Uncover the lesser-known museums in Toronto for all your niche interests, from ceramics and textiles to shoes and even hockey.
Bata Shoe Museum
Your boots were made for walking at the Bata Shoe Museum, showcasing over a thousand shoes and related artifacts from a collection of nearly 15,000 objects, housed in Raymond Moriyama’s award-winning building.
Wander through five niche rotating exhibits on four floors. The impressive curations currently range from flower-themed footwear to futuristic auto-lacing sneakers to an impressive array of celebrity soles.
A visit to the Bata Shoe Museum is a great way to kick off a long stroll around the University of Toronto St. George Campus.
Museum of Contemporary Art
Housed in the Tower Automotive Building on Sterling Road in the Junction Triangle since its reopening in 2018, the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) has come a long way since its old location on West Queen West and its old name (formerly, the Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art).
Browse rotating exhibitions of contemporary artists of the 21st century that captivate and spark conversation. Don’t miss out on MOCA Free Friday nights, powered by Scotiabank, every Friday from 5 p.m. until 9 p.m.
MOCA members also receive discounts at its restaurant, Forno Cultura and its neighbours, Henderson Brewing Co. and House of Anansi Press.
Aga Khan Museum
Located just east of the Ontario Science Centre in North York, you’ll first notice the striking architecture of the Aga Khan Museum dedicated to Islamic arts and culture. Inside, you’ll find a plethora of programming from exhibitions, talks, performances, films, workshops, and special events.
Its permanent collection spans from Spain and western North Africa across the Middle East to South Asia and eastern China, assembled by the late Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan.
Guided tours are available for an extra charge, focusing on the main gallery, special exhibits, or architecture.
Want even more of a taste of this dynamic culture? Dine at Diwan restaurant in the scenic courtyard, where you can savour delicious Middle Eastern-inspired dishes like Moroccan eggplant stew, braised lamb shank, shish burek, and fatoush salad.
Don’t forget that BMO Free Wednesdays grant you free admission from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. every Wednesday, and families with children from 5 to 12 can enjoy Family Sundays.
Accompany your visit to the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) at the Gardiner Museum, dedicated to the ceramic arts near Toronto’s Bloor-Yorkville Village and U of T’s campuses.
The impressive global collection includes artifacts from the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries as well as from the Ancient Americas, China, Japan, and Europe.
Alternatively, get your hands dirty at one of the museum’s adult or kids classes which focus on hand-building or wheel throwing. Put the dishes into use at Clay Restaurant, located on its third floor with a beautiful view overlooking University Avenue.
The Gardiner Museum offers free admission to those who are First Nations, Inuit, and Métis as well as 20% off to those who are Presto card holders.
Textile Museum of Canada
This museum dedicated to the textile arts has been showcasing the stories of global diversity since 1975. Rotating exhibitions illustrate the vast collection of more than 15,000 objects from 200+ regions of the world.
The second floor is dedicated to its Collection gallery, featuring objects and thematic installations. In close proximity to the AGO, Yonge and Dundas Square, and the Eaton Centre, the Textile Museum is a great 2-in-1 activity during your visit to Toronto.
Around the corner from Casa Loma, the mansion known as the Spadina Museum is referred to as “Toronto’s Downton Abbey,” and the city’s only museum representing Toronto life from the 1900–1930 period through the lens of the affluent Austin family.
Renovated in 2010, the museum is now run year-round by the City of Toronto. Visitors can get a glimpse into domestic life and the history of the past through transformative world events, including the First World War (WWI), the roaring twenties of Toronto, and the Great Depression within Canada.
Many of the original artifacts donated by the Austin family include furniture, artwork, washroom fixtures, letters, and even grocery lists. Don’t miss out on the spectacular gardens, modelled after the Victorian-Edwardian era and host to themed events like Gatsby parties in the summer.
