In the schoolyard, any clique can be traversed by a common interest: whispered dissemination of the latest swear word (usually learned from someone’s older sibling), a lunchtime game of tag, or – best of all – a huddled mass of children over the latest book of World Records or little-known fun facts. For those of us who look back on those days fondly, there’s still an innocent pleasure to be found in devouring new information – and for a traveler, the best way to orient yourself in a new city is to have a smattering of wisdom up your sleeve to be spontaneous, but not so much that the mystique of the destination is dimmed. Start planning your next vacation in Canada by taking a sneaky peek at these fun facts about Toronto, one of the biggest and most beloved cities in North America.
Toronto Fact #1: This is the most multicultural city in the world.
So you’re here for facts about Toronto? How’s this: A staggering half of the city’s population was born outside of Canada. People from around the world have migrated here for a number of reasons, notably because it ranks as the 7th most livable city in the world. The result? Toronto boasts some 200+ ethnic groups who speak over 180 languages and dialects, making it one of the most diverse and welcoming cities in the world too. How do you say ‘woo!’ in Spanish/Swahili/Arabic/Australian?
Not only does this make for a vibrant city energy, the cultural melting pot of Toronto offers no shortage of neighbourhoods with their own customs and styles, just begging to be explored. Zip around Little Italy, Chinatown, Greektown, Little India or Roncesvalles Village (also known as Little Poland) to soak up the vastly unique energies or enjoy an authentic meal.
Toronto Fact #2: Toronto had the tallest skyscraper in the world… for a while.
One of the lesser known facts about Toronto: For a long time, the CN Tower stood on a tall pedestal (boom-tish) compared to other skyscrapers around the world. Ascending to a dizzying 553.3 metres (1,815 feet) in height, the CN Tower was the tallest freestanding structure in the world from the moment it was built in 1973, until 2007, when Dubai had to do as Dubai does by snatching the record with the construction of the Burj Khalifa.
Today, the CN Tower is the ninth-tallest free-standing structure, but whatever it lost in the rise and fall of competitive architectural classifications, it more than makes up for by being counted as one of the Modern 7 Wonders of the World by the American Society of Civil Engineers, who probably know what they’re talking about.
The CN Tower is the star attraction in Toronto, drawing 1.5 million tourists a year to securely self-induce vertigo on the glass-bottom viewing platform, stare out at Niagara Falls on a clear sunny day, or enjoy a very Jetsons-style dining experience at the 360° rotating restaurant. It’s the key feature of the Toronto skyline, but it sits in good company alongside 160 completed skyscrapers and over 100 more that are still under construction. Though construction takes place in Toronto at a cracking pace, we can all but guarantee none of these buildings will tower over (double boom-tish) this fabulous attraction any time soon
Toronto Fact #3: Niagara Falls is a hop, skip and a barrel-roll away from the city.
There aren’t many people who hear ‘Niagara Falls’ and don’t instantly think of a man plummeting down its rapids in a barrel. But what might surprise you is this legend was forged not by some strapping young lad at the turn of last century, but a 63-year-old woman! In 1901, a school teacher named Annie Edson Taylor careened down the Falls in a barrel on her 63rd birthday and survived with only minor bleeding. Presumably because even whatever deity she believed in was too shocked by her audacity to take her.
To do something so dangerous in 1901, when life jackets were far from commonplace – and largely still made of cork and other kinds of wood – speaks to either brass ovaries or sheer dumb stupidity. So what was Taylor’s reason?
If you put your money on ‘sheer dumb stupidity’, reward yourself with a sage reminder that some things never change: It was a publicity stunt, though not entirely ill-advised. Based on her desire to secure herself financially in her later years, coupled with the slew of ways in which Taylor was ripped off, robbed or otherwise exploited seemingly every time she tried to profit from her pioneering spirit, one can almost sympathise with how hard she worked the original hustle ethic, in light of her limited success.
To her credit, our Queen of Brass Ovaries did curtly remark after the fact of her feat: “No one ought ever do that again.” And, as is human nature, her words went unheeded by a dizzying parade of fellow daredevils – some who lived, some who didn’t – ever after.
So if staring over the Niagara Falls from the top of the CN Tower didn’t quite scratch the itch, a trip right to its precipice (but not over it – things have changed since the good old days!) is highly recommended.
Toronto Fact #4: Even teetotalers love the Distillery District.
The Distillery District in Toronto may have had some sticky origins (at least, it did if you spilled a barrel) but today, it stands as one of the most beloved neighbourhoods to cruise through by tourists and locals alike. With cobblestone streets and preserved 19th-century factories now turned into restaurants, bars, retail stores and luxury apartments, the Distillery District is as much a trip back in time as it is a celebration of everything old becoming new again. Take a tour to amble back in time and experience this treasure as it was originally created and learn some of the single-malt secrets and facts about Toronto.
Toronto Fact #5: There are plenty of spooky secrets to uncover… if you dare.
Just because Toronto is a modern city doesn’t mean it’s lacking in spooky history.
