[a guide for my friends + visitors]
as you know TORONTO is the city where I live.
I moved here in 1998. This city has changed a lot in those 15 yrs.
HERE is a little list of some of my current/favourite spots in Toronto (I can’t include everything I like - so geared this list is more for the Summer) that are indeed “local” spots, but most important these are also the places where I/you would/should take my/any 1st time visitors. :-)
MY TORONTO LIST:
Air Canada + Westjet: http://www.aircanada.com/en/home.html
http://www.westjet.com/guest/en/ are the 2 airlines with the most flights to Toronto.
that being said over 70 airlines fly to http://www.torontopearson.com/ so take your pick.
Germain Toronto: http://www.germaintoronto.com/en/home excellent service, amazing beds and crazy good showers. (breakfast included that I love). There is a 2nd location at Maple Leaf Square: http://germainmapleleafsquare.com/en/home
Gladstone Hotel: http://www.gladstonehotel.com/hotel an “art hotel” where every room is different, if you got the cash - splurge on the tower suite. believe me…
Planet Traveler: http://theplanettraveler.com/ Toronto’s first “green” hostel. Fair pricing, good location.
Templar Hotel: http://www.designhotels.com/templar a brand spanking new ultra designer hotel.
The Rex: http://www.therex.ca/hotel.html want to save money? Simple rooms above one of the best jazz clubs in Toronto.
Capital Espresso: http://www.capitalspro.com/ one of the best espressos to start your day in a colourful neighbourhood.
Sublime Cafe: http://www.thesublimecafe.com/ is a cozy cafe/record store if you happen to be in Kensington Market.
Nadege Patisserie: http://www.nadege-patisserie.com/ 2 locations that serve all types of nice French pastries.
Come and Get It!: http://www.facebook.com/ComeAndGetIt416 is a “pop up” sandwich shop great for lunch.
Le Petit Dejeuner: http://petitdejeuner.ca/ brunch is religion in Toronto, go early for Eggs Benedict and Belgian waffles.
Pearl Harbourfront: http://www.pearlharbourfront.ca/ dim sum here is very good, served with a smile with a bonus of a great view.
Seven Lives Tacos y Mariscos: http://www.sevenlives.ca/ in a suddenly tacos crazy town these are my favourite. I recommend going on weekdays (less busy).
Barque: http://barque.ca/ great b.b.q. I especially like it for Sunday “family night” dinner.
Banh Mi Boys: http://www.banhmiboys.com/ the kimchi fries are my new guilty pleasure.
Delux: http://deluxrestaurant.ca/ cuban cuisine meets french finesse. Alternatively you can also go for lunch.
Foxley (no website) add: 207 ossington avenue, tel: (416) 534-8520. excellent food, dinner only.
Grand Electric: http://www.grandelectricbar.com/ the hottest tacos and patio in town (prepare to wait).
Harbord Room (The): http://www.theharbordroom.com/home.php good food, good cocktails and probably the best burger in the city.
Khao San Road: http://www.khaosanroad.ca/ the best Thai + make sure to make reservations, crazy popular.
Live Food Bar: http://www.livefoodbar.com/ the place to take vegetarians, vegans and raw foodists. Very good.
Oyster Boy: http://www.oysterboy.ca/ one of my reliables. Great service. Oysters and Seafood are ace.
Roof Lounge (The): http://parktoronto.hyatt.com/hyatt/hotels-parktoronto/entertainment/dining_detail.jsp?itemDesc=fboutlet&itemId=1003224 “the Roof Lounge” for classic cocktails with a view.
Snack Bar 416: http://416snackbar.wordpress.com/ exactly what it says - Snack Bar - lot’s of fun, tasty but don’t come starving.
Supermarket: http://www.supermarkettoronto.com/ large patio, delicious international eats, all shareable with a great view of Kensington Market. Live music and/or open mic most nights.
The Drake Hotel: http://www.thedrakehotel.ca/ is a multi-hotel-cafe-rooftop patio-resto-nightclub space that is very popular with locals and visitors alike.
Lula Lounge: http://www.lula.ca/ a lively live (latin, international) music venue
Cold Tea: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Cold-Tea/291545114208091 a bar that is hidden, but worth the hunt.
The Beaver: http://www.beavertoronto.ca/ an all day/all night local/locals place with a queer twist.
Rol San (no website) add: 323 spadina ave. tel: 416-977-1128. My go to for Chinese or 3am dim sum.
