EXCLUSIVE | Toronto: Introduction
Our travel guides are frequently updated. This guide was last updated 7/07. Still, there are places that are bound to have closed or changed since our last update. Use the listed phone numbers to call ahead, and please let us know of any corrections or new places of interest you discover.
As Canada's center of industry and commerce and a favored immigration point from every corner of the globe, the meaning behind this ancient name continues to confirm itself. In 1998, as if to further prove the point, Toronto was amalgamated with five surrounding suburban cities to create a 2.5-million strong mega-city, within a metropolitan area of over 5 million. While this mega-city is made up mostly of single family homes and parks with several "downtowns" scattered throughout, the core downtown area does have quite a collection of skyscrapers.
Because this skyline easily passes for a sort of generic "big city" America on film, Toronto is one of the largest TV and film production centers in North America. While there are fleeting resemblances to New York -- many describe Toronto as "a clean New York" -- both the energy level and the living is less frenetic, and a New Yorker taken blindfolded and plunked down in the middle of town might guess he's in some small city in the Midwest, until he notices the diversity of the population. In other words, Toronto has lots of big city benefits -- great shopping, a variety of foods, people and entertainment -- with fewer of the hassles -- parking is easier, costs are low, and people are friendly.
Whether you're looking for a city getaway, but aren't quite ready for that New York excitement/fun/trauma/expense, or you're a New Yorker and want to tone it down for a weekend -- Toronto offers a kind of big town/little city experience. Here is a quick rundown of the major neighborhoods to help you navigate Toronto:
The Gay Village (a.k.a. the gay ghetto): the men's scene centers on Church and Wellesley Streets and radiate a few blocks in each direction from there. However, high real estate and rent are dispersing the scene all over the city and fuelling rumors of major closures in the Village.
Cabbagetown: a mostly residential neighborhood of Victorian homes and parks east of Parliament Street between Wellesley and Gerrard.
Yorkville: Bay Street and Yorkville Avenue mark the center of this former hippie enclave turned high-end shopping district. Kensington Market/Chinatown: these adjacent neighborhoods can be found at the crossroads of Spadina Avenue and Dundas Street.
Kensington Market, formerly known as the Jewish Market and now a Caribbean-Asian-Middle Eastern mix of fresh food and cheap clothes, is slightly north and west.
Little Italy (the hippest of many Italian neighborhoods in Toronto) centers on the corner of College and Clinton, just a few blocks west of Bathurst.
Queen Street West: urban fashions, trendy restaurants and the City-TV building where you can watch broadcasts of MuchMusic, Canada's version of MTV. The new Queer West with its grittier, funkier LGBT scene goes further along Queen Street West between Bathurst and Roncesvales.
The Entertainment District: this combo of theater, dining, professional sports, and the tallest building in the world can be found north and south of King Street between University and Spadina.
The Financial District: Queen, Front, Yonge and Avenue Road mark the boundaries containing towers of glass and steel rising above, while 1,100 stores and restaurants make a winter-proof city below.
The historic market block, home to Toronto's original City Hall and the St. Lawrence Market, is east of downtown at King and Jarvis.
The Distillery District, a national historic site east of the Market, serves as the picturesque backdrop to numerous galleries, shops and restaurants.
Greektown: east of downtown on Danforth Avenue between Broadview and Jones is a large collection of Greek restaurants and late night clubs and caf?s.