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Staff Picks: 10 Superb Specialist Museums

Specialty museums often operate on a smaller scale than their more comprehensive counterparts, but make up for their size with history and dedication to their subjects. Both informative and entertaining, these Toronto museums welcome visitors for a unique cultural experience.

The Gardiner Museum specializes in historical and contemporary ceramic art (photo by Tom Arban)

Bata Shoe Museum
This one-of-a-kind institution showcases over 4,500 years of footwear history. It features a celebrity collection and changing exhibitions that explore the function and style of shoes, and what they tell us about historical and contemporary culture. 327 Bloor St. W., 416-979-7799.

Casa Loma and Spadina Museum: Historic House and Gardens
Overlooking the city from midtown is financier Sir Henry Mill Pellatt’s famed turn-of-the-century residence, which boasts dozens of finely decorated rooms and a general air of European splendour. Next door sits Spadina Museum—formerly home to three generations of the prominent Austin family, it’s been restored to demonstrate Toronto life in the 1920s. 1 Austin Terrace, 416-923-1171; 285 Spadina Rd., 416-392-6910.

CBC Museum
The history of the Canadian Broadcasting Company unfolds with the help of over 4,000 artifacts. This well-respected radio and television network has been integral in presenting Canadian news, entertainment and sports coverage for 75 years. 250 Front St. W., 416-205-5574.

Design Exchange
Internationally recognized for its dedication to promoting the value of design. The museum hosts curated exhibitions throughout the year, and offers frequent lectures and workshops as a part of its community outreach efforts. 234 Bay St., 416-363-6121.

Gardiner Museum
In its KPMB-designed building on the edge of Yorkville, this museum is dedicated to displaying and conserving one of the world’s oldest artistic media—ceramics, in all its varied functional and artistic forms. Grab a quick lunch at the airy Gardiner Café, featuring a menu created by chef Jamie Kennedy, or sign up for one of the museum’s many events and workshops. 111 Queen’s Park, 416-586-8080.

Hockey Hall of Fame
Home of the Stanley Cup and located in the heart of downtown Toronto, the Hockey Hall of Fame celebrates Canada’s sport year-round. The museum is suitable for all ages and features interactive exhibits and the world’s largest collection of hockey memorabilia. 30 Yonge St., 416-360-7765.

Mackenzie House
The historic home of William Lyon Mackenzie, Toronto’s first mayor, is a city-run museum and fine example of Georgian architecture. Historical exhibitions are offered, and there’s also a re-created 1850s print shop and a modern gallery. 82 Bond St., 416-392-6915.

Museum of Inuit Art
Located in the Queen’s Quay Terminal, this lakeside museum is devoted to presenting the history of the Inuit people through their distinctive art forms. Its collection spans hundreds of artifacts and artworks, and includes a number of showcase sculptures by major Inuit artists of the modern era. An adjoining gallery shop offers authentic stone carvings, prints and more for purchase. 207 Queens Quay W., 416-640-1571.

Redpath Sugar Museum
Canada’s oldest sugar refining company opened its museum to the public in 1979.
A self-guided tour is also included, and reservations are recommended for your visit. 95 Queens Quay E., 416-366-3561.

Textile Museum of Canada
This museum boasts a permanent collection of more than 12,000 historical and contemporary objects from around the world. The garments and fabrics displayed in themed exhibitions tell the stories of different cultures, while contemporary showcases place textile art in a modern context. A hands-on gallery teaches visitors about the ways in which textiles influence our lives. 55 Centre Ave., 416-599-5321.

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