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Toronto Weekend Travel Guide

Jul 28, 2016


Omied and I were in Toronto a couple weeks ago for a wedding (a dear friend from grad school got married and I'm so happy for her and her new husband!). We only had a few days in Toronto and besides seeing friends and celebrating the bride and groom, we also really wanted to explore, since we'd heard such great things about this city. I did a bunch of research before our trip and put together a little wishlist of places I wanted to see and things for us to do in the short amount of time we had there. Some things exceeded our expectations, while others fell a bit flat. Based on our experience there, I've put together this travel guide for anyone looking for the best things to see, eat, and do in Toronto. Not planning a trip to Toronto any time soon? Pin this post for later, because you never know!


Friday Afternoon

  • Kitten and the Bear. This place was probably one of my favorite experiences while we were in Toronto (can you tell by all the photos we took there?). Start your Toronto trip off with high tea at this adorable little tea and jam shop. Owned by a husband and wife team, Kitten and the Bear makes fresh, delicious preserves and partners with a local company for their huge tea selection. The space is small (only five people can be seated at a time) and they don't take reservations. However, you can put your name in and go explore the neighborhood while you wait, and they will text you when your table is ready. When we gave them a call around 1pm on a Friday, they happened to have one of their tables open and we were able to sidle in there easily. You can also get scones and jams to go, but it was such a treat to sit in their cute shop by the window and savor the different preserves (and those huge fluffy scones and delicious clotted cream!) that I'd really recommend making the effort to snag a seat.
  • Parkdale. After your high tea, wander around the Parkdale neighborhood and make your way east towards Ossington Street. It's got a hipster and gritty vibe and lots of murals that reminded me of the Mission in San Francisco. As one of the owners of Kitten and the Bear put it, "You have people waiting in line for the soup kitchen to open on one side of the street, and ladies waiting in line for tea on the other. But that's what makes this neighborhood so great; we're all here together." If you're not too full from tea time, grab a sweet treat at Glory Hole Doughnuts or Bang Bang Ice Cream. We had a Totaro ice cream (purple yam + coconut) sandwich with birthday cake cookies. It was to die.
  • VdeV. This boutique was like an Canadian Anthropologie. Dainty jewelry and quirky/adorable goods fill this shop. They also have a location in Montreal. 
  • Bellwoods Brewery. Grab a spot on the patio at Bellwoods and enjoy some of their craft brews. I'm not a beer drinker, but Omied is a fanatic, and I promised him in our vows I'd love him even when he dragged me along to breweries. Lucky for me, they also have cider, and the outdoor space was lovely.
  • Union. Stop by Union, a restaurant inspired by the classic French bistro, for dinner on the patio. Be sure to get the elk sliders!


Saturday

  • Karelia Kitchen. Start your weekend off right with a yummy brunch. There are lots of recommended brunch spots in Toronto, but we ended up going to Karelia Kitchen because we were able to get reservations there, and the idea of a nordic smokehouse for brunch sounded intriguing to us. 
  • Earth Echoes. After brunch, pop into the pet store next door. I'll be honest, this place kinda gave me the heebie jeebies since it's filled with reptiles. But there were also lots of pretty, colorful birds, interesting chameleons and just sort of odd little animals. It doesn't have the loveliest smell (it is a reptile shop, after all), but worth popping your head in to take a look around.  
  • Baker Bots Baking. Stroll over to this little bakery (same place that owns Bang Bang) to satisfy your sweet tooth after brunch.
  • Ossington Ave. Head south on Ossington Ave and walk through this adorable residential street.
  • Tokyo Smoke. Is it a coffee shop? Is it a clothing store? Is it a succulent greenhouse? Is it a cannabis shop? Apparently, it's all of those things. I was a little confused when we stopped by here, because I thought we were going to get coffee at Slowroom, which is the coffee shop that inhabited this spot previously. Nonetheless, the iced latte hit the spot.
  • Bake Shoppe. This place is too cute to not stop by. Birthday cake toppers that say, "Shit, you're old," gourmet poptarts, and a neon pink "Baked" sign that reminded me of Mr. Holmes in SF are just a few of the delightful fancies you'll find here. There are also some funky creations that you should try, like the ruffles marshmallow (Basically a rice krispies treat with ruffles. I thought it was as weird as it sounded, but Omied liked it.).
  • Sugar Beach. Grab an Uber and head down to the water and hang out at Sugar Beach. What was once a deserted area and surface parking lot is now a sandy spot to soak up the harbor and city skyline views, complete with Instagram-worthy pink umbrellas. It doesn't cost a penny to sit in the chairs under an umbrella, so be patient and wait until someone vacates their spot, and then claim it for yourself. We sat in the shade and sipped our coffee, but others were full-on sun bathing on a beach towel in the sun.
  • The Slip. Enjoy drinks and dinner at this harbor-front restaurant for a relaxing way to round out your day.


Sunday
  • Maman. Go to Maman in the Financial District for brunch and yummy coffee and pastries. But be sure to check their website for their hours! It currently says brunch will be back Sept. 10th.
  • CN Tower. Head over and up to the CN Tower. Buy tickets ahead of time so you can skip the first line (but still expect to wait in line for at least a half hour once you get inside the tower). The website says to buy tickets online at least 24 hours in advance, but you can buy mobile tickets any time for the same day (we bought them as we walked up to the tower). The views are beautiful, and while we were there during the day I'm sure sunset would be just killer, so if you have some flexibility in your schedule, maybe try to shift things around to be up there during the sunset. If your heart can take it and you feel like a bit of adrenaline, walk over the glass floor. I definitely experienced some vertigo standing there, and then some asshole thought it would be funny to jump up and down on the glass. Not cool, man, not cool. But it was worth the Insta shot!
  • Coffee Bar Inc. Ok, so, the coffee at this place didn't blow me away (I am from SF and have pretty high coffee standards though), but the latte art is pretty adorable, and they had good sandwiches that were wrapped up and perfect for the flight home. It's close to the CN Tower so you can head over there for an afternoon pick me up.
  • Kensington Market. Roam around the vintage and other specialty shops for a bit.
  • Seven Lives Tacos Y Mariscos. Brave the line and get tacos at Seven Lives. Be sure to get the Gobernador!


At this point in your itinerary, you probably have to head home to make it back in time for the work week. But! If you have any more days left in Toronto, you should absolutely make the trek out to Niagara Falls. I had already been to Niagara when I went to Canada last year for a work trip, but I'd love to come back so Omied can see it some day. The views are the prettiest from the Canadian side, and it's only an hour and a half drive to get to see one of the natural wonders of the world.

That's it for my suggestions for things to do in Toronto! I know there are plenty of other yummy restaurants and bakeries that we didn't get a chance to indulge in. What are some of your favorite spots there?

And let me know your thoughts and feedback on this travel guide! This was my first time putting together a travel guide post that's meant to be helpful for someone looking for things to do in a city I've been too, whereas previously my travel posts were a bit more hodgepodge and like a travel diary with random snaps from my trip. My hope is that this new travel guide version is more helpful and easily consumable. If you dig it, I'll continue to make more travel guides as I explore new places!


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