Absolute best thing(s) to do in Toronto?
February 20, 2004 10:18 AM   Subscribe

What is the absolute best thing(s) to do in Toronto for an afternoon/evening? More-->inside

It's been quite some time since I've been to Toronto. My job is probably dragging me there from morning to 1:00 this Sunday, but the afternoon and evening are mine. I'm not spending the night.

I'm not into restaurants and will be too tired to walk around a museum. But I'm a writerly person who loves atmosphere, architecture, people watching, strange and wonderful things... Is there someplace unique, different, bizarre, or some combination of the above I could go to watch/absorb, or to read, or to drink coffee? Something like that... Thanks in advance.
posted by Shane to Travel & Transportation around Toronto, ON (12 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
I'd be tempted to get some coffee in Kensington Market and then walk past all the funky shops on Queen Street West.
posted by machaus at 10:30 AM on February 20, 2004

Response by poster: Thanks, machaus. That's the kinda stuff. Probably buskers about, too. Coffee really must be involved...
posted by Shane at 10:40 AM on February 20, 2004

Yeah, Queen West. But not the corporatized, teenybopper part, which runs from University to Bathurst. From Bathurst to Dufferin is cool, especially the part near Trinity-Bellwoods park. There's the "Japanese Paper Place," and next to it, a tiny French coffee/pastry place called Clafouti. Lots of cool little galleries around there, as well.

Kensington Market is all about hippie / junk shop / used clothing / cheap ethnic food, if you're into that. Moonbean Cafe is the best place for coffee there. Kensington has the further advantage of being right next to Chinatown, which is very atmospheric.

Not too many buskers outside at this time of year, though. :-)
posted by stonerose at 10:51 AM on February 20, 2004

Response by poster: Not too many buskers outside at this time of year, though. :-)

D'oh! Right. What's it like up there now? Cleveland is having 40s (F) and a big thaw, which makes the air smell nice for a change and makes for good walking or hiking.

Thanks, stonerose.

By the way, anyone have problems saying NO to people? This company associated with my job kinda latched onto me, I have no damn clue why, and they're always bugging me to go up to Buffalo to go to some or other show or expo and then do the damn "business thing," dinner at an expensive restaurant, etc etc.

I swear, I've almost become eccentric enough to tell people like this straight out, Look, I'm somewhat introverted and bookish, my weekends are my own for books and films and coffee with friends, and I HATE business dinners, especially the kind that end up at a froggin' strip club afterwards. Not my scene.

Off topic, but how the hell do you learn to tell people 'no'?
posted by Shane at 11:28 AM on February 20, 2004

Response by poster: (Right now I just weasel out of these things usually without saying 'no'.)
posted by Shane at 11:40 AM on February 20, 2004

(was going to suggest weaselling.)
posted by callmejay at 11:47 AM on February 20, 2004

Kensington Market is an excellent idea. Yorkville wouldn't be bad in the afternoon—a little trendy in places, but some of the houses in the neighbourhood are stunning, especially those just west of Avenue.

The U of T campus also offers a relatively good selection of fun buildings and odd people, although the massive hordes of students every hour on the hour can be a little irritating. There are some beautiful buildings, though, both inside and out, and admission is free—a plus in winter. Don't forget to look for the mythical steam tunnels.

You might also consider the recently refurbished Gooderham & Worts distillery district; however, I haven't been to the spruced-up area yet myself, and can't offer any sort of personal guarantee as to its non-touristy nature. But if they've kept up enough of the original architecture and not polluted the main drags too much, it could be worth a look.
posted by DrJohnEvans at 11:52 AM on February 20, 2004

Some good suggestions above, but some (mine included) ignore the fact that you're going on Sunday. The Japanese Paper Place and some galleries will be closed, and many of the more interesting UofT buildings will be locked (but no hordes of students!) The problem with this time of year, as far as walking around goes, is that nicer days are slushy, while nasty days are... just nasty. (BTW, Sunday looks like a high of 34' and flurries. Bring shoes that will protect your feet from dirty slush puddles).

Chinatown and Kensington are very much open for business on Sunday.

The Distillery District mentioned by DrJohnEvans is nice to look at, but short on things to do in the winter. There is a nice cafe there, though - Balzac's.
posted by stonerose at 12:04 PM on February 20, 2004

The Beaches is another nice neighbourhood, especially if you're up for a walk along the boardwalk. Someone else will have to fill you in on cafes, etc. I haven't lived there in almost thirty years.
posted by timeistight at 1:13 PM on February 20, 2004

Response by poster: Thanks, all. Toronto has great book stores, too. I may weasel out of this weekend yet, but I'll be in Toronto sometime before summer, so no info is wasted.

Is there a Toronto MeFi meetup anywhere on the horizon? I would gladly make the OH->T.O. drive.
posted by Shane at 1:57 PM on February 20, 2004

The Annex (Bloor Street W of Bathurst) and Little Italy (College St W of Bathurst). Great neighourhood feel, tonnes of restauraunts and shops, etc. On the weekends everything (including bookshops) seems to be open until at least midnight. My favourite spot in TO is The Green Room, a huge vegetarian-friendly place with an enclosed courtyard and lots of bookshelves, hidden neatly in an alley (that's not as scary as it sounds).
This page has some more info on the Toronto neighbourhoods.
posted by Gortuk at 7:52 AM on February 21, 2004

Response by poster: ...vegetarian-friendly place with an enclosed courtyard and lots of bookshelves, hidden neatly in an alley...

Perfect! Thanks.
posted by Shane at 1:10 PM on February 21, 2004

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