Last week, The Huffington Post proclaimed Toronto the new capital of cool. It’s nice to see my hometown getting some positive exposure although I’m not sure if I agree with the article. Perhaps I’m just suffering from the regular ennui that occurs from having lived somewhere for so long; it seems I’m always looking to escape to a more exotic locale. However, I know I take Toronto for granted so I’ve decided to list my favourite things about the city to remind me (and tell others) why ity is great:
- It’s a city of neighbourhoods: The city is large but it’s more like having various towns squished into a city. We have the Junction, Koreatown, Chinatown, Little India, Greektown, Leslieville, the Entertainment District, Scarborough, North York, Etobicoke etc.
- The diversity: Yeah, Torontonians can be a bit stuck up about it, but Toronto is definitely one of the most accepting cities in the world. It’s the most accepting I have ever seen. As mentioned above, we have various “ethnic” pockets although it’s often in name only. For example, Chinatown actually has a lot of Vietnamese shops, Little Italy serves sushi and Thai and Little Portugal also has lots of Brazilians.
- The food: You can eat your way around the world with fairly authentic food. Of course, you have to distinguish the fakers from the makers since there is plenty of bad food to go around. (Just because someone is an immigrant, doesn’t mean they are a good cook!) Some favourite eats: Vietnamese pho at The Golden Turtle, Korean hot soup on Bloor St (Korean stone bowl rice & tofu soup – the green sign) and Salvadoran burritos at Taco El Asador.
- The Annex: This is my favourite part of the city and I am fortunate to live here. The area is a mix of beautiful residential streets lined with trees and commercial strips lined with independent shops. The main street, Bloor St, has more naturopathic food stores per square foot than any other part of the city, has some cheap (and sometimes good) food, a few good bars and restaurants (Harbord St) and some great bookstores. It’s also adjacent to Koreatown where I can grab some good hot tofu soup!
- Trinity Bellwoods Park: The park is surrounded by some cute cafes, boutique clothing shops and record stores. And after you’re finished browsing, you can relax , play frisbee or walk around the park.
- The waterfront: I love biking or rollerblading along the path that lines the waterfront, from the west end to the east. I’ve also taken rowing classes here and it’s just a wonderful feeling to see the sunset behind the water. The Harboufront Centre is a fun place to visit for its festivals in the summer and its skating rink in the winter.
Some tips if you visit Toronto:
- Avoid Yonge St (the world’s longest street) south of Bloor including the vastly overrated and touristy Dundas Square. Also, avoid the Eaton Centre which is the most visited mall but also one of the worst in Toronto. Queen St west of Yonge and East of Spadina is also very touristy and most of the independent stores have been taken over by big brands.
- The CN tower is no longer the tallest freestanding building in the world. If you want to see Toronto from above, feel free but be prepared to spend a lot of money!
- If you like trendy or more dressed up areas, visit Yorkville which is home to many designer brands and home away from home for many celebrities when they are filming in the city. Another option is King St West which has some trendy (read: atmospheric and expensive) restaurants and clubs. Queen St West is another trendy option with The Gladstone Hotel and The Drake Hotel.
- Avoid the streetcar if you can which is painfully slow. The subway, on the other hand, is pretty quick and reliable although delays do happen.
Hope you visit soon!