How to Make the Most of your Toronto CityPASS
Thank you to Toronto CityPASS for gifting us two passes to see the best this city has to offer. All opinions are our own.
You don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone. And I didn’t know how good I had it in Toronto until I left.
I was born and raised in the most culturally diverse city in the world and I didn’t come to fully appreciate the benefits of that until I moved away. Over the last 6 years, I’ve spent the better part of my time away from the city that will always be home to me and I appreciate it so much more now that I understand how unique Toronto really is. I love that every time I visit, I can hit up all my favourite places while still experiencing the new and exciting changes as a tourist would. This time around, with a Toronto CityPASS in hand, I set out to look for ways that you can make the most of your visit to Canada’s biggest city.
In this post you’ll find local tips for visiting the top attractions in Toronto as well as where to eat nearby so no one gets hangry. I’ve added some free things to do that will maximize your savings if you’ve chosen to buy a Toronto CityPASS. All prices are listed in Canadian dollars and all sites/restaurants mentioned have been added to a map at the bottom of this post. Whether you’re planning your first visit or coming back to uncover more of what this city has to offer, I hope these tips will come in handy.
For anyone still on the fence and not sure about the investment, allow me to bring out the former accountant in me and break it down for you. If you notice a difference in the prices here when compared to what you see elsewhere online, it’s because I’ve included the HST (which is 13% in Ontario). Isn’t it annoying when you think you’re paying one price only to discover the tax wasn’t included?!
One adult pass costs $92 plus tax which comes to $103.96 in person or $105.33 online (there’s an online processing fee of $1.37). Below are the regular-priced adult admission fees (again, taxes have been included) to the attractions that are part of your Toronto CityPASS options:
1 | CN TOWER: $42.94
2 | RIPLEY’S AQUARIUM: $44.07
3 | CASA LOMA: $30
4 | ROYAL ONTARIO MUSEUM: $23
5A | ONTARIO SCIENCE CENTRE: $22
5B | TORONTO ZOO: $29
Your pass grants you access to 5 of the 6 attractions listed above because you’re given a choice between the Ontario Science Centre OR the Toronto Zoo. Both of these attractions (5A and 5B) are outside of the downtown core, easier to access with a vehicle, charge $10 (or more) for parking and are geared mainly towards children and families. The good news is that, even if you only get to visiting the top 4 sites in the city, you’ve already covered the price of your Toronto CityPASS and saved yourself over $30.
It’s also worth mentioning that the CN Tower and Ripley’s Aquarium currently offer a joint promotion called the Sea the Sky Combo Ticket. Adult tickets are priced at $65.54 and can be only be purchased online at either of their websites. When weighing the pros and cons of your options, consider the time you’ll be saving with a huge perk of the pass: you get to skip the long lines!
Benefits of exploring with toronto citypass:
Enjoy significant savings (over $55) when compared to paying full-price at each attraction.
The chance to feel like a real VIP as you walk straight past the crowds with your skip-the-line perks.
An online ticket option that can easily be scanned at the entrance of each attraction.
Flexibility to use your pass across 9 consecutive days (starting from the day you visit your first attraction).
Where to Buy a Toronto CityPASS:
Online is the most convenient way granting you almost instant access to a mobile and printable ticket via e-mail. There is a processing fee of $1.37 for this option.
You can also purchase your Toronto CityPass at the first attraction you’re planning to visit since they’re available for sale at all the participating sites. The downside here being you end up waiting in line at one of the attractions in order to buy the pass so try to avoid peak hours.
And now, on to those insider tips and tricks to help you get your money’s worth!
1 | CN Tower
Summer Hours: 8:30am to 11pm
Regular Adult Admission: $42.94 ($38 + HST)
Location: 290 Bremner Blvd
LOCAL TIPS FOR VISITING THE CN TOWER:
Double check sunset times and get the most bang for your buck by visiting this attraction at dusk. You’ll be able to watch the sun set from the observation deck and then get a completely different perspective of Toronto as day turns to night.
If you’re an early riser, you can opt to take advantage of the tower’s early opening time of 8:30am and enjoy a far less crowded experience.
When you’re not sure about the weather, you can check this live cam prior to your visit for a preview of what visibility is like from the observation deck.
Feeling adventurous and up for the thrill of CN Tower’s EdgeWalk? It’s a fantastic experience but, unfortunately, the Toronto CityPass doesn’t help in this case. Even though your pass includes admission to the tower, you would have to buy an entirely separate ticket for the EdgeWalk (which also happens to include admission to the tower).
