Whenever I visit Toronto, the shit always hits the fan. Whether Mayor Ford is sampling crack or a G-20 summit leads to riots on the street, I still always manage to have a great time. I want you to have the best time, too. While the New York Times will give you 36 hours in one place, we at Somewhere Or Bust give you 37. Without further ado, for the best things to do in Toronto over a weekend here’s how to spend those 37 hours. (Since the New York Times’ 36 Hours never adds up to a day and a half, neither will this, if you’re keeping score at home.)
The Best Things to do in Toronto: 37 Hours
Friday 11:00 am: Planes to Trains
After arriving in Toronto, get yourself over to the Steam Whistle Brewery and the Old Rail Museum. Whether you like quality beer, have children that want to ride the miniature train out front, or love the history of the steam engine, this doubles as the best location to snap photos of the CN Tower.
Friday 2:00 pm: Drunk and High
After a few beers at Steam Whistle, shoot up to the top of the CN Tower for views of the city.
Friday 4:00 pm: Distillery District
The historic brick roads contain one of the greatest collections of Victorian-era architecture, some of the trendiest shops, and, after many years, a distillery again. The Mill Street Brewery, which produces a tasty pint, has expanded into the schnapps market.
Friday 6:00 pm: Food Tour of Chinatown
For a city to be worth its… soy sauce, it needs to have a Chinatown. The Chinatown in Toronto, while small, has one great block on Spadina, which should serve as the origins for any Toronto food tour. Start at King’s Noodles where you can order savory barbecued pork and a noodle-wrapped pastry dubbed the Chinese doughnut. Afterward head next door for dumplings at the Dumpling House, and then, on the same block, grab a $2.00 Vietnamese sandwich.
Saturday 8:00 am: Waterfront
Whether you run, cycle, or stroll, this is the best path in the city. Even though it follows the rush hour traffic, the tranquil waterfront will drown out the polite driving of Torontonians.
Saturday 11:15 am: Lunch at Khao San Road
Doors open at 11:30 at this Adelaide West establishment. And rest assured, if it’s during the week, a line will form. It’s cheap and tasty Thai food in the heart of the city. For an extra buck or two you can add a summer roll and Tum Yum soup to your lunch.
Saturday 1:00 pm: Queen Street
After Thai, head over to Queen Street for the shops. If you’re like me, and consider shopping to be an appalling compromise a husband must make with his wife, there’s a great coffee shop called Little Nicky’s that you can hide out in. They serve up tasty brews, but make sure to complement your order with a bowl of miniature sugar doughnuts.
Saturday 3:00: Kensington Market
While it’s best to tour Kensington Market on the last Sunday of the month, from May to October, when the street shuts down for festivities, if it’s any other time of year try to visit during daylight hours. The graffiti artwork commissioned by the city is remarkable, the shops are eccentric, and the vibe is like Manhattan’s East Village, though much smaller. If you still have an appetite, grab a lamb patty from the Patty King.
Saturday 7:30 pm: Second City
Check out the improv nursery for institutions like Saturday Night Live, which helped foster the greats like John Belushi, Mike Myers, Tina Fey, and Stephen Colbert, to name a few. You can also take improv classes during the day.
Sunday 11:00 am: Brunch Toronto West
The best brunch spots in the city are on the west side of Toronto. Head down Dundas Street and cross over Bathurst, where you’ll find tasty French toast and overstuffed omelets. I loved the sparsely decorated L’Ouvrier, but kept hearing rave reviews about Saving Grace.
Sunday 1:00 pm: Bellwoods Brewery
What would Sunday brunch be without excess drinking? If that’s your thinking, cruise past the shops on Dundas, turn left on Ossington, and enjoy a beer on the outdoor patio at Bellwoods Brewery.
Sunday 2:00 pm: Trinity-Bellwoods Park
There’s no better way to end your stay in Toronto than with a long sit at Trinity-Bellwoods Park and a slow stroll down the funkier side of Queen Street. When the weather is nice you’ll find tightrope walkers, clothing vendors, and musicians gathered on the grass. And on the walk down Queen Street West, you’ll pass better shops, eateries, and graffiti.
Where I Stayed
The best room I had in Toronto was provided by the Pantages Hotel. Though the modern room was small, it came equipped with a full kitchen and a comfortable bed. Plus it was central to everything. Besides Toronto West, everything was within a twenty minute walk. (The link for the hotel is an affiliate link, so if you do happen to book the room, please do so through this link. It will save you money and reward me with a sliver of a percentage. Thanks for your support.)
Note: Shout Out to Shawn for introducing me to Khao San Road and Little Nicky’s. Shout out to Zoe for telling me about Saving Grace, but giving me bad directions.