Not for Tourists Toronto
September 4, 2007 10:34 AM   Subscribe

I'm visiting Toronto this weekend (Virgin Festival), and I want to see stuff that's cool for the locals, not just the stuff that everyone does - I'm in it for the local, the weird, the off-beat, and the unique.

So, if someone were coming to DC, I'd point them to the National Building Museum (vs. the schlocky Air & Space), Ben's Chili Bowl, the 9:30, the Phillips, tea at the Willard, and the Hirschorn. Don't forget to see Einstein and the Temperance Monument. Plus, I'd tell them to hoof it up to Baltimore for the Museum of Outsider Art. I've checked the threads on eating and general travel, but I need to get off the beaten track.
posted by beezy to Travel & Transportation around Toronto, ON (17 answers total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
 
as someone who has lived in/around Toronto all her life, i am just now (at 20) starting to find the interesting places and the not-for-tourist hangouts.

check out:

the green room for a relaxed atmosphere. have a drink and check out the artwork on the walls. it's a very cool place.

the Junction Arts Festival for interesting fare that is free and easily accessible. yeah, there will likely be tourists there, but it's worth a look.

a free exhibition. i'd love to go to this and would check it out if i were in town right now. it's probably just a small thing, but everything i've seen at 129 ossington has been worthwhile, if not entirely amazing.

you're going to be at the Virgin Festival, so i doubt you'll want to/be able to catch some live music elsewhere, but if you're in the city longer than just the weekend, check out whoever's playing at the El Mo or the Horseshoe. those are both fun, small venues that are big reasons why i love Toronto.

and, if you'd like to have a drink in a hipster joint but still be impressed by the setting, check out the Drake Hotel. i have to recommend it because it's my favourite place in Toronto.

some other random things:
the ROM is a decent museum, the AGO is still under construction so i don't think it's as great an art gallery as it will be when it's finished, a walk along the boardwalk in the beaches is always nice - and you're likely to happen upon some cool street vendors...

if i think of more, i'll come back.

enjoy your weekend!
posted by gursky at 10:56 AM on September 4, 2007


Seconding the Green Room.
posted by oaf at 11:29 AM on September 4, 2007


Disclaimer: I do not live in Toronto.
posted by oaf at 11:30 AM on September 4, 2007


I recently moved to Cabbagetown, which is having its 31st Fall Festival this week/weekend.
posted by operalass at 12:40 PM on September 4, 2007


I do not live in Toronto, but I have friends who do, and I spent a fair amount of time there just wandering around.

Kensington Market (small, vaguely hippie-like enclave of what looks like shops on front porches), plus the fashion district if you're into that sort of thing. Note that this includes fabric, bead and yarn shops as well; if you've got a knitter in your acquaintance, Romni is floor-to-ceiling yarny awe, but Lettuce Knit is a wee little shop that makes you feel happily at home.

I was told to go hang out in the Distillery District, but never got there.

LOVED the Hockey Hall of Fame. The Stanley Cup is in a gorgeous room filled with stained glass, and the rest of the museum had stuff from every level and branch of the sport (we're talking pee-wees, sled hockey, women's, you name it).

Don't forget to check out what shows will be playing, both theatrical and musical.
posted by Madamina at 12:52 PM on September 4, 2007


You might find good stuff via these local blogs:
blogTO
Torontoist
Spacing Toronto
posted by sevenyearlurk at 12:58 PM on September 4, 2007


A great "dive" bar that has a great crowd is The Tap. Since it's just down the road from Lee's Palace (a smaller concert venue) indie bands are often in there before/after shows.
(full disclosure: a member of staff is a close friend)
posted by nprigoda at 1:59 PM on September 4, 2007


Check out the suggestions on Bust's website. They come from locals and tend towards the offbeat. My favorite Toronto thing was the Bata Shoe Museum.
posted by MsMolly at 2:24 PM on September 4, 2007


Seconding Kensington Market, especially if you're around for Pedestrian Sundays in which the entire neighbourhood goes car-free and the streets are filled with musicians, artists, and shoppers.
posted by Robot Johnny at 2:36 PM on September 4, 2007


I dunno. I always say "Toronto's a nice place to live, but I wouldn't want to visit here". I'd suggest walking down Queen street, from Yonge to about, say, Trinity-Bellwoods Park. You'll go through some trendy & touristy parts, you go through some crappy parts and you'll go through some nice parts that are mostly frequented by locals (in about that order). Check out Active Surplus or get your pocky on at Sanko. Get a slice of cake at Dufflet. Or just scope the people around the CityTV building.

