The big city is wild, and always full of life…

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By Eyeopener Staff

 

  1. Kensignton Market (between College and Dundas Streets, west of Spadina Avenue): Kensington is a small, maze-like community packed with stores and produce stands. You can hunt through this place for hours and never find anything remotely resembling current fads. But if you;re looking for the weird stuff like hand-blown glass bongs, fresh eggplant or piled of previously-worn vintage clothing, the market is your mecca.

 

  1. Lava Lounge (507 College St. [416] 966-5282): It sounds retro and it is. This is a bar for smooth-talkin’ cats straight from the seventies. The interior is adorned with (surprise!) lava lamps, plush vinyl chairs and everything else to make you think you’re just knocking back a few B-52’s before gliding off to Studio 54. Plus, every Wednesday night is Mod Night, and you’ve never seen so many people wearing suits and skinny ties busting funky moves.

 

  1. The Green Room (hidden in the alley south of Bloor between Brunswick St. and Howland Ave. [416] 929-3253): The Green Room’s offbeat location once made this bar one of the best kept secrets in Toronto. Over the last couple of years, however, it’s been discovered by U of T students, desperate actors, failed poets and any other number of losers. The atmosphere promotes the culture of defeat, but if you’ve just been dumped by your mate or you’re suffering from a severe bout of homesickness, you’ll feel right at home.

 

  1. The Matador Country Music Club (466 Dovercourt St., at College St. [416] 533-9311): Usually just called the Matador, this place is famous for latenight drinking and rowdy country fans. It’s open until 5:30 a.m. on weekends and I hear that, if you ask nicely, you can sometimes get in after last call…

 

  1. The Rex (194 Queen St. W [416] 598-2475): The Rex used to be a sketchy hotel and an even sketchier tavern. Not it’s Toronto’s most famous jazz bar, attracting goateed hipsters, old folkies and assorted vagabonds from Queen St. West. There’s almost always some local band playing and unlike other bars on Queen St. West, they’re usually pretty good.

 

  1. Nathan Phillips Square (100 Queen St. W): During the day, this square is packed with the hustle and bustle of busy, trendy Torontonians. During the summer, it’s booked almost daily with events like concerts, dances and outdoor art exhibitions. The City of Toronto proudly publicizes all this, but what they overlook is the famous nightlife of the square, where dozens of homeless people gather to count change and huddle for warmth. Depending on your personality, you may actually feel more comfortable here after dark.

 

  1. For Your Eyes Only (563 King St. W [416] 585-9200): It’s a strip club that feels like a relaxed bar, which makes it the only one of its kind in the city. If everything about Zanzibar and the Brass Rail (except the girls) make you feel like a dirty old man, this is the spot for you. Shows are almost always on and there’s usually at least a handful of women in the audience. They call it an “executive” strip club, and that actually sounds like the truth.

 

  1. Sneaky Dee’s (431 College St. [416] 603-3090): This place is a dive in the best possible way. Free local music and cheap mexican food make up for the suspiciously watery draught beer. Order nothing but Mexican from the menu, drink your beer in bottles only and avoid the dark basement bathrooms that may have swallowed countless drunkards and you’ll be alright. If you do venture down to the toilets, don’t miss the graffiti – “You can tune a guitar, but you can’t tuna fish” – that’s gold, baby!
  2. The Music Hall (147 Danforth Ave. [416] 778-8163): It’s odd that this theatre is still called The Music Hall, because it mostly plays host to arthouse movies, advertising competitions, small cartoon festivals and the occasional second-run blockbuster. Once in a while, a big name folk or blues band will take the stage, but The Music Hall has now mostly been transformed into one of Toronto’s most eclectic screening rooms. You can even buy a membership for $6, that lowers the price of admission to less that $5 for nearly every event.

 

  1. Pope Joan (547 Parliament St. [416] 925-6662): Pope Joan is probably the friendliest bar for lesbians just coming to grips with the big city. There’s three floors with the standard dancin’, drinkin’, pool playin’ fare. The second floor also occasionally plays host to some live bands, and the place is known to get quite rocking on a Friday night. There is, however, sometimes a cover charge.

 

  1. The Carrot Common (348 Danforth Ave. [416] 466-3803): Are you a healthy vegetarian? Do you have serious problems with modern medicine? Do you religiously shun any treatment or meal that doesn’t come straight from Mother Earth? If so, you need to spend a day in this little plaza. The common (as Danforth residents call it) is an ode to the powers of nature. You can buy everything from copper bracelets that heal arthritic wrists to herbs and stones that claim to clear up headaches and nausea. There’s also an all-natural grocery store that sells fresh smoked salmon, organic vegetables and all that other stuff that your roommates probably wouldn’t touch with a ten-foot pole. Think tofu everybody.

 

  1. The Opera House (735 Queen St. E. [416] 466-0313): Simply put, the Opera House is the best place in Toronto to see a concert. The venue is small, and as a result, the biggest mainstream acts usually opt for larger, stadium-sized theatres. That’s okay though because the bands that play the Opera House love it for its intimacy. Radiohead played here on the tour that previewed O.K. Computer, and that show is widely regarded as their best ever in Toronto. A huge balcony hangs down over the mosh pit, making it possible to get within 40 feet of your musical idols and not end up with a fat lip.

 

  1. The Sculpture Garden (115 King St. E): Art galleries are stuffy and pretentious, but not when they’re outside. The sculpture garden is nothing more than a bunch of modern art masterpieces hanging around a regular Toronto garden. But what’s impressive is the effect this achieves around dusk, when the sun sinks over twisted hunks of metal. It’s odd to have this warm and fuzzy feeling, while you’re surrounded by dull grey skyscrapers. Try it sometime. It’s amazing how much art can be appreciated when it’s left alone in a natural environment, with nobody around expecting you to appreciate it.

 

  1. The Guvernment/Kool Haus (132 Queens Quay E. [416] 869-9261): The Guvernment is actually a complex containing three clubs: Kool Haus, the live music venue that always reeks of beer; the VIP lounge, which features goldfish in its tables; and the Orange Room, which is, well, orange. Kool Haus is often the last stop for touring bands destined for stadiums upon the release of their next albums, but there’s a reason they used to call it “The Warehouse.” Basically, it is one, with a stage and three bars. Concerts and cover for the clubs are usually at least $25 and $5-10 respectively.

 

  1. The Barn/Stables (418 Church St. [416] 977-4702): How many times have you said to yourself “Damnit, why isn’t there a gay bar near my home where I can wear nothing but underwear, socks and a cowboy hat?” Does stashing your money in a sweaty tube sock while playing pool on a Thursday night sound like your idea of a good time? Well, it’s just up the street.

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