On the shore of Lake Ontario sits a hub of culture, art, and performances: the Harbourfront Centre. This massive facility is open year-round with programming, shops, restaurants, exhibits and communal spaces.
Located on the waterfront of Lake Ontario in downtown Toronto, Harbourfront Centre is a wonderful place to spend the day immersed in art and culture, strolling the lovely grounds or perusing the shops and restaurants with the water in the background.
For up-to-date information and details on the Harbourfront Centre, we recommend you visit their website. For information about other places of interest to explore nearby, keep scrolling to see what Destination Ontario recommends.
More about Harbourfront Centre
Harbourfront Centre officially opened in 1974 but was established as a non-profit in 1991. Nevertheless, the Centre has always served to create activities and events that enliven, educate and entertain. The Centre works with over 450 community organizations, hosts more than 4,000 events annually and sees 12 million visitors every year.
The 4 hectare site hosts a combination of indoor and outdoor events in their many venues, focusing on visual arts, crafts, literature, music, dance and theatre. Bold and engaging exhibits and performances appeal to a diverse audience of visitors. The Centre’s many buildings are full of spaces of various sizes, suitable for any kind of event. The Fleck Dance Theatre is a traditional stage with two levels of seating, most commonly used for dance or theatrical performances, while the Studio Theatre is more often used for film screenings and lectures.
Art lovers should be sure to check out the Centre’s many art galleries, which feature an array of permanent and temporary exhibits. The Power Plant (recognized by its tall smokestack) heralds contemporary art, while Artport Gallery focuses on visual arts such as architecture, photography and design. Additionally, there are several art installations around Harbourfront Centre that serve more functional purposes. Light Cascade redirects sunlight to an underground parking garage, and Waterglass is a glass art installation that generates solar energy for the Harbourfront Centre Theatre.
Another unique facet of Harbourfront Centre is the Craft & Design Studio, an open-concept creative space for the Artist-in-Residence program. The residency program was designed to foster emerging artists in one of five disciplines: textiles, glass, ceramics, metal and design. Artists-in-residence are given the chance to teach classes to the public and exhibit their work in one of the centre’s galleries.
Harbourfront Centre features several outdoor venues as well. Many summer festivals are held on the artificial grass of Ann Tindal Park, while the main concert stage along the Toronto Harbour has room for over 3,000 concertgoers. Beautiful scenic views of Lake Ontario are always available from the boardwalk, where visitors will often find street performers during the summer months, or along Canada Square. Opened in 2013, Canada Square is an outdoor promenade along the waterfront that features 41 metasequoia trees and plenty of places to sit and enjoy the view.
The most spectacular outdoor venue at Harbourfront Centre might just be the Toronto Music Garden, though, a place where music and landscape combine into a beautiful garden bursting with colorful flowers. The Toronto Music Garden was created in the 1990s by cellist Yo-Yo Ma and landscape architect Julie Moir Messervy, who worked together to design a physical garden based on Bach’s Suite No. 1 in G major. From June to September, the Centre hosts free concerts in this lovely garden space.
Other outdoor attractions include a pond that becomes a public skating rink in the colder months, outdoor dining and activity spaces and three marinas that provide access to Lake Ontario. From the marinas, visitors can rent boats, kayaks and canoes, take courses in sailing or navigation or charter a yacht to take out on the water. There are also tour and charter boats that can be rented for historic tours of the inner harbour.
There are plenty of dining options at Harbourfront Centre. Try craft brews at the Amsterdam BrewHouse, coffee or cocktails at Boxcar Social or a sampling of different cuisine from around the world each weekend at Food Lab.
For serious shoppers, Harbourfront Centre has plenty of options. At Lakeview Market, guests can find crafts, clothing and other products from local vendors. The Harbourfront Centre Shop features gifts and products from the local Toronto community and across the country and is also full of unique pieces created by the Artists-in-Residence at the Craft & Design Studio.
Harbourfront Centre is located in downtown Toronto at 235 Queens Quay West. It is easily accessible by streetcar (the 509 Harbourfront and 510 Spadina both run along lines that include the Harbourfront Centre stop) and subway (head southbound on the Yonge-University line to Union Station). For those arriving by car, paid parking is available off of Queens Quay West.