Got a day or two to spend in Toronto on a business trip? Don’t waste your time lounging around your hotel room.
What are you doing here in Toronto? Are you here to take in some of the best that Canadian cinema has to offer during the Toronto International Film Festival, or are you here for something else?
Whether you’re here for TIFF, or just on a business trip, Toronto is a vibrant and sprawling city that favors more than just a passing glance. Each neighborhood boasts its own eclectic flavor and unique style, all weaved together by a bustling transit system into a tapestry of all the colors, creeds, and lifestyles that you could imagine. Nestled on the shores of Lake Ontario, Toronto is distinctly Canadian, yet a world of its own.
Basically, you’re sure to find AT LEAST a few places that you will like.
First thing’s first: public transit is the best way to get around the city
Make your way to the nearest TTC station get yourself a day pass if you’re here for a day; it’s your best bet for getting around the city. You can also get a weekly pass, or individual tokens.
Torontonians like to talk a lot of smack about their transit system, but by global or even Canadian standards, it’s pretty great. Expect to wait less than 5 minutes on average for trains, and less than 15 minutes for busses. Service usually continues well into the night, and although the last trains are around 1:00 AM, certain bus lines operate all night.
By now, the walking has made you hungry. Time for brunch!
Colloquially, brunch is a combination of the words “breakfast” and “lunch”. For those of us who know better, brunch is actually just French for “breakfast with benefits”: A bigger, better, version of breakfast, with more variety.
If you’re lucky enough to be in Toronto on the weekend, hit up The Drake Hotel on 1150 Queen St West for the best brunches in the city. I recommend the Chicken + Waffles, which sounds like the worst brunch plate in the world, unless you’ve tried it. Try it, you won’t be disappointed. Oh, and wake yourself up with a famous Drake Caesar if you’re still heavy-eyed from last night.
If you’re in Toronto on a weekday, stop by Lady Marmalade on 898 Queen St East. It’s got a wide selection of inventive, locally-sourced all-day breakfast options, including a “Build Your Own Benny” option for eggs benedict virtuosos. Come early, and preferably not with a large group.
If you’re more in the mood for some dessert, check out iHalo Krunch (pronounced ‘ee-hallow’). It’s a tiny spot on 915 Queen St West that serves charcoal ice cream with iconic black cones. Sure, some of the health claims of activated charcoal are sketchy at best but when the food looks this cool, everyone gets in line. Do it for the ‘gram?
Things to do around the city
You’ll find that there’s always something to do in Toronto, no matter the time or season. The fact that most things involve food is simply a coincidence.
Watch a Jays Game at the Rogers Centre
Fortunately for you (and unfortunately for the Jays), Blue Jays tickets are usually pretty cheap to come by. If you choose to get a seat in the 500s, expect to pay about $20, or even less. If you aren’t a baseball person, don’t fret; taking in the atmosphere of the stadium while surrounded by fans is an experience of its own, and one that I definitely recommend. The Rogers Centre is located at 1 Blue Jays Way, and is walking distance from Union Station.
Chill out at Trinity Bellwoods Park
If stadiums aren’t your thing, why not just go to the park? Bordered by Queen Street West on the south and Dundas Street on the north, Trinity Bellwoods Park is a huge, 36-acre park in the heart of Toronto that also hosts live theatre events, musical performances, and even sit-in movies. Many Torontonians bring their bikes, skateboards, and even pets here during the day, making it a people-watcher’s paradise. It’s also right by that charcoal ice cream place.
Get your shop on at The Eaton’s Centre
North America’s busiest mall can be accessed from Dundas Station, and attracts the most visitors of all of Toronto’s attractions. The Eaton’s Centre is a huge, 3-floor megamall with a wide, open-concept ceiling that looks beautiful when the sun is out. With a vast array of shops, clothiers, and restaurants, something is sure to catch your eye at. If not, just toss a penny into the fountain on the ground floor for luck.
Take in some live music at The Rex Hotel & Jazz Bar
This Toronto icon boasts live music every night, and is a staple for up-and-coming jazz and blues artists in the city – you might even see your next favorite artist working their way to the top. The Rex serves standard pub fare at reasonable prices, and is located 194 Queen Street West, just outside Osgoode Station. You can check out their schedule here. Fedora optional.
Dinner eats that are one-of-a-kind
Chill out, slow down, and enjoy some of the best this city has to offer.
360 @ The CN Tower
Officially the best part of the CN Tower, 360 is a revolving restaurant that serves classic Canadian fare alongside a stunning view of the Toronto skyline. If you visit, make sure to take plenty of pictures — what’s the point of a great view if you can’t take any selfies, right? Careful though, you probably need a reservation for this one. Maybe throw on a dinner jacket too.
Have you ever wanted to dine in the dark? Of course not, silly — but it is still definitely worth trying. The entire dining experience takes place in complete darkness, forcing you to rely more heavily on your other senses. The wait staff is also blind or visually impaired, which makes sense when you think about it. O.Noir is located at 620 Church street, and the closest station is Bloor-Yonge or Wellesley.
Poutini’s House of Poutine
Looking for cheaper eats? Maybe something that you have to dress down for, instead of dressing up? Look no further than Poutini’s House of Poutine on 915 Queen St West, and be sure to do so for one reason only: to savor the delicious taste of hand-cut fries, locally sourced cheese curds, and plenty of toppings on what is arguably the best poutine in Toronto. Just don’t tell Montreal we’re doing poutine too. You know how they hold on to things.