What is Toronto Attractions Week?
Toronto Attractions Week is a fantastic 10-day cultural event that showcases 65+ attractions in the GTA. Whether you live in the 6ix or are visiting, the festival is the perfect way to discover new places or to learn more about that spot you walk by every day but know little about. What better way to #ShowLoveTO? Several venues offer special promotions and events to highlight the week as well. This year (2021), Toronto Attractions Week takes place from October 1st to 10th. If you missed the event, not to worry – now you have a list of amazing attractions to visit in the city throughout the rest of the year too!
Disclaimer: This was a hosted experience in partnership with Toronto Attractions Council. Everything you read is my own personal experience and opinion.
I have wanted to go to Casa Loma for a really long time. Who wouldn’t want to visit a castle in their concrete jungle of a city? There’s no good reason why I hadn’t, but now I can finally cross this intriguing venue off my bucket list!
If you’re unfamiliar with the hilltop castle in midtown Toronto, allow me to indulge you. Casa Loma is a love story about a man who dreamt big and then lost everything. It’s the scene of war espionage and big band high society events. The growth of Girl Guides, a failed luxury hotel, a popular film site and wedding venue, and an outpouring of philanthropy are also intertwined in its history. This monumental home was nearly demolished but the Kiwanis Club of West Toronto saved it from its demise. Today Casa Loma continues to be one of the Toronto’s top attractions. But don’t take my word for it – go check it out yourself!
What is Castle Loma and Who is Sir Henry Pellatt?
This mammoth home lays claim to the title of North America’s only full-sized castle. Built in 1914 by Canadian-born businessman Sir Henry Pellatt and the Canadian architect E.J. Lennox, the “Hill House” was a true vision. Having spent much time in Europe growing up thanks to his British parents, Sir Pellatt acquired a taste for the finer things in life. You can understand where the inspiration for his own castle began.
With wealth earned through the family stock brokerage business, Pellatt and Pellatt, Sir Henry began the construction of his dreams. Unfortunately not even the serial entrepreneur with a monopoly on the distribution of electrical power could climb out of the growing debt he accumulated in pursuit of his castle. It didn’t help the situation when the province wrangled away his grip on electricity, thus losing a substantial source of income. A series of unfortunate events quickly followed, including World War I, poor business decisions, auctioning off his belongings and moving to a farm in King township, and Lady Pellatt’s passing.
Despite the Pellatts’ fall from the Hill, the philanthropic and dedicated member of the Queen’s Own Rifles maintained respect in the community. When Sir Henry passed in 1939, thousands of Torontonians lined the streets as the procession wound through the city. After 50 years of service to the military, he was buried with full military honours.
Visiting Castle Loma Today
Throughout the 20th century, Castle Loma has had a long and winding ride, changing hands several times. Today the City of Toronto maintains ownership of the castle and it continues to be one of TO’s top tourist attractions. In addition to curious visitors, Castle Loma has hosted film and tv crews, lavish wedding ceremonies, and many other notable events.
Casa Loma is open 7 days a week, with COVID precautions in place. Tickets may be purchased for specific times and dates and range in price from $20 for children to $30 for adults, tax included. There is a self-guided audio tour included in the ticket, which I’d highly suggest using to get as much out of your visit as possible. There is parking on the grounds, but depending on the time of day and day of the week, you can find free parking or Green P parking a short walking distance away.
Legends of Horror
If you haven’t visited this phenomenal historic site yet, October is the perfect time to go, especially if you love a haunted adventure. The Legends of Horror is a spooky family-friendly immersive affair that will take you through the estate’s stunning gardens, numerous rooms, and winding tunnels. Enjoy, if you dare.
The Gardiner Museum is another remarkable cultural centre in Toronto. Founded by ceramics enthusiasts, George and Helen Gardiner, it has become an important destination for Canadian artists to showcase their skills and talent. The museum hosts exciting permanent and temporary exhibitions and also provides hands-on public classes and programs.
Who are the Gardiners?
George Gardiner was born in 1917 and worked his way through the stock world, working in New York, opening his own brokerage, and eventually chairing the Toronto Stock Exchange. It wasn’t until the mid-70s that he and his wife Helen began collecting ceramics from around the world as a way to decorate their home. Helen loved how tangible ceramics are and George appreciated the opportunity to diversify his assets, similar to building a real-estate portfolio.
The Gardiners co-founded the museum in 1984. It quickly transformed from housing their personal collection of ancient American artifacts and European pottery and porcelain to being a national treasure. The museum was George’s idea and Helen wasn’t initially interested since she loved having the pieces at home to enjoy. Eventually George convinced her, and with his connections at York University, George negotiated a 99 year lease for the site where the museum stands today. In honour of their contribution and dedication to the ceramic art world, the Gardiners became members of the Order of Canada. George passed away at age 80 in 1997 and Helen passed away 11 years later in 2008.
Hands-On Museum Experience
One of the best parts of the Gardiner Museum is the opportunity to get messy! They have a ton of programs available for patrons of all ages. Every Wednesday and Saturday there are drop-in pottery classes open to the public. Tickets go on sale the day of at 10am and tend to sell out quickly, so mark your calendar and set an alarm. There are various adult classes, as well as kids’ classes (though the kids’ classes are on hold at the moment). To adjust to the pandemic, school groups have moved to virtual experiences and kids’ camps will hopefully resume in 2022. Visitors are welcome to wander the museum and enjoy at their leisure. Private groups can also pre-book a 45-min tour tailored to their specific interests.
Visiting the Gardiner Museum
The museum is open to the public 7 days a week, with COVID information available on their website. Students with school ID and children 18 and under are free. Admission for seniors is $11 and $15 for adults. You can also visit the Gardiner Museum for free on Wednesdays between 4pm and 9pm. There is a special rate for pre-booked groups of 10 or more. Green P street parking is available within a 5 minute walk to the Gardiner Museum. Drop-in and sessional classes are running at this time, though it’s best to get your tickets and check the website in advance since class capacity is limited at the moment. There is a restaurant at the museum, clay, that offers a fresh and delicious menu that includes vegan and vegetarian options, as well as dairy and gluten free choices. They even have an in-house donut – the Champorado!
What Does Your Toronto Attractions Week Calendar Look Like?
Whatever your interests, be they art, entertainment, science, or the performing arts, Toronto Attractions Week is an excellent way to introduce yourself to the numerous opportunities for learning and fun in T-Dot. With an ever-growing list of places to visit, it’ll be sure to keep you busy long past the festival and into the year!
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If you’re looking for more to do and explore in Canada, visit here to add all sorts of interesting and fun places to your Canadian bucket list!