We asked Torontonians for their take on hidden and secret spots around the city that are worth checking out this summer, and they shared some local favourites that you won’t want to miss.
On Narcity Canada’s Facebook, we asked residents to share a lesser-known spot in or around Toronto that they’d recommend everyone check out at least once this summer. We also polled Narcity employees for their take, creating the ultimate summer bucket list.
With a mix of secret speakeasies, hidden gem parks and prime spots to watch the sunset, here are eight things to do around Toronto that locals recommend checking out.
Head to a nude beach on the Toronto Islands
While the islands may not be much of a “secret” spot, there are some hidden gems and little-known places among the islands worth a visit.
One such spot is Hanlan’s Point Beach, a nude beach on one of the three main islands.
Here, sunbathers can truly bare it all — a whole side of the beach is designated as “clothing optional,” meaning you can show as much or as little skin as you’d like.
In fact, it’s one of only two official nude beaches in all of Canada, with the other being Wreck Beach in Vancouver.
If you’re not ready to go au naturel, don’t worry — there’s a clothing-mandatory side of the beach (marked off by signs) where you can enjoy the sand and water covered up.
The beach is also a designated Blue Flag beach, meaning it meets high standards for water quality and safety. It’s also a great place to take in the sunset over Lake Ontario.
Ride historic streetcars at the Halton County Railway Museum
While this spot is a bit outside of Toronto, locals say it’s worth checking out for “anyone who grew up taking [the] TTC.”
The Halton County Radial Railway Museum is a full-size electric railway and museum, where you can see historic electric railcars that actually operate on-site over two kilometres of track.
The HCRR came about from a group of people who wanted to save a TTC streetcar from being sent to the scrap yard.
This turned into a number of street cars eventually also being rescued from the junk pile, and today, the museum operates a variety of historic streetcars, radial cars and work cars.
You can actually hop on board the historic streetcars at the museum. About 20 minutes in length, the ride takes visitors through a forest, and there isn’t a limit on the number of rides you can take during your visit.
Dine in the dark at O.Noir
This unique dining experience allows you to get a new perspective on food, you could say.
O.Noir is a restaurant where guests dine in total darkness — a unique concept with only one other location in Canada in Montreal.
According to the founder, Moe Alameddine, “When you eat food in the dark, your remaining senses are heightened to savour the smell and taste of food. Even everyday dishes like potatoes and yogurt take on a culinary flare.”
But the restaurant also serves the purpose of helping diners better understand what it’s like to not have the use of sight.
After spending 1-2 hours in complete darkness without flashlights, cellphones, or any other light sources, guests get a sense of what it’s like to not have sight. The restaurant’s wait staff also consists “entirely of the visually impaired.”
Explore the Evergreen Brick Works
This spot may not be as much of a secret as others on this list, but locals say it’s a “hidden gem” in the city.
Formerly a brick-making factory, Evergreen Brick Works is a green city space that’s a hub of activity, with tons for residents and tourists alike to see and do.
Here, you can find a community garden, Saturday Farmers Markets where local chefs and farmers gather to share fresh Ontario food, and the Evergreen Garden Market, where you purchase goods from artisans, craftspeople and small-batch Canadian producers.
The site also does tours and has tons of public artwork on display. And while the Evergreen Brick Works is especially lovely in summer, it’s also a great spot to visit year-round. In winter, be sure to check out the Brick Works’ skating rink, which weaves through its outdoor gardens.
Sip cocktails at XXX
For those not in the know, XXX is a hidden bar at the Portland location of Little Sister Food Bar.
The secret speakeasy-style watering hole is an intimate spot located below the restaurant, marked only by a bright red “XXX” neon sign, so it’s easy to miss out on for those who don’t know of its existence.
Dimly lit and quite small (it fits up to 20 people), the bar has an underground feel, similar to the secret pubs and bars you might find on the streets of Europe.
In fact, according to the restaurant, the bar is meant to take visitors “back to the old bars of Amsterdam, where you can either sit back in the corner and watch the bartender from a distance or get up close and personal.”
Marvel at relics at Guild Park
Formerly known as Guildwood Park, Guild Park and Gardens in Scarborough is an area rich in relics, sculptures and magnificent architecture.
Over the site’s 88 acres, you’ll find trails and over 70 architectural facades, statues, columns and arches dating from the 19th and 20th centuries, according to Destination Toronto.
These relics came from former heritage buildings from the downtown area, which were demolished to make way for skyscrapers in the city post-World War II.
The park can be found on the top of the Scarborough Bluffs and includes landmarks like a Greek Theatre, which was created from the marble arches of the 1912 Bank of Toronto, huge limestone blocks that came from the 1929 Toronto Star office tower, and a variety of public artwork and sculptures.
You can also get to a lookout point with a spectacular view of Lake Ontario by following the marked trails.
While the park may not be as “hidden” as other locations on this list, the fact that it’s a lesser-known spot means it’s often not too crowded.
Catch the sunset at Polson Pier
Non-locals may see Toronto’s Polson Pier as just a place to find bars, dance clubs and sports venues, but locals know it as one of the best (if not the best) spots in the city for watching the sunset.
Tucked away at the end of Polson Street on the north side of the nightclub Rebel, you’ll find a wooden dock overlooking the water that offers incredible uninterrupted views of the Toronto skyline.
The spot is especially enchanting come sunset, when the sun dips below the skyline and illuminates the scene in shades of yellow and orange.
It’s a nice spot to bring a picnic and watch the sun go down, or simply snap some pics of the view.
Coffee Oysters Champagne
Coffee Oysters Champagne is a champagne bar in the Entertainment District serving up iced and hot java from local roasters, fresh oysters, and the largest selection of champagne in Toronto.
While the bar may be a hidden gem all on its own, it also houses a secret.
Hidden behind a room of champagne bottles in the bar is À Toi, a speakeasy-style bar where the motto is “If you know, you know” and “If you don’t, you ask.”
Channelling 1920s Paris vibes, the bar serves up oysters, shareables and snacks, cocktails and (of course) champagne.
To get into the hidden bar, you just have to ask to see the champagne room.