Adventures in Toronto?
June 28, 2010 11:59 PM   Subscribe

Recent events have left me feeling sad about my city, and made me realize that our love affair has grown cold and stale. Help me rekindle it!

Where can I go with someone in Toronto (TTC accessible please) to have an adventure? Let's leave out the obvious touristy places--Islands, High Park, Ontario Place, Distillery.

Cheap and cheerful is better than expensive, but don't hesitate to throw out spendy ideas. And let's leave out any places where two guys holding hands are likely to be uncomfortable. Few, I know, but still. Morning, daytime, evening, overnight--all good! Bonus points for silly, bonus points for being superheroes for a day. Ultra mega bonus points for photo booth locations apart from the one in Yonge/Bloor. I have read this previous post.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (16 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
So I lived in Tokyo for years, recently returned to Toronto, and am obviously having some trouble falling back in love with this city. So I am right there with you.

BUT: When I used to live in Tokyo, every now and then my friends and I used to do this thing we called 'the Tokyo Challenge.' What that was was that we would pick a starting point at one end of the city and an ending point at the other, and we had to somehow walk from the first point to the second. In between, we were strictly forbidden from using public transportation, consulting maps, or asking for directions. If at any point we recognized where we were, we had to switch to a side street and hope for the best. Compasses were allowed.

Now, modern Tokyo was pretty much built at random; streets jut off at weird angles, main thoroughfares end abruptly, you come across dense city-centers in the middle of nowhere. Toronto is built on a strict grid and everybody pretty much already knows where everything is, so the possibilities for random disgression are somewhat limited. Also, you are less likely to find some of the more amazing historical artifacts we stumbled across...but the core of the thing remains: taking a long, urban hike through parts of the city you've never seen before is still something you can accomplish.

This obviously involves a lot of walking, but if you're with the right people, it's just incredible. Even in a city like Tokyo, it ends up being less about the WWII artifacts and neglected shrines (or whatever) you come across as it is the conversations and the experience of being with your friends.

Seriously: what I remember are the camaraderie and the stupid jokes, much more than any of the endless overpasses or neglected convenience stores that make up much of Tokyo.

Now, originally, the idea was that there were a bunch of subgoals we had to accomplish along the way. This didn't work out so well in Tokyo, but in Toronto, I feel that it would be just the thing. Here, then, arbitrarily, is your next Toronto Challenge:

1) You will start at Yonge and Eglinton

2) You are NOT to use the TTC, maps, taxis or GPS phones (except for purposes of Geocaching.)

3) At some point, everybody in your party must eat some kind of food they have never eaten before.

4) You must take a picture of everybody in your party posing (if at all possible, riding) every piece of public art you come across.

5) Everybody with you has to buy some kind of insane souvenir that represents the trip. They can't be the same, and obviously, the tackier they are the better.

6a) CONTROVERSIAL 6TH RULE: You could turn this into a drinking game, which I am not advocating, but just saying you COULD. If you wanted to do that, you could make a rule that everybody has to have at least one pint of beer that they've never drank before. Or that you have to stop at every pub you come across that is called "The Something and the Something Else." Or you could make a rule that everybody has to have a drink in Cloud Gardens. JUST SAYING. (This is more or less the most important "Tokyo" variation on the rules.)

7) Every park you come across, you need to take a picture of at least one person using the playground equipment (or whatever is there) in a way that it is otherwise not intended for.

8) Or you could just forget every rule I said, and make up some of your own. The point of the Toronto Challenge is that you get your friends together, see parts of the city you've never seen before, do goofy things you otherwise wouldn't have done, and most importantly, spend time walking around with your friends, enjoying each other's company, noticing the small details that you normally would have passed over, generally savouring life in, what is basically, a cool city with a good heart. You can make it more or less elaborate. You can say that you have to hit certain places or restaurants or bars along the way. You can involve other people in your nonsense. Whatever. Just make sure everybody does something new and interesting. THEM'S THE RULES.

Anyway, if you want to get to know a city, ANY city, and kind of see how it works away from the tourist destinations, get a flavour for its life: SERIOUSLY, this is absolutely the best way I know.

(P.S. ALSO, if possible, you could travel back in time and attend the free Iggy and the Stooges show at Dundas Square last week, because GODDAMN.)
posted by Tiresias at 1:27 AM on June 29, 2010 [46 favorites]

Oh, duh, I forgot your end destination. OFF THE TOP OF MY HEAD: You will end up at the Music Gardens.

posted by Tiresias at 1:39 AM on June 29, 2010

Stroll has a lot of good ideas for walks in T.O., and includes a lot of interesting background information on seemingly mundane locations.
posted by The Card Cheat at 4:49 AM on June 29, 2010

Similar to Tiresias, my friends and I have done the "$Arterial_Road Hike" before.

The idea is to pick a major Toronto thoroughfare, preferably a North-South one, and get to as far North on it as you feel comfortable with.

Then, hike away towards downtown. (North-South because they all kind of gradually slope down. Bathurst was a hit for this.) It really gives you a feel for how much of Toronto there really is outside of the two square miles considered cool at any given time.

Also similar, "The Queen Streetcar Safari:"* riding the Queen streetcar from the Beaches all the way to Mississaugua, topping off with lunch at the crappy greasy spoon at the Mississaugua border.


