Visiting Toronto, Looking For Ideas
August 29, 2005 10:13 PM   Subscribe

My girlfriend and I will be taking a short vacation to Toronto this weekend and are looking for suggestions on what to see and do.

We're going to be staying downtown at the Sheraton without a car. Aside from a baseball game on Friday, we don't have any hard-set plans, but would like to get as much of a feel for the city as we can in one weekend. Neither of us know much about Toronto, so any ideas would be helpful.
posted by mrbula to Travel & Transportation around Toronto, ON (20 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
What type of things do you like to do? Museums? Historical sites? Theme parks?

In any case, there's alot within walking distance of the hotel

The CN Tower gives you a good view of the city, so that covers one aspect of "getting a feel for the city"

Museum-wise, you're close to the Royal Ontario Museum and the Art Gallery of Ontario. (And, if you like freaky architecture, walk a few blocks south from the AGO to take a look at the Sharp Centre for Design at the Ontario College of Art and Design.

If you like wandering around and exploring neighbourhoods, there's Queen Street West (between University and Spadina, say), Chinatown (turn north on Spadina from Queen West), the Annex, the Danforth -- actually just about any major street is cool to walk along.
posted by winston at 12:57 AM on August 30, 2005

Do let us know what type of thing you're most interested in seeing/doing
posted by winston at 12:57 AM on August 30, 2005

On a recent visit to Toronto I had dinner at the top of the CN Tower.

By UK standards it was good value for money - it worked out at about CN $50 a head for the lower-price 3-course set menu, including coffee and sparkling water (I'm a non-drinker, so I have no idea how expensive wine would be on top of that). The food was excellent, the view was spectacular and the price also included a visit to the viewing platform on the floor below.

I also loved Kensington Market, a kind of funky, hippie neighbourhood with lots of interesting stores. It's close to Chinatown.

The nicest restaurant we found was the Richtree which is close to the end of Yonge Street downtown. It's open till 2am.

A trip to the Islands is a good use of half a day too, it costs $6 for the ferry to Central Isle and it's a pleasant oasis of green and calm, with lots of nice walks and a few beaches too, if you want to catch some rays.
posted by essexjan at 3:49 AM on August 30, 2005

The shoe museum .
posted by brujita at 5:18 AM on August 30, 2005

I got to the bottom of the CN Tower, saw the ridiculous price, and decided that the view I got from the flight in was easily good enough.

If you like books, it's worth stopping in bookstores, especially as Canada sits with one foot in the North American market and the other in the UK market, which supplies extra authors. The World's Ugliest^H^H^H^H Biggest Bookstore (which certainly ain't) downtown is probably the best bet for this. Or Bakka if you read SF.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 5:26 AM on August 30, 2005

If you are into festivals/midways - this is the last weekend for the Canadian National Exhibition. It's probably a streetcar or short cab ride away.

I would second the Royal Ontario Museum. Ontario Place isn't bad either, it has the Cirque du Soleil show on, and some fireworks at night.

The Tourism Toronto event listings for September might be of use to you.
posted by Cyrie at 7:49 AM on August 30, 2005

Note that Cirque du Soleil is a ticketed event - an expensive ticketed event, and well worth it, but it's not like you can just go to Ontario Place and see it.

If you like concerts, check for listings of most non-classical shows.

I went last week and it turns out our Zoo is pretty damned cool, though it's a long trip on public transit.
posted by jacquilynne at 8:09 AM on August 30, 2005

If you want to see some shows or concerts you can check Eye and Now magazine. They also may list other things you would be interested in doing in the city.
posted by chunking express at 8:19 AM on August 30, 2005

I highly recommend the Dream in High Park. It's $15CND to get in, but it's well worth it. Bring some wine, get there early (about an hour before curtain). I've lived in Toronto for 7 years and it's the one event I've never missed.

Also, The Toronto Air Show is this weekend.
posted by purephase at 9:17 AM on August 30, 2005

Best answer: If you're into just plain old "urban exploring," Toronto is lovely for that. Getting a transit day-pass, and just hopping on a streetcar is a great way to spend a few hours. With a day-pass, you can hop on and off as you please.

The streetcars trundle around and through the downtown and midtown neighbourhoods, and are great way to see some of the interesting and funky places that dot the city. It pays for itself after four or five rides.

(The 510 Spadina streetcar line will take you through the edges of Chinatown, funky Kensington market, and around the University of Toronto campus. LOTS of cool stuff to see.)
posted by generichuman at 9:18 AM on August 30, 2005

Response by poster: Thanks all, this is great. We're definitely looking to hit some museums, but also have a general interest in just wandering the city. This gives us a lot to chew on.

