- Where To Stay on Your Weekend for 2:
- Your Plan for A Fun, Easy and Grown-Up Couple’s Weekend in Toronto
- Things To Do in Toronto at Night
- In The Morning: An Edifying & Filling Food Tour
- Things To Do During the Day: Essential Toronto Sightseeing
- Toronto Basic Information
- Pin it for later!
Toronto has all the things Rich and I want when we plan a couple’s weekend getaway.
Ideally, we want two-to-four days of good food, cultural activities, interesting neighborhoods for walking around and a nice hotel that feels like a treat. In other words, we like cities.
Toronto has all of these things and more. Here are things to do, see and eat on a kid-free getaway for two. Plus, hotel recommendations.
Hope you plan your romantic getaway soon!
Where To Stay on Your Weekend for 2:
A Cool New Toronto Hotel
I explored the city with a group of writers with an eye on couple-time fun. We stayed at the new and quite stylish Canopy by Hilton in Yorkville. It’s not the most central hotel, but it’s next to a subway stop and about a mile from the Royal Museum.
A stroll down either Church or Bloor streets will quickly put you in neighborhoods with local restaurants and coffee shops.
My two-room suite had a small kitchen, a seating area with a lot of natural light, a big bedroom and a well-appointed bathroom. It was perfect for a romantic weekend where you might want to linger in your hotel room.
What really won me over was the antique cart in the living area that had both a proper electric tea kettle and a Nespresso machine. Getting to choose between an excellent morning espresso and a proper cup of good tea in the morning was quite a treat.
The pool is big and I enjoyed floating around in it after a long day of sightseeing. I wish Hilton believed in including hot tubs with its pools, though.
There is an outdoor lounge off of the reception area that is a nice place to check e-mail, do some work or hang out.
Dining at the Canopy Hotel
I rarely eat in hotel restaurants, but I had both breakfast and dinner at the hotel’s Dia restaurant and both meals were terrific.
Dia’s chef is a Toronto native and uses local purveyors wherever he can. Look for Canadian maple syrup and local honey at breakfast. And for other locavore ingredients in the dishes and cocktails.
For breakfast I had avocado toast on local rye bread with tomato-jalapeño salsa; it was a good variation on one of my go-to breakfast dishes.
For dinner I shared a large charcuterie plate with the group I was traveling with, as well as a hot-honey thin-crust pizza with four cheeses. It sounds odd but was addictively salty and sweet.
After those large appetizers I wanted something light so I had a crunchy Thai noodle salad with spiced peanuts and coconut dressing. I enjoyed it but was a little envious of one of my companion’s creamy wild-mushroom garganelli with truffle oil, which smelled out of this world and looked delicious.
We made room for a lime and pistachio frangipane, which mixed sweet and tangy flavors and wasn’t heavy.
The bar is a bright and welcoming place to stop for a nightcap. How busy it is will depend on the night of the week.
The hotel was putting together a street-level café and wine bar that wasn’t ready to open when we were there. But it was shaping up to be a nice place to people watch over a morning latté or afternoon glass of Canadian white wine.
Two More Toronto Hotels
The splurge: If you want to be in walking distance of many of the activities and restaurants here, treat yourselves to a couple of nights at the Fairmont York Royal, which has large and comfortable rooms, an appealing indoor pool and bar-lounge that is simultaneously opulent and cozy.
Your Plan for A Fun, Easy and Grown-Up Couple’s Weekend in Toronto
Toronto is Canada’s largest city and the fourth-largest city in North America. People from 250 ethnic groups call the city home and about 60% of the buildings are residential. It’s not surprising the city has more than enough restaurants, neighborhoods, historical sites and cultural attractions to fill a long weekend.
Some of my favorite activities were the things we did at night. Since your romantic weekend is likely to start on Friday afternoon, I’ll start with nighttime fun.
I spent four nights and five very busy days in the city. You won’t be able to do everything I did in a three-day weekend. But this itinerary gives you plenty of fun options.
Things To Do in Toronto at Night
Enjoy a spooky ghost tour
We headed to the historic Distillery District at dusk one evening for a ghost tour by the folks at The Haunted Walk.
The Distillery District used to be a huge distillery complex built around 1820. Canadians originally brewed spirits as a way to monetize surplus grain. The industry thrived, of course, in the 1920s, when Americans frequently crossed the border to escape our prohibition laws (and bootleg booze clandestinely crossed the border going the other way).
