While getting around may prove challenging, thankfully most of the attractions in Toronto offer some degree of access. I couldn’t possibly tell you about everything there is to do in the city. Just thinking about what there is to do in Toronto makes me think I have too much to do beyond writing this! Here’s some of what you can see from a wheelchair in TO.
The iconic CN Tower provides spectacular views of the GTA. Consider springing for a pricey lunch or dinner at the revolving restaurant. Admission to the viewing decks is already expensive but if you are prepared to spend a bit more money you can take a couple of hours savouring both the food and the view. Reviews of 360 on Open Table are excellent.
Next to the CN Tower is the new Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada. While I haven’t had the pleasure of visiting, it’s accessible including parking.
The Royal Ontario Museum (ROM), the ceramic lovers Gardiner Museum (right across the street from the ROM), and the unusual Bata Shoe Museum are all located near Bloor St West and are accessible. Also accessible in the downtown are the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO), the Textile Museum of Canada, the Design Exchange, and The Hockey Hall of Fame on Front Street. It may be worth a visit to the free CBC Museum on Front Street if you are in the Entertainment District at one of its many other sites. Few of the above venues offer onsite parking but parking options are usually outlined on their websites.
For TTC travellers access is as follows:
- ROM and the Gardiner: St. George Station and walk about 2 blocks. (Museum Station is not accessible.)
- Bata Shoe Museum: St. George Station
- AGO: Use one of the closest accessible stations (Dundas, Osgoode and Queen’s Park) and then walk. (St. Patrick Station and the streetcar are not accessible.)
- Textile Museum: The closest accessible stations are Dundas, Osgoode and Queen’s Park. (St. Patrick Station is not accessible.)
- Design Exchange: St. Andrew Station and walk 2 blocks. (King Station is not accessible.)
- Hockey Hall of Fame: Near Union Station.
- CBC: St. Andrew or Union Station, and walk a few blocks.
Toronto doesn’t have a long stretch of waterfront like Vancouver’s Seawall that allows you to take a long stroll, but a major revitalization project is underway. Currently you might want to visit the popular, centrally located Queen’s Quay for a meal, a stroll by the water and shopping. There are many special activities and events that take place at Harbourfront Centre and the area, including free, but crowded concerts. In addition, you will find numerous spots along the ever-evolving waterfront, including trails, and the small, but pleasant Music Gardens to the west and the Beaches to the east.
Great Lakes Schooner provides detailed information about boat cruise accessibility including on its tall ship called Kajama.
If the outdoors is your thing, island ferries are accessible, and after the enjoyable ride you will find nature, activities for kids, a nude beach, or if more to your liking a quiet stroll admiring the interesting homes on Ward Island.
For those who enjoy indoor nature, the beautiful Allan Gardens Conservatory which was built in 1901 is fully accessible and free. It is located at Jarvis and Church Streets.
Not too far outside of the downtown core is a popular tourist destination, Casa Loma, “Canada’s only castle” and the former home of Canadian financier Sir Henry Pellatt. It was built in 1914 but is partially accessible. Special events are frequently held so check online if you are interested. A few of the rooms and some of the award-winning gardens (e.g. a walk down the steep hill) are not accessible but there is one elevator in the castle. Make sure the elevator is operational before you visit.
Right next door to Casa Loma is the lesser-known, Spadina Museum and Gardens. Former home to financier James Austin and his family, Spadina House is fully accessible despite being built in 1936. (Call to check that their one elevator is operational.) Access to the award-winning historical gardens is free, but admission to the house is quite reasonable, making it worthwhile for history buffs visiting Casa Loma.
There is very limited parking at Spadina, but Casa Loma has a parking lot. Driving is the best option for the area. You can use the TTC trip planner to find an alternate transit route as the closest subway, Dupont is not accessible. You will travel a short distance from either St. George or Spadina stations via bus, and then push. If travelling by TTC be prepared for a very steep push up Walmer Rd. that may not be possible for many. (The TTC advises you to take Baldwin Steps which is a staircase to the east of Walmer Rd.)
For time travellers, a trickier stroll back in time can be found in the Distillery District. There are restaurants, shops (including galleries and other artistic fare), and the Young Centre for the Performing Arts, home to the Soulpepper Theatre Company. The downside is the cobblestones!
The Ontario Science Centre is outside of the downtown but is accessible, including parking. Driving there is the best option but it is about a half hour TTC trip from Yonge and Bloor.
The Toronto Zoo is quite a distance from downtown but great fun with its natural habitats. It is not fully accessible. There are some wicked steep hills – they put those signs there for a reason! Driving is the best bet, but the Zoo notes that TTC bus routes, Don Mills Station, Kennedy Station, and Rouge Hill GO Station, are accessible.
Easter Seals Canada’s Access 2 Entertainment Program allows registered Canadians to receive free admission for their attendant to participating attractions and movie theatres. Use your A2E card at the Art Gallery of Ontario, Casa Loma, the CN Tower, Ontario Place, the Ontario Science Centre,the ROM, the Zoo, and other attractions.
Toronto is a city of neighbourhoods. You might want to explore The Danforth for delicious Greek food and shopping. Chinatown is like travelling to another country. It is very crowded on Saturday’s but might be of interest on another day. The downtown University of Toronto campus is one of many areas you might admire on a drive or stroll around the city.
There are also many special events to consider when visiting TO, including: Open Doors (free access to many heritage sites – see access details online); Luminato; the 2015 Pan Am / Parapan American Games; Nuit Blanche; Pride; the Indy; Caribbean Carnival; Jazz Festival; free live music at downtown’s Nathan Phillips Square, Harbourfront, and North York’s Mel Lastman Square; or one of the numerous sporting events.
Food lovers can savour a trip to Toronto during Summerlicious when many restaurants offer a prix fix menu. Explore menus online, and make your reservations in advance. (Some accept Open Table reservations). Film lovers can enjoy the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) at many of the accessible theatres and other larger venues. TIFF has its own theatre in the Entertainment District on King St. West that shows films year round.
You may want to schedule your vacation to coincide with the Canadian National Exhibition, also known as the Ex or the CNE. It is held late in the summer (August to the beginning of September). Admission for people using wheelchairs and a companion is free. There is plenty to see and do, but it will depend on your interests. Parking in the Direct Energy Centre is convenient although expensive. There are many other shows held on the CNE grounds year round, as well as at downtown’s Metro Toronto Convention Centre on Front Street.
Visit the City of Toronto website to find out about these and many more events in the city. Tourism Toronto is a good source of general information but sadly does not provide any specific information on accessibility.