RESTAURANTS NEAR THE CN TOWER:
PAI → Arguably the best Thai food in Toronto, with a wide range of Northern Thai dishes and 5 spice levels to choose from.
Steam Whistle’s Biergarten → A new addition to the Steam Whistle Brewery serving German specialties like chicken schnitzel and currywurst sausage that pair well with their beers.
Jack Astor’s → A fun chain restaurant with pub classics like nachos, burgers and, my personal favourite, the signature cheesy garlic pan bread.
Canoe → An upscale restaurant on the 54th floor of the TD Tower that offers unforgettable views of the CN Tower (which you don’t get when dining at the CN Tower’s 360 restaurant). Save by taking advantage of their prix fixe offerings during Summerlicious or Winterlicious.
2 | Ripley’s Aquarium
Summer Hours: 9am to 11pm most days unless otherwise stated on their website calendar
Regular Adult Admission: $44.07 ($39 + HST) with promotional offers available from $32
Location: 288 Bremner Boulevard
LOCAL TIPS FOR VISITING RIPLEY’S AQUARIUM:
You’ll have a more enjoyable experience if you can avoid visiting during peak hours of 11am to 4pm. Otherwise, be prepared to navigate through large groups of children on field trips and families with strollers.
The CN Tower and Ripley’s Aquarium are literally right beside one another and can easily be visited on the same day.
The aquarium hosts jazz nights with live music on the second Friday of each month.
If you spot a chance of rain in the forecast during your visit to Toronto, this attraction is entirely indoors and can be saved for a cloudy/rainy day.
THINGS TO DO NEAR RIPLEY’S AQUARIUM:
Steam Whistle Brewery Tour → Half hour guided tours are offered for $12 highlighting the history and operations of Steam Whistle Brewing.
Toronto Harbourfront → Take a walk or bike ride along the city’s waterfront where you’re bound to find a music, art or food festival during the summer.
Centre Island → Catch a ferry at Harbour Square Park and admire the best views of Toronto’s skyline from the islands.
3 | Casa Loma
Summer Hours: 9:30am to 5:00pm Daily (open until 10pm some summer nights)
Regular Adult Admission: $30 ($26.55 + HST)
Location: 1 Austin Terrace
LOCAL TIPS FOR VISITING CASA LOMA:
Your Toronto CityPass includes access to Casa Loma After Dark where you can enjoy the castle until 10pm on certain nights every summer. Visit on a Monday for soul music, Tuesday to enjoy a symphony performance or Wednesday for comedy night.
Onsite parking at Casa Loma is $10 but, with a bit of patience, you can often find free street parking on nearby streets like Castle View and Walmer.
Don’t forget to pick up an audio guide which is included with admission and available in 8 languages.
Visitors can learn more about the castle’s history by watching a Sir Henry Pellatt documentary. This 22-minute film is included in your visit and shown every 30 minutes at the unfinished pool in the lower level of the castle.
Views of Toronto from the Norman Tower are worth the climb up that narrow staircase!
Take time to explore the lower level of the castle where you’ll see posters and scenes from movies filmed at Casa Loma like Chicago and X-Men. Also on this often overlooked level, you can visit the gift shop, walk through the dark, underground tunnels and check out the former stables and a vintage automotive museum.
If you’re interested in learning more about Toronto life in the early 20th century, the Spadina Museum is right next door and focuses on the Austin family that lived in this historical mansion. $10 admission for adults and guided tours only.
RESTAURANTS CLOSE TO CASA LOMA:
Fat Pasha → Perhaps best known for their massive cauliflower dish, Fat Pasha serves up flavourful Israeli dishes with a modern twist. Note: they are closed between 3-5pm.
Gordo Ex Cafe → Another good option nearby for authentic Venezuelan food like their hearty arepas and empanadas.
4 | Royal Ontario Museum
Summer Hours: 10am to 5:30pm Daily
Regular Adult Admission: $23 ($20.35 + HST)
Location: 100 Queen’s Park Toronto
LOCAL TIPS FOR VISITING THE ROYAL ONTARIO MUSEUM (ROM):
Before activating your Toronto CityPASS, have a look at the current and upcoming exhibitions with dates that might impact when you choose to visit the museum.
The ROM is open late on the third Monday of each month when they offer free admission to all visitors from 5:30-8:30pm.
The beautiful facade is currently under renovation so expect to see some of the entrance boarded up until the project is completed (August 2019).
Keep in mind that you’re in Toronto’s upscale Yorkville area so budget travelers might want to head west on Bloor Street for more affordable shops and eats in the nearby Annex neighbourhood.
