Feedback on last minute Toronto trip itinerary
May 29, 2016 12:55 PM   Subscribe

My landlord needs a couple of days to fix some stuff in my bathroom so I booked a last minute trip to Toronto this week, from Wednesday to Thursday (coming via train from Montréal). My birthday is also coming up shortly + I recently hit an investment milestone so I would like to treat myself a bit!

I will be alone and I don't drive so I will be walking and grabbing TTC when necessary. I am slightly familiar with Toronto but have only gone for work and have never had time to see the sights. I am avoiding the Distillery District for now since that's where my Toronto office is and I will most likely have ample opportunity to check out that area another time.

I was greatly inspired by The Whelk's recent AskMe and drafted an itinerary based on some of the great advice. Like him, I will be staying at the Chelsea.

I would like some feedback on whether it is too ambitious or, conversely, maybe a bit too sparse. I am not a big people/crowd person and definitely part of Guess Culture. I would like the trip to be as low stress as possible. I will be taking my time, people watching and reading.

Here is the plan:

Wednesday June 1 - arriving Union Station @11:45am
- Grab lunch at Peter Pan
- Walk up through Nathan Phillips Square, past city hall, swing by Yonge-Dundas Square
- Check-in at the Chelsea by 3pm and clean-up a bit
- Take the bus/streetcar up to Casa Loma
- Dinner at either Rose & Sons or Scaramouche

Thursday June 2
- Breakfast at one of the 3 diners (Senator, Fran's, George Street) around 9:30am
- Bus/streetcar up to the ROM (has anyone seen the Tattoo exhibition?) and then maybe hit the Bata
- Walk down through Philosopher's Walk to the Convocation Hall (Guy Gavriel Kay fans will understand)
- Dumplings for lunch! (maybe I'll flip a coin between Mother's and House)
- Meander west on Dundas &/or College for the afternoon
- Dinner at Buca (is this really worth its price tag?) (this is when I thought I would do the really nice meal)
- Head back to the hotel (any little late night cafés on the way back that could be nice?)

Friday June 3
- Breakfast at one of the 2 other diners
- Go to the AGO
- Walk west on Queen St. this time
- Lunch at Terroni or Rose & Sons (if I didn't go Wednesday)
- Keeping going on Queen St.
- Check out the Monkey's Paw and then maybe something small with a nice glass of wine at Salt
- Train back departs at 6pm, so I want to get back to Union Station by 5:40pm

Is there somewhere I could fit in Uncle Tetsu's? Is that a possibility for one of the breakfasts?
Same for Bar Raval for one of the afternoons.

I'm not a huge museum fan, but I thought hitting a couple might be a good idea. What about a cool, smaller gallery? I am also not a big shopper but I like little quirky shops that might be fun to just walk around. Theatre doesn't interest me at all.

Am I on the right track?

I'm most interested in good restaurants or bistro/bar type places. I love wine and meat and am open to all cuisines. But I think I have skewed too European here, especially since I can find most of this type of fare in Montréal. I am very open to recommendations for can't-miss Toronto spots (les incontournables!). Do you have any strong recommendations for Asian, African, Middle Eastern, or South American near downtown (lunch or dinner)? Price isn't that much of a concern since I am aiming to splurge a bit, but not if the prices are greatly inflated for the experience. Only caveat is that I am not a big fish eater. Seafood and sushi are fine but don't really rock my world.

Thanks in advance!
posted by mephisjo to Travel & Transportation around Toronto, ON (15 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Solid, but you'll get very little time at Casa Loma; they close at 5.

TTC directions: Union, get a transfer, take the subway north to Osgoode, follow the signs and take streetcar or walk west to Peter Street. That gets you to Peter Pan (Southeast corner, Queen/Peter).

Casa Loma: from the Chelsea, walk north into College Park. Follow the signs, take subway north to Yonge/Bloor, west to St George. Go up or downstairs (I can never remember which is which) and then north to Dupont. Follow the signs, you'll climb the stairs from Scott Pilgrim.

Scaramouche is in Yorkville, it's about a 15-ish minute walk from your hotel. You'll want to change again, it's hot as hell here right now.

Fran's is no longer a good diner. I mean, it's okay, but meh. Senator is quite nice, George St is delightful (I live around the corner). To get to the ROM from Senator, get on Dundas streetcar, go west, get off at Queen's Park. Walk north on the west side of the circle, bear left through the buildings, and you're at Convocation Hall and Hart House. North from there across Harbord you'll find Philosopher's Walk. From George St, take the Queen streetcar west to University, subway north to either Queen's Park and walk, or Museum.

Thence to Bata, from there west to Spadina and down into Chinatown for a late dumpling lunch. I'd say plan on ~4-5 hours at ROM. You're not going to have breakfast at 9:30, do the ROM justice, and still make it to Mothers for lunch.

Buca is well worth it. Outstanding food.

Virtually everything you want to do (except George St) is west of Yonge. Peter Pan and the IMHO better Terroni are both Queen West, AGO is Dundas West, ROM is Bloor West.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 1:10 PM on May 29, 2016 [3 favorites]

Best answer: As for Asian food, my bf and I head straight to Ka Chi for Korean when we're in Toronto (also coming from Montreal). We've been to both the Chinatown (on Dundas) and Koreatown (on Bloor) locations several times and both are really, really good. Bloor Street location is a little more polished (though by no means upscale.) Chinatown location is more no-frills.

