What to do in the Big Smoke

TO, T-Dot, and T-dizzy are all nicknames used to describe Toronto by locals.  However, for those Canadians from outside of the city, we have one nickname for it: The Big Smoke.  It is hard to explain the relationship that most Canadians have with the city that many foreigners mistakenly regard to as our capital is a very strange one.  Outside of Toronto we love to joke about the big city, and make claims that Toronto is actually more American than America.  Maybe it’s a jealousy thing, or maybe there’s some truth to it.  Toronto, regardless of what other Canadians think of it, does have a lot to offer.  Here are some things to do if your ever “stuck” in the Big Smoke.

1) The CN Tower

There are heights and then there is the top of the CN Tower.  The building used to be the highest free standing building in the entire world, and although it was recently knocked from that throne (Dubai is always showing off), it is still very high.  It is so high in fact it doesn’t feel high, if that makes sense.  It feels like you are sitting in your seat on an airplane looking down on a miniature world that doesn’t really exist.   It does, however, feel high as soon as you set foot on the glass floor.

CN tower


2) Niagra Falls

A quick drive or bus ride from Toronto gets you to the most powerful waterfall on the entire planet.  Easily done on a day trip Niagara falls will leave you in absolute awe as you look down on the force of water thrust through a gap in the Canada-US border.  Of course, the Canadian side is better, so you wont need to go through the hassles of crossing the border to visit the American side.  I have been to some of the most amazing waterfalls in the world, and Niagara easily ranks in the top 5.  When you go be sure to take the boat ride to the base in the famous maid of the mist.

Niagara Falls


3) The Hockey Hall of Fame

My problem with the Hockey Hall of Fame isn’t the hall of fame itself, it is wonderful. It is interactive, filled with history and generally just a whole lot of fun.  My problem with the Hall of Fame is that it is in Toronto.  It should be in Montreal, the Canadiens are the most stories NHL franchise without question and Montreal might be the best hockey city in the entire world.  I guess the only reprieve I get on this one is that the fans of the rival Toronto Maple Leafs have to look at all of our Stanley Cups in their own city.

4) St Lawrence Market

When you think of shopping in North America you may often simply think of big malls and Wal-marts.  One treat to Toronto, is that it has one of the more interesting markets in all of Canada.  St. Lawrence Market is only a short walk from the other downtown attractions and is well worth a stroll.  If you’re not a big fan of crowds, try to hit the market on a weekday.

5) Skydome

I don’t care if they call it Rodgers Center now, it will always be the Skydome to fans.  As Canada’s only professional baseball team, the Blue Jays have essentially been transformed into the Canada Blue Jays.  Those of us older than our twenties all remember the great teams of the early 1990s that brought two Major League Baseball championships across the border to Canada.  The Skydome is a beautiful creation, and viewing a game here, or staying at the attached hotel with rooms looking out onto the field, is a must.

The Skydome as seen from the CN Tower


6) Toronto Island Park

Toronto Island Park is a great getaway from the hustle and race of the Big Smoke.  Situated near the downtown airport, Toronto Island Park consists of four islands.  The park is a great natural setting full of hiking trails, beaches on the shores of Lake Ontario, and most of all peace and quiet.

Toronto Island Park

Author: Brendan van Son

Author: I am a travel writer and photographer from Alberta, Canada. Over my years as a travel photographer, I have visited 6 of the 7 continents and more countries than I have any desire to count. If you want to improve your skills, be sure to check out my travel photography channel on Youtube . Also, check out my profile on . to learn a little bit more about me and my work.

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  1. I love the bit about the Hall of Fame. Silly leafs fans should have to look at Montreal’s greatness at home…

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  2. Ah, a post that is quite familiar! Since I live in Buffalo and have very good friends in Toronto, I see the city as more of a short hop across the border. Niagara Falls is just right there, and I love the idea that I can be in the “center of the universe” just three hours away. Perhaps the thing I like the most in Toronto is the melange of cultures: New York City, as much as there’s a dazzling array of cultures present, somehow doesn’t cut it, because the USA seems to want outside influences to melt and fuse. Canada seems to want to preserve the individual shades of culture. I love the Little [insert country name here] that I find in Toronto, from Little Tibet in Queen St W to Little Portugal. I love the fact that I see people reading a Tamil-language newspaper in the streetcar. Being a foreigner myself, I love the idea that one’s culture is still preserved even in a city that is not one’s own. For that I’d always prefer Toronto over NYC if I were to choose between the two cities I frequent the most.

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