By Rebecca Mildon and Marta Iwanek
1. Toronto Island/Waterfront
Head down Yonge Street for a 20-minute walk south to Queen’s Quay and you will be at one of North America’s largest recreational waterfronts. Take the ferry from 9 Queens Quay West to Toronto Island. On the island, rent a bike and explore or just relax on one of several beaches. There’s even a nude beach. Grab a bite to eat at Captain John’s restaurant aboard the permanently docked MS Jadran after a long day. Sports fans can catch a Blue Jays or Argonauts game at the Rogers Centre or watch the Raptors play at the Air Canada Centre. Jays tickets are as low as $14. Check out the Harbourfront Centre which has two marinas, restaurants, craft boutiques, art galleries, and theatres. Or take the 509 streetcar west from Union Station to Exhibition Place, where the Canadian National Exhibition is being held until Sept. 5.
If the city life is stressing you out, take the Gerrard streetcar to River Street, walk North on River until you hit a path to Riverdale Park West and keep walking until you see the Riverdale Farm. The serene ponds, donkey, chickens and other animals will have you feeling like you were on a rural farm in Ontario. And it’s free. Don’t forget to bring back some fresh produce. Every Tuesday from May to October, it hosts a farmer’s market. Cabbagetown’s pubs and cafes are not to be missed either, nestled among the area’s Victorian houses. Grab a coffee at Jet Fuel or a beer at local pub House on Parliament.
3. Kensington Market
Not to forget is Kensington Market in Chinatown. Walk west on Dundas Street, past Spadina and turn right on Augusta Avenue. On the last Sunday of the month from May to October you will feel like you’ve stepped into another city. In the absence of cars, bubble machines and buskers invite you. Vintage stores, South American food and Tibetan cafes give you a wide variety of places to go. Enjoy the summer weather relaxing in the park, or attend the annual Festival of Lights or Kensington Market Winter Solstice in December. On your way out, make sure not to miss the Vietnamese cuisine at Pho Hung Restaurant on Spadina.
4. The Annex
Students on a tight budget, but hoping to have a good time, should head to one of the most student-friendly places in the city. Neighbouring the U of T campus, the Annex is full of goodies and discounts. Take the Bloor subway line and get off at Bathurst Station. Honest Ed’s has almost everything you need and you won’t miss the bright, bulb-covered building as you walk to Bathurst. Dance Cave is free with a student card and will have your feet moving to a mix of alternative and top 40 music. Eat and drink your way through pubs, pizza joints, sushi restaurants and cafes like Future Bakery or get lost among the shelves of the area’s used bookstores.
5. Allan Gardens
If you’re looking for some green to cheer your winter blues, Allan Gardens will do the trick. A 15 minute walk up Gerrard Street to Jarvis Street and you will see the public botanical garden with six greenhouses. It’s just steps away from the busy campus and yet you will find yourself surrounded by the lush beauty of mother nature even when the weather outside is frightful. It will bring you back to the summer with its blossoming flowers, earthy smell and water running in its fountains. If you’re there in the summer take a walk in the park just outside and watch the dogs play in the off-leash, fenced dog park.
6. Queen Street West
If you’re looking for some retail therapy, look no further. A 10 minute walk south from campus to Queen Street. Then just head west. See one of your favourite celebrities on New Music Live at the MuchMusic headquarters located at 299 Queen St West. Right around the corner is the Scotiabank Theatre where you can catch the latest Hollywood blockbusters. Across the street is The Ballroom, a recently opened bowling alley and sports bar right in the heart of the Entertainment District. Between Spadina Avenue and Trinity Bellwoods Park is Toronto’s fashion district showcasing independent boutiques. And be sure to try some one-of-a kind food at Gandhi’s Indian Cuisine.
7. The Village
Walk up Church Street, past the still under construction Maple Leaf Gardens and you’ll find yourself in the Church and Wellesley Gay Village, home to Canada’s largest LGBT neighbourhood. The area is still going strong, almost 30 years after it emerged as the centre of gay life in Toronto. If you’re around in the summertime, make sure not to miss Pride — a week of festivals, marches and rallies with over a million in attendance throughout the week. Check out Crews and Tangos restaurant and bar or all ages nights at The Barn Nightclub. Hungry? Make sure to stop by Hair of the Dog for nachos and a drink.
Correction: Kensington market is closed to cars only on the last Sunday of the month from May to October