Where to stay in Toronto?
May 7, 2004 8:30 PM   Subscribe

What's the best (nicest or most fun) hotel in Toronto? I'm thinking of going later this summer. Any suggestions for fun things to do there would also be much appreciated.

Ooh, or a really nice B&B. I'm flexible.
posted by LittleMissCranky to Travel & Transportation around Toronto, ON (12 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
The newly opened Drake is some people's cup of tea. It's where the rich and famous are heading while in town shooting movies, anyway.

As for what to do, can you be more specific about when you're coming. There are multiple music fests, film fests, etc. that run at different times.
posted by dobbs at 8:50 PM on May 7, 2004

Just to cover my ass, I'm not recommending the Drake, personally, as I've yet to set foot in it.

I've not been to this place either, but have heard very good things.
posted by dobbs at 8:53 PM on May 7, 2004

The King Eddie is nice if you don't mind spending a lot.

Things to do in Tronna:

Buy books. Hit the World's Biggest Bookstore, which is far from it, or others. Especially if you like UK authors; sometimes Canada is lumped into the UK market, so they get more UK stuff.

Museums. The Royal Ontario Museum and the Ontario Science Center are both good. The OSC is perhaps best known for being a backdrop in Scanners.

Usual tourist stuff. Walk up Yonge St. till you're tired, stop for coffee, walk back. You can hit the CN Tower and stuff, but that seems awfully pricey for the view you'll get from the airplane on the ways in and out. Walk around Chinatown and gawk at the weird food available. Go to pubs. Catch a sporting event or a musical with the songs of ABBA as if that were ever a good idea but hey it's your life.

Go to the Island.

If you're not from the general area and aren't likely to be back anytime soon, it's as good a time as any to hit Niagara Falls. The Canadian side has the better view, and is gloriously tacky.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 9:03 PM on May 7, 2004

Avoid the Primrose - and especially the Waverly, which is rumoured to rent rooms by the fifteen minute intervals : ) (Though it was the location for a strange and gory short film I once saw, which the director privately subtitled "6 nights at the Waverly Hotel").

I'm from Toronto, so I don't ever stay in hotels there. I had always heard that the Royal York is considered the premiere hotel in the city, but of course comes with premiere prices. For those lighter of pocket, I knew someone who stayed with her young daughter in a Ryerson University residence room who was very happy - she said it was cheap, convenient and pleasant. This was a few years ago, but you might want to check out if any of the universities in town are renting rooms, as their regular term will have ended at the beginning of May. There is also the University of Toronto downtown - avoid York University, which is not a bad place (or so it says on my diploma) but much too far from downtown to be convenient (This woman had originally rented a room there - but it is a 1hr bus and subway trip to downtown). This is probably obvious advice, but generally you should double check the locations of any hotels. Since the amalgamation, Toronto is very large, and there are many hotels which are just too far from downtown, including anything near the airport.

ROU gives great touring advice - the Science Centre is the most fun place, the Island is gorgeous (give yourself at most of a day, and take a picnic) - I would especially recommend watching fireworks from Hanlan's point if they are on (bring hotdogs and marshmellows and have an illegal campfire like everyone else). Niagra Falls, if you can at all get out there, is a must - it definitely is a natural wonder. Also, it is worth the $13 for the Maid of the Mist boat ride - if you can manage it, it's best to stand on the left side (better view of the American Falls), and despite the raincoats, you will get very wet.

In addition to the ROM (Royal Ontario Museum), the Art Gallery of Ontario (aka the AGO, pronounced "eggo" - we like acronyms) is very good, and has a large Group of Seven collection, though I don't think its as large as that at the McMichael Gallery in Kleinberg, just outside Toronto (very short drive, but awkward by bus).

