One of the best things about Toronto is the fact there’s something worthwhile to see and do almost everywhere in the city, from east to west and everywhere in between. The city’s east end doesn’t always get as much mention when it comes to attractions as the west end does, but there’s plenty to keep visitors and locals busy in this ever-changing area of the city. If you’re wondering just what to focus your time on, here are some of the best things to do in Toronto’s east end.
Hit the Beach
Toronto is blessed with many great stretches of sand, and some of the best happen to be in the east end of the city. These include Cherry Beach, Kew-Balmy Beach, and Woodbine Beach. Cherry Beach is one of the most poplar beaches in the city with an off-leash dog area that dog owners all over Toronto love. Water quality here is good and ideal for swimming and stand-up paddleboarding, while the west side of the beach is popular with kite boarders. Kew-Balmy Beach also features an off-leash area, as well as park area and a picturesque boardwalk running parallel to the water. Next door to Kew-Balmy is where you’ll find the long stretch of Woodbine Beach, which also features a playground, beach volleyball courts, picnic areas, and a restaurant.
Explore Gerrard India Bazaar
Toronto’s Gerrard India Bazaar, more commonly referred to as Little India, is a great place to spend some time while in the city’s east end. This is the largest marketplace of South Asian goods and services in North America and a vibrant pocket of the city filled with restaurants and shops that represent South Asian fashion, food, and culture. Spend an afternoon (or even a full day), browsing colorful shops and eating delicious South Asian cuisine from over 125 shops and restaurants.
Hang out at Allan Gardens Conservatory
Free to explore 365 days a year, Allan Gardens Conservatory is over 100 years old and makes the perfect place to feel like you’ve escaped to the tropics without ever leaving the city. Here you’ll find six greenhouses covering over 16,000 square feet and filled with colorful seasonal plants, which supplement the extensive permanent plant collection. Of the permanent collection, expect to see everything from a variety of palm trees, to cacti, orchids, bromeliads, hibiscus, agave, and much more.
Visit the Historic Distillery District
There’s nothing quite like spending a day walking the cobbled, pedestrian-only streets of Toronto’s historic Distillery District. Victorian Industrial architecture blends with more modern structures housing an impressive array of art galleries, cafes, restaurants, boutiques, and artist workshops. The best way to experience the area is simply by exploring without an agenda, stopping for coffee or a drink amidst browsing and shopping. There are great patios here in the summer and many events throughout the warmer months.
If you’re exploring the east end of Toronto with kids, you might want to think about paying a visit to Riverdale Farm. The historic working farm sits on over seven scenic acres featuring wooded areas, gardens, and ponds. Tour the buildings, enjoy the scenery, and watch the farmer complete daily chores that might include egg collecting, animal feeding, horse grooming, or goat feeding. Just note that this is not a petting zoo—the animals are for observing, not feeding or handling.
Shop and Eat Along the Danforth
This neighborhood in the east end of Toronto is also known as Greektown for the abundance of Greek restaurants that line both sides of the busy street. But there’s lots more to see and do in the area than fill up on souvlaki (but you still might want to fill up on souvlaki while you’re here). The neighborhood is home to many independent boutiques, bars and cafes, as well as the Danforth Music Hall. Locals and visitors flock to the area come summertime for the annual Taste of the Danforth festival featuring food, music, and fun for all ages.
Check out Chinatown East
Not everyone realizes that there’s more than one Chinatown in Toronto. In addition to the main Chinatown located around Dundas and Spadina, Chinatown East can be found at Broadview and Gerrard. At one time the area wasn’t much to look at, but it’s currently undergoing a revitalization of sorts, with many new businesses popping up, from quirky bars and cozy brunch spots, to bakeries, pubs, and coffee shops. It’s well worth getting to know the area and leaving some time to stop at one of the area’s bars and restaurants.
Fall in Love with Leslie Street Spit
Lovers of the great outdoors will want to make their way to Leslie Street Split, a man-made peninsula (or “Spit”), extending five kilometers into Lake Ontario from the base of Leslie Street. This is one of the best patches of urban wilderness in North America and home to a wide variety of plant species, birds, butterflies, and other small wildlife.