spring break toronto
January 27, 2010 12:47 PM   Subscribe

Spring Break. 1 week in March. Toronto. What to see, do, and eat?

A couple more details for you TravelFilter-ers: I'll be with my boyfriend, we will have a car. We're both college students. Never been to Toronto before (or Canada even, in my case). No particularly quirky constraints on this trip, but cheap lodging etc. would be good. We like all sorts of things, including (but not limited to) live music, sitting-in-cafes-drinking-chai-with-laptops, exploring, chilling out, dancing, bars, asian food, museums, technology, outdoor things, and more. Thanks for the suggestions!
posted by mokudekiru to Travel & Transportation around Toronto, ON (17 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
Come hungry! Lots of good, cheap eats in Toronto. Visit Koreatown (I like the bright orange restaurant on Bloor, don’t know the name, it’s written in Korean!), Little India (if you eat meat, go to Lahore Tikka House. You cannot beat their kababs and tandoori naan), and definitely visit the St. Lawrence Market. Plan to spend the afternoon nibbling your way through there, and don’t miss the bottom floor.

In terms of entertainment, there is lots of stuff going on all the time. Pick up a copy of Eye Weekly or NOW magazine at any subway station and you’ll be overrun with ideas for musical performances, plays, etc.

Have fun!
posted by yawper at 1:18 PM on January 27, 2010

A few of the usual suspects in terms of locations/attractions (I'm not sure about accomodation...I haven't stayed in a hotel in Toronto in years):

Kensington Market
Scarborough Bluffs
High Park (although March probably isn't the best time of year)
Toronto Islands (ditto)
The AGO and The ROM
Dundas and Ossington
The Beaches
Rattlesnake Point/The Niagara Escarpment (out of the city a bit)
posted by The Card Cheat at 1:20 PM on January 27, 2010 [2 favorites]

The "bright orange restaurant" is Buk Chang Dong Soon To Fu. Definitely recommended.
posted by DrJohnEvans at 1:42 PM on January 27, 2010

The Card Cheat pretty much covers it, but I'm surprised he/she didn't mention Harbourfront or the Gaybourhood or Queen West (good for cafes).

For outdoor stuff, I would add:
Riverdale Farm
Toronto Zoo
Don Valley Trails (you can walk these trails too)
Kortright Centre (north of the city)

Museums: Bata Shoe Museum (about a 5 min. walk from the ROM)
Textile museum (across the street from the ROM).

And also: Ontario Science Centre.

Cheap lodging: I know there's a hostel in Kensington Market which is almost right next to the Supermarket, which is a good bar and place for dancing.

You could also just get the Lonely Planet guide for Toronto.

Also, a note about driving in Toronto: driving downtown especially is pretty challenging. There is a lot of traffic, crazy drivers, taxis, buses, pedestrians and bikes darting here and there and it may be hard to adjust for out of town people. BE CAREFUL and patient! There have been a lot of pedestrian deaths this month in the city (about 8); last year there were 2 in January. Also, you can't use a cellphone/ipod or other handheld while driving. Better yet just walk and take public transit when in the city.
posted by foxjacket at 2:10 PM on January 27, 2010

Both the AGO and ROM have evenings once a week on which they're free for the general public (although they'll probably be super busy if it's March break). They also have better free/cheap deals if you have student ID - check the websites.

If you're into live music check the ticket listings at Soundscapes and Rotate This.

Also, some cafes appropriate for sitting-with-laptops: Dark Horse on Queen St. (near Chinatown), Ezra's Pound (two locations - one on Dupont, one on Dundas west), Manic on College St., The Bean, also on College (free WiFi), Bulldog on Church St., and Moonbean and Ideal Coffee in Kensington Market, the latter of which is right next to indie bookstore This Ain't the Rosedale Library.
posted by scribbler at 2:20 PM on January 27, 2010

Hockey Hall of Fame is a fun time, and Wayne Gretzky's restaurant has a nice rooftop patio.
posted by JuiceBoxHero at 2:34 PM on January 27, 2010

Oh, and a few of my favourite restaurants:

La Palette (French, romantic, a bit pricey)
Simon's Vegetarian Wok (asian vegetarian, not romantic, cheap)
Pho Hung (Vietnamese, cheap)
Tomi-Kro (asian fusion, pricey)
Bonjour Brioche (affordable French-style brunch, not open for dinner)
New York Subway (great, cheap burritos)
The Pomegranate (Persian, affordable)
John's Classic (pizza!)
Pizza Pide (pizza again, only Turkish-style)

Toronto's a great city for food enthusiasts.
posted by The Card Cheat at 2:50 PM on January 27, 2010

Others have hit the main big attractions in Toronto.

If you want a taste of true, if lowest common denominator, Canadiana, you gots to stop by a Tim Horton's, a Harvey's, and/or a Swiss Chalet. They're a strong dose of pure Canuckitude in the same way that stopping at a Denny's is a good slug of Americana. See also: The Beer Store. Any of these would be a terrible choice if you want to experience the heights of what Toronto can offer or something special and unique. They would be good if you want to see a slice of what workaday life in the GTA is like or even talk to a Canadian in their natural environment.

Any Pickle Barrel (local chain of diners) will serve you a good breakfast. You want yours with latke, otherwise what's the point?

Outdoor things will likely be somewhat limited -- either still snowy if you're lucky, or horrible melty slush if you're not. Or, if you're very lucky, done being melted and nice.

If you like books, the "World's Biggest Bookstore" (it dramatically isn't) near the Centre du Eaton Centre is pretty good. Canada straddles the US and UK book markets, so you'll likely find a bunch of stuff you can't (easily) get in the US.

