10 Wheelchair Accessible Things to do in Toronto
Home to one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World and offering stunning views of Lake Ontario, Toronto is a must-see on any visit to Canada. In this guide, we’ll show you ten incredible wheelchair accessible things to do in Toronto.
General Wheelchair Accessibility in Toronto
Before we jump into wheelchair accessible things to do in Toronto, let’s touch on general accessibility in the city.
Similar to the American Disabilities Act (ADA) in the U.S., the province of Ontario has its own version called the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA).
There are a couple of other provinces in Canada that have accessibility acts as well. However, in May 2019, the Accessible Canada Act bill was voted on and is currently in the process of becoming law that will be implemented countrywide.
Thanks to the already established AODA, Toronto is a very wheelchair-friendly city. Not only are most attractions and public spaces accessible, but the city itself is flat, making it an easy place for manual wheelchair users to explore.
Wide cement or brick sidewalks and crosswalks with drop curbs are abundant in downtown Toronto. Most subway stations and all public buses are accessible.
That being said, the main tourist attractions in Toronto are close together. Therefore, if you’ll be staying in downtown, you can easily explore the city without ever needing to use public transportation or a taxi.
Wheelchair Accessible Things to do in Toronto
Now that we’ve established that Toronto is a great city for wheelchair users, let’s take a look at ten wonderful wheelchair accessible things to do there.
1. CN Tower
Dominating Toronto’s skyline and being one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World, it wouldn’t be right to start this list with an attraction other than the CN Tower.
The CN Tower is located in the heart of downtown Toronto, close to the shore of Lake Ontario.
It’s accessible via a flat entry if you’re coming from the waterside, and via an elevator or ramp, per your preference, if you’re coming from the upper side of the city.
With the exception of the main entrance where there’s a long ramp at a mild incline, the rest of the CN Tower has flat surfaces and elevators to get you to most floors.
The following areas of the CN Tower are wheelchair accessible:
- LookOut Level
- Glass Floor
- Sky Terrace
- 360 Restaurant
A notable exception on this list is the SkyPod, which is the smaller and highest portion of the CN tower open for visitors. An elevator leads up to the SkyPod, where there are a couple of portholes that are accessible for viewing.
However, from there, stairs lead up to the main SkyPod area.
Since the LookOut Level offers far better views than the portholes, we don’t recommend that wheelchair users take the time to visit the SkyPod. Nonetheless, the Skypod is free for wheelchair users to visit, if you’d like to give it a go.
Travel Tip: Fog sometimes hangs so low that you can’t see the LookOut Level when looking up at the CN Tower from downtown. If this is the case, we recommend skipping a visit to the top of the CN Tower, as you won’t be able to see anything.
The best accessible area for views at the CN Tower, aside from the Edgewalk for the adventurous, is the LookOut Level, since it offers floor to ceiling windows.
There’s also an outdoor area where you can walk around the circumference of the tower. The outdoor walkway is wide enough for wheelchairs and other passersby to comfortably get by each other.
However, the views are mediocre between the mesh fence and a lower guardrail. Furthermore, it can be windy and the temperature is cooler up there, so it’s more of a summer activity.
Accessible restrooms are located on all floors of the CN Tower, except the SkyPod.
You can read more about wheelchair accessibility at the CN Tower here.
The CN Tower may be a modern world wonder, but Lake Ontario is another defining part of Toronto’s identity.
Paved sidewalks lining Lake Ontario expand for miles. Exploring them is a great accessible activity to do on a nice day when you’re itching to have a breather from skyscrapers.
The most popular lakeshore area in Toronto is Harbourfront. As its name implies, this area has a harbor and it’s near there where you can take a boat to visit the Toronto Islands (more on this shortly).
Harbourfront also has some restaurants and a free, public skating rink in the winter.
There’s a ramp by the skating rink that leads up to a wooden patio where you can enjoy views of the lake and skating activity below.
3. St. Lawrence Market
The St. Lawrence Market is an indoor market. It’s a short stroll from Toronto’s Financial District, making it a great place to visit while in downtown.
The St. Lawrence Market offers excellent wheelchair accessibility in Toronto. The main entrance to the market is level with the sidewalk and has a sliding, automatic door.
Once inside, the area is flat and cement, although the market can get crowded, so going early is recommended.
The market is made up of a first level floor and basement. The first level has stalls of fruits, veggies, bakeries, meats, cheeses, and a few small, casual restaurants.
Heading down to the basement, you’ll encounter tourist-geared items and more of a food court scene with lots of international options.
In order to get to the basement, take the elevator in the lobby of the North Entrance. You’ll also find an accessible restroom in the basement of the St. Lawrence Market.
Travel Tip: The traditional St. Lawrence Market is open from Tuesday – Saturday. On Sunday, they have an antique market.
4. Distillery District
Love craft beer?
If so, you may find yourself visiting the Distillery District a few times over.
Formerly a whiskey distillery, the brick buildings were revamped and are now home to bars, boutique shops, and cozy cafes. They’ve also made the area pedestrian-only.
The main street that runs through the Distillery District has cement sidewalks on both sides of the pedestrian street. However, all other streets are pure, but not too rough, cobblestone brick.
Most shops and bars are accessible thanks to flat entries or ramps. The historic Tank House General also has an accessible restroom.
The Distillery District becomes extra alive on evenings and weekends, although shops are open during the day, as well. It’s common for there to be live performances throughout the year.
If you’ll be visiting the Distillery District in December, you’re in for a treat- a large, outdoor Christmas market draws in thousands of visitors.
