orillia and Muskoka, or head east through Peterborough and the Kawarthas toward Algonquin Park.
- Many people in the region make regular trips to Collingwood through the winter months, drawn to the Blue Mountain resort village for skiing, snowboarding, and other outdoor activities. The town has a snowier climate than the GTA; a balmy, slushy winter in Toronto could still be a perfect day on the slopes.