Summer in the City: 10 Things to Do in Toronto

You never know what will happen when you know where everyone is going. We’re profiling the hottest events across Canada all season in our new Summer in the City series. Check out 10 ways to spend a summer day in Toronto, the "City Within a Park."



There is no better time to be a Toronto native, or visitor for that matter, than in the summer. As the sun draws people outdoors, picnics and patio parties are a-plenty and city dwellers retreat to nature hangouts like High Park, Trinity Bellwoods Park and Toronto Island. You don’t get a tagline like “City Within a Park” without backing it up, after all. The eclectic and culturally rich neighbourhoods come alive as a vibrant, creative crowd can be seen occupying the city’s countless art happenings, foodie festivals, flea markets and music events.

Toronto Island view of the CN Tower / Photo credit: OTMP, Up Magazine

Toronto Island view of the CN Tower

Above photo credit: OTMP, Up Magazine

One thing is for sure: we really know how to take advantage of long summer nights. On any given evening, the streets are buzzing well past dinner time as locals take to T.O.’s many Instagram-worthy restaurants and bars. Local hot spots tend to be small and intimate, meaning they are usually chock-full of Torontonians rubbing shoulders as they make new friends over fabulous food and drink. A mix of music wafts  out of a diverse blend of cocktail bars, dives and speakeasies. As bright days blend into warm nights, it feels a lot like the city is in the midst of a continuous feel-good street party.

Photo taken on Queen West by Max Kopanygin

Queen West street style / Photo by Max Kopanygin

Beyond its cuisine and acclaimed arts and culture scene, Toronto is also seriously stylish. The designs of homegrown fashion talents like Jeremy Laing, Sid Neigum, and Chloé and Parris Gordon of Chloé comme Parris are sported with pride (supporting local labels is a known past time among the style set). Residents also frequent the west end’s many second hand shops to browse carefully curated boutiques. Modern prints and shapes are worn alongside bold statement jewelry and classic denim and leather.

Toronto’s love of bike rides, long walks and vintage frocks reflect our laid-back youthfulness. It doesn’t take long to realize that it’s an unpretentious place: a city that is truly lived in and enjoyed. Whether you call our fair city home, or are planning a trip (for obvious reasons!), check out 10 things to do in Toronto this summer:

1. That’s So Gay: Say It To My Face Art Exhibition, June 12 – July 28

In conjunction with Toronto’s internally adored Pride celebration, the Gladstone Hotel is launching its annual gay pride art exhibition, which explores themes of gender, identity and sexuality through a series of provocative works.

Address: 1214 Queen Street West

2. Christian Louboutin Exhibit at the Design Exchange, June 21- September 15

The designer best known for his iconic red-soled shoes is bringing his famous footwear to this special Toronto exhibit featuring hundreds of his covetable high heels. As part of regular admittance, Grand Marnier presents the Grand Soirée on special Thursdays throughout the exhibit. On June 27, July 18, August 15 and September 12, guests will enjoy a special cocktail bar, snacks from Parkdale hot spot Parts and Labour and more. Buy tickets to the exhibit online at dx.org.

Address: 234 Bay Street

Courtesy of David Armstrong Six and PARISIAN LAUNDRY, Montreal

Courtesy of David Armstrong Six and PARISIAN LAUNDRY, Montreal

3. Summer Art Exhibits at the Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art, June 22- August 11

MOCCA will be featuring the strange and spectacular work of late contemporary artist Louise Bourgeois. Also on display Barbara Astman Toronto-born David Armstrong Six whose recent sculptural pieces feature a diverse range of raw and ready-made materials compiled into eye-catching compositions.

Address: 952 Queen Street West

4. Independent Theatre and Inventive Performance Art

T.O. is the place to be for the most fabulously eccentric art freaks and theatre geeks. Catch the Toronto Fringe Festival, July 3-14, featuring a diverse range of grassroots theatre events from dramas and musicals to improv and dance shows. The following month, from August 8- 18, SummerWorks Performance Festival showcases experimental and exploratory work from a number of daringly bold artists and performers.

Photo by Sonia Recchia, WireImage/Getty for TIFF

Photo by Sonia Recchia, WireImage/Getty for TIFF

5. TIFF in the Park: A Summer of Romance, Wednesdays July 3- August 28

Every Wednesday at sunset TIFF presents a free outdoor film screening. Perfect for date night, this year’s lineup features romantic classics like Casablanca, Roman Holiday, and The Way We Were, along with more modern hits like Clueless. Bring a blanket and snacks and cuddle under the stars in the heart of downtown.

Address: David Pecaut Square

6. TURF Music Festival, July 04 – July 07

Toronto Urban Roots Festival is taking over historic Fort York with a line-up that includes indie darlings Belle and Sebastian, Neko Case and She & Him.

Address: Fort York Garrison Common

7. The Junction Flea, July 14, August 11

Held on the second Sunday of every month in one of the city’s buzziest nabes, the Flea hosts independent vendors selling a variety of hand-made and antique oddities from vintage clothes to vinyl records. Don’t miss out on the food including gourmet popsicles and the always popular dumpling station.

Address: 2799 Dundas Street West


Courtesy of the Toronto Flower Market

Courtesy of the Toronto Flower Market

8. Toronto Flower Market, July 13 and August 10

Take in the sweet scents and a kaleidoscope of coloursa total delight to the senseswhile you browse a vibrant selection of fresh-cut, potted and bedding flower varieties. The perfect ending to what some consider a Toronto weekend sport: brunch.

Address: 99 Sudbury Street

Courtesy of La Carnita's Facebook Page

Courtesy of La Carnita’s Facebook Page

9. Mad for Mexican Cuisine 

Just call us taco town: week after week locals line up at local favourites like Grand Electric in Parkdale and Seven Lives in Kensington. Another celebrated taqueria, La Carnita, will be hosting DOS on July 19. This one-night-only showing of original works by international street artists and DJs will, of course, be accompanied by plenty of mouth-watering Mexican fare.

To read the DOS Giveaway rules click here.

10. Greenbelt Harvest Picnic, August 31

Even though it’s just outside of Toronto at the gorgeous Christie Lake Conservation Area in picturesque Dundas, ON, you better believe Torontonians will be heading west. Music icon producer and artist Daniel Lanois started this festival of music, local food, arts and culture and it’s getting better every year. This summer, rock legend Neil Young and his band Crazy Horse will join Emmylou Harris, Whitehorse, Basia Bulat and other acclaimed talents at the third annual Greenbelt Harvest Picnic. Expect to see families sharing shade with hipsters and locavores swapping snacks with music aficionados.

Address: 1002 Highway #5 West, Dundas