Alternately, hit "The Beach" and walk east Queen St from Woodbine east until it gets boring. Is the beach touristy? There are always lots of people there on the weekend, but I always assumed they were Torontonians just getting some fresh air.

But neither of these parts of Queen are in any way "the weird, the off-beat, [or] the unique". But I could be jaded by having been over them a lot.

Finally, you could always try to score some tickets for the Film Festival, but you may no thave time since the Virgin festival goes basically all day it seems.
posted by GuyZero at 2:57 PM on September 4, 2007


I can't recommend the Toronto International Film Festival highly enough - I spend all year looking forward to it. But if you like film-related stuff and want to try something more offbeat and for the locals, keep an eye out for flyers for Reg Hartt's Cineforum to see what he's showing this weekend. Reg's living-room movie theater is an experience not to be missed at least once or twice, though over time he recycles stuff so you can get tired of Reg after a while.
posted by Stacey at 3:17 PM on September 4, 2007


Holy crap - how could I forget! If you want "the weird, the off-beat, and the unique", go see Reg Hartt. He is insane. He is weird, off-beat and unique. He is vaguely creepy. For times and locations, consult any flat, vertical space and there will be one of his handbills plastered there.
posted by GuyZero at 3:42 PM on September 4, 2007


And I would bet good money that it will be featuring either Bugs Bunny, Nosferatu, Ayn Rand, or Hitler. Seriously - do not miss Reg. Go early and he'll probably show you some fantastic old cartoons while you're waiting, or tell you insane amounts of stuff about some really obscure area of film history.
posted by Stacey at 3:51 PM on September 4, 2007


They're not kidding about Reg Hartt. And if you go to the neighbourhoods suggested you will see his flyers posted on telephone poles - he screens cartoons and films in his Annex house.
posted by Flashman at 4:06 PM on September 4, 2007


Beezy, I'd like to tell you about something you definitely must go to, but I can't post about it here. Could you email loiseau.repine@gmail.com?
posted by loiseau at 5:00 PM on September 4, 2007


Free theatre festival this weekend: LabCab
posted by typewriter at 8:09 PM on September 4, 2007


last year at virginfest you could walk across the bridge to centre island and go to centreville, the kids' amusement park. around 5pm last year on the saturday of virginfest, the attendants let me & my friends on the bumper cars for free. not sure if that counts offbeat, but it was pretty awesome.

for food, if you're not vegetarian, you might like dinner at korean grill house. i also like the food at queen mother cafe or brunch at insomnia. if you go to insomnia, take a stroll through honest ed's, a giant ridiculous discount store right across the street at bathurst & bloor, that's pretty damn quirky- especially the basement.

i agree with typewriter, labcab will be good.

to take advantage of time & space, my suggestion is the following customized toronto walking tour that you could try, incorporating many suggestions from this post:

start with brunch at insomnia (bathurst & bloor)

stroll through honest ed's (bathurst & bloor), and maybe mirvish village on markham street, just behind honest ed's.

back outside, begin to walk south on bathurst. about 10 minutes south of honest ed's, you can peek into reg hartt's house, which is his home movie theatre, aka cineforum. he is very quirky, if you're lucky he'll be sitting on the porch for a chat. (bathurst just south of college)

walk another 8 min south to see an hour of random free bits of theatre, music, and performance art at the labcab festival, located at the factory theatre (bathurst just south of queen). the whole building will be full of stuff- just wander around freely and watch whatever piques your interest.

walk back up to queen (1 min north) then walk east on queen, windowshopping for a while... see various shopping establishments along queen-west, between bathurst and university. (bathurst-university takes about 35 mins to walk directly, so meander at your leisure... you can check out a large chunk of queen-west, including active surplus, and preloved, a great re-made vintage clothing shop, pages bookstore, the much music building where all the teenyboppers hang out, and various other places.... just follow your nose. note that you are heading EAST along queen-west.

when you get to queen & university, if you're hungry, korean grill house and the queen mother cafe are right there. i highly reccomend the ahi tuna salad at queen mother. mmm.

another 2 blocks east and you're at the eaton's centre, a stupid big mall, which i'd skip if i was you.

instead, hop on the subway at queen & university (osgoode station) and head south a few stops to union, where you will find the ferry docks to take you to the island where virginfest is.

ta-da! enjoy!
posted by twistofrhyme at 12:01 AM on September 5, 2007 [1 favorite]


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