18 ideas for your summer staycation in Toronto

18 ideas for your summer staycation in Toronto

It's summer, and those of us who usually take this time for travel are probably feeling a little stuck. And while things are opening up (yay!), the advisories against non-essential travel and restrictions put in place by many provinces mean we can’t go too far. That’s why a staycation is probably a better option for our summer holidays this year. Enjoy your time exploring the city, doing fun activities and checking out all the amazing stuff the GTA has to offer.

1. Dive in!

Nothing says “vacation” like a little downtime poolside. As of June 24, city pools are open…with social distancing and other precautions in place, of course. Condo pools are opening up too, at the discretion of each building. So pack a towel and some sunscreen, and lounge by the pool for the day, taking a cool dip whenever you get too warm.

2. Perfect your patio vibe.

Phase 2 means restaurant patios are back…and not a moment too soon. Spend a lazy afternoon enjoying snacks and a chilled glass of rose in your favourite outdoor spot – there's no better feeling than knowing you don't have anywhere to go or anything to do but enjoy yourself.

3. Stare at the stars.

Pick a clear night and look up at the show. Use Sky Guide to ID planets, constellations and satellites – just point your phone to the sky to get the scoop on the stars you’re looking at.

4. DIY your own resort.

Look no further than your balcony for your own little getaway oasis. Set up a comfy couch in your outdoor space or stake out a spot on your building’s patio or rooftop terrace. Bring a thermos full of your favorite vacation bevvy, stock up on riveting beach reads and put together a great playlist. When you close your eyes, it's easy to imagine you're at a Caribbean resort or at a dock on the lake. Bonus points if your partner/kid/neighbour is willing to deliver drinks/snacks/lunch right to your chair.

5. Take a self-guided walking tour.

You live in Toronto, but how well do you really know it? GPSmycity has 14 self-guided tours ranging from neighborhoods walks to themed tours like “Art & Architecture.” If you're interested in city history, Heritage Toronto has some good DIY walks as well. Love music? Check out Yonge Street: the heart of music city. The City of Toronto has some really good ones as well.

If art and street culture is more your thing, try a graffiti tour. Graffiti Alley at Queen and Spadina is a cool, colourful and totally Insta-worthy destination. Right now, it's being transformed to support Black Lives Matter. For more street art options, check out this amazing interactive map.

Go for a picnic

6. Go for a picnic.

Make some yummy food and enjoy it in a local park, or pick up some tasty takeout and tuck in al fresco. Check out this list of Toronto’s best outdoor eating spots from BlogTO. Don't forget your picnic blanket!

7. Explore the shore.

Take advantage of Toronto’s prime location on the shores of Lake Ontario – we've got so many wonderful beaches, waterfront parks and trails. Go for a waterside stroll or bring an umbrella and snacks to the beach, set yourself up 2m away from others and enjoy! If you're up for a swim, you can totally take a dip: most beaches have good water quality, but you can check here for details. (Keep in mind that a lot of beaches aren’t staffed with lifeguards right now, so stay safe if you decide to go for a paddle.)

You can also head to the Toronto Islands – ferry service resumed June 28! They’re operating at reduced capacity and tickets have to be purchased in advance, so plan ahead. But the Island parks and beaches are totally worth a little hassle to get to.

8. Be a flaneur.

A “flaneur” is someone who strolls without hurry, browsing their surroundings with the intent of exploring and discovering. When you walk with no real destination in mind, you uncover unique corners, hidden parks, lovely homes, tucked-away gardens and wonderful little shops and cafés. Wander close to home or explore a place that’s less familiar. Go for a stroll along Roncesvalles, check out the Annex, discover Cabbagetown, Rosedale or even Yonge and Eg. Toronto has so many great walkable neighbourhoods …you could spend your whole vacation exploring them!

Royal Ontario Museum

9. Be a tourist in your own town.

Our attractions are reopening with Phase 2, so if you haven't been to the ROM in a dinosaur’s age or you need a refresher on the AGO’s Group of Seven collection, you're in luck. Just be sure to check their websites for details about timed tickets and other COVID precautions.

