It's one of the most beautifully decorated places in the city. It's away from the tourist fray in the East End, but if you're lucky to have your cuppa here, you'll be rewarded with a sweeping view of the skyline from Riverdale Park.
This is a neighborhood place where writers, artists, and other locals come to hang out. The owners and staff are, quite simply, so lovely and loyal to their clientele—plus, they make some mean coffee!
Bring a book and cozy up for the afternoon.
Also, there are quite a few star sightings here. Daniel Radcliffe filmed here in the summer. Bon Iver and Jim Cuddy have been known to come by the shop.
(Note: Rooster just opened their second location on King street, just east of Sherbourne near the Distillery District.)
Photo courtesy of Rooster Coffeehouse.
Toronto for First Timers
My Austrian-born grandfather lived in Toronto before he settled in Buffalo, New York and my mother has endless stories of trips north as a child. I've yet to visit Canada's cultural capital but the highlights below look like the perfect way to begin.
At this most hipster of hipster espresso bars, Portland meets Toronto. And it is good. Don't let the hipster vibe deter you—the 'spro is solid, tunes are fine, and the baristas will even crack a smile (occasionally). They also bake their own muffins. A floor-to-ceiling corner window ensures great people watching on a leisurely afternoon.
Photo courtesy of Capital Espresso/Facebook.
The CN Tower’s latest attraction, EdgeWalk, takes thrill seekers to new heights. The first of its kind in North America, EdgeWalk is the world’s highest full circle hands-free walk encircling the top of the CN Tower’s main pod, 356 metres, (1168 feet, 116 stories) above the ground. The half-hour experience, which includes re-admission into the CN Tower’s other attractions (Look Out, Glass Floor, Sky Pod Levels, movie and ride) costs $175.
For those of you who want to test your adventurous limits, this is one vertical challenge you won't forget!
After seeing the CN Tower from many vantage points in the city, I can honestly say there is no view of the city like this -- or experience for that matter. Just do it! The staff take great care of you and ease you into the "leaning out" process. I can guarantee even if you're scared, afterwards, it's something you won't stop talking about!
Do you love their tagline ('What creams are made of'), or do you love it? Ashley Jacot De Boinod—former pastry chef at Buca—has taken her doughnut creations to new heights. Tim Horton's 'tim bits' these are not.
If you want peanut butter, bacon, and marshmallow, she's got it (that's the Elvis doughnut); A beer doughnut? Yup, she's got that too. Lemon Meringue? Yes, indeed!
She's also very active on Twitter with her fanbase. Go in. Support her. Her shop is super rad and she even crowd-funded it, too. The doughnuts aren't cheap, but I'll pay for the love and care that she puts into it.
Pictured: Nutella Puff
I don't know of many places where you can grab a coffee, read a magazine, pull a pint, flip a tractor tire, swing a sledgehammer, and finish off with an organic wheatgrass and kale smoothie, but then I don't know many other places like the Academy. There are no Cowardly Lions here—this place is billed as a hybrid CrossFit/functional lifestyle outfitter, and every employee I met could kick my ass. This is an atmospheric place in the heart of Hipsterville, well worth a visit if you're wandering one of Toronto's coolest neighborhoods and in need of a quick fitness fix—and a great cup of Joe—before hitting your next destination.
Home to the largest white squirrel population in the world is our beloved park, Trinity Bellwoods. It was formerly the site of the college, now situated at the University of Toronto (and my alma matter!).
Year round, this is a fantastic place to visit. Whether you want to run, play tennis, some croquet (and you can get the equipment at the local Trinity Tuck Shop open seasonally -- http://trinitytuckshop.tumblr.com/) or picnic, you can do it here.
Tons of events are held here too including Nuit Blanche and the Art Crawl in September.
PS There's a coffee shop called White Squirrel across the street. There's also a fish and chip shop called Chippy's and Nadege, a french pastry shop that also sells sandwiches and has a sweet patio view of the park.
The pastry chef who started this popular Toronto bakery hails from the south of France so you know you're getting good quality. The macarons are some of the city's best, but you should also try the Canelé—a bite-size French pastry that tastes like an all-in-one Crème brûlée.
View more of my Toronto travel tips in my Hipster Travel Guide to Toronto: http://travelsofadam.com/hipster-toronto-travel-trips/
If you want to indulge on decadent desserts, this is definitely your place. From the cotton candy macarons to my favourite, the salted caramel tart, the desserts here are simply divine.
This is also the perfect place to get a gift for the foodie: they have marshmallows and lovely packages of chocolates, one for each letter of the alphabet.