It’s likely that a large 19th century industrial zone where they are brewing alcohol is going to have its share of “accidents,” genuine mishaps, fires and disappearances. In short, it’s a good place for a ghost tour.
Our cloak-wearing, lantern-carrying guide shared local history and ghost stories that were mild and fairly typical. One involved a Canadian mobster; others involved wayward children and jealous grown-ups. They were good fun.
The last ghost story of the night was based on an episode involving the Canadian singer/songwriter Bruce Cockburn in the 1970s. it was sleep-with-the-lights-on creepy and a bit of a departure from the rest of the evening. If you prefer your ghost stories on the lighter side, feel free to drop off the tour before the very end.
This cobble-stoned district looks small from the outset but has quite a few alleys and walkways to explore. It’s pretty when lights come on at dusk and is a popular local spot for romantic dates. There’s a cute winter village in December, too, with extra shopping and food stalls.
The Spirit of York distillery pays homage to the area’s original purpose. Before or after your ghost tour, pop into the comfortable tasting room to try cocktails made with its Canadian rye whiskey and several vodkas and gins, including a pink gin infused with hibiscus. It has flights and small bites, too.
There are quite a few restaurants that were busy and looked fun. If you like to walk around an area and wander into a restaurant that looks good to you, this is a good place to do that.
Go to the Aquarium
An aquarium? At night? Without your kids? Yes. Absolutely. It’s a completely different and fun experience.
Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada is open until 9:00 at night during the summer. It’s much quieter and less crowded after the school and camp groups and tired families head home (by 3:00).
You don’t have to peek around people’s heads to enjoy the large tanks of fish, jelly fish and Canadian sea life. And you can step right up to the touch tank full of rays without feeling like you ought to step aside and let the kids have all the fun.
The coolest thing at the aquarium is a moving sidewalk that takes visitors through a tunnel where you can see sharks, turtles, sting rays and other large fish above and on both sides of you. You can really appreciate the experience of being surrounded by sea life when there aren’t people all around you.
If you time your visit right, you can take advantage of Jazz Night, which is every second Saturday of the month year-round. The aquarium stays open until 11:00 p.m. and there are bars set up throughout. You can enjoy a cocktail and live jazz while you admire the jelly fish and turtles.
During the summer, Ripley’s offers a Sharks After Dark $5 discount on admission starting at 7:00 every night.
If you feel guilty about going to the aquarium without your kids, pick up a stuffed turtle for them at the gift shop.
Splurge on a Steakhouse with a View
The space, which was reserved for formal entertaining when the castle was a home, has a floor-to-ceiling bay window, fireplace, huge banquets, antler chandeliers and an iconoclastic painting of Queen Elizabeth holding a spray paint can. It faces a portrait of the singer Prince. It aims to be formal but not stuffy.
Order the Caesar salad because they make it table-side. It’s a good show, a lesson in how to make a proper Caesar from scratch, and a good rendition of the salad, too.
The lobster bisque, steak tartare, crab fritters and oysters are appetizers that are worth the calories.
Entrées include every cut of steak imaginable, cooked properly (on the rare side), plus sea bass, scallops, roast chicken and lamb.
The sides are good but also hearty. A baked potato and sautéed mushrooms are reasonable for two people to share. The onion rings and sliced tomatoes are very good (the latter particularly in the summer) but they’re larger. I would order one side for two people if you go with those.
We ordered too many sides and were too full for dessert. I would encourage you to not make the same mistake. They had several desserts that I love, including flambéed banana crêpes and baked Alaska, which are both finished table-side, and coconut cream pie.
Go To Dinner in the Fashion District
The Fashion District area around King St. West and Portland St. had a large choice of upscale restaurants, but I would expect to need a reservation for many of them, especially on a weekend.
We had another of our dinners at Miss Likklemore’s, which serves sophisticated Jamaican food and cocktails in rooms that have a subdued and warm Caribbean feel.
One of the things Rich and I really like to do on our couple weekends is to eat in sophisticated restaurants with complex, interesting food we know our child would probably hate. Ms. Likklemore’s is ideal.
All the cocktails are good but those with rum are especially tasty. The rum punch is not overly sweet, and my skylarker had a nice balance of sweet and sour with rum, fruit, Campari and bitters.
