In Shawn Micallef’s new book Frontier City: Toronto on the Verge of Greatness, the urbanist and writer argues that the city has, since its rapid growth began in the 1970s, become a place of neighborhoods that are fragmenting the city’s sense of itself. Walking around the various neighborhoods of Toronto, the traveler is left with an ultra-high sense of entrepreneurship, illustratively designed small businesses and a whole load of creativity.
Toronto is an easy-pace urban city, full of bright character and homey feel.
Trinity Bellwoods and Queen St West
Most of the action nowadays is around Queen St West. All along that axis, there are a few neighborhoods worth exploring portraying a new face of the city, a more alternative one than your average American city full of chain stores and shopping malls. Toronto’s art and design district boasts an extensive array of menswear, vintage, house and craft supplies. It’s a goldmine for the fashion-hungry!
At night the neighborhood offers lively patios (oh the summer around here!) and bars, also catering to the hungry ones for live rock or pop music. Internationally-renowned venues like the Cameron House, the Horseshoe and the Rex are all packed when they host shows. Re-charge with food from around the world at unique restaurants (see below) and cafes that are often open late.
If you’re there during summertime then the Trinity Bellwoods park is a great spot for a quick impromptu picnic or just a small break away from the city’s concrete backdrop.
Old Toronto and the Entertainment District
Most tourists call this area downtown as it features most of the city’s hotels, Rogers stadium and the CN Tower. Although not the preferred location for one who wants to get the real feel of the city, Old Toronto is a must for those that want to understand some of the history, the culture and the most famous building of the city, the CN Tower. Dating back in the 1970s and once the tallest building of the world, the CN Tower offers a quick ride up to its 147th floor (less than 30 seconds!) and great views all around.
Few things bring Canadians together quite like ice hockey so if you happen to be in town during game season (April to October) you may want to buy one of those tickets.
The walks can be long around Toronto and lunch is always a good idea in a city that offers so many interesting food genres. Rooting back to its history, the food scene in Toronto is super rich with Japanese, Portuguese and Italian being front and center. Pizza Libretto is one of the best choices if you’re craving a delicious pizza and an easy-going lunch or dinner.
If you’re only looking for coffee and small bites then Dineen Coffee Co is a chic alternative. Launched in 2013 right where the famous W F Dineen Co used to sell fur clothing, this upscale coffeeshop offers a very bright space full of young entrepreneurs docking their laptops on the marble counter around the vintage Marzocco espresso maker.
Located only 125km away from Toronto, Niagara Falls offers the perfect excuse for a very convenient 1.5hrs roadtrip to the countryside. Three waterfalls, all flowing into the same spot right on the Canadian-American border where Buffalo, New York meets Toronto, Ontario. Temperatures can be tricky during the winter (especially with all the drizzle from the waterfalls) but during the summer it’s a joy to walk around. The bravest ones even go down to the water for a tour around the falls base.