RESTAURANTS CLOSE TO THE ROM:
Museum Tavern → Burger lovers should go for the Prime Beef Double Cheeseburger, an upscale take on the beloved Big Mac. Directly across the street from the ROM.
Planta → Vegans and non-vegans alike will appreciate the flavours and creativity behind the dishes in this stylish setting. Friendly staff will share their favourites and point out their bestsellers.
5A | Ontario Science Centre
Summer Hours: 10am to 5pm daily (open till 8pm on Saturdays)
Regular Adult Admission: $22 CAD (19.47 + HST)
Location: 770 Don Mills Road (approx. 25min drive from downtown Toronto)
LOCAL TIPS FOR VISITING ONTARIO SCIENCE CENTRE:
Your Toronto CityPASS offers you a choice between this and the Toronto Zoo. If you’re eager to see both, I would use your pass to get you into the zoo (as entry fees are higher there) and then take advantage of the CityPASS promotion to get 20% off your entry to the Science Centre.
This is a very hands-on science museum making it a popular location for school trips and day camps. Plan for an early morning visit to enjoy fewer crowds.
The building itself (and some of the exhibits) are a bit dated but the knowledgeable staff and daily live demonstrations help make up for it.
A highlight of your visit will likely be the featured IMAX Dome Films displayed on an impressively large screen at the OMNIMAX Theatre. See screening schedules here.
Parking is offered for $10 and there are lockers available to rent for $1 on the 2nd floor.
An easier way to explore the various floors and wings of the centre is by starting from the bottom floor and working your way up.
Plan meals for before or after your visit or bring drinks and snacks to avoid overpaying at the restaurant on site.
MORE THINGS TO DO NEAR ONTARIO SCIENCE CENTRE
Aga Khan Museum → An informative museum of Muslin art and culture. Free to visit Wednesday evenings from 4-8pm, $20 admission otherwise.
Sky Zone Trampoline Park → A trampoline park for kids and kids at heart. Also makes for a fun date night in Toronto.
5B | Toronto Zoo
Summer Hours: 9am to 7pm daily (9am to 9pm on Thursdays during the summer)
Regular Adult Admission: $29 CAD ($25.66 + HST)
Location: 2000 Meadowvale Road (approx. 35min drive from downtown Toronto)
LOCAL TIPS FOR VISITING TORONTO ZOO:
Your Toronto CityPASS offers you a choice between this or the Ontario Science Centre. If you’re eager to see both, use your pass to enter the zoo (as entry fees are higher there than at the Science Centre) and then take advantage of the CityPASS promotion to get 20% off your entry to the Science Centre.
This is the largest zoo in Canada so, between travel time and sightseeing, it’s best to set aside the better part of your day for this attraction and wear comfortable shoes.
Parking is not included and will run you $12 per vehicle.
The animals are said to be most active around their feeding times (typically between 11:30am and 1:30pm).
Have a look at the zoo’s event schedule ahead of your visit if you want to take part in activities like the Wednesday scavenger hunts or weekend carnivore feedings.
Free add-ons to your Toronto CityPASS:
You’ve likely already invested in a Toronto CityPass if you’re reading this post so take advantage of these free attractions in Toronto and maximize your savings:
Shakespeare in High Park → A summer tradition in Toronto with nightly performances offered on a pay-what-you-can basis.
St. Lawrence Market → This historical market has been thriving in Toronto for over 200 years with a wide assortment of fresh and prepared food options to satisfy any craving. There’s an additional farmer’s market on Saturdays and many vendors operate on a cash only basis. Closed Sundays (except for the Antique Market) and Mondays.
The Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) → One of my favourite attractions in Toronto offers free admission on Wednesday evenings from 6-9pm. As of May 2019, the AGO is actually free for visitors under 25 who have signed up for a free AGO annual pass.
The Textile Museum → Offers pay-what-you-can admission on Wednesdays from 5-8pm and is less than a 10-minute walk from the AGO.
The Bata Shoe Museum → Free to visit on Thursdays between 5-8pm. Suggested donation is $5 for this pay-what-you-can initiative that is only a 10 minute walk from the Royal Ontario Museum.
Get lost in the city’s funky neighbourhoods → Kensington Market, Chinatown, Distillery Dictrict and Cabbagetown are all unique parts of Toronto that are entirely free to visit.
I hope these local tips help you make the most of your Toronto CityPASS! It is definitely a worthwhile investment if you’re looking to see the best attractions in the city during your stay. There are so many free things to do in Toronto that you can add on to your itinerary and enjoy a well-rounded visit to this incredibly diverse city.