Especially if you're driving that route anyway, Niagara Falls is worth a stop. The Canadian side is mostly wax museums and other amusing dreck with the best view of the falls, or walk around on Goat Island on the US side. Warning: Niagara Falls, NY is slowly improving but still mostly classified firmly as "shithole."
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 2:51 PM on January 27, 2010

Someone else mentioned this - trying to drive around Toronto can be *extremely* frustrating. For $36.00 each (potentially what you'd spend on parking driving around for a day or two), you can get a TTC (Toronto Transit Commission) Weekly Pass that is good for unlimited travel on all city transit services (subway, streetcar, buses).
posted by purlgurly at 3:48 PM on January 27, 2010 [2 favorites]

You may already be familiar, but blogTO is also a good source for restaurants, events, and things cultural going on in Toronto.
posted by purlgurly at 3:50 PM on January 27, 2010

In Koreatown, check out Camto at the corner of Bloor and Clinton's -- order one of the $22 food specials that comes with 5 bottles of beer (I recommend the spicy octopus if you eat meat/seafood, but nothing with sausage because the sausage is just hotdogs). Wednesday night is boardgames night at Holy Oak (licensed, great cafe/free wireless during the day) and plenty fun. Ports is a Portuguese bar on Dundas between Ossington and Dundas and has free karaoke Wednesday-Sunday and is almost always empty except on Fri/Sat. It's kind of hilarious to show up there with one or two other people and serenade (poorly) one another.

Oddfellows has an all-you-can eat perogie night (with fixin's and djs) and can be pretty fun, though sometimes crowded. And it's a communal table. West Queen West has some good art galleries if you're into that; I like MOCCA and Board of Directors.

Clinton's has a dance night every Saturday (Shake-a-Tail, 60s dance night) but you can also find other dance nights of varying types at Wrongbar, Teranga, the Boat, the Gladstone, and the Drake. Also, clubs on Richmond Street, but I don't really know anything about them.

I like Saving Gigi and the Common (as well as the aforementioned Holy Oak) for coffee and working. Three Speed and the Henhouse (probably my favourite jukebox in the city) for bars.

I also endorse pretty much everything listed above. Memail me if you want more information about events happening (if I knew a bit more about what you like/when you'll be here, I could probably point you in a few directions).

Have fun!
posted by Felicity Rilke at 3:51 PM on January 27, 2010

A couple indispensable online resources are blogTO and stillepost.

BlogTO is good for news about up and coming events--the same content as weeklies like Now, but updated daily. It's also got a lot of archived lists of The Best ____ in Toronto, which are voted on by readers and always generate heated debate in the comments. Those lists link to longer reviews on the site, so it's not like you're just confronted with the names of restaurants/bars/bookstores and left with no further info. They have lists like The Best Cafes With Free Wi-Fi in Toronto, re: your interests.

Stillepost has a Toronto concert listings thread that's the most exhaustive in the city, and there are probably already a few shows for Spring Break on there. Check a few days before you go, as things get added like mad just beforehand.

Finally, Hotwire.com usually has rooms for $60 and up for decent Toronto hotels. We once paid $89 for a 4-star (our power was out in the middle of winter), which turned out to be the Intercontinental on Bloor across from the AGO.
posted by Beardman at 3:54 PM on January 27, 2010

Nthing Ports karaoke on Dundas. That is where Felicity Rilke and I did a duet of "There Is A Light That Never Goes Out." Doves cried.

Actually, nthing all Felicity's suggestions, except Camto, which has a funny name.
posted by Beardman at 3:56 PM on January 27, 2010

If the weather cooperates and you need to get away from the crowds of people, there is a scenic walking path along the Humber River. It takes about 1 hour 45 minutes to saunter from the Old Mill subway station to the corner of Eglinton and Scarlett Road.

Massey Hall and Roy Thompson Hall are the big premium venues for concerts - both of them are remarkable buildings, and RTH has outstanding acoustics.

Nthing the recommendation for Eye Weekly and Now Magazine.

Do you like coffee? You have your work cut out for you.
posted by Multicellular Exothermic at 4:28 PM on January 27, 2010

Please don't waste a second in Tim Hortons. If you're desperate you can get a coffee at any of their locations on Hwy 401 rest areas but please, in a city with a great food (and increasingly decent coffee scene), do not enter one in the city unless you're really desperate. More desperate than I can imagine being.

My favourite TO neighbs are the Annex, WEST Queen West, the evolving wonders around Ossington and Dundas, Kensington Market, and, seriously, Chinatown, but there are simply too many great pedestrian-friendly areas.

One ore thing: As I say, avoid TH and I say avoid Swiss Chalet and crap like Pizza Pizza. DO hit the St Lawrence Market and a stall called Mustachio for the best chicken (or veal) cutlet and fried eggplant sandwich you will ever have in your fucking life.
posted by ethnomethodologist at 4:55 PM on January 27, 2010

Don't forget the Distillery District. And if you like dancing to Afro-Cuban-Latin-World Music, try Lula Lounge.
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 5:05 PM on January 27, 2010 [1 favorite]

Please don't waste a second in Tim Hortons. If you're desperate you can get a coffee at any of their locations on Hwy 401 rest areas but please, in a city with a great food (and increasingly decent coffee scene), do not enter one in the city unless you're really desperate.

Like I said: terrible choice if you want to experience the heights of what Toronto can offer, or a really unique experience of something. Good choice if you want a taste of boring everyday life in Toronto, since they are full to bursting with actual no-kidding Torontonians.

I thought I was pretty clear that it would be like visiting a US city and going to Denny's. Bad if you want a taste of the unique flavor of wherever, or want to eat actual food instead of "food." Good if you want to have a sit-down and cuppa and maybe strike up a conversation with the couple of construction workers doing some planning, or listen in on the group of old coots holding court in the corner booth. Different tourists want different things.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 2:27 PM on January 28, 2010

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