Among the entrées we shared, a just-spicy-enough jerk chicken and whole grilled snapper were excellent. But it’s easy to make a meal from the many tempting appetizers.
Rock shrimp with hot pepper aioli, beef patties with mango salsa and salt cod fritters with charred corn were packed with Jamaican seasonings and just the right size. If you order anything spicy, be sure to order a side of coconut rice or cheesy macaroni pie to cool things down.
Have Cocktails in an Urban Jungle
Selva is a Thai-Mexican fusion restaurant on the outskirts of Old Town. The walls feature murals of fluorescent day-glow jungle animals. The ceiling is covered in birdcages, flowers, vines and fruits, many of which also glow in the dark. It’s sort of Disney’s Tiki Hut for grown-ups.
A lot of the entrées had Mexican-Thai flavor combinations that didn’t appeal to me. But the cocktails and sangria are fun and the appetizers, which lean more toward one set of flavors or the other, were great.
I recommend grabbing a seat at the bar for happy-hour drinks and snacks or a light dinner of apps.
I particularly recommend the mushroom tostada, fried calamari with sweet-and-sour sauce, tuna ceviche and fried Brussels sprouts with Sriracha as some of the best dishes to share.
In The Morning: An Edifying & Filling Food Tour
Toronto has several a few quintessential local foods worth trying. And you can sample them all in a short time by booking a tasting tour of the St. Lawrence Market in Old Town with Culinary Adventure Co.
Food tours can be underwhelming when the “local finds” are obvious and things I could have found myself, or when they don’t involve very much food. But Culinary Adventure’s tour gets an A+ from me.
I definitely discovered new and interesting food. I learned some Toronto history, especially about its ethnic make-up. And we came away from the tour pretty stuffed. Skip breakfast the morning you do this and plan on a late, small lunch.
We started out tour with pea-meal ham, a flavorful and not salty meat that historically had been cured for export to England. The curing drew out moisture and the meat was dredged in lentil flour to keep it dry on the long sea voyage. Now it’s typically rolled in corn meal for the sake of tradition and a little added crunch.
Torontonians go to the market’s Carousel Bakery to have thick slices on freshly baked kaiser rolls for breakfast. Plain is popular but don’t be afraid to add an egg and condiments like mustard or brown sauce. I really liked it and would have brought some home if I hadn’t been flying.
We went on to try freshly shucked local oysters and house-cured salmon, locally made charcuterie, and tiny, sweet wild blueberries and fat, juicy local blackberries from a family that’s been selling produce there for decades.
We sampled Kozlik’s Canadian mustard, which comes in a few dozen varieties. They sell some of their most popular flavors in TSA-friendly 3-0z jars. I brought home the fig mustard and the spicy-sweet maple mustard.
We tried other things, too, and finished the tour with Portuguese custard tarts, which you’ll see all around town. The custard sits in a flaky crust and is bright yellow from the many egg yolks in it. I love custard tarts and these were a tasty rendition.
The St. Lawrence farmers market dates to 1803. The St. Lawrence Hall was built in 1850 as a concert and exhibition space. The market moved expanded from across the street after it fell out of use for that.
Make sure to look up from your food to admire the high ceilings and details in the main hall. If you take a food tour on Sunday, check out the antiques market afterward.
Things To Do During the Day: Essential Toronto Sightseeing
This was easily my favorite activity.
The Scottish Style castle, which could be a location for Downtown Abbey was built by a tycoon who had a hand in railroads, housing, electricity and hydropower; all cutting—edge industries that had tremendous growth at the end of the 19th and start of the 20th century.
Get an audio guide or human tour to hear more about his boom-and-bust life story. They can also point out the secret passages and tell you about the perfume tank that was found under his wife’s bathtub. And they’ll tell you which rooms you would have seen in Chicago, X-Men and other movies.
The wide, beautifully landscaped terrace behind the house is a lovely place to sit and easily has the best view of the city skyline.
Blue Bloods opens for dinner at 4:00 and the house closes at 5:00. It makes sense to tour the house and stay for dinner. But if you don’t want to eat that early you can relax on the patio or hang out in the swanky bar with a cocktail.