Haven't found anything like it in Montreal, so we'll be heading there again for sure in July.
posted by veggieboy at 1:17 PM on May 29, 2016 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Either before or after swinging by Yonge Dundas square you could fit in a stop at Uncle Tetsu's. You'll be carrying a conspicuous bag after, but could easily drop it off at your hotel. That said your hotel is very close, and the store has long hours.
posted by alusru at 1:23 PM on May 29, 2016

As someone who literally just went to both in the same day - go to Senators, wait if you can. Fran's diner food you can get anhwhere
posted by The Whelk at 2:01 PM on May 29, 2016 [4 favorites]

Best answer: You may want to check out Kensington Market (it's close to Chinatown/Dundas west/Queen west, not too far of a walk from the AGO). Rasta Pasta for jerk chicken, Seven Lives for tacos, Jumbo Empanada for empanadas. These are all very casual inexpensive places, and kensington does tend to close down early so not good for dinner or late night eats.

Kekou gelato at Queen and Spadina for asian-inspired gelato flavours.

Nazareth for Ethiopian food on Bloor St West is good, although the servings are large so may be too much if you're eating alone. Rhum Corner is a trendy Haitian restaurant on Dundas West - very good rum-based cocktails and great ambience.

And yes, Fran's isn't worth it.
posted by scribbler at 2:59 PM on May 29, 2016 [3 favorites]

I also wouldn't wait any longer than 5-10 minutes for Uncle Tetsu's, but ymmv.
posted by scribbler at 3:00 PM on May 29, 2016 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: My eyes are definitely bigger than my stomach!

Plus it looks like I'll have to get up earlier than planned to fit in the 9-5 stuff.

I might switch my lunch on day 3 to something around AGO it looks like, to grab something non-European.

And anything I can't fit in I'll definitely note down for my next trip to TO. Keep the ideas coming - I have a 5 hour train ride that I can use to finalize this before pulling into Union Station!
posted by mephisjo at 3:07 PM on May 29, 2016

You might want to check out Baldwin St. For day three lunch, very close to the AGO and lots of restaurants to choose from, several ramen places, and Matahari which is Malaysian- curry laksa! Italian and French too if you'd prefer.
posted by five_cents at 4:39 PM on May 29, 2016

I did this two weeks ago, a two day flurry of first-time Toronto sightseeing.

The tattoo exhibit at ROM was fine.

Do not skip the Bata Shoe Museum. Awesome.
posted by intermod at 6:14 PM on May 29, 2016

Best answer: Check out Bakka Phoenix and buy yourself a book!
posted by yarntheory at 6:16 PM on May 29, 2016 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Casa Loma is pretty Meh. I'd rather walk around the waterfront. Bathurst to Sherbourne has been redone over the past few years, and it's a really nice promenade. Lots of people to see and places to sit. Sugar beach, near Sherbourne has big rocks to sit on and umbrellas and trees to read under.

The weather is supposed to be perfect, so I might hit the Island. Take the Centre Island ferry and wander over to the residential islands and check it out. The Ward's Island ferry leaves from the same place and goes directly there. There will be park benches under shade with a million dollar view of the city skyline, and basically nobody there. Even the ferry ride is nice on a weekday. There is a frisbee golf course if you're into that.

Friday, on Queen West, go to Gandhi Roti. It's a little hole in the wall indian roti place on the north side of Queen, just East of bathurst. Bright sign. I go whenever I can. There is seating for about 10 there; it's mostly takeout. Good diner food can also be found at the Lakeview at Ossington and Dundas. It's a bit west of where you're going to be, but not much. I agree with what's been said above about the Senator, and Fran's.

The tattoo exhibit is great. My wife and I went, and spent about 45 minutes in that exhibit alone. If you're not a big museum person, there may not be much else there. It's got a lot for kids, but if dinosaur bones don't do it for you, there's not a ton there to see. Maybe spend more time on foot and go to Kensington.

Enjoy! Toronto in the spring is pretty great.
posted by thenormshow at 7:22 AM on May 30, 2016

Imho best way to island is to take the ferry to Hanlan's, wander about, grab lunch on centre, and then wander to ward's and get the ferry there.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 7:28 AM on May 30, 2016

Response by poster: I'll keep the Island and waterfront excursions in mind as fair-weather options!

But with the cabybaras on the loose, I'm not sure about all these outdoor activities... Even the islands won't be safe, they are great swimmers. :)
posted by mephisjo at 9:29 AM on May 30, 2016 [2 favorites]

Seconding the Islands and scribbler's suggestions of Seven Lives (tacos) and Nazareth (Ethiopian). Just hit Nazareth on the early side to avoid a long line.

My friends from Montreal go straight to Banjara for Indian food every time they come. The Indian places they take me to in Montreal are no comparison. It's near Bloor and Christie and there's a nice cocktail place, Northwood, with a patio for people-watching across the street.

Another good Kensington Market food spot is Otto's Berliner Donair (I'm vegetarian and get the Halloumi good).
posted by Beardman at 11:40 AM on May 30, 2016

Response by poster: I'm going to move the AGO to Wed. afternoon right after lunch and before going to the hotel.

Are the Casa Loma grounds open after 5pm? After the feedback here and actually checking the price of admission ($22+ geez), I thought I could just walk around early evening before dinner and maybe also check out Spadina Park and/or Sir Winston Churchill Park. Is it worth taking the Baldwin Steps up the escarpment?

If not, I'll walk west on Bloor and have dinner at Nazareth or Banjara instead, followed with a night cap at Northwood.
posted by mephisjo at 4:44 PM on May 30, 2016

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