Half a Sunday in Toronto
November 7, 2015 6:48 AM   Subscribe

I will have an afternoon free in Toronto tomorrow (Sunday). What should I do?

Never been to Toronto. I get in around 11, and am meeting a friend for dinner somewhere around Leslieville in the evening, but I will have the whole afternoon free to explore.

I like markets, exploring interesting neighborhoods, unique parks, book stores, thrift shops, good cheap food, that sort of thing. I'm not all that into museums, unless they are on the offbeat and/or historical side (for instance, in London I loved the Dennis Severs house - which is both offbeat and historical - but was sort of "meh" on the Tate Modern) or really, really amazing.

I'm thinking of just focusing around the Distillery District but would love some other suggestions of neighborhoods, markets, or parks to check out.
posted by lunasol to Travel & Transportation around Toronto, ON (17 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Walk through Kensington market!
posted by parki at 6:52 AM on November 7, 2015 [4 favorites]

The Distillery District is interesting if you're into very expensive arts and crafts, but it is kind of the opposite of book stores, thrift shops, and cheap food. Parki is right -- for that you want Kensington. Kensington and Chinatown are right next door to each other, as well, so that opens up more interesting options for food and browsing through neat shops.
posted by jacquilynne at 7:10 AM on November 7, 2015

Best answer: Distillery is nice, but it's also a bit of an island of interesting things amidst a sea of unopened condo development (canary district) and nice-but-not-very-interesting public housing. It's also not much of a living neighbourhood, and is a bit of a jewel box as jaquilynne notes above.

Based on your list of interests, let me propose to you a little day itinerary. This involves a certain amount of walking but it's pretty dense with interesting stuff, and I've done this exact route many times myself.

As Parki noted, I would suggest taking the Spadina streetcar (or whatever method you use) and getting off at Nassau/College to go to Kensington market. The Market is just west of Spadina, south of College and North of Queen. Nassau and Augusta are the most emblematic streets.

Explore that area a bit, working your way south. If you're interested in Chinatown, it's on Spadina just to the east of the market, so there's a lot to explore there. With both the market and Chinatown, that area has tons of great food, vintage shops, small parks, etc..

Once you've looked around there, and you decide you have enough time, work your way down to Queen street, and head west (away from the downtown office towers). You are heading into "Queen West", where there a ton of cool stores and hipsters and Trinity Bellwoods park.

Stick around here until you have about 45 or so minutes until dinner, then catch the Queen streetcar going east. Enjoy a trip through the downtown core and into the east side! Leslieville starts after you cross the Don Valley Parkway (going over my favourite bridge). Riding that streetcar is a "classic Toronto" experience, and one of my favourites.

Have a great time here!!!
posted by ordinary_magnet at 7:21 AM on November 7, 2015 [10 favorites]

Best answer: ordinary_magnet's itinerary sounds fantastic. And unless you already have reservations somewhere amazing, I'd be happy to extend an invitation to dinner at the restaurant I work at--we do a three course prix fixe on Sunday evenings, dinner's on me, drinks are on you :) (MeMail for details if interested)
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 7:34 AM on November 7, 2015 [3 favorites]

Allan Gardens is a 100 year old domed green house. It's a lovely calm spot with moist, oxygen rich air. Free.
posted by bonobothegreat at 7:44 AM on November 7, 2015

Do what ordinary_magnet said, but add some Dim Sum lunch at Rol San, which will be right near where you get off the streetcar.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 8:04 AM on November 7, 2015 [3 favorites]

Have the green onion pancakes.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 8:05 AM on November 7, 2015 [3 favorites]

Pork buns!
posted by parki at 8:15 AM on November 7, 2015 [1 favorite]

If you're going to Rol San, I'd edge away from the dim sum and get the crispy beef in spicy honey ginger sauce and the pea tips with garlic sauce. Rol San's dim sum is cheap and very good for the price point, but they shine on the house special dishes from the main menu.

But also get some green onion pancakes. Because green onion pancakes are excellent under every circumstance. What the hell. Order lots -- dim sum and crispy beef.
posted by jacquilynne at 8:27 AM on November 7, 2015 [2 favorites]

(Also, clearly there needs to be an IRL Meetup at Rol San.)
posted by jacquilynne at 8:27 AM on November 7, 2015 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Wow, these suggestions are great. ordinary_magnet, your itinerary sounds perfect - exactly what I was hoping for. Also, I love dim sum. :) And feckless, that is an incredibly lovely offer - I will memail you later today.
posted by lunasol at 8:45 AM on November 7, 2015 [1 favorite]

Didn't we dothat in like 2005, jacquilynne?

On my way to work, will respond to mail when I can
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 8:49 AM on November 7, 2015

I like Mother's Dumplings better than Rol San ... pork-n-dill mmmm.
posted by pjenks at 9:04 AM on November 7, 2015

far less known but equally as amazingly awesome as rol sal and very close is swatow (chinese food). they do an amazing shrimp dumpling soup (from memory: number 28) and an equally amazing crispy soy braised duck (number... crap i can't remember. it's up on the wall on the left side on a sign for chef's specialties)

also not exactly noted is that rol san and swatow etc are very near the kensington market.

also, while at kensington market there is the patty king place if you like jamaican meat/veg patties.

i miss spadina.
posted by chasles at 9:11 AM on November 7, 2015 [1 favorite]

Green onion pancakes! Pork and dill! Mum's Dumps!
posted by avocet at 10:08 AM on November 7, 2015

Response by poster: OK, I just spent 20 minutes looking at pictures on yelp from all three of those places and 1. Chinatown is definitely my first stop and 2. I'm getting a little mad I can't have dumplings or green onion pancakes right now.
posted by lunasol at 10:40 AM on November 7, 2015 [1 favorite]

You didn't mention how you will be getting around, but be aware that the subway is closed for maintenance between St George and Keele stations tomorrow. Shuttle buses will be running, but they add a lot of delay to the trip.

If you have time, the student-friendly stretch of Bloor Street between Bathurst and Spadina is pretty charming.
posted by Multicellular Exothermic at 6:51 PM on November 7, 2015

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