Right up front, I'll tell you it took me a couple of trips to the 'Great North' before I really loved Toronto. On its face, Toronto is an unassuming large city, bustling with commerce and not a lot of obvious charm - and let's be real, the biting wind and cold temperatures created a battle to explore on foot.
Determined to change my relationship with this city, I headed out and found so many hidden gems. Check out my recommendations below:
- WVRST - A beer-and-sausage hall that will steal your heart in the Fashion district. Pick a classic, or take a walk on the wild side with choices like kangaroo or duck. Communal tables and ample beer selection will make you wonder how fast the time passed.
- Forno Cultura - In your beer-and-sausage induced haze from Wvrst, stumble next door into this delightful bakery next door for fresh baked breads and pastries.
- Cluny Bistro & Boulangerie - Ginger-chili fried frog's legs. Braised beef and roasted mushroom poutine. Duck confit pot pie. Milk chocolate pot de creme, complete with housemade cotton candy. Rarely do I remember dishes this clearly, but Cluny did not disappoint. Design of the dining room matches the attention to detail given to each dish. Great for a date night!
- Momofuku Noodle Bar - A culinary trend main-stay from Chef David Chang, I always stop by this Toronto outpost while I'm in the city. It's warm ramen dishes and inventive pork buns never disappoint.
- Sweet Jesus Creamery - This hip ice cream shop's social media buzz had me trekking through 20 F degree for an ice cream cone. Come for the instagram-worthy ice cream, stay for the soft serve rolled in chocolatey goodness. Worth the hype.
- Weslodge Saloon - Wandering the streets in search of a nightcap, my luck turned good when Weslodge popped into view. You know when you walk by a full bar and just know it's going to be good? That's Weslodge. Great atmosphere, fun designs, solid drinks.
- Fairmont Royal York - Once the tallest building in Toronto and situated directly next to the famous CN tower, the Fairmont Royal York exudes a stately presence of former glory. Gorgeous design (those ceilings! the lobby sofas! the carpet!) will make you feel fancy for a night. Expensive, but worth it. Fun fact - research the 'hotel resume' in the basement to see which famous movies and tv shows were filmed in the hotel!
SEE & DO
- CN Tower - Billed as the tallest free-standing structure in the Western Hemisphere, it goes without saying that the CN Tower provides unbeatable views of the city. Head up to the observation deck, have dinner in the 360 restaurant, or do this, if you're out of your mind.
- Graffiti Alley and Toronto's Stunning Street Art Project - A photographer's dream come true, Toronto is a social experiment with making street art legal. Creativity is bursting all over the Kensington Market neighborhood, but no where more so than this strip of road whose every inch is tagged. It was my favorite part of Toronto.
- Kensington Market - The neighborhood surround Graffiti Alley boasts shopping and gorgeous tiny cafes - make sure to build in some free explore time here. Check out the event calendar for upcoming markets and festivals in the area before you go.
- Distillery Historic District - A pedestrian-only village filled with interactive sculpture arts, breweries, restaurants and shops. A lovely way to spend an afternoon poking around.
I wish I had the time in Toronto to:
- Experience the Lockhart, a Harry Potter themed bar.
- Get a taste of Glory Hole Doughnuts. A colleague of mine couldn't get over the name!
- Visit the St. Lawrence Market. Apparently the pope bought jam there once?
- Catch a Toronto Maple Leafs hockey game!