In the colder months the city may seem a little quieter, but head to the many intriguing museums in Toronto and you’ll find them buzzing with life. From classical art to wackier collections, such as a museum devoted entirely to shoes, one of Toronto’s favourite winter activities is staying nice and warm indoors and soaking up as much culture as possible. If you only have a few days in Toronto, here are four must-see museums for your visit.
Royal Ontario Museum
Better known as the ROM, the Royal Ontario Museum is a beloved Toronto institution. Here you’ll discover exhibitions of art, global culture, and natural history housed within one of the city’s most striking facades—a historical, early 20th-century building that appears to have a giant modern crystal structure exploding out of it. The museum is just as impressive inside as out, boasting a wide range of exhibitions ranging from dinosaur fossils to Chinese architecture. The ROM also offers lecture series tied to their current exhibitions, which give you a more in-depth understanding of what you’re looking at. You can book your spot at many of the museum’s events and workshops through their website.
Bata Shoe Museum
If you prefer the quirky to the traditional, the Bata Shoe Museum is the place for you. That’s right, it’s a whole museum dedicated to shoes. Five floors house over a thousand shoes and related artifacts, some you’d be hard pressed to even recognize as footwear. As you explore the massive collection, you’ll gain a unique understanding of the interplay of culture, fashion, and history, and a novel perspective on the impact of style and technology on societal change. If you think there’s only so much you could learn about shoes, think again—the surprising wealth of artifacts and information will keep you busy for hours. Luckily there’s an excellent coffee shop a few steps away on Bloor Street—L’Espresso Bar Mercurio—to keep you on your feet.
The Gardiner Museum holds one of North America’s most significant collections of ceramics. Art and history are intimately intertwined in the museum’s exhibitions, and you could easily spend all day here, stopping for a fortifying bite to eat at the Gardiner Bistro, the perfect spot for a lunch break. But this modern building isn’t just a museum. If you’re inspired by the dazzling ceramics on display, you can get your own hands-on experience at a range of clay workshops taught by professional ceramic artists in a welcoming and inspiring atmosphere. What better souvenir to take home than one you sculpted, painted, and fired yourself?
Casa Loma is one of Toronto’s favourite historical treasures. Though “casa” means “house,” the huge Gothic Revival estate and gardens are known by many as Toronto’s castle. Built in the early 20th century, the house was shockingly modern for its time with electric wiring, a central vacuum system, and, believe it or not, 59 telephones. Today that riveting history is recounted in detail through artifacts and rooms that have been restored to look as they would have when the house was built.
In an exciting new development, the estate now offers a series of escape games based on historical facts. Escape From the Tower lets you experience Casa Loma’s life as an underground research centre for anti-submarine detection technology during the Second World War, while King of the Bootleggers explores the speakeasy culture of 1920s prohibition-era Toronto. The games are masterfully executed and will ignite your family’s passion for history.
From the traditional institution to specialty collections and interactive experiences, museums in Toronto offer a huge range of winter activities to keep your whole family captivated during the colder months. Your only challenge will be planning how to fit them all in!