There is also a ton of theatre in the city, from big musicals to the dozens of small theatres (often more bang for your buck) - the Fringe Festival is also held yearly during the summer. My favorite for the summer is Dream in the Park, outdoor theatre (traditionally Shakespeare but once not) that is held in an ampitheatre in High Park (itself a great place with playgrounds and a petting zoo, a bit like Central Park, only with more trees and less danger) - the company is consistently quite good, though some years are better than others. Theatre reviews, especially of smaller theatres, can be found in Now Magazine.

Yonge Street is terrific - I really miss it. The World's Biggest is a classic, but I would also recommend Eliot's (3 storeys of used books, in a character-ful old store) and Bakka's (the science-fiction bookstore for Toronto, where it seems half the SF writers from the city have worked at one time or another - and when did it change its name?) - both are at the corner of Yonge and Wellesley.

Depending on when exactly you go, there are all sorts of festivals that happen throughout the summer - the Pride Parade and Caribana take over whole sections of downtown for huge street parties, but Canada Day (2003 page) and Word on the Street for bibliophiles are also good. Some city sponsored events can be found here, and a whole list of street festivals is here.

Other fun stuff includes the CNE (mmm...Tiny Tim donuts), Black Creek pioneer village (mmm...old fashioned candy), and the Metropolitian Toronto Zoo (not so mmm - elephant turds).

Also - interesting neighbourhoods to explore for restaurants and shopping - Queen West (Queen Street from University to Bathurst), Little Italy, the Annex (especially west on Bloor street from Spadina to Christie) Chinatown, and Kensington Market. (All conveniently within 30 minutes walk of each other, on the west side of downtown).

And finally, Honest Ed's is one of the wonders of the world.

Sorry - that's probably more than you were looking for - I was having a nostalgia/homesick moment (I'm not going to Toronto this summer). But now you have lots of links to start from.
posted by jb at 10:54 PM on May 7, 2004

I second jb's recommendations of Kensington Market, Queen West, and Honest Ed's. Also, hit the Danforth for some great food.

The Distillery district is well worth a visit as well. It's hard to time a visit there, as some shops seem to open whenever they feel like it. The Balzac Cafe serves a nice cup of joe and has some great decor.

If you're looking for the party, I humbly put forth The Matador, which is open from 2:30 AM-6 AM on weekends. Must be seen to be believed.

Enjoy your stay in the Centre of the Universe!
posted by Succa at 11:15 PM on May 7, 2004

Bakka's (the science-fiction bookstore for Toronto

Actually I've had better luck SF-wise at World's Ugliest Bookstore than at Bakka. But then I've mostly shown up there looking for UK editions of Iain M Banks, Ken MacLeod, John Courtenay Grimwood, Alastair Reynolds, Greg Egan, etc, especially when I was backfilling my collection of Banks, MacLeod, and Egan. Go to both though; Bakka would be fabulous if your taste lines up with the proprietors', I suspect.

Oh, and if you've never been to Canada (or Ohio or Michigan), definitely go to a Tim Horton's. They make some fuckin-a donuts.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 11:34 PM on May 7, 2004

Yes, World's biggest has much more selection, but that's comparing a huge chain store (originally owned by Coles, bought out by Chapters) to a small independent bookstore. I always head to World's Biggest when Bakka doesn't have what I want (they are only a 20 minute walk away from each other).

But what World's Biggest can't replace are the staff who seriously know their stuff. There is such competition to work there that everyone who does knows science fiction and fantasy very well. Some have gone on to be authors - I think I heard the rumours that Cory Doctorow and Tanya Huff both worked there at different times. There are reviews pinned up on the shelves pointing out good new books and classics - and its probably the only place in the city to find out about new and smaller press Canadian Sf. Also, there's a used section tucked in the back for us poor student-types.

They have Tim Hortons in Michigan? I knew they had been bought out by Wendy's, but not that they were outside Canada. What do they do with the advertising entirely based around Canadian nationalism? Though the world definitely needs more cream filled maple iced donuts.
posted by jb at 12:15 AM on May 8, 2004

Wow. Some great posts. Nothing I disagree with here.