There's two locations but the shop right beside Trinity Bellwoods Park offers patio seating in the summer and indoor seating in the colder months.
If you want lunch, you can nibble on a variety of sandwiches -- on croissants of course (you can buy those too!).
Photo: Knot PR (Flickr)
San Francisco's street cars get all the press, but if you're looking for an authentic transit experience, Toronto's street cars can't be beat. Toronto is notorious for having some of the worst traffic in North America, but the street cars are generally unaffected - meaning you can get around quicker than you would if you drove yourself or took a taxi, and you see a whole lot more than you do when dive down into the subway tunnels. The cars roll through iconic neighborhoods like Kensington Market, Toronto's bohemian paradise, making it easy to tour around, jump on and off, window shop, and do it all over again.
One of the best day trips for a lovely afternoon in Toronto is to take the ferry over to Toronto Island for a day—while the weather is at its most pleasant during the summer, the ferry is in operation your round.
This place is amazing, with its numerous parks, bike paths, and amusement park. However, word to the wise, please bring all the necessary food with you as the options on the island can be pricey! (The ferry is quite reasonably priced, but make sure you have plenty of water and food for your adventures outdoors).
Have some fun there, relaxing in nature with great views of the CBD of Toronto.
The St. Lawrence Market is great. There are tons of picnic benches outside to sit and eat as well as stools inside. Check their website for upcoming events as well.
A quick hit list of where I go:
-Carousel Bakery for those peameal bacon sandwiches. They're famous for a reason
-Chris's Cheesemongers—ask for Len. He's a good friend of mine and well, just the best! These guys work hard.
-That said, my friend who is a cook and had the apartment swears by Olympic Cheese. I like its layout—you can pick up the cheese as opposed to ordering it at the counter.
-Buster's Sea Cove. Two words: Lobster Bisque. They don't sell the lobster rolls here on a regular basis. You'll have to go to their food truck for that.
-Stone Mill Bakery—great bread. But for $4.95 a loaf? Show me the stone mill.
-Sheffer's—they sell prosciutto for $2 here on some days. In the grocery store, it's usually $6-8!
I went to Toronto for the first time in the fall of 2010. I expected it to be colder, but I wasn't exactly thrilled that Toronto's fall was like New York's winter. So I was happy to spend a good amount of time indoors in galleries and museums. AGO was one of them, and as a huge Frank Gehry fan I was even happier to spend an almost ridiculous amount of time staring at the AGO building.
Eventually, I walked towards the back and into the glorious Galleria Italia. All empty on a weekday, the play of wood and light was simply beautiful. It will make you smile, adore the sun, and just stay.
Toronto’s international film festival, held every September, drew half a million attendees last year. Dozens of movies have been shot here. But the cinema isn’t the only reason to visit “Hollywood North” this fall. Modern buildings by architects Frank Gehry and Daniel Libeskind stand out against the city’s Victorian brick architecture. Boutiques crowd Kensington Market and King and Queen streets. And you can play outside: September temperatures average 70 degrees, and parks make up 18 percent of city land. —Charlene Rooke
This appeared in the September/October 2011 issue. Photo by Paul Lapid.
but gets all the basics we need just right. Crisp sheets, ultra comfortable beds, excellent yet not fawning service and a nice breakfast spread (included with your stay) not to mention free WiFi, makes this the place I book all my friends who aren't on a strict budget. They are also pet friendly.
Toronto's Distillery Historic District attracts tourists all year round however I find it particularly atmospheric during winter with a dusting of snow and sparkle of lights. 2012 marks the 3rd annual Christmas Market that takes place here and I recommend as a visit during winter.
The District is full of little shops, cafes, restaurants and a theatre. All the info is here: http://www.thedistillerydistrict.com/
Lost & Found is neat little café and menswear shop on Dundas West that features a well curated collection of Canadian-designed threads. Wallets, belts, jackets, sweaters, and bespoke boots line the shelves, while a cup of fresh coffee is the perfect companion for an afternoon of people watching.
The Royal Ontario Museum is one of Canada's best-appointed centers for culture, arts, artifacts, things that go bump in the night, creepy crawlers (alive and more.. er, permanent), and makes a great escape for young and old alike.
One of the largest museums in North America, the world history and natural history exhibits are numerous and inspiring.
The Four Seasons Center for the Performing Arts is home to the venerated Canadian Opera Company, so you can rest easy knowing that a Saturday night inside is spent in good company. But the building does not lack for architectural delights from the outside; the center is easily one of Toronto’s most recognizable, and important, buildings.