Often referred to as Canada’s Downtown, Toronto and its surrounding suburbs are home to approximately 6 million people. A culturally diverse metropolitan area—51 percent of Torontonians were born outside of Canada—it attracted 42.2 million tourists in 2016.
That’s a number that is likely to continue to grow according to Krystal Carter, media relations manager for Tourism Toronto, the marketing organization for the city’s tourism industry. She recently spoke with RewardExpert about the many factors that make Toronto a standout vacation destination as well as a few festivals visitors shouldn’t miss this fall.
A World-Class Vacation Destination
“We’re the largest city in Canada, and definitely a world-class destination,” Carter said. “Not only do we have the most sports teams of any Canadian city—including the Blue Jays, Maple Leafs and Wolfpack—but we also have a really exciting music scene with 550 music venues across the city.”
Carter noted that Toronto’s diversity is one of its biggest strengths.
“It really shows up in our attractions, our food, and the traveler experience,” she said. “That’s something Torontonians are really proud of. Whether you’re a family, really into the outdoors, or a creative type, you’ll find a lot of different experiences in Toronto.”
Mild Weather and Festivals Galore
Carter recommends fall as one of the best times to visit Toronto. Though temperatures drop in November, the city’s October weather is comparable to that found in New York, with daytime highs in the 60s and 70s.
“Our peak tourist season is really July and August, so it’s not as busy in the fall,” she said. “In recent years, we’ve actually been keeping warmer weather up until mid-October. Plus, every weekend there is something really big going on in town.”
While visitors will find hundreds of suggestions of things to see and do on Tourism Toronto’s website, Carter said that four festivals stand out as not-to-miss fall events.
Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF)
Running from September 7 to 17, the Toronto International Film Festival brings the best of international and Canadian cinema to film lovers. TIFF ticket-holders can enjoy screenings, lectures, discussions and workshops, as well as meet filmmakers from around the world.
“This festival has really helped get Toronto’s name out there and has helped our film industry as well,” Carter said. “It’s a great way to see films before they come out in theaters but is also a festival for the people, and I think that’s what makes it unique. Even if you aren’t a ticket holder, there are a lot of red carpet events you can see from the street. It’s a good opportunity to see and meet celebrities, and you don’t have to buy a ticket to do it.”
Held from September 23 to 30, the Invictus Games will include more than 550 active duty and veteran service members from 17 nations competing in 12 adaptive sports, including wheelchair basketball and rugby, as well as a variety of track and field events.
“The Invictus Games are a project of Prince Harry, and he is very much involved,” Carter explained. “He doesn’t just lend his name but will actually be attending a lot of the events. It’s about empowering service men and women and inspiring recovery and respect for those who have served their country. It’s also a really affordable festival to attend.”
Nuit Blanche Toronto
Running from sunrise to sunset, this year’s Nuit Blanche Toronto is scheduled for September 30. At the free, city-wide celebration of contemporary art, visitors can enjoy a series of interactive exhibits in unexpected public spaces.
“We shut down some of our major intersections and the festival goes from seven at night to seven in the morning,” Carter said. “A lot of galleries open their doors to the public. It’s a really cool experience for anyone who is an art buff, and it’s free to attend.”
International Festival of Authors (IFOA)
Running from October 19 to 29, the International Festival of Authors has hosted more than 9,000 authors from over 100 countries since its inception in 1974. Lovers of contemporary literature will enjoy 11 days of readings, interviews, artist talks, round table discussions and public book signings, as well as a number of other special events.
“Toronto is a great city for book lovers,” Carter added. “Margaret Atwood, who wrote The Handmaid’s Tale, lives in Toronto and is really inspiring to the community. We also have the Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library. Typically, when you go to a museum and you see books from the 1600s or whatever, they are behind glass. At this museum, you can actually touch them.”