Find out where to stay, where to relax, where to eat, what to do and what to buy in Toronto on a short layover. Our guide has all the best things to do in Toronto that are healthy, relaxing, wellness-infused and geared toward overall wellbeing for busy travelers.
Where to stay: Four Seasons Hotel Toronto
There is no accommodation more conducive to a restful night than the Four Seasons Hotel Toronto in trendy Yorkville. It’s my favorite hotel in the city for 3 important reasons: comfort, service, and design. They have some of the best mattresses and pillows I’ve ever slept on. You can order additional items from a pillow menu on the Four Seasons app (you absolutely must try the C-shaped body pillow).
Order breakfast in bed from a healthy menu that includes a colorful acai bowl with bee pollen, quinoa salad with poached eggs, and fresh pressed juices and smoothies with ingredients like spinach, beets and ginger to give you an early (or late) morning boost.
The hotel’s interior design is by Toronto’s renowned Yabu Pushelberg. It’s a combination of high-end materials and fabrics with a minimal aesthetic that emphasizes natural form and texture, punctuated by a bit of Canadiana playfulness. My room had a little gold beaver print and line drawing forest artwork. The well thought out design creates the most tranquil atmosphere in the rooms and throughout the hotel.
Where to relax: The Spa at Four Seasons
The Four Seasons spa carries the serene aesthetic of the hotel into its treatment areas seamlessly. The spa’s massage therapists are more attentive than any I’ve come across, answering questions before you ask them and going out of their way to make you feel at home.
I recommend: The new Himalayan Salt Stone massage, which is like a hot stone massage but with mineral-rich salt rocks instead. Take 5-10 minutes in the eucalyptus steam room first to get the most out of your treatment. Then head to the relaxation area afterward for herbal tea and healthy snacks, including pumpkin vegan bites and Ontario summer season fruit oat bars.
Don’t miss the gratitude jar where you can write on a card and add your thoughts to a jar of contributions from people about what they’re grateful for. It will put you in the best positive mindset for the rest of your stay!
Where to eat: Fresh, Greenhouse Juice, Rosalinda
Fresh is one of my favorite Toronto-born healthy food chains that began well before the advent of our current obsession with health foods. It now has 4 locations, the best (in my opinion) is on Crawford Street next to one of the city’s most beloved green spaces, Trinity-Bellwoods park. It’s got a lively patio that’s perfect for an al fresco dinner with a side of people watching (also one of the best things to do in Toronto).
Order the crispy cauliflower tacos (enough to share between two for a quick lunch). Other delicious options include the bbq burger, or the buddha bowl on rice. Oh, and the perfectly crunchy quinoa onion rings are an absolute must. Then they have a whole menu of juices, smoothies and “elixirs”.
I recommend: The liver flush elixir with grapefruit, beet, lemon, ginger, cayenne and milk thistle; the charcoal green lemonade with activated charcoal, spinach, parsley, lemon and maple syrup. Those with a sweet tooth will love the melt-in-your-mouth peanut butter cookie.
Other healthy food spots include Rawlicious, Freshii, Hibiscus, The Beet, and Live Organic Food Bar.
After a night on the town, get a morning pick-me-up from Greenhouse Juice. Another healthy Toronto institution, they’ve got 14 locations downtown, but their adorable cottage-like flagship is on Macpherson Avenue in Summerhill. With an overwhelming list of drinkable health boosters, you’re spoiled for choice. Get a made-to-order superfood smoothie (the Rococoa smoothie tastes like a chocolate milkshake) or pick up one of their delicious cold-pressed juices.
I recommend: Deep Roots, a beet-based juice with apple, carrot, celery and lemon; Wing Man for those who love a potent hit of ginger; The Giver, the founder’s fav juice packed with the most greens.
Rosalinda is my top favorite restaurant in Toronto right now. It’s a brand new vegan Mexican spot full of character, thoughtful design, and greenery. Owner Jamie Cook told me: “Like Elon Musk wanted to make a great car that just happened to be electric, we wanted to make a great restaurant that just happened to be vegan.” It’s outstanding.
I recommend: The veggie fritters with tamarind-ancho dip are bursting with flavour, and the jicama and citrus salad is crisp and perfectly balanced with its avocado pistachio crema. The jackfruit pibil taco is so rich and meaty it couldn’t possibly be vegan (it is). For dessert, rhum roasted pineapple with coconut and lime pairs perfectly with a sand dollar cocktail.
What to do: Barre, stand-up paddling boarding, biking, meditation
Some of the best things to do in Toronto get you moving in super fun ways.
Barre3 on King Street West offers one of the most intense and enjoyable workouts you can do in the heart of downtown Toronto. (My legs are still sore). Barre is a mixture of ballet, pilates and functional training. It’s become a go-to studio favorite in the city’s rapidly diversifying fitness scene. This location features old brick, big windows, change room and shower with essentials like shampoo, hair dryer, deodorant and even hair elastics, and a brand new gorgeous studio space.
One of the best ways to enjoy the outdoors in Toronto is by booking a class with Toronto Island SUP. Try paddle boarding for the first time, do SUP yoga, or take an eco tour through the island’s lagoons to learn some history and ecology of this unique area.
The Tommy Thompson Park bike trail is another way to blend fitness and exploration of the city. This man-made headland in the east end stretches out into Lake Ontario for about 5 kilometers. It’s a nature lover’s dream right in the heart of the bustling city. You’ll find over 400 species of plants and 300 species of birds here. It’s also the place to come for some of the best views of the Toronto skyline.
Get your zen on at 889 Community where they offer a range of classes like yoga, pilates, and my personal favourite, meditation. They have a class called Heal + Meditate which combines meditation and reiki for the perfect in-depth exploration of self-awareness and empowering thinking. Their bright, clean space also has a little shop where you can buy everything from yoga mats to shampoo to jewelry from companies (many Canadian) with an emphasis on conscious consumption.
What to buy
One of my new favourite stores for a little pampering gift is The Detox Market. They stock green beauty brands like Rahua, Osmia Organics, and Odacité.
Odacité’s Pure Elements beauty masques are powder-based so they’re perfect for travel (they won’t add to your liquid allowance!). Try their Synergie  masque with probiotics and vitamin C. Then follow it up with their Ultra Effective Eye Cream so you can look and feel more awake than you actually are. If you’re looking for a face cream keep it simple and natural with Osmia Organics’ Purely Simple Face Cream. Or give your dry airplane-damaged hair the Amazonian treatment with Rahua’s Legendary Amazon Oil. They also have many Canadian brands like Affect Health, Aromacentric, Province Apothecary and Sapadilla.
The Detox Market has strict ingredient safety standards and they only stock brands who share both passion and a dedication to ethics.
There are 3 locations in Toronto: King West, Yorkville, and, if you’re short on time, you can find one at Union Station underground on your way to or from the UP Express to Toronto Pearson Airport. If you’re traveling to the US, don’t forget to stop in at the new Plaza Premium Lounge spa at Toronto Pearson Airport in Terminal 3.
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