Toronto must see for nerds?
January 10, 2012 6:13 PM   Subscribe

Semi quirky stuff to do in Toronto Jan 26-29? Partner's & my 1st time to TO, looking for a couple of atypical things to do besides eating & drinking. I'm spending 1 day at IDS but otherwise wide open, & we're staying near the convention centre, no car.

e.g. in NYC we went to Material Connexion; in Boston we went to MIT Edgerton Center and The Museum of Useful Things.

So far we're thinking about seeing Toronto Mediatheque and possibly the Bata Shoe Museum.

Ixnay on the CN tower: no likey heights.
posted by yoga to Travel & Transportation around Toronto, ON (15 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: Hm. Just found this thread from 2007. Looks like the shoe museum has at least one thumbs up. :)
posted by yoga at 6:16 PM on January 10, 2012

Best answer: How nerdy? I mean, would a visit to Active Surplus (weird electronics and other misc. tat) and Creatron (electronics) be too nerdy? You're downtown with good transit around you, so don't worry about mobility.

Musideum (deeply strange musical instrument gallery) and SW!PE books (design books and v cool stuff) are both in 401 Richmond W. Textile museum (off Dundas W, e of University) is great.

It will likely be freakin' cold in Toronto then, so acquaint yourself with our underground city, the PATH.
posted by scruss at 6:22 PM on January 10, 2012

(oh, and while the 2007 thread is good, do not go to the green room, if even it's still open. It's won awards for the number of health violations. Personally, I love the place, but it's scuzzy and really not good for you.)
posted by scruss at 6:25 PM on January 10, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: The Ontario science centre has an exhibit of da Vinci designed models, though it's a bit of a trek by transit.

You could visit the shops of Little India on Gerrard St, west of Coxwell to Greenwood.

The are many quirky stores in the Junction, starting around Keele and walking west. Closer to downtown, Dundas West of Bathurst is increasingly interesting and design oriented.
posted by Heart_on_Sleeve at 6:58 PM on January 10, 2012

Take a break from the cold weather and visit Allen Gardens Convervatory, a wonderful antique greenhouse. It's a wonderful sensation to step inside and inhale the warm, sweet air. Admission is free.
posted by bonobothegreat at 7:32 PM on January 10, 2012

The AGO has some wonderful offbeat displays, like a fantastic collection of model boats in the basement. In the Thompson Gallery, just inside the entrance, is an amazing collection of ivory and boxwood carvings. One's on loan from the V&A, with knights and monsters swirling around a hillside castle. It blew my mind.
posted by bonobothegreat at 7:45 PM on January 10, 2012

...just realizing I use the word "wonderful" too much.
posted by bonobothegreat at 7:51 PM on January 10, 2012

Snakes and Lattes, the boardgame cafe, is definitely an awesome place to spend some time. Just be warned that if you go after 1pm on a weekend it can get pretty busy and if it's late enough there will be a line.

acquaint yourself with our underground city, the PATH.
Just to warn you, I know plenty of people who have lived in Toronto for years who can barely use the path. It can feel like a maze since everything looks the same. When I worked downtown I would always see tourists lost down there. It's not that cold right now, so I would suggest staying at street level and seeing the actual city.
posted by Midnight Rambler at 8:13 PM on January 10, 2012 [1 favorite]

More geeky AGO stuff: in the basement there's a huge collection of gorgeous ship models. They're not technically art (and in fact are only there because of a legacy technicality), but they're definitely worth a visit.
posted by DrJohnEvans at 8:44 PM on January 10, 2012

Best answer: The Science Centre is great but if you're here for a short visit, you might not want to waste half a day getting up there by public transit in the snow through the amalgamated burbs. Good general advice is stay south of Davenport and, with one or two exceptions, don't stay too close to Yonge.

One of those exceptions is that the Design Exchange might be to your liking, and it's just south of our fantastically quirky (architecturally) City Hall.

I'd personally take the ROM over the AGO if you've only got one Major Cultural Attraction visit in you.

You might try Cineforum. (Don't worry, you'll see the posters.) Pretty much can't get more quirky than Cineforum.

Brunch at Insomnia, mentioned in the earlier thread, and not too far from the northern terminus of the Spadina car (which you can catch near the convention centre) is definitely a good suggestion, but Honest Ed's (also suggested) not so much. It's a giant gaudy warehouse full of sweatshop goods and I've never understood the appeal even ironically. Possibly one of the most depressing places on the continent, unless(/especially if) you're a teenager on acid. Are you and your partner a teenager on acid? I suspect not. For extra quirk (with a side of mellow hipster) there's Bluegrass Brunch at the Dakota on Sundays, out on the west side.

And if you get a good weather day you really shouldn't miss a walk through Kensington, which isn't too far from the convention centre.

In fact, January's a bit iffy, but in good weather, your best bet may be a walking trip along College. (A day pass and the 506 car could also suffice). Start at Yonge and College/Carlton, and walk west toward the edge of Little Italy (say, around Crawford). You'll pretty much get every flavour of "the old city" (the part that was Toronto before amalgamation) in two hours. It'll take you past Queen's Park (the provincial legislature), right through the heart of U of T, past Lillian Smith Library (which houses the Merrill Science Fiction collection), past Chinatown (Spadina south of College), along the northern edge of Kensington, and by some of Toronto's best book & music stores (Of Swallows, She Said Boom, Balfour, Soundscapes).
posted by Mike Smith at 8:46 PM on January 10, 2012

Oh and January's Toronto Poetry Slam is on the 28th.
posted by Mike Smith at 8:52 PM on January 10, 2012 [1 favorite]

Come down to the Distillery District, wander around looking at the beautiful buildings, pop into some boutiques, go for dinner and drinks, then see a show at Soulpepper Theatre, one of Canada's best theatres (Full disclosure, I work there).
posted by stray at 10:57 PM on January 10, 2012

I found 77 cent DVDs at honest ed's - including of Japanese Godzilla-rippoffs (like not Godzilla, but wanna be Godzillas). I will never say anything bad about Honest Ed's again.

Also, if you like comics, the Beguiling is right around the corner.

as for distances: the science centre is 45 minutes from downtown by public transit. It is *not* in the boonies (I know, I'm from the boonies. boonies is like being 1hr-1.5 hours from downtown).

Insomnia (brunch! so yum!) is also not at all far from downtown - I would call it downtown, myself. 10-15 minutes by subway from the convention centre, 45 minutes walking. Same area (Bathurst & Bloor) as Honest ed's and the Beguiling - and the massive record store Sonic Boom.
posted by jb at 11:08 PM on January 10, 2012

Response by poster: WOW! Thanks so much, everyone for the suggestions! We're really looking forward to the trip - it's our first trip anywhere in about 2 years, so we don't care what the weather's like as long as there's cool stuff to do. Which, thanks to you guy - it looks like there is plenty!

(and for the record, my partner & I aren't teenagers on acid. :D)
posted by yoga at 5:49 AM on January 11, 2012

> I know plenty of people who have lived in Toronto for years who can barely use the path

posted by scruss at 7:07 AM on January 11, 2012

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