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August 25, 2012 5:20 PM   Subscribe

Two single girls driving up to Toronto from Indianapolis for a 4 day weekend.. what should we do and other questions!

Hi there two 24 year girls are driving up to Toronto from Indianapolis Th evening to Monday. A few quick questions

- Is crossing the border in my car easy? Or will are vehicle fees huge? (We're Americans, and the car is under my dad's name)
- Where should we stay? At least what neighborhood? We are looking to spend less than $100 a night but would like to stay some place near downtown (if that's where the awesome stuff is)
- Best place to party Fri/Sat night?
- Your fav attractions?
- Is there anything truly awesome to see on the way up there? Something we MUST stop and see?
- Should I just exchange currency here at the airport or wait til we get there?

Just a few things we love :
- hookah bars
- art museums
- walking tours
- any tours
- open air markets
- soccer
- bar crawls
- brewery / tasting rooms
- cultural neighborhoods
- paths to go for a run / exercise
- shopping
- local flare
- nightlife
- Korean bathhouses

I've already done some research .. but am super excited what you guys suggest! Thanks in advance?
posted by xicana63 to Travel & Transportation around Toronto, ON (15 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Paaeez on College is a decent hookah bar. College Street is generally quite fun for bar hopping too. I'd do brunch/lunch at the Beer Bistro--fabulous food, great beer tasting menu.
posted by Go Banana at 5:53 PM on August 25, 2012

You are planning on bringing your passports, right? I only ask because I was surprised to learn that one of my (well-traveled) friends didn't know that you do need a passport to enter Canada these days.
posted by Betelgeuse at 6:07 PM on August 25, 2012

Response by poster: Betelgeuse - that's the plan! I wish they would stamp it .. but I don't believe they will! Thanks for the reminder tho! :D
posted by xicana63 at 6:15 PM on August 25, 2012

Best answer: I think the Gladstone Hotel has a $99 special on right now. It's a pretty cool place on west queen west.
Rate Code: STAYCAY2
posted by sevenyearlurk at 6:45 PM on August 25, 2012

If you're unlikely to be going back that way anytime soon, you might as well come home via Niagara Falls. It'll add an an hour or two to the trip in addition to whatever time you spend gawking at the falls.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 7:42 PM on August 25, 2012

Best answer: Oddly specific: stopping for gas as you approach Port Huron is a good idea as prices in Canada are noticeably higher. But be careful b/c one of the gas stations in the sticks between Port Huron and Flint stocks 100-octane racing gas that's like $8/gallon in the same pumps as the normal stuff.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 7:47 PM on August 25, 2012

Best answer: The drive between Sarnia and Toronto is three hours of mostly flat boredom, especially on the 402. About 45 minutes past London, at Woodstock, the road splits. You can continue on the more heavily traveled 401 which leads you into Toronto past the airport at the top suburban half of the city, or you can take the 403 through Hamilton into downtown Toronto. I always take the 403. Coming down the escarpment at Hamilton is fun, and that city almost looks pretty from the top of the hill. And the Gardiner Expressway is a much better way to catch your first glimpse of Toronto. You're travelling along the water, the tower is prominent and much of Toronto's booming construction is happening right up against that road.

I remember hearing a visiting American complain that everyone told her to go running down by the waterfront, and all she found there were sidewalks in front of hotels along a busy road. She was disappointed. If you were to stay in Yorkville, you might look to this trail through the Rosedale ravine for running. The Brickworks, along the eastern half of that trail, is worth visiting. The ravines are some of Toronto's best, if less visited, features.
posted by TimTypeZed at 8:13 PM on August 25, 2012

Best answer: I've heard rumours of a Korean bathhouse north of Toronto.

as for the other stuff: it sounds like you would like Kensington Market and St Lawrence Markets (west and east of downtown, respectively). Kensington has more crafts and odd places (including a hookah store?) while St Lawrence is more of a traditional food market - both are better in the middle of the day than at night. Queen West (Queen street between Bathurst and University) might be interesting, though not as interesting as it used to be. Queen west and King street nearby do have lots of nightlife.

If you are here during the Canadian National Exhibition, it's pretty awesome. It has rides and a fairway, like any amusement park (only all temporary), but it also has huge buildings with foods and crafts and new inventions - those are unique.
posted by jb at 8:25 PM on August 25, 2012

Best answer: Ghandi's Cuisine on Queen West is certainly one of my favorite restaurants in Canada, and very probably in my top 100 for the world. Every now and again I get a craving for their specific flavor and just nothing else match it.

Get the saag paneer and the butter chicken rotis.
posted by Algebra at 9:23 PM on August 25, 2012 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Stop at at Stratford on the way up or the way back and see a play.
posted by ropeladder at 9:48 PM on August 25, 2012

The realignment of lanes along Queens Quay is probably the project I most anxiously await. It should greatly improve the street for recreational activity. The person I heard disappointment from was staying at The Royal York. So she jogged from there straight down to the waterfront, where she found lots of concrete, plus people and cars to dodge. I don't run, so I don't know how far someone visiting for a few days would go on a run. Someone staying at one of the hotels on Jarvis could go straight down that street and around Sugar Beach and Sherbourne Common for a nice view of the harbour while running. But their run along the waterfront would probably best limited to there, because to the east and west of there is construction and vacant properties. Someone staying at the Gladstone could head from there to the waterfront, where they'd find plenty of people running and biking in parkland along the water. But in the central area the waterfront might not be best for that activity.
posted by TimTypeZed at 10:09 PM on August 25, 2012

Best answer: Should I just exchange currency here at the airport or wait til we get there?

