Weekend City Picks: Toronto
Situated on a vibrant waterfront, Toronto is Canada's cultural capital, a center of gravity that attracts the country’s best chefs, tomorrow's music stars and inspiring artists.
Arts & Entertainment
Designed by Toronto's own starchitect Frank Gehry, this glass-encased museum is an art object in itself. Thanks to a recent facelift, visitors can peruse over 80,000 works in 110 galleries spanning the 1st century to the present day. Despite its vast size, the museum is easy to navigate and affords magnificent views of the city from every direction.
Get a taste of the city's growing art scene and its young and contemporary artists in an unpretentious and welcoming space. The former Show & Tell Gallery features a constantly evolving roster of exciting work and gallery openings.
Tucked away behind graffiti-clad wooden sliding doors in Kensington, this lively jazz bar is neither a cafe nor or a poetry club, though it is one of the city's best kept secrets. With its selection of house-made cocktails with jazz inspired names (Blue Train, The Miles, etc.) and secluded back patio, it's the perfect neighbourhood spot to catch phenomenal live jazz every week.
Known to residents as the "ROM," this striking museum is impossible to miss and contains more than six million artifacts ranging from mummies to dinosaur skeletons, Chinese sculpture to bat caves. It can easily take half a day to fully explore the museum, though you can always swing by for its weekly party series, Friday Night Live, that features live music, local eats and late-night access to the museum.
While it sounds like the place of Carrie Bradshaw's dreams, this eclectic shrine to shoes has a higher cultural aim than just being a showcase for Manolos. The museum’s flagship exhibition is a journey through 4,500 years of footwear, from armored knight boots of the 1490s to Shaquille O’Neal's legendary size-22 sneakers and other exhibits that appeal to couture and sneakerheads alike.
Food & Drink
With such an ethnically diverse population to serve, Toronto restaurants are all about fusion, and famed chef and restaurateur Grant van Gameren has struck the perfect balance. Snack on a diverse selection of Mediterranean standards including the famed charcuterie plate or the entire grilled octopus in this seductive Spanish taverna, or swing by for the late night menu and sip on absinthe into the wee hours.
Hit the Ossington strip early for a romantic evening in this rustic, Parisian-style bistro before the late night revelers come in for elk sliders to soak up the night's libations. Farm-to-table means hearty fare, all Ontario-grown, including duck and pork rillette and slow-roasted Suffolk lamb leg cooked in an open kitchen so you can smell what's to come.
By day it's all handshakes and power lunches over Alberta Beef Brisket in this high-rise dining institution. By night, it's a special occasion destination for dates and entertaining out-of-towners to nosh on Nova Scotia's lobster, Quebec cheeses and other tasting menu standards with a breathtaking view of the city.
Going strong for 200 years, this foodie favorite tops the world's best markets list every year, with a huge range of fresh local produce, international specialties and top notch takeout. Taste your way through its cavernous interior, sampling creamy Québecois provisions and pâtés from Chris Cheesemonger. You can also sample the famed peameal sandwich, a decadent combination of thick slices of cornmeal-crusted bacon smothered in mustard on a doughy Kaiser roll.
This multi-level museum encourages kids of all ages to explore the exhibits with a hands-on approach. Housing more than 800 science exhibits, Toronto's only planetarium, an Omnimax movie theatre and the Weston Family Innovation Centre (aka the “scientific Times Square"), it will keep the family engaged and entertained all afternoon.
For those looking for something outdoors and budget-friendly, this urban oasis gives city kids the opportunity to visit horses, cows, pigs, chickens and other animals residing at this small, late-19th-century-style farm. Younger kids will love their educational programs while parents will enjoy the scenic walking paths and fresh fare from the Tuesday afternoon Farmer’s Market, which runs all summer.
Believe it or not, Ripley's offers a view of real wonders of the world besides wax figurines at this sprawling aquarium. Explore the waters of the world, with over 16,000 marine animals on display and get up close and personal with sharks in the longest underwater viewing tunnel in North America.
For thrill-seekers of all ages, Canada's first and largest theme park offers plenty of gravity-defying rides to satisfy your need for speed. For those not tall enough to scale the 306 feet of the Leviathan roller coaster, there's a thrilling new interactive 4-D ride, Wonder Mountain’s Guardian, along with a 20-acre water park and Planet Snoopy.
For those seeking to break up their boring fitness routine, look no further than the Material Girl herself. Designed by Madonna's trainer Nicole Winhoffer, the dance cardio class, "Addicted to Sweat," features choreography from Madge's music videos and performances. Drop in for a day pass at $50 and rehydrate at the Vega juice bar after you take a bow.
This massive complex is a climber's paradise, with over 18,000 square feet of climbing and fitness space and 200 boulder “problems” ranging from beginner to advanced level. Explore the bouldering sections in the middle of dozens of top-rope routes and try to tame the "dragon" – a 23-foot-high boulder shaped like a dragon for untethered climbing.
As the name suggests, this fitness centre is not for the weak-hearted. The training facility is home to the greater Toronto area's only indoor dragon-boat pool and a 2,000-square-foot strength-and-conditioning space outfitted with top-notch equipment for anyone looking to get into serious shape.
Enjoy up-close views of downtown Toronto and Lake Ontario while getting a great workout along the Waterfront Trail. Cyclists and in-line skaters stick to the asphalt path between Woodbine Beach and Balmy Beach while RunWESTIN™ concierges lead guided runs over the summer months and provide all guests with fresh towels, water bottles and running maps for independent joggers.
As one of the most cultured of Toronto's public spaces, this park reflects the creative flair of the neighbourhood, playing host to an array of events including book fairs, live theatre, impromptu drumming circles, performance art, bicycle polo and locals who soak in the sun while picnicking in the park.
Take a brief reprieve from the city's sights and do as the locals do by grabbing a 15-minute ferry ride out to the Toronto Islands to swim, sunbathe (sometimes clothing optional) and get some fresh air. Active types can choose from bike and canoe rentals while more leisurely activities include concerts and take-out picnics from nearby Parts & Labour.
Toronto is abundant with green space and High Park is the crown jewel. Occupying 400 acres that include extensive hiking trails, a zoo, museum and one of the city's most beloved playgrounds, the park draws visitors year-round and especially during springtime when the cherry blossoms are in full bloom.
Tucked away on the third floor of Hudson Bay's historic Queen Street flagship store is a treasure trove of high fashion labels specially curated for this in-house boutique. Future style stars can browse through wares from cutting-edge designers from all over the world, including Balmain, Comme des Garçons, Christopher Kane and Proenza Schouler. Keep your eye out for special exhibits like their homage to the eternal fashion muse, Isabella Blow.
Reflecting Toronto's Japanese population, this charming, unisex boutique eschews the outlandish Harajuku style and instead focuses on the more mature and refined "Otona" style. Mostly stocked with brands straight out of Japan, the Blue Button Shop also offers a handful of international labels that range from reinterpreted workwear to cute office supplies.
Situated in the bustling Kensington Market, Good Egg is a delightful bookstore devoted to the love of food. Stocked with culinary tools, quirky kitchen items and an incredible selection of hard to find culinary texts, you could easily spend hours browsing and working up an appetite. Good Egg also offers cooking classes and workshops, many taught by professional chefs and is an essential stop for any food lover.
Amid mink mile and other luxury retailers along Toronto's "5th Avenue" is this denim mecca. Over the Rainbow in Yorkville stocks designer jeans aplenty and is the largest jeans store in Canada. Slim, selvedge, vintage, you name it – this unisex boutique carries all the top brands as well as tops, accessories and outerwear and offers an in-house alterations department to ensure the perfect fit.