10. Forage.

Hydro fields and parks can be a surprising source of delicious things to eat. Check out this helpful timeline of 10 wild edibles and where to find them. Right now, we're in prime mulberry season, and they’re everywhere. (If you don't know what mulberries are, they look like a small, elongated blackberry and they grow wild all over the place.) Pick the almost-black ones for the sweetest flavor.

Go for a hike

11. Go for a hike in the city.

Toronto has tons of hidden trails that wind through parks and wooded areas and along lakes and rivers. Take a walk or a bike ride on the wild side on one (or more!) of Toronto’s best hiking trails.

12. Be a day-tripper.

A road trip to a nearby town is great for a bit of adventure and a much-needed change of scene. If you don't have your own wheels, rent something for the day. Make your way out to Hamilton to see the waterfalls, go to the Forks of the Credit for a hike, or head to charming downtown Oakville to check out the newly reopened shops and eateries.

Wine Tasting

13. Taste some local wines.

Take a drive out to Niagara wine country – wineries are opening up and many have started offering tasting experiences again, with all the necessary precautions in place, of course. It’s a great opportunity to try (and buy) wines that the LCBO doesn’t stock, and discover more of what Ontario has to offer. Reservations may be required, so check before you plan. Tour companies are opening up too – having someone else drive means you can hit up several wineries and taste to your heart's content, and the knowledgeable guides from small operators like Grape Escapes have a knack for creating a fun and educational experience, no matter your level of wine knowledge.

Don't want to drive to Niagara? Have a DIY wine tasting at home! The LCBO has a wide selection of Ontario wines to try, with some great options in their regular stock and in the Vintages section. Start with a sparkling wine paired with strawberries, move to a rosé with a soft cheese, have a lightly-oaked Chardonnay with a handful of macadamia nuts, and a rich Baco Noir (an Ontario specialty!) with flavourful blue cheese or charcuterie.

14. Stay at a local hotel.

It won't be the same as a usual hotel stay, since a lot of things like pools, spas and restaurants may still be closed. But sometimes a nice room, Netflix and room service are exactly what the doctor ordered. Most hotels are doing everything they can in terms of hygiene and social distancing policies, including running at reduced capacity, offering touchless check-in, using ultraviolet surface sanitizers and more.

Rent a cottage

15. Rent a cottage.

The ban on short-term rentals was lifted as of June 15, so Torontonians who need to get out of the city are free to rent in cottage country. We know a cottage isn’t exactly a staycation, but heading to Muskoka, Haliburton, Lake Simcoe, Prince Edward County or another great Southern Ontario cottaging destination is still keeping things relatively local.

16. Find virtual stuff to do.

You’re probably ready to move on from doing everything online. But if you aren’t completely saturated with virtual activities, there's some pretty cool stuff available:

17. Look back on your favorite travel memories.

Travelling is all about making memories. So pull out your snaps from trips past, pick up a bottle of that rosato you tried on the patio in Cinque Terre, make foods you've enjoyed in different destinations, and reconnect with people you met on your travels. A staycation would also be a great time to work on that travel photo book you've been meaning to put together, or to order a wall-sized print of a special picture that reminds you of your travels.

18. Plan next year's vacation.

Did you know that anticipating a holiday may actually make you happier than actually going on one? So why not take time during this year's vacation to plan out next year's holiday? Check out places to stay and things to do, read reviews, and compare prices. If you can afford it, now is a very good time to be booking travel. As tourist destinations try to entice people to travel again, there are great deals to be had, many with unprecedented flexibility and no-questions-asked cancellation policies. But even if you're not in a position to book a big vacation right now, a little dreaming for a “someday” trip can also be a lot of fun.

There's lots of stuff to see and do in Toronto this summer, despite COVID restrictions. So tell your travel bug to wait until after the pandemic, and enjoy some well-deserved downtime with any (or all) of our staycation ideas.


Don't skip your holidays...even if you can't get away.

Thinking about banking your time off for later? We get it, you have limited vacation time, and it's tempting to push your vacation days to when you can actually book that flight south or take that trip to Europe. But giving yourself a break is something you shouldn't pass up. Whether it's from work, your job search or your day with the kids, time off is a much-needed refresher that will leave you happier, healthier and more productive when you get back.

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