ROM: http://www.rom.on.ca/ the best overall museum in Toronto, esp. with the young ones.
Harbourfront Centre: http://www.harbourfrontcentre.com/ Summer weekends this is the place to be, there are 2 outdoor stages, dance theatre and the Power Plant contemporary Art Gallery to all visit. Just skip the food (it’s terrible). Make sure to visit the Music Garden.
Bungalow: http://www.bungalow.to/ cool retro clothes and furniture in Kensington Mkt.
Community 54: http://community54.com/ almost too funky for it’s own good.
The Drake General Store: http://www.drakegeneralstore.ca/ with 3 locations, a well curated, tiny shop filled with cool stuff incl. some uniquely Canadian gifts to take home.
MADE: http://www.madedesign.ca/ a “made in toronto” design shop.
Mjolk: http://mjolk.ca/ scandinavian/japanese design shop for those that can afford…
OCAD Gallery: http://www.ocadu.ca/ a great gallery adjacent to the Ontario College of Art and Design (itself a unique architectural attraction).
SOMA: http://www.somachocolate.com/ for chocolate monsters.
St. Lawrence Market: http://www.stlawrencemarket.com/ considered one of the best urban markets in the world. fun. (warning: Saturday mornings are busiest).
Tarragon Theatre: http://www.tarragontheatre.com/ one of my favourite theatres, very good programming.
Toronto International Film Festival: http://tiff.net/ the largest film festival in North America. Lots of stars and lots of films.
Stilwater Spa: http://www.parktoronto.hyatt.com/hyatt/pure/spas/ lots of spas in Toronto, this is still the best.
Toronto Island: http://www.toronto.ca/parks/island/ when the heat gets too much, escape to the Toronto Islands. A jewel in Lake Ontario only a 15 min ferry ride away, it’s a popular little retreat for locals - esp. on summer weekends. Bring a picnic as the food options are meager and expensive. For those inclined there are several beaches (including the only official nude one in the city - you are warned…)
A FEW TIPS
WALK! Despite it’s large size, Toronto is a great walking city - helped by the fact it’s streets are laid out in a grid and the CN TOWER, visible everywhere, is a great visual reference (located adjacent to the Harbourfront and Financial districts) means you really can’t get lost and if you do, locals will always help you out - we’re friendly that way.
the TTC is the local transit provider, and locally renowned for it’s bad customer service (subways don’t start until 9am on Sundays!?!) but it will get your around. The single fare is $3 per person and NOTE bus drivers and streetcar drivers DO NOT make change. Tokens and Day passes must be bought at a Subway station or an authorized seller (i.e. convenience store).
North Americans will be shocked by how expensive Toronto taxis are - they are probably the most expensive I’ve seen. You are warned.
KENSINGTON MARKET is the most colourful district/neighbourhood in famously multi-cultural Toronto. That said, of course there are lots of nice hoods in this large city, however the Market basically condenses it down to a few blocks. Hippies, Hipsters, Tourists, Musicians, Chefs, Fun locals all head down here to shop for fruit or second hand (vintage) clothes, hang out, drink, eat and take in the atmosphere. During the summer there is an event called PEDESTRIAN SUNDAYS which are a lot of fun (tip: wear lots of sunscreen). Another fun hood is WEST QUEEN WEST - tons of shops and food. If you continue West you will hit PARKDALE which is the latest “Hot Hood” where you will find Capital, Grand Electric and Community 54.
JULY-AUGUST are the busiest tourism months so it will be crowded (and hot!) September can be busy as well with the Toronto Film Festival. Late September, early October are also nice times to visit with good weather, smaller crowds. Winter? forget it…
Toronto has only last year jumped on the bike share bandwagon. Here it is called BIXI but sadly it doesn’t cover much of the city and it’s expensive so unless you stick to 1 small area - i.e. Harbourfront, it’s not much use.
https://www.flyporter.com/ live in NYC, Chicago, Boston or Washington (or Montreal?) than this airline that flies into the island airport (right downtown) is a good option to save time and money.
LINKS for some maps, info, culture, stuff:
http://www.designlinesmagazine.com/walkingmaps.php design focused.
http://www.thegridto.com/ a recently redesigned weekly with arts, food, culture listings.
finally, I’m a fan of this fellow tumblr: http://torontodesign.tumblr.com/ czech it out… ;)