Some of my favorite shops:

Music Stores

Rotate This, Soundscapes (572 College -- best in city), Penguin Music, She Said Boom! (books and music), Vortex Records (2309 Yonge - best used cd shop in the city, lotsa vinyl too). Sonic Boom is easily the city's biggest used CD shop (dvds and vinyl also) and is worth a visit.

Bands to See

Check the concert listings at NOW Magazine or eye Weekly to see if any of our fantastic local acts are playing. I recommend Bob Wiseman [mp3], The Constantines, Jim Guthrie [mp3] or any of the bands on Three Gut Records, the Hidden Cameras, The Deadly Snakes, Lullabye Arkestra [mp3], Do Make Say Think, Danko Jones [mp3], Shikasta [mp3], The Illuminati, Polmo Polpo [mp3], Raising the Fawn, and Broken Social Scene.

My fave place to see music is The Horseshoe Tavern.


Check NOW and eye for movie listings. In September, Toronto hosts the largest film festival in the world; year round we have Cinematheque Ontario and CineCycle (check NOW). Best places to rent, browse, or buy are Suspect Culture, ReVue Video, Black Dog Video (queen west), and Queen Video (though the owner's a prick), and Bay Street Video (Bay just south of Bloor, west side). Second Spin in the Annex (bloor west of spadina) is good for used DVDs.

Touristy stuffs

One tourist attraction that hasn't been mentioned yet is Casa Loma, which is steps away from the Spadina Museum, which itself is steps from the Toronto Archives. There's also the Bata Shoe Museum.

Take a walk through the gay part of town: Church street between Wellesley (a little north of that actually) and College. While there, check out Slack Alice (bar), This Ain't the Rosedale Library (bookstore), and 7-24 Movies and More! (dvd/video shop). If you're into the gay scene, there's a free weekly rag for it: X-tra. Look for it in newspaper boxes throughout downtown.

Someone already mentioned the Distillery District. Harbourfront is cool too, as is St. Lawrence Market on weekends.

Food and Drink

If you like martinis I recommend Cobalt (College just east of Bathurst) or Insomnia (Bloor just east of Bathurst, near the above mentioned Honest Ed's). If you do hit Honest Ed's, walk a block south on Bathurst to the Roti Palace for what I consider the best roti in the city (get the veg with spinach and squash, chick pea, and potato).

Favorite restaurants are Gio Rana's Really Really Nice Restaurant (queen way the fuck east), Nataraj (Indian, in the Annex), Five Doors North (Yonge between eglinton and davisville), 7 Numbers (Eglinton between bathurst and Avenue Road), Fressen (veg, on queen east of bathurst), Azul (bathurst and queen near Rotate This) which is also close to New York Subway, home of the best burritos and subs in the world (try the potato and cheese sub or the mixed veg super burrito. cheap!).

I also highly recommend you get this book. I've lived here for 36 years and just about every page in this sucker told me something I didn't know.

note: all mp3 links are self links, as is the Danko Jones link
posted by dobbs at 12:40 AM on May 8, 2004

oh, and the mp3s are hosted with permission
posted by dobbs at 12:45 AM on May 8, 2004

OK, we need to start TravelFilter and make this entry #1. I have nothing to add but a shout out to the Days Inn' on College Street. It's probably neither the nicest nor the most fun hotel, but it's under $100 CDN, within 1 block of a subway entrace, and right next to a very happening part of Yonge St. Great for personal travellers on a budget (but if I was on an expense account, I'd go for the Drake!)
posted by Gortuk at 7:03 AM on May 8, 2004

You good folk with all the links should consider merging some of those comments into the Toronto entry on the Wikipedia.
posted by Jairus at 11:12 AM on May 8, 2004

"AGO" is at no time to be pronounced "eggo," which in fact nobody does here.
posted by joeclark at 3:08 PM on May 9, 2004

« Older Apartment Hunting tips in NYC?   |   Entertainment and pop culture commuter listening? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.