We know that you know where the best phở place is in your hood. But where can you pick up the best Korean barbecue in the east end? Or find a pretty, new-to-you park for a walk to catch up with friends or family?
While lots of Torontonians know great spots in their own neighbourhoods, they may not be as familiar with other areas. But the city has seen lots of change over the last 18 months — and there’s plenty that’s new to the city as well as new to you.
In partnership with Destination Toronto, we look at why now is the time to get out and uncover Toronto experiences you’ve haven’t done before, from trying a different kind of restaurant or diving into a hotel pool to sipping a summer beverage on a patio or picking up a must-have shirt at a store you hadn’t heard of.
It’s a time when Toronto may just need you the most. “This is about aiding in the restart and accelerating a recovery from the pandemic,” says Andrew Weir, executive vice-president, destination development at Destination Toronto. “This starts with locals re-engaging with our city. It’s going to be some time before Toronto has the millions of international travelers that typically come every year. So it’s a perfect opportunity for locals to dig into their own city.”
Where to start? One of the easiest ways is to download the (free, mobile-exclusive) My Toronto Pass, which not only offers ideas on what to do in the city, but also gives you savings and value-add-ons with participating businesses.
For more inspiration, Destination Toronto can help introduce you to new cuisines to try (had Tibetan food? Toronto is home to the largest Tibetan expat population outside of Asia) or help you find new places to walk, like the paths of Guild Park and Gardens in Scarborough.
The organization can also help residents plan a staycation. Weir’s tip is to start with a theme, and he says families love the Corkscrew at the Chelsea Hotel, downtown Toronto’s only indoor waterslide.
StrollTO, an initiative born last year, has become a valuable resource for Torontonians looking to explore the city. It offers a list of ward-by-ward attractions, public art, green spaces and historic buildings in 25 Toronto neighbourhoods, including Parkdale-High Park’s Beresford Park, Toronto Danforth’s Graffiti Alley East, Toronto Centre’s “Piliriqatigiingniq” mural and many more.
To make it even easier, StrollTO has self-guided itineraries to follow that go past hidden gems such as the Greenwood Staircase to Nowhere in the Toronto Danforth Ward and the Natalia Starikova Artbox in the Humber River-Black Creek neighbourhood.
To really enjoy new parts of the city, Meg Marshall, community manager of the Bloorcourt BIA, suggests coming to your exploration with an open mind.
“Take the long route, because you never know what you’ll find. You’ll probably be pleasantly surprised,” she says. “In our neighbourhood, for instance, there’s a lot of deep-rooted weird and wonderful things. We’re eclectic and artsy, and we also have a lot of destination retailers here for artistic hobbies and passions.”
She adds that the Bloorcourt neighbourhood is diverse in its culinary offerings, too, with strong roots in the Italian, Greek and Portuguese communities as well as Ethiopian food, Nicaraguan eateries and more.
And whether you’re looking to be inspired to visit new places or you want to support a local spot you just discovered, Weir encourages people to check the #NeverHaveIEverTO hashtag to find out what other Torontonians are seeing and doing.
“This hashtag can help spark a city-wide conversation that doesn’t just happen in one place. It’s about the residents of the GTA talking to each other about what they’ve never tried before and sharing those experiences,” he says.