5. Toronto Islands
When you’re strolling along Harborfront, it’ll be hard to miss the small islands located a short distance from the shore. These are collectively called the Toronto Islands and are made up of 15 islands that are connected by bridges.
A twelve minute ferry ride will take you to the islands. You can catch the ferry from the Jack Layton Ferry Terminal and the ferry runs year-round, although it has abbreviated hours during the low season.
The ferry to the Toronto Islands is wheelchair accessible and the islands themselves have accessible restrooms, although there are no restrooms onboard the ferry.
The Toronto Islands are only about five kilometers long, measuring from Ward’s Island to Hanlan’s Point. The Toronto Islands offer good accessibility by means of paved and wonderfully traffic-free paths since the only roads are at a small airport on the far end of the islands.
6. Kensington Market
Don’t let its name fool you…Kensington Market is first and foremost a district. However, Kensington Market does have a rather eclectic market.
A short stroll from Toronto’s financial district, this bohemian area is home to artists and hole-in-the-wall bars.
Get your camera ready- artists have turned old brick houses lining the streets into entire pieces of artwork. Make sure to peek down alleyways as some impressive street art (and not so impressive graffiti) abound.
While impressive, Kensington Market has a rough-around-the-edges feel to it, so it’s best to visit as a group in the afternoon or at a reasonable hour of the evening. We’re speaking from experience here- our Sunday morning stroll took us by some rather…vibrant…characters still out from Saturday night.
The district of Kensington Market has sidewalks and drop curbs. However, the sidewalks were notably less maintained compared to other areas of Toronto.
7. Fashion District
Toronto receives plenty of visitors worldwide, but being from Upstate New York, we can confidently say there’s no doubt about it- Toronto’s proximity to northeastern parts of the U.S. have Americans flocking there to get their shopping fix.
With the CN Tower being a mere couple blocks from the starting point of the Fashion District, shopping is an easy activity to incorporate into just about any Toronto itinerary.
The Fashion District is compact, with portions of Spadina Avenue and Wellington Street West making up the main part of the district. That being said, while there’s plenty of shopping opportunities in the Fashion District, many other areas of Toronto offer shopping, too.
Most notably, the CF Toronto Eaton Centre on Yonge Street is a huge indoor mall that you could easily spend hours shopping at.
The Fashion District offers excellent wheelchair accessibility in Toronto, as it has a modern layout.
Any good city has a Chinatown and Toronto’s felt spread out, but authentic.
What made Toronto’s Chinatown unique from what we’ve seen in other cities is that it runs along two large, busy roads (Spadina Avenue and Dundas Street West).
Therefore, while everything being in Mandarin will no doubt be confirmation that you’re in the right place, Chinatown felt a bit too dispersed for our liking.
Wheelchair accessibility in Toronto’s Chinatown was hit and miss. Wide, flat sidewalks made for easy sightseeing from the street. However, we noticed that a number of shops have a step at their entrances.
Is it worth visiting Chinatown?
If you’ll be visiting the district of Kensington Market, it’s definitely worth visiting Chinatown. In fact, during your exploration of Kensington Market, it’s easy to unintentionally arrive in Chinatown, as the two districts border each other.
Otherwise, if you won’t be visiting Kensington Market and/or have been to other Chinatowns, it may not be worth your time.
9. Financial District
When you visit downtown Toronto, we’re willing to bet that your first reaction will be to stare up at the high-rises. They’re impressive, with most of the highest concentration of high-rises being in the Financial District.
Working in a visit to the Financial District is easy, since all the other places we’ve talked about branch off from there.
As expected from a modern, downtown area, wheelchair accessibility is excellent in Toronto’s Financial District.
10. Old Town
We love historical centers but found Toronto’s Old Town underwhelming. Nonetheless, we know the curiosity and excitement that can come from seeing the words “Old Town” on a map, so we wanted to touch on it here.
The Old Town is located east of downtown and will take you around 15 – 20 minutes rolling to get there. Once you arrive, there are plenty of (rather rundown) brick buildings to look at, older houses, and some cafes.
We found that the district of Kensington Market and the area around St. Lawrence Market had more of the old town feel we were looking for.
Nonetheless, if you decide to visit Toronto’s Old Town, know that there are sidewalks and drop curbs, albeit less maintained than in other parts of the city.
Wheelchair accessible resources in Toronto
For other great ideas on things to do in Toronto, we recommend taking a look at Ontario Travel’s website. Not only do they list accessible activities in Toronto, but they also offer an extensive list of wheelchair accessible businesses, hotels, and accessibility on Toronto’s public transportation.
Also, make sure to check out our guide on our top five wheelchair accessible taxis in Toronto.
Toronto is full of interesting districts, modern architecture, and impressive views of Lake Ontario. We hope this post has given you a great start in planning some wheelchair accessible things to do in Toronto.
Have you been to Toronto? Help us add to this list by talking about your favorite accessible places in the comments section. Do you have questions about accessibility in Toronto? Send us a message and we’ll do our best to help.
P.S.- Want to learn more about our mission at A Piece of Travel? Head over to our Accessible Travel page.
Laura’s love for traveling started with a trip to Jamaica. Since then, she’s spent over five years living in Latin America and four years wandering the globe. She’s an early bird and backpacker at heart and can often be spotted with a dog or ten that she’s befriended along the way. Much of the content Laura writes on A Piece of Travel includes details on wheelchair accessibility, with the support of her brother-in-law and sister. You can learn about their accessibility endeavors here.