No, you should just use bank machines (as mentioned above) and/or credit cards. One thing that you should be aware of is that the Canadian dollar is worth slightly more than the U.S. dollar at the moment. This will come as an unpleasant surprise to people who remember the exchange rate being significantly lower in the past, as your money doesn't go nearly as far as you might expect.
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 10:28 PM on August 25, 2012

Best answer: Hi! You're gonna have a great time! Crossing the border is a cinch—you won't have a problem at all—and Toronto is particularly good these days for the kinds of strolling/shopping/bar-hopping that you're looking for. Pretty well everything I've read in this thread so far is good advice. I'll add what bits randomly popped into my head as I thought about your trip.

Consider airbnb for accommodations (and not just because that's my refer-a-friend link, though for that, too). Though I've never used it in Toronto, I've had nothing but great airbnb experiences in NYC. The price range seems to be about what you're looking for, and the areas you can potentially stay in are a bit more variable and interesting. If you're the sorts who like to jump right into the more cultured areas of a city instead of staying in the big concrete Sheraton in the big concrete downtown then I'd definitely recommend giving it a shot. This apartment, for instance, is a good price, is in a very safe neighbourhood, and is right around the corner from nightlife you'll definitely want to check out. It's an idea.

Friday and Saturday nights in downtown-ish Toronto are pretty well nonstop parties. I'd love to hear more about the kinds of nights you two enjoy, but I can safely say that between the Annex, the Ossington strip, and Queen West you'll be covered for those nights. Here are a few terrible maps demonstrating where the fun generally is in these areas. Get used to where these are on a proper map, though, so you feel comfortable travelling between one and the others once you're here.

We have microbreweries in (or close to) each of these areas. Imma recommend Bellwoods Brewery, because it's new, and I feel bad that I haven't checked it out yet. It's right along the Ossington strip, and will be brimming with life on any evening. If you're interested in the full brewery tour experience, I know Steamwhistle (by the CN Tower, which you'll learn to use as your constant compass by day two) puts on a pretty good show. Here's a list of other microbreweries probably worth visiting.

So, it's Saturday morning now, and you're a bit fragile after a night on Ossington. You probably want brunch. You probably want County General or Swan, both of which are stupidly delicious and on Queen West. If it's a sunny day, I'd let breaky digest with a stroll or a sit-down in nearby Trinity Bellwoods Park, which is like Central Park's Sheep Meadow. I'm listing this as a "fave attraction."

Toronto isn't as great at proper open-air markets as some cities, but visiting our St Lawrence Market on Saturday (for food) or Sunday (for antiques) or both would be memorable. The areas around it are some of Toronto's most historic bits, too, so it's definitely good for a stroll.

Kensington Market and nearby Chinatown are living markets, as well. You'll want to visit Kensington on the Sunday, as it'll be mostly car-free, and traditional Salvadoran and Chilean restaurants will be spilling onto the street.

As mentioned, you'll want to visit the Art Gallery of Ontario on Dundas.

I'd go for at least one run along the water, if I ran.

I'd probably shop in the downtown Eaton Centre, too, if proximity hadn't made me a bit sick of the place.

If I think of more I'll drop it in here. Definitely ask any questions you may have, and let us know the sorts of nightlife you prefer. I left out our club district, but can definitely steer you in that direction should you wish. Don't hesitate to DM questions, either, or concerns if something goes awry during the trip: I live right on Queen, and can be anywhere within minutes to help. I have an unflagging commitment to tourist happiness in this city, and will do whatever I can.

posted by tapesonthefloor at 1:15 AM on August 26, 2012 [2 favorites]

You must eat some poutine.
posted by srboisvert at 9:56 AM on August 26, 2012

Best answer: The fine folks at Tour Guys do great walking tours.

I am a tireless booster of hostels in place of hotels: the HI hostel in Toronto is great, but a little out of your stated price range ($120-$130 per night for private rooms). Private double rooms can be had at Canadiana for $82 per night, and the location is in the midst of the Entertainment district. I haven't been there in years, but it was very charming ten years ago. Any hostels will have bar crawls in place. I endorse Sevenyearlurk's suggestion of the Gladstone as well -- west of downtown, but in a heavily boutiquey neighbourhood full of galleries and bars. It is a century-old railway hotel that fell into picturesque decrepitude by the nineties before being heavily renovated to moderately-priced swank a few years ago.

Not technically an open-air market (since it was enclosed under one big roof a century ago) but St. Lawrence market at Front and Jarvis is a great source for produce, cheeses, breads, etc, as well as having some prepared foods (St. Urbain Bagels in the southeast corner produces superb Montreal-style bagels, and Moustachio downstairs will give you sandwiches as big as your head for about six dollars). From there it is a short walk to the ferries out to Toronto Island (seven bucks round trip) which is as fine a place for a picnic as I can imagine -- this is the view. Good place to run as well.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 1:41 PM on August 26, 2012

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