City Cruises at Queens Quay
Kids get excited about scenic boat rides but often get bored halfway through. So this hour-long cruise around Lake Ontario is a nice couple’s activity.
We had good views of the city (top), its waterfront and its islands from the boat. And on a hot day it was relaxing being on the water with a cold soft drink.
I learned some interesting facts about Toronto history. For example, the CN Tower was built as a radio tower for the railroads. And that the city had a population boom in the 1960s, when Quebec’s separatist movement surged and many Anglo-Canadians felt it prudent to move out of the province.
City Cruises purposely doesn’t fill its sightseeing boats to capacity. Even on a summer day when it was sold out, we had plenty of room to sit comfortably and take photos without having to reach around people.
The Royal Ontario Museum
The ROM has something for everyone, with a good collection of dinosaurs and early mammals and several galleries of Chinese art and artifacts, including the world’s largest collection of large architectural pieces, which were had an interesting history.
There are always temporary exhibits rotating in and out. We saw one on modern Canadian design that was unique and fun. That’s been replaced by wildlife photography and a look at how various world cultures interpret life and death through their art and crafts.
The museum can be a one-hour or three-hour visit, depending on whether you want to focus on a few select galleries or do a full walk-through.
Behind the museum you’ll find the University of Toronto, which surrounds the lovely Queen’s Park. If you have time and the weather cooperates this is a good place for a scenic walk and a bit of greenery.
The CN Tower
If a city has a tall building with a view, you have to check it out. You can see the iconic CN Tower from all over the city.
The elevator ride feels long and serves as a preview of how high up you’ll be at the top. On the top observation deck you have 360 degrees of panoramic view. There’s a glass floor the lower deck if the idea of looking straight down to the sidewalk below appeals to you. I was happy to appreciate it from a distance.
The majority of the city’s buildings are plain, high-rise apartment buildings, which don’t provide a very interesting skyline, especially for a city of Toronto’s size. It’s still absolutely worth going up. I enjoyed the glass elevators, the views of the waterfront and the lake and taking photos from above the city.
Plus, the café is not expensive and has very good big cookies along with soft drinks, beer and decent poutine. Dining with a bird’s eye view of the city is certainly a unique experience.
Tip: During the summer and any other school holidays, timed tickets are a must. Even with a reservation it took us about 30 minutes to get inside, through security and up to the top. If it’s a warm day, hats and a bottle of water, which make the wait more pleasant.
3 Good Toronto Lunch Spots
You can find plenty of stylish, upscale restaurants for dinner. But you’ll find good, inexpensive, casual places, too. For lunch, don’t be afraid to just wander into the Chinese noodle shop, Polish café, Jamaican roti shop or other local spot that looks busy and inviting.
• That’s what I did on my first day in town before meeting up with my group. I wandered up Bloor Street and turned left on Yonge, where I found Mogouyan Hand-Pulled Noodles, a local mini-chain that serves soups and stir-fries with freshly made Lanzhou-style noodles.
I had a bowl of dan dan noodles in a red pepper-infused broth and a large “non-caffeinated strawberry refreshment,” which was similar to a Mexican agua fresca, for about $20. It was filling and one some of the best hand-pulled Chinese noodles I’ve had.
• The lunch I enjoyed most, though, was from-scratch pub food at the Steam Whistle Tap Room in the Entertainment District.
The Kitchen at Steam Whistle makes its own bread, bacon, sausage and cheese sauce.
The soft pretzels, which come with cheese sauce, mustard and butter, are an essential shareable appetizer and the crispy Brussels sprouts are good, too.
I had homemade bratwurst with house mustard, grilled onions and cabbage. Bratwurst can sometimes be bland but this was well-seasoned and a reasonable portion. The fish & chips, burger and salads are reliably good, too.
At the moment the only beer it brews is a (very good) pilsner. During the summer you can mix it with lemon, blood orange or grapefruit Pellegrino soda to make a shandy. And my blood-orange one was a perfect low-alcohol lunch beverage.
There mini beer garden outside, which would be very pleasant on a mild fall or spring day. It was in the high 90s when we were there, though, so we opted for the lively and air-conditioned indoor restaurant.
• On another day we went to The Real Jerk, which has been serving up well-seasoned Jamaican food around Toronto for some 30 years.
The portions are huge and entrées are very shareable. But everything looks so good it’s hard to not over order. The jerk wings, coconut shrimp and beef patties are worthwhile appetizers.