Hockey Hall of Fame
Fans of Canada’s favourite sport are in for a treat at Toronto’s Hockey Hall of Fame (HHOF), home to the world’s largest hockey collection.
Discover the Esso Great Hall, host to portraits and biographical sketches of honoured members and major NHL trophies, including the coveted Stanley Cup, where you can get a memorable photo. Marvel at the numerous artifacts throughout the museum, including masks, hockey sticks, championship rings, and even the original NHL minute book.
The HHOF offers a multitude of interactive fun. Play forward or goaltender against life-sized animated versions of today’s NHL stars in their model hockey rink, the Goodyear Shoot Out. Or test your broadcasting skills by calling a play-by-play of some of hockey’s greatest goals. Another highlight is to visit the to-scale replica of the Montreal Canadiens dressing room.
There truly is something for everyone here, from the hockey novice to the fanatical hockey fan!
Little Canada allows you to explore Canada, one of the largest countries in the world, in miniature. Inspired by a model railway in Germany, you’ll discover Canada’s most outstanding attractions from Ottawa, Niagara Falls, Toronto, and Quebec in about 90 minutes.
You can even be part of the attraction and print your own 3D model in various sizes to bring home or immortalize yourself on-site. Located in the heart of Dundas Square and across from the Eaton Centre, Little Canada is a great downtown Toronto attraction for everyone, including families and school groups.
MZTV Museum of Television
As the way we consume content continues to evolve technologically, the MZTV Museum of Television seeks to protect, preserve, and promote the instruments (or physical objects) of television history.
At the ZoomerPlex, located in the heart of Liberty Village, explore the collection of 10,000 objects of papers, discs, books, magazines, toys, and of course, TV sets to understand television’s impact on history.
Don’t miss out on seeing the original TV sets owned by Marilyn Monroe and Elvis Presley; the Felix the Cat model, which was the subject of one of the first moving images broadcast in the medium of TV; and the prototype for Toronto’s popular Speaker’s Corner, a predecessor to YouTube and the vision of Toronto media mogul, Moses Znaimer.
Museum of Illusions
At the Museum of Illusions, not everything is as meets the eye based on the plain looking building on Front Street, just east of the St. Lawrence Market. Once inside, you’ll be entered into a world of over 80 illusions, holograms, installations, and exhibits, full of brain-teasers, and “how did they do that?” proclamations.
Get trippy in the Vortex Tunnel and turn upside down in the Rotate Room. Get silly with the family in the Head on a Platter and Hollow Face Illusion displays. Want a photo op? Instagrammers will rejoice in the Infinity Room, rivaling Yayoi Kusama’s display at the AGO. More optical illusions await as there’s something for everyone at this Toronto attraction.
The Power Plant
Wanting an art experience after a stroll in downtown Toronto or along the Harbourfront? The Power Plant is Canada's leading free public art gallery dedicated to presenting contemporary art, ideas, and conversations.
Check out the curated tours for families in the programs, Sunday Scene and Power Kids, for kids aged 7 to 12. Sometimes, the artists even give tours in addition to the rotating exhibitions available year-round.
If you want a taste of the Toronto scene, don’t miss out on the extravagant Power Ball, an iconic art gala and fundraising event for The Power Plant. Alternatively, bookworms can attend talks at the Toronto International Festival of Authors here in the fall.
Formerly the Ontario Crafts Council, Craft Ontario is the province’s member-based crafters’ organization. In its airy gallery in the heart of West Queen West, Craft Ontario hosts public exhibitions of artisan works, including furniture and textile sculptures.
It is also home to the Craft Ontario Shop and Inuit and Native Gallery. Members showcase their work in a variety of exhibitions year-round (both in person or its online gallery) or you can make this a pit-stop if you are exploring the DesignTO festival.
Check out their shop for special gifts or a Toronto-only souvenir, which showcases jewelry, ceramics, or textiles.
Also read: Shop Local: Where to Buy Uniquely Toronto Gifts & Souvenirs