An urbanist (and friend) travel to Toronto
September 11, 2012 8:32 PM   Subscribe

What urbanist/transit/maps/architecture/local history-related attractions should I hit up in Toronto?

My travel interests, as posed in two previous questions, run along the lines of transit, urbanism, cartography, architecture, local history, public spaces.

I'll be in Toronto this upcoming Friday midday-Sunday evening and staying at the Marriott Bloor at Yonge and Bloor with a friend. I'd like to ensure I've hit up all the obvious suggestions, and based on reading of previous threads and Internet research, I've got the following list:

- Ride a streetcar (I'm thinking the Queen car to its eastern end and wandering back downtown, as discussed in this post.)
- Distillery District: really into reuse of older buildings
- My travel partner really likes long walks, and I enjoy them too, so I'll be referencing these long walk ideas. Any other walk suggestions?
- Kensington and St Lawrence markets are on the itinerary
- Yonge-Dundas square. Not a big fan of Times Sq in NYC, but all the same I like seeing cities' versions of public squares.
- PATH. Well, is this worth checking out? Especially since I'll be going when the weather is nice, I'm skeptical.

In case this helps, here's stuff I like along these lines in NY/London: NYC Transit Museum, London Transport Museum (that store -- I died), Millennium Bridge, Roosevelt Island, the DLR, the High Line, the Bloomingdale Trail-to-be in Chicago (!)

I feel like I have most of the obvious answers, but wanted to check if there was anything else I'm missing out there, in terms of experiences/attractions/shopping for these interests.

And actually, side question regarding shopping: I'm a big fan of Spacing magazine. I know they have a list of stores where their magazine is sold, but I think the list is a little bit out of date. Is there a bookstore where I can be relatively sure they'll have issues in stock?

Thanks so much! Looking forward to my international getaway in two days. :)
posted by andrewesque to Travel & Transportation around Toronto, ON (14 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
The PATH is not worth checking out. It is extremely convenient for people working downtown in the winter or when it's raining during the day. Otherwise, it just feels like a mall with the same 20 stores repeating over and over again. Also, unless you know it really well it is very easy to get turned around. The maps and arrows aren't that helpful.
posted by Midnight Rambler at 8:50 PM on September 11, 2012 [2 favorites]

PATH is very cool - definitely worth it. Last time I went to Toronto, the weather was nice, but I still enjoyed wandering around there.
posted by SisterHavana at 8:50 PM on September 11, 2012

You'll definitely want to check out the city of Toronto archives, and the evergreen brickworks. You might also like hart house at u of Toronto. There's a room called the map room in there with a very old Toronto map on the wall. Cool building too. (On my phone, hard to link.)

As for spacing mag, I would just call one of the stores on queen st (since you're riding the streetcar) to see if they have it.

PATH: meh. If the weather's nice and if you don't have much time it's skippable. It is just a bunch of stores underground, and useful for commuters.
posted by foxjacket at 10:04 PM on September 11, 2012

I hate being one of those "you asked for X, I'll comment with Y" commenters, but if you are at all interested in art, I found the Museum of Inuit Art by accident on a trip to Toronto, and thought it was awesome. Small enough to see within an hour or two, maybe worth a look if you're in the neighborhood.
posted by Rykey at 5:01 AM on September 12, 2012

Along the line of the Distillery, you might want to check out Brickworks.

The Transportation Expo is there, and might interest you too.
posted by backwards guitar at 6:11 AM on September 12, 2012

The list you have assembled is excellent for the time you have here. Not sure you'll have time to do it all! You'll find the Brickworks to be in the same category as the Distillery District - re-purposing old architecture. I love both. PATH is great if you come in the dead of winter. Otherwise it's just a low-ceilinged mall and a waste of nice weather.
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 6:12 AM on September 12, 2012

If you like architecture, I assume you'll want to visit Casa Loma. I enjoyed it.
posted by troywestfield at 6:22 AM on September 12, 2012

Response by poster: @ThatCanadianGirl: Haha yes I don't doubt that I won't do it all! I just like to have a checklist so I know what all my options are.
posted by andrewesque at 6:26 AM on September 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

Another vote for skipping PATH - it's really just convenient for people who work downtown, or for getting around in cold weather. There's nothing special about it in and of itself. Don't waste your limited time wandering through generic malls!
posted by barnoley at 7:02 AM on September 12, 2012

On taking the Queen streetcar to the eastern end (at Neville Park):

1. Right next to Neville Park stop there's a large grassy field and behind it is the Harris Water Treatment Plant. This ain't a normal public utility building, and the grounds are well worth a wander. (sadly the interior, also really interesting, is obviously not usually open to the public)