Also, I should've asked: Any restaurant recommendations?
posted by mrbula at 10:08 AM on August 30, 2005

Another vote for getting a TTC day pass and just walking around different neighbourhoods. Spadina streetcar is a great place to start...Walk around the Annex where the streetcar line starts, immediately south is the U of T campus, just south of that are Chinatown (stop for a fantastic and cheap lunch) and Kensington Market...take the streetcar all the way down to the lake and you're at the CN tower (stand at the base, look up, but why waste your money paying for an elevator ride when there are lots of places left to explore) and Harbourfront.

Go to the Ex and spend the day.

Go to a Dream in High Park if you get the chance (it's actually "pay what you can" there's no set admission price). And if you have the time, explore High Park a little.

Have dessert on The Danforth. Walk down Yonge Street from Bloor to the Lake (just cause).

If you do decide you want to go up the CN tower, your ticket stub from the Jays game used to be (and may still be) good for a decent discount, so don't throw it out.

Toronto isn't a great city for "sites" it's a fantastic city for walking around, exploring, and hanging out. (Perhaps in the style of San Francisco, except without San Fran's sense of flair). So go explore and hang out.
posted by duck at 10:13 AM on August 30, 2005

Well you'll have to have doughnuts at Tim Horton's of course. I would have dim sum at the place on the corner of Spadina and the entrance to Kensington Market (yes there are several entrances, I mean the one with the sign). The place is on the southwest corner of the intersection, there's a store selling cheap suitcases downstairs and the restaurant is upstairs. Or have vietnamese at Pho Hung (not Pho Huang, don't be fooled). There's often a line, and with good reason.

Ice cream at Demetres on the Danforth (yes, it's a local chain, but have the belgian waffle made when you order it, with honey-vanilla ice cream, crushed oreos, and pureeed raspberries, and tell me you still care).
posted by duck at 10:19 AM on August 30, 2005

Oh and I forgot the best thing of all! Go to the islands! At the foot of Bay Street get on the ferry and go out to Centre Island. If you have rollerblades or bikes, bring them and that's perfect. Otherwise, rent rollerblades, bikes, a tandem bike, or a quadra(something or other...a little car that you run by peddling) and go the length of the island.

Be sure to hit the residential neighbourhood on the east end of the islands (there are multiple islands, but all connected so you take the ferry to one and can get to all -- but the rentals are on Centre Island). There are also two public/city beaches on the island, one is clothing optional.
posted by duck at 10:26 AM on August 30, 2005

Best answer: You might like Casa Loma. I've never been in (though it's two blocks from me) but people seem to really like it. Don't pay for their parking though. Just park on a side street.

Previous answers to this question.

Someone mentioned walking Queen West between University and Spadina. I find that to be the more boring stretch of the street. I would continue west on Queen all the way to Trinity Bellwoods park.

Places I would hit along the way (fyi, Queen west is steps from your hotel):

City Hall (just east of University, north side)
Decibel (men's shirts and pants)
Pages (books and magazines)
Csquared, B2, Fluevog (shoe stores) (not sure if Fluevog is still there, actually)
BakkaPhoenix (science fiction bookstore)
The Rivoli (bar / restaurant) - upstairs is a great pool hall
Fresh by Juice for Life (vegetarian restaurant with something for everyone)
New York Subway (hole in the wall fast food place with DELICIOUS buritos and subs. However, service is painfully slow. I recommend the mixed veggie burito, jumbo)
Suspect Video and Culture (video store and movie memorabilia)
Rotate This (second best record store in the city if you like "alternative" music)
Comrags (women's clothing/dresses)
Spectacle (optician with funky glasses)
Tons of furniture stores and art galleries west of Bathurst
Grrreat Stuff (terrific men's clothing store)

Other shops of interest not on Queen West:

Swipe (aka SW PE) - store for graphic designers. It's one block south of queen, maybe a block and a half west of spadina on the south side)
Soundscapes (college west of bathurst) - best cd shop in the city
Vortex Records (yonge north of Eglinton - best used cd shop in the city)
Bay Street Video (best dvd shop) - bay south of bloor .5 block.
World's Biggest Bookstore (20 edward street, just west of yonge)
BMV - great used bookstore, steps east of WBB.
The mall in chinatown on the SW corner of Dundas and Spadina - super if you like asian cinema. dvds are 4 or 5 for $20.
668 Cafe - Vegetarian Buddhist restaurant (668 dundas)
Korean Village Restaurant (bloor west of Bathurst). Get the "Stone Bowl" - sort of be bim bap in a stone bowl. Veg or Beef
Cobalt - martini bar on college, east of bathurst

Take a stroll thru Yorkville (just north of the ROM or west of the Shoe Museum) for some neat shops (though pricey). While there if you don't want to spend a lot on lunch, try Flo's Diner for good diner food that's not too greasy. They have IBC Rootbeer. Mmm.