* Caveat: if you're not a transit nerd, this probably isn't fun.
posted by generichuman at 5:38 AM on June 29, 2010 [2 favorites]

There was this thread as well, might give you some ideas.
posted by yawper at 7:25 AM on June 29, 2010

ethnic neighbourhoods that you aren't familiar with meet all your requirements, with the possible exception of the 'two affectionate dudes' part, which is pretty highly variable.

So, i would say: go to little india on gerrard. go up north to suburban chinatown in Markham and eat some awesome food. go to the part of the toronto islands people live on, rather than the amusement park.

Take your bikes and don't come home till the sun sets. take public transit to unionville or oakville and be a tourist.

Create a scavenger hunt.

Got do the super super super touristy stuff you probably haven't done since elementary school - go the CN tower, to the rom, to the AGO.
posted by Kololo at 8:32 AM on June 29, 2010

OK, so seriously, there's some crazy new bakery that makes custom cookies for you and bakes them in 2 minutes. I don't know if it's adventurous, but COOKIES.

I think cookies will at least cheer you up for a while.

If you have enough time I suggest walking down Queen st. But not the tourist parts. Like, all of it. Walk out to the Beach(es) from downtown. It will take a while. But man, if you're not warmed up to Toronto after that then just make plans to move out because that's about as good as it gets.
posted by GuyZero at 10:13 AM on June 29, 2010

Response by poster: OFF THE TOP OF MY HEAD: You will end up at the Music Gardens.

We had a lovely walk there just last night, that's a great idea. I love the rules!

generichuman: that sounds like a great idea. He lives on Bathurst so probably not there, but there are other streets that would be fun. And I'm a transit nerd.

Card Cheat: ooo, thanks!

kololo: I am not creative enough for a scavenger hunt, alas, and neither of us have bikes. The touristy stuff is already on the list (I want to see the terra cotta warriors at the ROM).

Keep 'em coming!
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 10:13 AM on June 29, 2010

Response by poster: omg cookies. And I hardly ever go out to Bloor W, so that could be really nice.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 10:16 AM on June 29, 2010

oh, another idea. This isn't really along the same theme as some of the other answers, but its one of the funnest things i've done in a long time: sign up for beginner improv at the Second City training center. I look forward to my class all week - you have no choice but to spend 3 hours a week giggling.
posted by Kololo at 10:27 AM on June 29, 2010

Other ideas (based on your comment that you aren't creative enough to do a scavenger hunt yourself):

Hunt & Gather (its annual, so there will be another one! I did it this year, it was fun.)
Toronto Sport & Social Club has all sorts of fun urban-adventure events (including the 'great urban race' in a couple weeks).
Parkdale Urban Adventure
posted by Kololo at 10:34 AM on June 29, 2010

Response by poster: Oh wow, the Great Urban Race looks AWESOME.

And costumes! Wheeeee!
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 10:55 AM on June 29, 2010

FYI, if you don't want to buy it the TPL has 59 copies of Stroll ordered, but there are 183 holds on it so there would be a bit of a wait. My wife bought a copy; I haven't finished it, but what I have read was really interesting and we've gone on two of the recommended walks.
posted by The Card Cheat at 11:28 AM on June 29, 2010

I'm a transplant, here are a few Toronto activities that I think are awesome:
  • go swimming (Sunnyside is my favourite, it's currently under repair. Extremely cold water in the hot sun is amazing.)
  • see a movie - toronto is a wicked town for movies, between all the little festivals, the NFB, Cinematheque etc. we are utterly spoiled
  • get a haircut from a student
  • rent a karaoke room in little Korea
  • a href="">go for a walk and listen to murmur
  • pick up Spacing magazine for more love letters to the city
  • and this is a bit touristy, but if you want to see cultural attractions on the cheap, pick up free passes at your local library
  • ride your bikes along the lake, and go look at the snails on Leslie spit

posted by Joad at 10:04 PM on June 29, 2010 [1 favorite]

You may not need food based suggestions given your profession, or you may love having some food based suggestions, I dunno. But food-based suggestions are what I've got:

The hounds recently did an ethnic bakery tour of Toronto, which swept us over half the town and several continents in a single day. Some of the specific places we hit aren't really TTCable, and doing 8 bakeries in a day on TTC would be a stretch, but the general idea of doing food tours stands as a really good one.

Pick a cuisine style and hit up as many examples of it as possible. Pick a specific food -- our next tour is likely to be an empanada tour. Or a specific neighbourhood -- eating your way through Kensington over the course of an afternoon can be fun and interesting without being totally spendy. You could do something similar along, say, Lawrence East for mid-Eastern food, or up Yonge at Finch for Korean and Iranian, Gerrard for Indian (especially on a Saturday night when they're doing Pani Puri in the street). I can't vouch for the gay friendliness of all these neighbourhoods, though, you'd probably be able to judge better than I can on that score.

One of my dinner groups has been picking restaurant by A is Afghani, B is for Bengali, C is for Chinese and so on -- trying all sort of different cuisines in alphabetical order.

And if you need the current contact info for the hound group so you can join the group again, MeMail me. Most of our events are likely while you're working, but the food tours tend to be Saturday morning/afternoon.
posted by jacquilynne at 12:05 PM on June 30, 2010

Response by poster: Saturday morning food tours could be totally doable. I kind of got frustrated with the boards when the demographics changed, but I figure you'd have the core group with you.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 12:27 PM on June 30, 2010

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