The Original Haunted Walk of Toronto will take you through the streets of the city by night, walking you through some of the most notorious sites for paranormal activity the city has ever experienced.
Learn all kinds of facts about Toronto on this tour, from the goosebump-sparking early days of Toronto to the most haunted historic locales, or riddle over the unresolved mysteries that remain unsolved to this day.
For 90 frightening minutes, your only job is to lean into the fear… and try not to jump out of your skin as you walk where the dead have walked.
Toronto Fact #6: If you’re a sports fan, Toronto is your cornucopia.
Toronto is the only Canadian city with representation in seven major league sports, and based on the baseball caps and sports jerseys you’ll see adorned by a huge swathe of the population, you’d be forgiven for assuming that they’re universally the greatest in their respective sports.
Despite ice hockey being Canada’s national pastime, the Toronto Maple Leafs have been stealing defeat from the jaws of victory valiantly since 1967, which is when they last won the Stanley Cup. But that doesn’t stop the devoted fans from fervently filling the hallowed halls of their home arena to give their devotion to their long-suffering, but ever-beloved team. The excitement is as infectious as the game itself – it doesn’t matter if the Leafs win or lose, their games are well-worth catching no matter what.
It’s not all bad for Toronto’s sports teams though. In contrast to the Leafs in hockey, the Toronto Raptors are (at least at the time of writing) a formidable team that have cleaned up in the Eastern Conference several years running. And in baseball, the Blue Jays make their home city amply proud both in the national and American rankings. Toronto FC are the reigning champions of the soccer Eastern Conference, while the Toronto Marlies (American Hockey League) and Toronto Rock (Canadian Lacrosse) both deserve honourable mentions.
No matter your sport of choice, it’s well-worth timing your visit to catch at least one live game – but failing that, Toronto offers an abundance of sports bars ready to welcome you with a delicious meal and drink in front of high-definition television screens broadcasting whichever game is on.
Toronto Fact #7: Toronto’s Casa Loma is the only truly authentic castle in North America.
One of our favourite facts about Toronto: it has the only truly authentic castle in North America. If you want to experience Toronto as royalty do, Casa Loma is your only option – and your best one. This breathtaking Gothic revival mansion and gardens is situated right near the Tarragon Theatre (more on that in a moment) and is a treasured historic landmark owned by the city of Toronto.
Built in 1914 by Sir Henry Pellatt, a young financier with a passion for fine art and architecture, Casa Loma today welcomes some 350,000 visitors annually – not least of all in its function as a luxury events venue. Its Blueblood Steakhouse has a sterling reputation, and the recent addition of thematically relevant and captivating on-site escape rooms has created a new level of interactivity and playfulness to the castle.
Toronto Fact #8: Toronto is the cultural capital of Canada… arguably.
One of the more contested facts about Toronto is this one, with our Canadian cities vying for the spot. Theatre, music and dance converge in Toronto, giving it ample scope to claim the title of cultural capital of Canada (though we suspect Montreal and Vancouver would take umbrage). The National Ballet Company calls Toronto home, as does the Toronto Symphony orchestra, the Canadian Opera Company and the Mendelssohn Choir.
In global rankings, Toronto is positioned alongside New York and London in terms of English theatre, with an abundance of historic and modern theatres such as the Royal Alexandra Theatre, the Ed Mirvish Theatre, and the Princess of Wales Theatre, as well as the Young People’s Theatre, the Tarragon Theatre and the Revue Cinema.
Toronto Fact #9: Toronto Zoo is the largest in Canada.
Animal-lovers, welcome home. Toronto Zoo has been connecting people to wildlife since 1974, making it a key destination for those who love feathered, furred or flying creatures of all kinds.
Home to over 16,000 animals, Toronto Zoo offers an excellent mix of educational and entertainment activities for people of all ages. Experience some of nature’s most impressive animals up close, or enjoy an enchanted night walk through the Terra Lumina. Tune into the zoo’s Wild for Life podcast on your way there to really get into the spirit of the day (or night).
Toronto Fact #10: Toronto’s shoreline is 43 kilometres long – and there’s excellent exploring beyond them.
The city of Toronto is stunning on land, but it’s even more beautiful from the water. The Toronto Island is just a gentle ferry cruise from downtown, offering you spectacular views and some fantastic exploration within Lake Ontario.
The Island is actually a group of 15 islands interconnected by pathways and bridges that can be walked from end to end without fear of cars, as it’s the largest car-free urban community in North America. Take a swim, go for a run, kayak on the water or even spend a day at Centreville Amusement Park with your family (highly recommended among the best of the theme parks in Toronto).
Toronto Fact #11: Toronto has more than 8,000 restaurants.
Foodies, snackers, culinary adventurers, and more flock to Toronto in search of flavours and flair that not every city has on offer – but guess what? The capital of Ontario delivers, again and again and again.
The cultural diversity of Toronto is one of the shining stars of its cuisine. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a city with better Filipino cuisine outside of the Philippines, or more authentic Indian curries or Greek gyros than in their respective Torontonian neighbourhoods.