Huge, shareable roti are filled with potatoes and meat, chick peas, lentils or vegetables. The curries and jerk dishes are well-seasoned and not just hot.
You can order most of the proteins on the menu as a side dish. This is a good way to skip the starchy sides and sample a few of the jerk and curry dishes. Jamaican ginger beer, which has a bite, or homemade sorrel juice are quintessential Jamaica and go well with the food.
Tip: We went to an outpost in North Riverdale, which is a nice residential neighborhood to walk around. But there’s also a “legacy” location on the edge of the artsy Kensington Marketneighborhood downtown.
Toronto Basic Information
In December 2023 the exchange rate is about 75 U.S. cents to one Canadian dollar. In other words, when you’re looking at restaurant menus and attraction fees, you can discount the listed prices by 25%.
Save on Top Attractions:
Several of these activities are available through CityPass, which hosted my visit to Toronto.
I love working with CityPass because they always partner with a city’s four or five most popular attractions. If these are what you want to see while you’re in town, you’ll save 40% to 52% off of what it would cost to buy tickets to all of those attractions individually. There is also the opportunity to time your visits or skip the line.
The Toronto CityPass offers timed entry to the CN Tower, plus your choice of four among Casa Loma, timed entry to the Royal Ontario Museum; the Toronto Zoo, the Ontario Science Center and City Cruises (seasonally).
The pass is valid for nine days and activates when the first attraction you visit scans it. The passes are mostly digital and stored on your phone these days. But you can print out paper passes if you prefer.
If you take full advantage of the pass you’ll save $122 per couple. You can put that savings toward a very nice dinner for two.
Getting to Toronto:
By car, Toronto is two-and-a-half hours from Buffalo; three hours from Rochester, NY; four hours from Detroit; and four-and-a-half hours from Ottawa. It’s also two hours from the Canadian side of Niagara Falls.
Meanwhile, direct flights are just under two hours from New York, Boston, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C. and Chicago. It’s a bit more than two hours from Charlotte, NC; Atlanta and Indianapolis. From Pittsburgh and Cleveland the flight is a bit more than an hour.
Immigration and customs:
You need a passport if you travel between the U.S. and Canada by air. If you drive, technically you only need an enhanced driver’s license. But if you have a passport or passport card it’s always going to be more straightforward to bring it.
The U.S. does inbound customs and immigration processingat Toronto Pearson, so leave time for that as well as the usual security screenings when you check in.
This saves you time when you land. And it can allow for a wider choice of flights because airlines can use smaller airports that don’t have their own immigration processing. For example, in New York you can fly from Laguardia as well as John F. Kennedy and Newark airports.
Getting Around Toronto: Toronto has good public transit with subways, trams and buses as options. If you fly in can get around to most things you’ll want to do on foot and public transportation, supplemented with a cab here or there.
A note on Toronto geography:
The CN Tower and Ripley’s Aquarium are next to each other and are part of an entertainment district that also includes Rogers Centre and the Rec Room, a complex with ping pong, pool tables, vintage video games and simulators as well as large TVs for watching sports and two dining spots that feature pub grub and local beer.
The Steam Whistle Tap Room is a block from the CN Tower in the direction of Lake Ontario, next to the Toronto railway Museum in Roundhouse Park. The City Cruises pier is a five-minute walk from the Brewpub.
Ms Likklemore’s is five blocks northwest of the Tower, which takes you away from the water. Selva is less than ten blocks north of the Tower.
The St. Lawrence Market is a mile to the east of the Tower a few blocks back from the water. And the Distillery District is about a 20-minute walk (less than a mile) from the Market, also slightly back from the lake.
Fall and spring are the best times to visit; just pack layers to account for the fickle temperatures during those months. During the summer, Toronto is like more Northeast cities: hot and often muggy during the day and still fairly warm at night.
In winter, temperatures will be lower than in Mid-Atlantic cities and more in line with Rochester, Buffalo and Ottowa. The city can also get big dumps of snow because of the lake effect off of Lake Ontario.
Pin it for later!
Photos by FamiliesGo!©
I was hosted on my visit by CityPass with support from the Canopy Hilton and Visit Toronto. I did not guarantee any specific coverage of the trip and my opinions are always my own.