Now that I’ve been living in Toronto for a while, people ask me for recommendations all the time. Here are my favorite spots in Toronto:
Art Museum: Ryerson Imaging Center
The exhibitions here are always fantastic. Not only are they well curated, but they’re accessible even to people with little background in photography or the history of the subject at hand. They have three galleries, so there’s always something that will resonate.
It helps that the Ryerson Imaging Center is free and centrally located. It’s easy to pop in for an hour.
Movie Theatre: Hot Docs
Of course I would pick Hot Docs. I am that obnoxious person who basically only wants to watch documentaries, so Hot Docs is everything I want in a theatre.
Dog Park: Sherwood Park off-leash area
There are lots of off-leash areas, but most of them are rectangular fenced-in areas of pee soaked gravel.
Sherwood Park is different. You and your furry friends can romp through the ravine. I get a good workout going up and down the steps and circling around the very well maintained pathways and bridges.
Technically the dogs are supposed to stay on the path and not go swimming, but someone cuts the fences as soon as they’re mended.
Just note that this is not enclosed by a fence, so make sure your pup is going to come when called. Be sure to keep your pups on a leash outside of the marked area or you’ll get a ticket.
This is one of the few dog parks where it’s not weird to go without a dog. If you need some pups in your life, this is the spot.
Place to pet goats: Riverdale Farm
You’re not supposed to pet the goats.
Place to Work: TOPL Fort York branch
Like a coworking space, but it’s free.
Yes, you can work in any library, but not all of them are nice places to work. Fort York is a gorgeous space with everything you need (read: outlets, clean washrooms). The Toronto Reference Library is also fantastic, but it’s usually swamped with people. Fort York is just tucked away from downtown enough that you can actually get a place to sit.
Place to escape winter: Allan Gardens
It’s not a particularly exciting botanical garden, but it’s right downtown and it’s free and everyone loves it. Watch the turtles swim around their pond. Roll your eyes at the couples taking makeout selfies. Feed the squirrels that have snuck in.
Shop for transit nerds: Spacing
This was on my original list of places to go on my first visit to Toronto because I am just that (un)cool.
Don’t forget to check out the galleries in the rest of 401 Richmond.
Place to have a PO Box: Toronto’s First Post Office
One day I’ll have a reason to have a PO Box and this is where it’s going to be. It’s just so charming.
Bar for people watching: Holiday Inn Downtown Center
What the name doesn’t say is that it’s in the gay village. Watching business travelers and excited Vacation Gays mingle is a special sight. It’s all weirdly wholesome, because Canada.
I’ve tried all of their flavors, but I keep going back for the black sesame. People make pilgrimages here for the durian.
Sandwich: Porchetta & co
For several years I ate almost entirely out of the trash, which meant I ate a lot of sandwiches that Zaros tossed out every night (they really do make everything fresh every day!). After overindulging on sandwiches, it is rare for me to want a sandwich and even less likely that I will want to pay money for one.
But then there is Porchetta. When I want a sandwich, this is what I want.
Coffee Shop that’s also a bar: Boxcar Social
Boxcar Social has expanded beyond it’s original location, but all of them offer the perfect bar-meets-coffee-shop vibe.
The waterfront location has fantastic people watching. Summerhill has a nice little backyard. Riverside has some intensely steampunk washrooms.
Want something a little grimier? The Only Bar and Cafe is grimy, but in a good way.
Brunch: Lady Marmalade
One of the perks of having a flexible schedule is being able to skip the lines that snake down Broadview outside of Lady Marmalade. Go on a weekday and order the savory waffles.
I didn’t even realize beer contained tannins until I moved to Toronto. Ontario takes great pride in its craft breweries, but unfortunately most of the local beers plague me with the same side effects of certain red wines.
Steam Whistle is a great beer, but their brewery is full of tourists and bachelor parties. Nope.
I’m partial to Bandit Brewery.
It’s like how InDesign stole the best features from Quark, Bandit is the new and improved version of Bellwoods.
Diner: Ontario Restaurant
Toronto has a pretty good selection of legit diners, along with an abundance of fake diners. Ontario is my favorite.
Donuts: Donut Factory
These are not hipster donuts. Don’t bring your laptop and think you’re going to Instagram anything.
The donuts are fresh, cheap, and come in a paper bag.
Coffee Shop: Pilot Roastery
Pilot Coffee has a bunch of locations in Toronto, but the roastery in Leslieville is the place to go. You can do a coffee flight.
Bagels: Schmaltz Appetizing
It’s not a real New York deli, but it’ll do.
Place to get Thanksgiving Food: Chew Chew’s Diner
Do you want Thanksgiving poutine on American Thanksgiving? I do. And Chew Chew’s in the place that serves it.
Smokes has Thanksgiving poutine on Canadian Thanksgiving, which is also good. But Chew Chew’s feels more like it’s actually made of someone’s Thanksgiving leftovers.
Bakery: St Johns Bakery
Want organic bread? This is your spot, if you can make it when they’re open.
Tacos: Campechano Taquería
Toronto has some really bad tacos. It goes beyond New York / California rivalries. Much of Canada thinks Old El Paso is delicious.
If you insist (like me) on being foolish enough to eat tacos while in Toronto, Campechano is your best bet.
You might also want to check out my list of favorite places in New York.