The Toronto CN Tower used to be my neighbour. Yes, I mean that quite seriously. I’ve lived right by the CN Tower for about ten years, while I was living in Toronto full time. The view from my bedroom, living room, and balcony all included an unobstructed panoramic view of the tallest tower in Toronto. Being an expat living in Canada, I also had my fair share of visitors coming to the city who wanted to go up to the top and enjoy the view. Over the years, I’ve discovered some good ways of going up for free, and figured out the best time to visit the CN Tower.
Best time to visit the CN Tower
The CN Tower is open year round, and whether it is summer or winter, there is always a good time to visit. The only thing to look out for is the weather, which in Canada tends to include mostly good visibility (unless there is a snowstorm). The main thing to note is that going up the tower when it is foggy, or snowing, is the worst time to go.
Wait for the weather to clear, and try again. If you are trying to avoid long line-ups, I have a hack for you that allows you to skip straight to the front of the line for the CN Tower elevator.
How to skip the CN Tower line & Get a Free Ticket to the top!
There is no point spending hours in line and wasting part of your day just standing around. There really isn’t any such thing as the best time to visit the CN Tower, the lines will be long all day. Perhaps a bit less long right at opening time, but still. Here are two insider hacks to getting into the CN Tower quickly and score cheap (or free!) tickets.
- Go for dinner. I’ve mentioned this in another post, but it still remains true. By making a reservation in the 360 restaurant, you will not only skip the line at the bottom, but get a free ticket to ride up to the top. After dinner, you can access all the same areas the regular ticket holders can access. Dinner runs for just a bit more than a regular ticket, and you have to eat anyways so I can recommend this and have done this myself many times. August 2017 update: this may no longer be as attractive as it used to be. There is still a free ride attached to dinner but recently it seems that they are requiring people to purchase at both an appetizer and a main course.
- Group your sightseeing into a single ticket. Purchasing a CityPASS gets you access to the Toronto CN Tower, Casa Loma, the Royal Ontario Museum, Ripley’s Aquarium (which is right at the base of the CN Tower!), and either the Toronto Zoo or the Ontario Science Center. You save about 43% on the total price, meaning you basically get your CN Tower tickets for free. The icing on the cake is that you do not have to stand in line in most places, you can go straight through. Get your CityPASS here.
There is technically a third way to go up the CN Tower, for free. With this one you don’t take the elevator, but instead you take the stairs during a charity run. WWF organizes a CN Tower climb every year. Get sponsored, and join the hundreds of people braving the stairs all the way up. I participated two years in a row, and it was a lot of fun. It seems a lot more daunting than it actually is, possibly because while you are climbing you have no idea how high you are (there are no windows). You just keep going and all of a sudden you’re there. My personal best time was 22 minutes and 20 seconds to get all the way to the top, and it is definitely a lot less effort than a half marathon. I can compare it to a 5k run, when it comes to the amount of effort required. The first time I did the climb the weather was great and the views were all the reward we needed at the top. The second time around sadly looked more like the picture above, and it looked like someone pulled white blinds down over the windows. It was too bad, but the weather is one thing you cannot control with a scheduled run up the tower.
I hope these tips were useful, and let me know in the comments if you are planning to visit the CN tower!