We lived in Toronto city on the East End for about 4 years (2016-2021). Before Toronto fades from my memory I wanted to share about the places we enjoyed in Toronto and the things we did with our kids.
If you want to experience Toronto visit the neighbourhoods - all the fun and action lies there. The best way to explore the city is to hop on the streetcar 501 from Queen St West, right outside Trinity Bellwoods Park and take it all the way to the east end up to Kew Beach. You can get off on the way and jump back again. Most of the neighbourhoods I describe below can be accessed from Queen Street (on 501 streetcar route).
Kensington Market: For great eats. Tons of ethnic food options specially Mexican and Caribbean. Fav: Seven Lives and El Trompo for Mexican Food. Berlin Doner for German - they have a Halloumi doner (my fav) for vegetarians. Blackbird Bakery and Jimmy’s Coffee. There is a park nearby where you can sit and enjoy the food.
Trinity Bellwoods: Beautiful, huge park right by the hip West Queen West. Tons of eating and indie shops on Queen West. Grab your food, sit and enjoy at the park. We’ve spent many summers picnicking there. The nearby Ossington street between Queen and Dundas has a great food scene too. Great for evening out. Fav Restaurants : Sud Forno, Terroni, Fresh (Vegetarian), Soufi (Syrian), Nadge
Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) and Grange Park: It’s in the centre of the city. The museum is great and they have great programming for kids. A hands-on art center for kids and a great cafe in the basement (it was literally our second home in the winter). The Grange Park right by AGO is beautiful with an awesome play structure for kids. Again great food options all around. Kensington Market is walking and so are all the shopping and eateries at Queen St.
St. Lawrence Market and Saint James Park: St. Lawrence is an indoor food market and is a must visit on the tourist list. It’s in the centre of the city (also known as Old Town) but slightly on the east side. From here you can walk to Harbourfront, Union Station or Dundas Square (the Times Square of Toronto). St. James Park next to Lawerence Market is newly renovated with an awesome play structure and seating areas. Our fav eating places: St. Urbain Bagel and Carousel Bakery for Peameal Bacon at St Lawrence Market. Fahrenheit coffee and Neo Coffee Bar.
Distillery District and Corktown Commons Park: On the east side of Toronto, Distillery District is an enclosed, car free space with cobblestone streets. It has a lot of fancy places to eat and drink. In December they have the Christmas Market and it is beautifully lit up. Right next to Distillery is the Corktown Common Park, a large open green space with a pond. We’ve spent many summers in this park. A good place to grab food to enjoy in the park is Souk Tabule (Lebanese Food) and Dark Horse Coffee. Lots of trails to ride bikes across the city starts from Corktown Commons.
Riverside and Leslieville: Awesome family friendly neighbourhood. This is the area we lived in. It has the trendy Queen Street east with awesome restaurants and cafes and right off Queen are the quiet, tree lined residential streets. There are tons of parks in Leslieville. A popular one right on Queen is Jimmy Simpson. Lots of great cafes: Boxcar Social, Tearo, Mercury. Going to Blackbird Bakery was our daily ritual. Places to eat: Punjabi by Nature, Descendant Pizza, Tabule, EastSide Social.
The Beaches: Another family friendly neighbourhood with quick access to the beach and waterfront. Lots of great restaurants on Queen and the beautiful Kew Park. Balmy Beach is the quieter less touristy part of the Beaches neighbourhood. Also a great place to learn paddle boarding, you’ll find shacks alongside the beach offering rentals and one off classes.
Danforth and Withrow Park: Another name for this neighbourhood is Greek Town. Family friendly neighbourhood with a huge park in the middle called Withrow Park. It has beautiful mature trees and you can spend your entire day at the park. The nearby Danforth Street has tons of eating options, mostly greek food.
Broadview and Riverdale Park: On the Eastside of Toronto and close to Danforth and Leslieville neighbourhood is Riverdale Park. Huge open green space and awesome place for summer picnics and winter tobogganing. You also get great city views from this park. There is a coffee place across Riverdale Park called Rooster Coffee House. Get a coffee from there, sit on the bench across and take in the awesome city skyline.
Cabbagetown and Riverdale Farm: Beautiful neighbourhood of Victorian Houses. In this neighbourhood you’ll find the Riverdale Farm, a working animal farm. Also a popular place for kids summer camps. My kids loved visiting this place.
Evergreen Brickworks: A former quarry that has been transformed into a beautiful green space. There are also industrial era buildings that now serve as places for Saturday Farmers Market, kids outdoor learning programs, meeting venues etc. This space is beautiful. We came here often for hikes.
Royal Ontario Museum, Queens Park, University of Toronto (UofT): In the middle of the city and walking distance from each other is the Royal Ontario Museum, University of Toronto and Queen’s Park. We loved visiting the museum with our kids, they’ve had some great exhibits. Queen’s Park is massive and surrounding it is the UofT. Also Bloor Street which has tons of shops and restaurants is right there. Paramount Food (Middle Eastern) and Eataly are some of the food places we’ve been to on Bloor.
Bike Streets: Last year (2020), the city of Toronto closed a number of roads for cars to make it bike and pedestrian friendly. The program was such a hit that the city has extended it for 2021 too. Every weekend certain roads open up for bikers only, more info here COVID-19: ActiveTO – City of Toronto
It’s a great way to explore the city, you can easily rent a bike from BikeShare https://bikesharetoronto.com/