2. To the west of the Harris there's a nice upper-middle-class neighbourhood and lots of nice parks and beaches (hence 'The Beaches' :P)

3. If you've got a whole lot of time to spend in the east end, and you're there on the weekend, I'll second the Leslie Spit/Tommy Thompson park, which is mentioned in the good Toronto walks thread you linked to. It's at the foot of Leslie St. at the lake, and is only open on Saturday & Sunday, I believe. I love it out there - it's a great microcosm of Toronto, weird bits of nature encroaching on a landfill of, well, fill and discarded building materials. Makes for a great walk.
posted by rhooke at 8:31 AM on September 12, 2012

Take the queen streetcar all the way east to the RC Harris Water Treatment Centre, roam around a bit (it's a really cool building and you can walk the beach before/after) then walk up to Queen heading West and stop in every little shop that takes your fancy. I recommend a pint somewhere followed (or preceded by) cupcakes.

Maybe try to find some ghosts. Go do the Colborne Lodge tour. Stumble around the Exhibition Grounds and then walk along the Lake.
posted by SassHat at 8:33 AM on September 12, 2012

The brickworks is really fun and is a neat space, and I think you can go for hikes around there too. I would go on Saturday morning during the farmers market. There is a shuttle from the Danforth to get there.
posted by cacofonie at 7:57 AM on September 13, 2012

I kinda liked the police museum. It was free, too!

Also taking the subway from Castle Frank to Broadview.
posted by clorox at 8:00 AM on September 13, 2012

Response by poster: Just wanted to follow up on this thread for anybody else that might come in later: Toronto was AWESOME. (I am in fact writing a separate blog post on how awesome it was!) Mid-September was the perfect time to go: mostly sunny, temperatures in the 60s F/15-20 C, light breezes all day and crisp cool nights.

Maybe a little cool for my Californian teenage self, but perfect for this New Englander/Chicagoan of the last 6 years. ;)

I actually was able to do almost everything on my list, except for the PATH. And for that matter, I discovered the Marriott at Bloor/Yonge had a direct underground connection to the subway, and while that was extremely useful, if the PATH was anything like that it wouldn't have been worth seeing.

- Streetcar: I am illogically enamored with these, even though I saw streetcar bunching on Queen St myself. But experiencing a fixed-rail ride like that was definitely a different experience from riding a typical bus route in North America.
- Distillery District: awesome!
- Queen Street: I actually walked Queen Street from the Osgoode subway station all the way to Roncesvalles, up Roncesvalles, and then back on Dundas. Super fun walk, and really nice to see the transition from big chain stores to hip/trendy places, past the art gallery, through more modest Parkdale and then up the Roncesvalles corridor.
- Kensington Market: I was actually a little disappointed by this; it was the biggest letdown of my trip (which isn't saying much -- it just had less "character" than I had hoped and nothing really spoke to me.) I was a little surprised because I really enjoyed walking down Queen Street; I wonder if I would have enjoyed it more on a pedestrian Sunday. St. Lawrence Market was fun, foodie, and I was very full afterward.

As for the very helpful suggestions:

- The MOVE exhibition was totally amazing and totally up my alley. The exhibits were really on-point -- even if I didn't agree with it all, I thought they all showed a lot of thought about transport/land use/infrastructure, and seeing the new LRT vehicle was super cool. I know it only goes until October, but for anyone in the future, the Evergreen Brick Works were also completely worth it. It was a very short walk/hike from Bloor/Yonge to the Brick Works via the Milkman Run's trail and a nice getaway.
- Glad I skipped PATH, everything else was definitely worth my time.

I wish I could have made it to the City of Toronto archives, but I misread the hours and ended up there when it was closed. It definitely looked awesome though. I also wish I'd walked the other end of Queen Street (to the Beach), but time unfortunately was limited.

The one thing I did add last-minute was take the subway to North York Centre to check out what I'd read about Toronto's "second downtown," and was pleasantly surprised to find a festive Korean harvest festival celebration. For anyone else who has similar interests to me, I think making a quick trip up to North York is quite edifying, as it's fascinating to see that kind of suburban, semi-transit-oriented, condo-forest development and how sharply the delineation is between those towers and the suburban single-family houses on either side. Not by any means a typical tourist destination, but it's a kind of suburban development that I think is fairly unique in North America.
posted by andrewesque at 12:14 PM on September 18, 2012 [2 favorites]

« Older Are automatic blood pressure monitors accurate?   |   Portland OR telephone/data/wiring brick and mortar... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.