When people ask me whether they should visit Toronto on holiday, I generally say no. I tell them to go to Montreal instead. I know, right? I grew up and went to university there, but it seems like I have no love for Tronno.
It’s not true. I love Toronto, but I don’t think it’s worth visiting on a short vacation. Ask me if you should move there, and I say hells yes! The reason is that if you don’t know where to go, you won’t have that much fun. We don’t have famous landmarks like London, and we aren’t as cool as New York (though we fancy our city to be like both). So what happens when you visit Toronto is you think it’s nice.
“Toronto was nice.”
“The people were nice.”
“They tried to recreate British kitsch by serving absolute pisswater for beer. How nice.”
If you really must visit my hometown, memorize this list.
The ‘hardcore-ness’ of Toronto’s coffee drinkers vary from those who swear by Tim Hortons to people who won’t touch anything that wasn’t roasted, ground, and brewed at an indie café like Outpost Coffee Roasters. If you must drink from a chain, go to Second Cup. At least it’s Canadian.
…Hang Out at Yonge-Dundas Square
Unless you’re doing an ethnographic study on suburbanites entering the real world or high school students coming of age, avoid Yonge-Dundas Square. It has a Times Square-wannabe vibe that makes us all confused. Toronto’s scene is really happening in The Junction and Leslieville, where you’ll find cool coffee shops and independent art galleries.
…Climb the CN Tower
People go to the CN Tower for the annual Charity Climb or doing the EdgeWalk, but I don’t think anyone I know just goes up there. Yes, there’s a rotating restaurant up there, but it’s not even original. For views of the Toronto skyline, take the ferry to Toronto Island or head up to Riverdale Park. They’re picture-perfect, and you won’t have paid $64+ for the pleasure.
…Eat at Jack Astor’s
There are so many better places to eat in Toronto (ideas here) that Jack Astor’s is just… no.
…Day Trip to Niagara Falls
Don’t get me wrong: Niagara Falls is wonderful, and cycling around Niagara-on-the-Lake with my partner was a trip highlight. But a ten-minute ferry ride across Lake Ontario gets you to the small islands that make up the largest car-free residential area in North America. There are beaches (including a nudist one), places to cycle, and forests to explore.
…Pay for the AGO
We’re not bad people; we just know that the gallery is free on Wednesday evenings, so we visit then to save our money for $12 cocktails. If you want more “contemporary” art, head to Graffiti Alley behind the shops on Queen West. It’s a constantly changing gallery of street art and we gave it a cute name.
…See Yonge Street Shows
That’s a lie; I can boast having seen more than a dozen Toronto shows. I just wanted to draw your attention to the live theatre at Soulpepper. At the very least, you have the Distillery District and Soma for chocolate and ice cream.
…Ride in Rickshaws
You’re not in India — get on the TTC like everyone else.
Now that you know what NOT to do (and some things you can do instead), it’s time to book yourself a hotel in Toronto. Check out Hipmunk for great rates!