With almost two decades in the biz, this hotel pro fills us in on how guests should make the most of a day in Toronto. Get ready for brunch alfresco, museum visits, incredible Broadway and a pool right in the middle of the city.
If there’s one thing Riah Ruiz knows, it’s Toronto's gems. A resident of “the 6ix” for almost 20 years, she’s raised two children in the city and worked at the Hilton Toronto since 2008, starting as a Switchboard Operator and now taking up duties at the Front Desk and Executive Lounge. And she’s gathered a lot of insider info along the way.
“Working in the hospitality industry, I always share with our guests different ways to explore this beautiful city during their stay,” says Riah. “It could be dining, attractions, or relaxation — I like to try and enjoy all that Toronto has to offer so I can be a trusted expert when making personal suggestions to guests.”
“There are amazing experiences all over Toronto, which, along with the friendly people, make it a city worth exploring.” — Riah Ruiz
Toronto has endless activities and attractions to keep you entertained — but what’s the best way to explore the city in one day?
Start the day with brunch in Yorkville
Plan for breakfast in Yorkville — a swanky neighbourhood beloved for its posh shops, ritzy restaurants and galleries. “I would suggest having breakfast at one of the patios as the weather warms up,” says Riah.
If it’s a weekday, get cozy at a bistro table inside Yorkville Crepes and savour a thin pancake stuffed with scrambled eggs, brie, bacon, and maple syrup.
On the weekend, enjoy brunch al fresco while people-watching on the outdoor patio at Sassafraz — an upscale eatery across from the Village of Yorkville Park. The soft, pillowy pancakes topped with graham crumble, toasted marshmallow, and chocolate sauce are melt-in-your-mouth delicious.
Wander down Bloor Street West for mid-morning glam
Peruse the chic designer boutiques lining Bloor Street (even if only to window shop). Dubbed the “Mink Mile,” you’ll find shops like Dolce & Gabbana, Gucci, Prada, Louis Vuitton, Tiffany, and Chanel, along with Holt Renfrew — a Canadian luxury department store that was founded in 1837 as a modest hat shop.
Hitting Bay Street, duck into the mammoth 50,000-square-foot Eataly Toronto for a caffeine injection at Il Gran Caffè — an Italian coffee shop serving espresso, cappuccino, pastries, cakes, and more.
Explore the exhibits at the ROM
Rejuvenated, walk seven minutes to Bloor Street West and Queen’s Park for a crash history lesson at the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM). “It is one of the biggest museums in North America and they have a world-class collection,” says Riah. The dinosaur fossils, meteorite fragments, and Egyptian mummies are a must, but don’t miss braving the Bat Cave — an immersive permanent gallery designed to mimic a real-deal bat cave (minus the actual critters).
Stop for lunch 1,000-feet above the city
For lunch, Canadian-inspired culinary creations await at the 360 Restaurant located in the CN Tower, where you will be seated over 1,000 feet above the ground: “It rotates as you dine so you can see the entire city!” says Riah. Split a 3-Tier Tower — a showstopper dish featuring East Coast seafood delicacies like oysters, chilled lobster, and Fogo Island crab legs — with your table, followed by a soft chocolate opera dessert of espresso mousse, brown butter sponge, and caramel.
Post-meal, take in the view from the CN Tower, where you can snap spellbinding shots of Lake Ontario, the GTA, and on a clear day, Niagara Falls. The brave will love standing on the Glass Floor and getting a thrilling 113-storey view straight down.
Stroll the waterfront and catch a ferry to Centre Island
Next, get ready to burn some calories! Walk 15 minutes to Harbourfront and catch a ferry from the Jack Layton Ferry Terminal to the Toronto Islands — a cluster of 15 breezy islands offering stunning waterfront views, green space, and a family-friendly amusement park. “Here, you’ll find your escape into nature,” says Riah. “You can go for a beach day or a fun cycling day!” Or if you’re still feeling stuffed, find a shaded spot in the park and just soak up the natural surroundings and waterfront views.
Catch a show in the Entertainment District
If you’d rather experience the theatre than the Islands, opt instead to head to the Entertainment District and fit in a matinee musical at the Royal Alexandra or Princess of Wales theatres. “One of the most popular shows right now has to be Harry Potter and the Cursed Child,” says Riah.
End the day with dinner and a swim at Hilton Toronto’s pool
For dinner, Riah recommends heading to Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse to feast on sizzling prime beef steak and succulent sides like lobster mac n’ cheese or roasted corn topped with salsa verde. The Crème Brulée makes a dynamite dessert.
If you’re in the mood for something spicy instead, you’ll find Kimchi Korea House only a ten minute walk from the hotel, tucked away in an alley along Dundas Street. “I’ve been visiting for a decade since it serves great bibimbap and pork bone soup (I love spicy food).”
And finally, before heading back to your room, end the (very epic) day with a swim. "A must is watching the Toronto skyline transform from day to night while relaxing by our outdoor pool, which is open all year,” says Riah.
In truth, you could spend a lifetime exploring Toronto. But planning the #BestDayEver hinges on striking a balance: Whether it's cheering on the Blue Jays followed by a leisurely walk along the Ontario Place Trillium Park Trails, make your 24-hour itinerary a mix of “thrilling and chilling” activities and attractions.
Besides, as Riah says, it’s the people that make Toronto a world-class city.
"Everyone greets each other with a smile,” says Riah. “There are amazing experiences all over Toronto, which, along with the friendly people, make it a city worth exploring.”