After being away for a month, I’ve got to say, Toronto is a great city. Sure, we’ll make fun of it and the rest of the country can hate us but if you came to U of T, you might as well explore this place. It’s rather upsetting to hear from graduating students who aren’t from Toronto that they have never been on the islands or they’ve never really set foot outside of campus during their 4 year residency here. In any case, here’s a list of places and things to do while you’re stuck here:
Buy a CityPASS
If you have tons of time and you want to get into some of the city’s main attractions, the CityPASS is something that can be purchased online or at any of the attractions it offers admission for. (CN Tower, Casa Loma, the ROM, the Ontario Science Centre and the Toronto Zoo) The cost of the City Pass is $57.82 USD but it will give you general admission to all the attractions listed above, which is a rather good deal seeing that adult general admission to the ROM is approximately half that price. However, you have to use up the booklet in 9 days, so plan carefully.
So, what’s to do at these places? Well, you can be a total tourist and tell your friends and family that you went up what was once the tallest free-standing building in the world. Go complain and rant about the tumour growing out of the side of the Royal Ontario Museum but go in and enjoy the Bat Cave and the mummies inside. Unleash your inner child and spend a day playing with science-related things at the Ontario Science Centre and get soaked while taking a stroll in the rain forest. Get some exercise while walking around the Toronto Zoo (it’s huge) and watch Canadian geese and tigers coexist with one another. While you’re there, make sure you aren’t eaten by Komodo dragons. As for you ghost lovers out there? Go on a safe and legal ghost hunt on a haunted tour of Casa Loma when Halloween rolls around.
Other attractions not included in the pass
The Art Gallery of Ontario has cool specials exhibitions from time to time while the Bata Shoe Museum is worth a stroll. The AGO is free Wednesdays from 6PM to 8:30PM while the admission every Thursday evening between 5 and 8 pm at the Shoe Museum is Pay-what-you-can, with a suggested donation of $5.
St. Lawrence Market
Grab the only thing that might be remotely considered as Canadian or Torontonian food, a peameal bacon sandwich from Carousel Bakery in St. Lawrence Market. (A bagel from St. Urbain’s or an eggplant with chicken breast sandwich are other delicious offerings if peameal bacon isn’t your thing.) I would also suggest that you wake up early on a Saturday to go to the farmer’s market. The taste fresh Ontario concord grapes, peaches and apples in the fall is one of the highlights of the year. If you mistake Sunday for Saturday, fear not, all the farmer’s stalls disappear on Sunday and in their place are antiques for the Sunday antique market.
Take pictures of the iconic view of Toronto by going to the Toronto Islands. However, I think the best way to enjoy the Islands is by bike. Bring your own bike or rent one and enjoy mostly vehicle-free paths and gorgeous views. If you’re in Toronto during the summer, be sure to come to the islands and cheer for your fellow U of T students at the Dragon Boat races in June or enjoy multicultural entertainment at the annual Chin Picnic.
Don’t forget to stop by Harbourfront on your way to the Islands. There’s usually a festival going on during the weekend but if there isn’t, there’s always the artist studio and free galleries (such as the Power Plant) to stroll through. If you’re lucky, there might be a few old men playing around with their remote controlled boats that shoot water at you. However, if you’re there in the winter, the Natrel Pond becomes a skating rink. Bring your own skates or rent them there.
Speaking of picnics, a lovely spot to set your picnic blanket would be High Park. It’s huge, there’s a zoo and in the spring, we can imitate the Japanese and their hana-mi picnics because the city of Tokyo gave the city of Toronto tons of cherry trees as an act of friendship. The result? Gorgeous cherry blossoms every spring, or more precisely, mid-April to mid-May.
Yes, Vancouverites, I’m sure your beaches are nicer and whatnot but there are cool restaurants and cute boutiques, which are half the fun of The Beaches. However, a stroll on the boardwalk or a game of volleyball is also fun. If you’re daring, go take a dip or a swim in Lake Ontario and pray that you won’t grow an extra leg or finger the next day.
Revel in the sketchiness of the biggest Asian mall in North America and bootleg capital of Canada! Enjoy cheaper all you can eat sushi and get your game console modified so you can play cheap bootleg games on it! (Warning: If you want the real copy of the game, you have to ask for it specially.)
I’m sure the Eaton Centre won’t need any advertising seeing that it’s the place you’ll head to for clothes and whatnot, but what you might not know is that the Eaton Centre has multiple entry points into the PATH, an underground shopping area! Go get lost in it and find yourself somewhere else downtown when you emerge from it! (Don’t worry, you’re most likely going to end up near a subway stop.)
Go to Toronto’s hippy central and enjoy organic/vegetarian/vegan food and buy vintage or second-hand clothing. During the late summer and early fall, go during Pedestrian Sunday and enjoy the outdoor poetry readings, performers and music!
The Distillery District
I could talk about how wonderful the Distillery is and what to do there, but I think this article by my fellow blogger, Julia, covers all the essentials and then some.
Queen St. W
The mecca for art, indie culture and goth/lolita/other esoteric genres of fashion. Also the place where horomone-crazed and hysterical teenagers go to scream at Justin Bieber and RPat since the MuchMusic building is there. Again, this fabulous article by Julia explains it all.
City Hall isn’t just a place to get your marriage license in Toronto. On Wednesdays, there is a farmer’s market and during the winter, the water fountain in Nathan Philips Square in front of City Hall turns into a public ice skating rink! Bring your own skates or rent them there (you’ll need a piece of government issued I.D. and 10 bucks) but be warned that there aren’t lockers anymore so don’t bring your giant backpack along. That or rent a locker at the Eaton Centre. The Square also hosts one of the biggest New Year’s parties in the city and is host to various events around the year like the outdoor art festival in the summer.
Of course, you have to eat food from all around the world now that you’re in the most multicultural city in the world. There’s also tons annual festivals like the TIFF, Luminato, Summer and Winterlicious and Nuit Blanche to enjoy. This article can go on and on but I or some of my fellow bloggers will probably be offering tons of information on sights and sounds in the city. So stay tuned!