Rain, cold temperatures, and other inclement weather can put a serious damper on your travel plans, especially if you're visiting Toronto in the winter. Fortunately, you can explore Canada's largest city without having to spend too much time in the elements with all the indoor attractions this metropolis offers. Between its art galleries, the famous CN Tower, and a robust underground transportation network, your itinerary shouldn't have to suffer from the rain, snow, and negative-degree temperatures that often plague Toronto.
Toronto's PATH System is an extensive network of underground shops that provide shelter from inclement weather. Connected by 18 miles (29 kilometers) of pedestrian tunnels and elevated walkways, the PATH system runs beneath some of the city's biggest attractions: Union Station, the Eaton Centre, Scotiabank Arena, 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. Once you're there, though, it can be confusing to navigate the city without using its landmarks as references. Fortunately, there are maps hung throughout the system that provide color-coded guides to the vast network of tunnels.
Located in the Grange Park neighborhood of downtown Toronto, the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) exhibits more than 90,000 works of art that are sure to entertain you on a rainy day. 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.
You won't have to get too wet en route, either, because there's a tram stop right in front of this Frank Gehry-designed building. AGO is located in the middle of the city's bustling Chinatown, so you'll have plenty of options for shopping and dining after you're done exploring the galleries.
Although there are a number of great outdoor shopping malls and districts in the city, Queen Street is one example, these do not make ideal rainy day destinations. Instead, head to one of Toronto's indoor shopping centers, such as the Eaton Centre. This expansive complex, although it no longer houses the iconic Canadian department store where it got its name, is the city's top destination for shopping. It houses more than 250 stores in a bright and airy setting and is also part of the PATH, so you can access miles of more retail space underground without having to face the weather outside. Other shopping centers in Toronto include Yorkdale, home to many high-end retailers, and Pacific Mall, one of North America's largest Asian malls.
Right next to Museum station is the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM), whose highlights, aside from the beauty 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 Ceramic Art, the Bata Shoe Museum, and the Bloor-Yorkville shopping district, so you can quickly dart from one destination to another without getting too cold or wet.
A rainy day may not be the best time to take in the panoramic views you get from the top of Toronto's 1,815-foot-high CN Tower, but the city’s famed attraction will probably be less crowded on not-so-sunny days anyway. Plan your visit strategically around the time the rain is supposed to stop and make a reservation at 360 The Restaurant. With entry to the observation deck included in the reservation, you can eat until the sun comes out and you won't have to worry about lines, either.
Ripley's Aquarium of Canada features at least 45 exhibits of saltwater and freshwater species from around the world. Here, you can walk through Dangerous Lagoon, full of sharks and barracudas, via an underground tunnel, but don't expect to see dolphins or seals. In accordance with modern zoological practices, Ripley's Aquarium of Canada is marine-mammal-free.
The aquarium is located at the base of the CN Tower facing Bremner Boulevard and is easily accessible from the Rogers Centre, the Steam Whistle Brewing Roadhouse, and the Metro Toronto Convention Centre. It's 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.
From Broadway hits to more intimate, cerebral productions, Toronto has a diverse and happening theatre scene that almost rivals that of New York City. As an added bonus, theatre is less expensive to see in Toronto than it is in Chicago or New York City, yet it still offers many of the same productions and in the most elegant venues, at that.
The Toronto Centre for the Arts, located north of central downtown, features a 1,700-seat and 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. 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
Catching up on the latest Hollywood and international blockbusters are less of a lazy-day activity than a bonafide experience in Toronto. This city takes its cinemas seriously. For example, the Scotiabank Theatre on Richmond at John is a 14-screen multiplex (including IMAX and 3D) that includes 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 at 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-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, Bodé Spa for Men offers a full line of services (beard and body grooming, facial treatments, full-body massages, and electrolysis treatments) catering especially to male patrons.
Bring the Outdoors Inside
When the weather gets rough, Torontonians bring the outdoors inside. You can spend the day submerged in the swirl pool at Richmond Hill's year-round Wave Pool, for instance, or indulge in a game of beach volleyball at Beach Blast, north of York. This all-ages indoor playground includes seven indoor courts, a cafe and snack bar, and three large patio areas on multiple levels where you can wait out the rain any time of year.