When to go to Toronto

Autumn, Kew Beach

By Aefa Mulholland, your Toronto expert

I write for The Irish Times, Orbitz, .... Read more

The best time to visit Toronto

Personally, I’m a fan of Toronto year-round, from its sweltering hot summer days when the mercury hits the high 90s and there’s humidity to match to the sunny, ice-cold days of January when the sky seems impossibly blue.

Summer - hot but festive

June till August are amazing months in Toronto - you can eat every meal outdoors, mill about on patios and in beer gardens and spend every possible opportunity basking in the city’s parks on its beaches. An incredible slew of festivals and events light up the calendar and the celebratory air makes Toronto irresistible. As well as all the huge citywide events, every neighbourhood seems to have something to celebrate. There are always a couple of stretches, though, usually in August, where the humidity goes through the roof and the heat turns impossibly sticky. Torontonians either escape to their cottages on the lakes at this stage — or stay in the city complaining that nobody invited them to a cottage. Make sure your accommodation has air conditioning and you’ll need either loose trousers or shorts - everything else just sticks to you at this temperature.

Autumn - perfect temperatures, great social calendar

September and October (along with May) are the best months in the city. It’s still warm and sunny, barbecues still light up every day and the festivals just keep coming. When the vast juggernaut of the Toronto International Film Festival comes into town in September, rooms are every stylish hotel in town are snapped up by the stars, their entourages and the press, so book way ahead if your dates collide. It’s a great time to be here, though; the atmosphere is amazing, the parties neverending and the on-screen offerings world-class.

Winter - icy cold, but plenty of winter activities

Winter can be long and cold and by March in a snowy winter, four-foot snowbanks line every sidewalk. There’s less demand for hotel rooms - although this convention and business capital always has something on. January and February temperatures can drop as low as -28C with wind chill, but usually stay between -4 and -10. The wind chill is the thing to check in the forecasts - it can make temperatures drop ten degrees. The secret is wearing layers - lots of them - and no skimping on a good winter coat. Gloves, scarves and hats are compulsory - as are shoes or boots with decent grips on them for those icy pavements. On those cold days, you just can’t cope without them. The blue skies and snow make for a gorgeous backdrop for ice skating and the lake looks amazing, frozen solid. The last few years haven’t been particularly snowy, though.

Spring - warming up, some great hotel deals

April is my favourite month in Toronto. When the snow melts and the sun finally amps up to 21 degrees, everyone is suddenly in a good mood. Formerly stolid, implacable Torontonians open up and smile at strangers, sidewalk patios fill with happy people and it feels like summer is just around the corner. It’s the beginning of an amazing six months in the city.

Events

Toronto has a slew of huge citywide events, as well as a seemingly infinite number of quirky small and neighbourhood festivals. These ones are the ones that the whole city knows about.

The CNE (mid-August to early September) - a gargantuan expo meets agricultural fair meets midway, the CNE offers everything from rollercoasters, to ethnic eats to air shows over two weeks each year. (www.theex.com)

North by Northeast Music and Film Festival (early June) - venues throughout the city showcase bands and films, from tiny wee local independent offerings to big name events. (www.nxne.com)

Caribana (late July to early August) - North America’s largest Caribbean festival, there’s a huge, boisterous, colourful parade down Yonge Street and a festival on the Toronto Islands all weekend. (www.caribana.com)

Toronto International Film Festival (early September) - September sees the stars flock to Toronto and you can’t turn a corner without bumping into George Clooney, Meghan Fox or Michael Moore. There’s a great atmosphere in the city and some amazing opportunities to see hot movies - get tickets months in advance for the big ones. (www.bell.ca/filmfest)

Luminato (early June) - a huge multidisciplinary arts festival, Luminato kicked off in 2007 and offers a smorgasbord of both pricey and free events, shows and concerts. Some great free concerts are put on in Nathan Phillips Square and environs. (www.luminato.com)

Pride Week (late June) - one of the world’s largest and most rambunctious LGBT festivals, Toronto’s Pride week is centred on the Church-Wellesly Village. (www.pridetoronto.com)

Grand Prix of Toronto (early July) - the west end of Toronto sounds like it’s been swarmed by bees for the weekend as IndyCars race round and round… and round and round. It’s one of the biggest events in the city and hotel rooms are packed. (www.grandprixtoronto.com)

Doors Open Toronto (late May) - the doors of more than 100 historic and architectural sites are open to the public for two days at the end of May. The trick is to choose two or three places you really want to see and go early before the afternoon crowds snake round the block. (www.toronto.ca/doorsopen)

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