Hands down best ice cream in the city is on Vaughn Road just north of St. Clair. The place is called Dutch Dreams. Get the Banana Split (big enough for two people, less than $6).

If you like Jerk Chicken, try Albert's Real Jamaican, right around the corner from Dutch Dreams on St. Clair (they also have a location on Queen, just west of bathurst. avoid the roti).

Best Roti is Caribbean Palace or Caribbean Roti. Bathurst 2nd block south of bloor, west side. While there, also pop into Honest Ed's bargain store (corner of Bloor/Bathurst). It's a cheapass store and huge. Toronto staple been around for decades. Hop over one block west of Bathurst for some neat shops on Markham, including a bookshop for architects. (Korean Village is just west of this also--get the stone bowl for lunch).

My favorite restaurants in the city are:

Five Doors North
Mildred Pierce
Gio Rana's Really Really Nice Restaurant
Fressen (veg)
668 Cafe mentioned above

Sorry I got nothing specific to this weekend. Last weekend you coulda seen Lullabye Arkestra at the Horseshoe and the weekend after next is the film festival.
posted by dobbs at 10:30 AM on August 30, 2005

Take a stroll thru Yorkville (just north of the ROM or west of the Shoe Museum)

That should be EAST not west.
posted by dobbs at 10:34 AM on August 30, 2005

I'll third/fourth/whatever the islands. You could try the Canadian National Exhibition, if you like tiny fresh donuts and (less tiny, less fresh) carnies.

Hop on the subway and go up to Eglinton and walk south on Yonge. Lots of neat shops at Yonge & Eglinton, Yonge & Davisville and Yonge & St. Clair. If you like a walk, you can walk all the way back downtown along Yonge Street, it's not a huge walk if you like walking (when I lived at Yonge & Davisville I walked to work on Queen West nearly every day).

Take the Queen East streetcar to the Beaches and walk along the boardwalk, then walk along Queen Street East for a while (lots of little shops and restaurants). It starts getting a little skeezy once you're west of Woodbine, so I might hop back on the streetcar westbound there.

Kensington Market, Spadina and the whole Queen Street West thing is well worth a look. Also the Distillery District, which has cool old buildings, little art galleries and cute little cafes and restaurants.
posted by biscotti at 10:48 AM on August 30, 2005

Don't worry about a car--you're better off without it when it comes to downtown, and i think we had the most fun just cruising downtown, peoplewatching. There's a great subway system too--be sure to ask at the cage for a system map to get you situated
  • the hockey hall of fame is awkwardly located in the basement of a shopping mall (what's that about?), but still worth a trip (kinda expensive)
  • ditto on the price for the cnn tower. did it anyway, and have to say it was worth it --181 stories and a small area with a glassfloor....a great way to start your visit and scope out downtown. we got there from downtown via a funky indoor walkway that started in the train station.
  • don't miss wayne gretzky's restaurant--good food and atmosphere, not too expensive.... (near the baseball stadium too)
  • count the tim horton's--they're like starbucks, on every corner downtown. owned by a famous hockey player, they are apparently a beloved canadian institution. i thought they were pretty cheapass myself, but....
  • chased the world's biggest bookstore. definitely look at a map before you go-- it's another toronto institution, apparently, and though everybody we asked knew the general direction, nobody knew exactly where it was.
  • We were sorry we missed the ferry to the islands...sounded nice

posted by rexruff at 11:03 AM on August 30, 2005

owned by a famous hockey player

Erm...not anymore. Since a) he's been dead for many years, and b) his widow sold them to Wendy's years and years ago.

The World's Biggest Bookstore is on Edward Street, the first street north of Dundas, west of Yonge, between Yonge & Bay. It's on the north side, directly across from The Atrium (which is a big shopping/office complex which occupies the block bordered by Yonge, Dundas, Bay and Edward). You don't need a map, walk north on Yonge from Dundas (the Toronto Eaton Centre is at the southwest corner of Yonge & Dundas), take the first left (the big HMV flagship store is on Yonge right across from Edward Street, which starts at Yonge), the WBB will be on your right.
posted by biscotti at 11:10 AM on August 30, 2005

second dutch dreams - awesome (and huge!) ice cream!
posted by sergeant sandwich at 2:25 PM on August 30, 2005

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