Toronto insider tips

Ontario College of Art and Design from the AGO

By Aefa Mulholland, your Toronto expert

I write for The Irish Times, Orbitz, .... Read more

How to save money plus other advice on Toronto

Toronto is a safe, easy-going and easily negotiated city. People are friendly and generally happy to stop and give directions or help out. Your possessions are probably safe and some people do leave bags and jackets at tables while going to the rest rooms or to the dance floor at clubs, but it’s always sensible to keep ‘em with you.

Eating and drinking

  • Don’t leave Toronto without exploring the food in the ethnic neighbourhoods such as Little Italy, Little Portugal, Little India, Koreatown, Greektown or one of the five Chinatowns.
  • The Winterlicious and Summerlicious fixed price restaurant promotions (www.toronto.ca/special_events/) are a great way to sample some of the city’s top restaurants. They run in January/February and July, annually, and menus are online.

Getting around

  • Avoid getting on the subway or streetcar at any major downtown stations or stops between 5pm and 6:30pm — especially if it’s raining or snowing — not only are trains and cars absolutely crammed, the streetcars crawl so slowly it can take ten minutes to get through a set of lights.
  • Instead of buying one ticket each time you catch a bus, subway train or streetcar, buy five or ten tokens at subway stations or in most corner shops and 7-11s, it carves ticket prices down from $3 to $2.50 a go.
  • Unlimited weeklong TTC passes cost $36 and run Monday-Sunday. They’re transferable.
  • There’s a TTC day pass for $10 a day. On Saturdays, Sundays and holidays, that same day pass is valid for one adult and up to five children or youths up to 19, or two adults and up to four children or youths or two adults.
  • Take care, streetcars stop in the inner lane of traffic. It’s a weird system and out-of-town drivers rarely realise they have to stop behind a streetcar when it’s at a stop. Wait till you’re completely sure autos have stopped before walking out to board the streetcar.
  • If you’re a woman and are on the bus late at night, drivers will do request stops almost anywhere between 9pm and 5am to help you get home safely.

Sights and attractions

  • There is a money-saving attraction pass called a City Pass (www.citypass.com/toronto) that cuts almost 50 per cent off admission prices for the CN Tower, Casa Loma, Ontario Science Centre, the ROM and Toronto Zoo. It also allows holders to skip most waiting lines.
  • Most top museums have late-opening nights where admission costs are halved or waived entirely. It’s often the time when these institutions have the best atmospheres.
  • Watching a ball game at the (once futuristic) Rogers Centre, nee the SkyDome, with its retractable roof, is a fun activity — even if the Blue Jays do almost always lose.

Other useful tips

  • You can get some great ideas of what’s on this week by picking up a copy of Now magazine. They list festivals, shows, readings and pretty much everything else that’s on. Eye Weekly is a similar publication. If you want all-gay listings, pick up a copy of Xtra, the LGBT publication.
  • Confused as to how to pronounce some TO areas and street names? It’s Spah-dina (Spadina), Ozzington (Ossington), Ronsez-vales (Roncesvalles), Et-oh-be-coh (Etobicoke) and Miss’awga (Mississauga). Oh, and it’s very definitely “The Beach”, not “The Beaches” if you’re referring to the neighbourhood in East Toronto with the four beaches.
  • Torontonians use a host of names for some of the same areas, and several neighbourhoods overlap. For instance, the Art and Design District is also West Queen West, and the Western half of West Queen West is also Parkdale and Little Tibet. They’re all right, it’s just really a matter of whether your interests are Tibetan food, cutting edge galleries or the hipster bars (of Parkdale). Depending on the address and the perspective of who you’re talking to, “Downtown” can mean either the non-suburban original city of Toronto or the tight cluster of districts right in the absolute core of the city between Bathurst and Jarvis, and Bloor and the lake.
  • Don’t leave Toronto without getting out of the downtown core — great as all downtown’s sights are, to get a taste of the real Toronto, you need to head west or east or north — or even south to the beaches and the islands.
  • There are a slew of summer attractions at the Harbourfront — from free concerts to food festivals to open-air movies. Check the Harbourfront site for details (www.harbourfrontcentre.com).

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