When you live in Toronto, summer’s never long enough. It seems as soon as you find some well-fitting shorts and get used to slathering on sunscreen every time you go outside, the days start getting shorter and the nights chillier. But instead of living in denial or wallowing away the last few weeks, why not make the most of those precious days? There’s certainly no shortage of things to do in the city, but if you’re feeling a little mid-summer anxiety and can’t decide how to spend the rest of your time, we’ve put together a list that will ensure you head into fall with no regrets.
Experience Pedestrian Sunday
If you haven’t made it to Kensington Market for a Pedestrian Sunday yet, there are only a few opportunities left. On the last Sunday of the month, from May to October, vehicles are prohibited on Kensington and Augusta Avenues, which come alive with pedestrians, one-of-a-kind street performers, and local vendors selling food, showcasing their art or playing music. It’s guaranteed to be some of the best people watching in the city.
See what the gourmet ice cream hype is about
There’s a new trend in town, but to call it “ice cream” might be an understatement. You’ve probably seen the pimped-out cones served at Sweet Jesus, but it’s not the only place where you can indulge in an over-the-top treat. Junked Food Co. is also serving outlandish takes on ice cream, topping cones with nerds, fruit loops, and even peanut butter and jelly.
Watch a movie under the stars
If you love watching movies but feel guilty spending summer evenings indoors, this one’s for you. Every Tuesday until the end of August, Yonge-Dundas Square is playing comedies on the big screen. On Wednesdays, you can catch a movie down by the water for Harbourfront’s Free Flicks series, where they’re showing everything from Mean Girls to Strange Brew. But nothing beats lounging in some soft grass on a warm summer evening, and there are lots of parks hosting regular movie nights too, including Christie Pitts Park, St. James Park, and Riverdale Park East. Check out our full guide to outdoor movies here.
Take your patio game to new heights
Sometimes we stick with the same old places because picking somewhere new can be a daunting task—good thing we’ve rounded up a small list of the city’s best new patios, from the picnic tables at Mascot Brewery to the third-floor deck at Cactus Club. All you have to do is order a drink and relax.
Fire up the grill for the ultimate park picnic
There’s no better way to celebrate summer than firing up the grill, but if you’re without a backyard, don’t despair. Although many of the grills in Toronto’s public parks have been removed or are no longer fit for use, you can always bring your own. Go out and buy a cheap camp grill and head to your nearest park. And since you probably don’t barbecue every day, take the opportunity to cook something a little more interesting than hamburgers or hot dogs.
Get out on the water
Taking out a canoe, kayak, or stand-up paddleboard might be the most relaxing way to spend a day on the water, and it’s surprisingly easy to get one of your own. There are multiple places to rent them along the city’s waterfront, but if you’re looking for accessibility and a killer view of the skyline, head to the Harbourfront Canoe and Kayak Centre. One night a week, they host “social paddles,” where you set out with a guide and a group of other paddlers, and are greeted back at shore with a barbecue.
Hit up a street festival
With a different street festival happening every weekend, this one shouldn’t be hard to knock off the list. We couldn’t begin to name all of the festivals happening in Toronto this summer, but some of the most noteworthy upcoming fests include the Toronto Cider Festival, which promises to bring cottage life to Yonge-Dundas Square with more than 30 ciders on tap; and BuskerFest, the city’s annual celebration of street performers, where you’ll find everything from human statues to extreme makeup artists.
Catch a free show
If you haven’t had your fill of outdoor shows, but all those patio beers have left you with empty pockets, there are lots of free concerts you can check out. Along with one-off shows, the city hosts weekly series like Indie Fridays at Yonge-Dundas Square, where artists curated by Massey Hall take over the pedestrian-zone every Friday night at 8 p.m. There’s also Summer Music in the Garden, which showcases free classical and world music concerts at the Toronto Music Garden every Thursday at 7 p.m. and Sunday at 4 p.m.
Channel your inner pirate
Because when else are you going to get the chance to ride a fully restored, 165-foot, three-masted Schooner? The Harbourfront docks two of these boats, which are known as the Kajama and the Challenge. These tall ships set sail every day, so while you may want to book ahead, you should have no trouble getting yourself aboard. Relax on the deck with a drink from the boat’s fully licenced bar as you sail by the Toronto skyline.
Bike to the beach
If a beach day and an epic bike ride with friends are still on your “summer to-do” list, we suggest killing two birds with one stone and biking to the beach—just head south to the Waterfront Trail. No matter which direction you go, you’ll pass by a ton of beaches. There’s Sunnyside in the West End, Cherry Beach just east of downtown, and of course Woodbine Beaches in the East End. You could even take the trail to the ferry and cycle around the island before landing on one of its sandy spots.
Have a bonfire on the Island
If you’re not heading to Camp Wavelength or the now-annual Full Moon Party, throw your own little island bash. It may only be a few-minute ferry ride away, but once you’re on the island it can feel like you’ve traveled a world away. Pack some snacks and some portable speakers, and watch the sun go down with your friends. Just make sure you don’t miss the last boat back, which leaves the island just before midnight, or you’ll be sleeping over.
Cheer on the Jays in the open dome
Whether you’re a longtime fan or just want to jump on the bandwagon, watching the Jays is a summer essential in Toronto—especially when the dome is open. You’ll want to catch a game now, because if they have a season like last year, it might be your only chance to see them at an affordable price. And hey, if you’re not a huge baseball fan, the 500-levels offer a spectacular view for sipping on a few overpriced tall cans.
Take a dip in Lake Ontario
Yes, we’re talking about Lake Ontario. Somewhere along the way, Torontonians got the strange idea that if you bathe in the lake, you’ll grow another limb. But eight of the city’s 11 beaches have been verified with Blue Flags, which are awarded to communities committed to maintaining high standards for water quality. If you’re not convinced, head to the island’s Hanlan’s Point Beach or Gibraltar Point Beach where the water flows a little more freely.
Get out of town
The number of long weekends left is dwindling, and when you have to battle traffic to go anywhere outside the downtown core, two days is never enough for a proper getaway. Make the most of your three days and get out of town! If you’re not sure where to head, check out this list of getaways, which includes ideas for those hoping to indulge in some food, drink, and culture, as well as something for those who want to commune with nature.
Big Rock Brewery – now at the LCBO and Beer Store.