Rainy, cold, and other inclement weather can put a serious damper on your travel plans, especially if you're visiting Toronto in the winter. Fortunately, there are plenty of great indoor attractions in the city where you can avoid the nasty weather and still take in what the city has to offer. With loads of indoor attractions ranging from the Art Gallery of Ontario to the CN Tower and a robust transportation and underground path network to get you around the city, you're sure to find plenty of ways to entertain yourself in Toronto on a rainy, snowy, or extremely cold day.
The Toronto PATH System is an extensive network of underground shops and retail spaces that provide the perfect shelter from Toronto's often-inclement weather. Connected by 29 kilometers (18 miles) of pedestrian tunnels and elevated walkways, the PATH system runs under some of the city's biggest attractions including Union Station, six subway stations, the Eaton Center, Air Canada Centre, and the Hockey Hall of Fame.
There are more than 125 entrances to the PATH at the street level, so no matter where you are in the city, you'll likely be able to get out of the weather and go underground. However, once you're there, it can be a little confusing to navigate the city without seeing the landmarks. Fortunately, there are numerous PATH Maps hung throughout the system, which provided color-coded guides to the expansive network of tunnels, and if you get lost, you can always ask a local or shopworker for directions, too.
Located in the Grange Park neighborhood of downtown Toronto, the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) is a great way to spend a rainy day morning or afternoon browsing through over 90,000 works of art. In addition to the gallery's extensive Canadian and international collection, it also hosts a wide variety of rotating and seasonal exhibitions throughout the year.
Fortunately, you can take one of Toronto's streetcars to a drop-off point right in front of the Frank Gehry-designed building, so you won't have to get too wet getting there, either, and AGO is located right in the middle of the city's bustling Chinatown, so you'll have plenty of nearby options for shopping and dining after you're done exploring the galleries.
Although there are plenty of great outdoor shopping malls and districts in the city—like Queen Street—these might not be ideal for a rainy day in the city. Instead, head to one of the numerous indoor shopping destinations scattered around Toronto.
The Eaton Centre—although it no longer houses the iconic Canadian department store where it got its name—is the city's top destination for shopping. Home to more than 250 stores in a bright and airy domed shopping complex, the Eaton Centre is also part of the PATH, so you can access miles and miles of more retail space underground without having to face the weather outside.
Other shopping centers in Toronto include Yorkdale, which features many high-end retailers, on the Spadina subway line and the Pacific Mall, which is North America's largest Chinese Asian mall.
Right next to the "Museum" subway stop, the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) is a great indoor destination for a rainy day. Highlights on the museum—aside from the striking architecture of the building itself—include one of Canada's largest permanent collections of dinosaur bones, Chinese temple art, and a bat cave simulation. It's also relatively close to the Gardiner Museum of Glass and Ceramics, the Bata Shoe Museum, and the Yorkville shopping district, so you can quickly dart from destination to destination without getting too drenched in the inclement weather.
AddressCN Tower, 301 Front St W, Toronto, ON M5V 2T6, Canada
A rainy day may not be the best time to take in the panoramic views of Toronto you get from the 1,815-foot-high CN Tower, but the city’s number one attraction will probably be less crowded. In addition, if the weather forecast calls for the rain to end, try making a reservation for the restaurant. Enjoy a sky-high meal and then visit the observation deck afterward. Admission to CN Tower is included in your restaurant reservation and you will skip any entrance line-up.
Explore Marine Life at Ripley’s Aquarium
Opened in 2013, Ripley's Aquarium of Canada features at least 45 exhibits that display saltwater and freshwater species from around the world. However, the aquarium is not home to dolphins, seals, or other mammals as this kind of captivity is no longer seen to be humane. For example, the care of the mammals kept at Marineland in Niagara Falls was exposed as cruel. Fortunately, though, the aquarium does have an underwater tunnel that lets you walk right through Dangerous Lagoon, which is full of sharks, barracudas, and other marine life.
Ripley's Aquarium of Canada is located at the base of the CN Tower facing onto Bremner Boulevard and is easily accessible from the Rogers Centre, the Steam Whistle Brewing Roadhouse, and the Metro Toronto Convention Centre as well as the CN Tower itself. It's also an easy walk from Union Station, meaning you won't have to brave too much of the elements to get there, especially if you take the PATH system.
From Broadway hits to more intimate, cerebral productions, Toronto has a diverse, happening theatre scene year-round that almost rivals that of New York City. As an added bonus, Toronto theatre is less expensive than Chicago or New York City yet still offers many of the same productions at elegant venues across the city.
The Toronto Centre for the Arts—located north of central downtown—features a 1,700-seat and a 1,000-seat theatre for larger-scale productions while the St. Lawrence Centre for the Arts has two theatres that host operas as well as classical and contemporary music performances in the St. Lawrence neighborhood. For something a little different and more local, try Soulpepper—an artist-founded, classical repertory theatre company in Toronto's unique and historic Distillery District.
Catch a Movie
Spending the day catching the latest Hollywood and international blockbusters is always a good place to be on a rainy day, and movie theatres abound in Toronto. Whether you're looking for the latest blockbuster or a small indie flick, you're sure to find it at one of these cinemas scattered around the city. Check out the Scotiabank Theatre on Richmond at John, a 14-screen multiplex (including IMAX & 3D) that offers the latest Hollywood films, a licensed lounge, and a bookstore on the main floor.
Take a Break at a World-Class Spa
If you're looking for a way to truly relax on a particularly cold or rainy day, there's no better place to wait out dreary weather than an all-inclusive spa. Fortunately, Toronto has become semi-famous for its wide variety of spa offerings that cater to both men and women alike.
Body Blitz is a women’s only spa that puts a modern twist on ancient therapeutic water therapy. The circuit of restorative plunge pools, saunas, and steam has been used in many cultures to increase circulation, improve joint mobility, detoxify, and generally soothe weary bodies. Meanwhile, Bode Spa for Men on Parliament Street just east of downtown offers a full line of services catering to male patrons that include beard and body grooming, facial treatments, full-body massages, and electrolysis treatments.
Take the Outdoors Inside at Beach Blast and the Wave Pool
When the weather gets rough in Toronto, that doesn't necessarily mean you can't indulge in some outdoor activities thanks to various venues across the city that cater to outdoor enthusiasts.
If you had your sights set on swimming, for instance, you can still spend the day submerged in the water at the Wave Pool in Richmond Hill. Here, you can soak in the warm, shallow water of the swirl pool, lounge on water mats, warm up in the on-deck sauna, or simply relax in recliner chairs all from the comfort of a state-of-the-art indoor facility any time of year.
Likewise, if you fancied a day of beach volleyball but your plans got rained out, head over to Beach Blast just north of York, Ontario. This indoor beach volleyball facility will make you feel like you're spending the day at the beach. It offers seven indoor courts, a cafe and snack bar, and three large patio areas on multiple levels where you can wait out the rain 12 months a year.