Our tip: Visit Toronto with an open mind to experiment culinarily. You won’t be disappointed.
Toronto Fact #12: Toronto is the film industry’s hidden gem.
Cinema-lovers, this one’s for you: Toronto’s film industry is one side of Hollywood you rarely hear about, although you probably should, as 25% of Hollywood movies are actually filmed here.
Employing on average 28,000 people, the Toronto film industry pulls in over $1.5 billion a year – perhaps contributing to Toronto’s sterling reputation for lifestyle and livability (but we’ll get to that shortly!)
Movie stars from Toronto include Jim Carrey, Mike Myers and The Internet’s Favourite Man, Keanu Reeves. Keep on the lookout when doing your grocery shopping – you never know who you might run into on the street.
Toronto Fact #13: Toronto boasts some of the most fantastic markets in Canada.
Toronto takes pride in offering outstanding products and produce, with a hearty dash of style in every way. The markets that take place across the city make manifest this vision.
Kensington Market, located in Toronto’s bohemian neighbourhood, is the perfect spot to grab a snack, sip a coffee slowly, purchase some artisanal products and soak in the ambience. However, if you prefer a little wisdom with your adventuring, by far the best way to experience this particular market is through a specialised walking tour.
Toronto Fact #14: There are over 23,700 artists in Toronto.
Bohemians beware! If you find yourself looking for the Next Great Toronto Artist, you might find yourself in a perpetual loop of discovering rising star after rising star.
Toronto is not only home to twice as many museums as any other Canadian city, but that same ratio translates to its number of artists – both underground and among the elite. So, if beauty, emotion and artistry are what get you up in the morning, Toronto will ensure your cup runneth over… time and time again.
Toronto Fact #15: 18.1% of the city’s total area is parkland.
When it comes to green facts about Toronto, this one knocks it out of the park. If you prefer green space to cities, and cities with ample green space above all, then Toronto is your spot. With some 1,500 parks ranging from modest playgrounds to sprawling High Park (featuring a zoo, a dog park, sports fields and even hiking trails), Toronto has ample capacity for one to immerse themselves in nature, without having to leave the city.
Toronto Fact #16: The Toronto International Film Festival was originally called the “Festival of Festivals”.
If Cannes is a little out of your range (and your budget), fear not: Toronto’s homegrown razzle-dazzle more than matches its European counterpart.
Every September, Toronto becomes the destination of the stars, due to the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF). With glitz, glamour and the greatest new pictures screened at the spectacular Bell Lightbox downtown, TIFF attracts in the vicinity of half a million movie-lovers, big-shots and film stars every year.
With a broad-strokes mission to transform the way people see the world through film, TIFF promises to show you why once upon a time, it – and not Cannes – was known as the Festival of Festivals.
Toronto Fact #17: Toronto is home to the largest continuous underground shopping mall in North America
If you’re looking for facts about Toronto that will serve the fashion-loving members of your family, here’s one for you. If you grew up lusting for the virtual wardrobe selection of Alicia Silverstone in Clueless, the subterranean paradise of PATH may well be calling you. With over 1,200 stores, PATH is Toronto’s largest continuous underground shopping mall.
Once a year, PATH is transformed into the world’s largest underground sidewalk sale, as people set up shop outside the shops to offer what may very well contain your next signature piece.
Toronto Fact #18: It ranks in the top 10 of the world’s most livable cities.
What does it mean to be the world’s most liveable city? Well, according to the experts in The Economist’s Business Intelligence Unit, livability is defined by healthcare, education, infrastructure, stability, culture and more.
Toronto proudly rules the roost (or at least thrives within grasping distance of #1) at its position of number 7 out of 130, which gives a glowing endorsement to its stature amongst The Economist’s prized criteria of stability, healthcare and education across more than 30 individual factors.
Toronto Fact #19: It is home to the largest single day parade in North America – and arguably, the most colourful!
Have you ever ruminated on how odd it is that Canada is lumped into the continental grouping of the ‘Americas’? Well, be perturbed no more, because if that wasn’t the case, it would be vastly harder to justify Toronto as the home of Caribana: The largest single day parade in North America.
If you’re looking at your calendar and the 1st of August is looking in need of some entertainment, scribble this event right across the page, stat. This 12(ish)-hour-long Caribbean festival can feature as many as 10,000 costumed participants, dressed with all the aplomb one would expect of Rio’s Carnival or London’s Notting Hill Carnival. They march a parade route just over 3.5 kilometres in length, drawing over a million spectators annually to cheer, boogie, and envy the performers’ ostentatious (albeit magnificent) plumage.
Toronto Fact #20: Ice skating is a prime pastime in Toronto.
If getting into the cozy Christmas spirit involves gliding, spinning or flying on ice, then Toronto is the ideal holiday destination for you. Winter sports lovers will appreciate these facts about the Toronto: The city offers 52 outdoor skating rinks, open from the start of December all the way through to the end of February. Slap on your skates and get going!