How to Travel Like a Local in Toronto

5 ways to feel like a local in Toronto

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Spending the day exploring. Image courtesy Canadian Tourism Commision

Toronto can feel like an overwhelming city to visit with so many things to see and do on offer and travelling to a new place can sometimes be intimidating. But that doesn’t mean you can’t feel like a local while you’re here, even if your visit to Toronto is just a few days. Trade being a tourist for feeling much more like a true Torontonian with these tips.

Take Public Transit

It may be tempting to rent a car or take taxis and use ride sharing services, but if that's not absolutely necessary during your stay, the first step towards feeling like a local is to travel around the city like one. Save money and get to know the city better by hopping on a bus, a streetcar or the subway. It’s a lot more convenient than trying to drive and park downtown and much cheaper than taking taxis or renting car. You don’t even really need to have a destination in mind. Go for a ride and see where you end up, disembark and start exploring.

One of your best bets for really getting to know Toronto is riding the 501 Queen streetcar, which is the longest streetcar route on the TTC and one of the longest streetcar routes in North America. So needless to say, you’ll get to see a lot of the city while you’re riding it. The streetcar passes through numerous neighborhoods so it’s a great way to get a feel for Toronto.

Get on a Bike

Biking around the city (assuming it's not the middle of winter) can also be a good way to get around and explore without the need to use a car or taxi. Toronto Bike Share offers 800 bicycles at 80 stations located throughout downtown Toronto so it’s fairly easy to find one. You can purchase a 24-Hour Pass or a 72-Hour Pass (monthly and annual passes are also available). It’s $7 for a 24-hour pass and $15 for 72 hours and with that you get unlimited 30-minute trips (the time resets every time you dock your bike).

While not as bike-friendly as some other major cities, Toronto locals love their bikes so you'll definitely feel like a local riding one.

Stay Like (or with) a Local

Instead of booking a hotel room on a trip to Toronto, think about using a vacation rental site like Airbnb to find a place to stay. You can opt to stay in a room in someone’s house if you’re travelling alone, or as a couple, or rent an entire home or apartment. Either way, you’ll have access to a host who can give you tips on what to see and do and the best ways to get around. Airbnb hosts usually leave maps and information on tourist attractions and since you have access to someone from Toronto you can really get a local experience.

Explore Toronto's Many Neighborhoods

Sure there are many great tourist attractions to keep you busy in Toronto and you should make time for the ones that interest you, but another great way to feel like a local in the city is by simply exploring some of Toronto’s diverse neighborhoods, of which there are many. Whether you’re wandering through Little Italy, the Distillery District, Little India,  Harbourfront, along Ossington or through Kensington Market and Chinatown there’s plenty to discover. You’ll find great spots to eat and drink and places to pick up unique souvenirs to bring home along the way.

Find a Local Bar or Café to Call Your Own 

There are no shortage of places to eat and drink in Toronto and you will likely come across several spots you take a liking to - just like a local. Find a bar or café close to where you’re staying and talk to locals that frequent it. It might sound intimidating, but talking to the people in the city you’re visiting gives you the chance to ask about where the locals like to hang out, where the best places to eat are and what neighborhood spots they shop at that you won’t read about in any guide books or on travel sites.

Sitting at the bar, especially if you travel solo, is a really good way to meet locals.