After spending nearly 5 months living in the Canadian city of Toronto (the locals don’t pronounce the second ‘t’) I have found it is a city full of surprises. The city is one of the most multicultural in the world with different suburbs relating to different countries. There is little Italy, Korea Town, China Town, Little Portugal, and Greek town to name a few. In each of these suburbs you will find a unique lifestyle and culture, all brought together under the name of Toronto. Below are a few of my favourite surprises of this happening city.
It is exactly what the name suggests. The Paint Lounge on College St W. has enough easels for roughly 25 aspiring artists at one time. If you are stuck on what to paint, there are suggestion booklets full of pictures in which you can take inspiration from. Canvases start from as little as $20 for a 12 by 12 inch canvas. All the paints and brushes are free to use. There are even classes where you can brush up on your artistic skills (pun intended). It’s a great way to kill a couple of hours and fun for everyone who decides to take the challenge. The best thing is you even get to keep your artwork afterwards.
There is good coffee to be found
In between all the Tim Hortons and Starbucks, you will find some quaint little coffee shops who offer a decent brew. You will notice most of the people who are in these types of cafes are all on their Mac Book laptops. As far as I know, this is not a prerequisite to enter, but you will gain mega brownie points if you whip out your Mac. Speaking of brownies, I have found they can be a hit or miss depending on the coffee shops you try out. Some of the stand out places are Dark Horse Espresso Bar – available at 3 locations, Manic on College St - enjoy the funny sayings on the black board, Early Bird Café – Nice coffee but can be a bit more expensive, Jimmy’s – located in the heart of Kensington , it gives you the option of the air-conditioned inside or partly shaded patio out the back.
Hockey Hall of Fame
Everybody knows Ice Hockey and Canadians are one and the same. It is more than a sport, it is a religion. And at the heart of the religion you will find the Hockey Hall of Fame. Even if you are not a diehard fan, you will find all the displays and information interesting. You can even try your luck at saving goals or trying to score goals yourself. If you feel getting involved in the action is not for you, why not jump behind the Sports Network news desk and commentate a game. The price is around $20 for an adult. Allow around 2 hours to look through the whole museum as there are hidden rooms.
The Blue Jays baseball team can get a good crowd when they are winning
Not since 1993 have the Toronto Blue Jays made it to the playoffs, let alone win the World Series (by World Series it means teams only located in the USA and the one Canadian team). Now is the time in which they have traded some star players and what a difference these guys have made. Fighting with the New York Yankees’ (more money than they know what to do with) to be the top team in the Eastern League, every man and his dog have donned on their Blue Jays cap/t-shirt/jersey and have turned up to watch them play. It is good to see a city can turn out and support their local team, let’s hope the numbers continue and everyone is not jumping on the band wagon.
The Royal Ontario Museum has cheap entry on Friday Nights
I was unsure of what to expect at the Royal Ontario Museum, but I was pleasantly surprised to find an informative museum of culture, history, flora and fauna and dinosaurs. If you want to save some money, head there on a Friday night from 4.30pm until 8.30pm for $10 entry. The queue moves quickly to purchase tickets. Allow yourself 2-3 hours to walk around the museum with all the hidden rooms. If you are not here visiting Toronto on a Friday, I would recommend paying the full price as it is definitely a museum worth checking out.
Every Bar has some kind of Patio during summer
Like a bear out of hibernation, any bar in Toronto will awaken with their opening of their patio. This only happens during the months of May through to September. And with good reason too. This is when the weather is most likely to be bearable to sit outside in the fresh city air. Week days as well as weekends attract people to queue for up to an hour to get a spot outside. Toronto is a city with a craft beer culture, with plenty of local brewery’s happy to show off their seasonal beers whilst you soak up the sun. Amsterdam Brew House offer a patio right on the waterfront, but get in early if you want to grab a good seat. Other breweries include Mill St Brew Pub in the Distillery district and Bellwoods Brewery on Ossington St. Patios can be found down back allies, out the front of bars and even on roof tops.
This suggestion should come with a warning as it is addictive and impulse buying will most certainly happen. Bulk barn is a massive pick n mix shop which offers hundreds of products you usually have to buy in a set weight or size. With almost any snack food you can think of, an array of nuts and dried fruit, the sizeable collection of spices, a large choice of flours and premix recipe’s along with the option of making your own peanut butter, Bulk Barn will fix any cravings you may have. Go on a Wednesday for a discount if you are a student or senior.
Kensington Markets is the alternative place in Toronto for food, coffee, second hand retro stores and cheap fruit and veg. Let me start off with food. Rasta Pasta is a fusion of Italian cooking mixed with the taste of the Caribbean. Try their Jerk Chicken – one of the top sellers and voted number 2 in Toronto on Blog TO. With coffee shops hidden between the buildings, you are spoilt with choice on where to get a good coffee from. The best time to visit the markets is the last Sunday of the month between May and September. This is known as Pedestrian Sundays when the streets are shut off to cars and live music fills the streets. Rain, hail or shine, this will still take place and you will see all the vendors and pedestrians take over the streets.
Escape the hustle and bustle of Toronto for only $7. The ticket will allow you a return trip on the ferries over to the Toronto Islands. With 3 locations to start your day trip from, you have the option of starting at one end and walking/cycling/rollerblading to any of the other ports. Or head back to the place you landed at in the first place. Take a picnic, some friends and a camera and create some good memories. There are a few beaches over on the islands; my only suggestion is not to drink the water in the lake. Remember there is a city of 3 million people not too far away and the pollution has to end up somewhere. The ferries can sell out, so make sure you allow enough time (30 minutes) before your scheduled departure.
If you have any questions feel free to contact me and I will be more than glad to answer them for you.