Category Archives: Best of Toronto ?

Five out-of-the-box travel destinations — for students

Being a student is tough. Between balancing classes, jobs, and an ever-limited budget, finding the time to actually see and explore the city is tough. Even when you do find the time, Toronto is expensive. So here are five budget-friendly travel destinations for students:

  1. Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO)

Under a new pricing model that began on May 25, 2019, admission to the AGO for those aged 25 and under will now be free. So go on, see various pieces of Canadian, Indigenous, and international art, including exhibits like Yayoi Kusama’s Infinity Mirrored Room.

  1. High Park

Like nature? Like picnics? Like zoos? Like free things? Well, High Park is the place for you! A spacious park in the West End, it’s known for its annual cherry blossom bloom, but also has a free zoo open all year from 7:00 am to dusk.

  1. Bike Share Toronto

Although not a destination, Bike Share Toronto offers a $7 Day Pass to bike as much as you’d like for 24 hours, from Humber Bay Park in the west to the Beaches in the east. Good for exercise, the environment, and sightseeing, the only downside is you have to dock your bike every 30 minutes or face overage charges.

  1. Allan Gardens

Located at 160 Gerrard Street East, close to Carlton Street and Jarvis Street, Allan Gardens is a mixed-use park and an indoor botanical garden, featuring beautiful plants and flowers from around the world. Open all year from 10 am to 5 am, admission is free and wheelchair-accessible as part of the Toronto Parks system.

  1. Hamilton

If you’re looking to leave the city and not break the bank, spend a weekend in Steeltown! Take a bus from downtown Toronto to Hamilton for as low as $10, and take a day or weekend exploring the burgeoning food, bar, and café scenes while exploring its natural beauty — whether the lake or its various waterfalls!

Five must-have phone apps in Toronto

If you’re new in the city, or if you’re just a student, here are the top five apps you definitely need to have in the city.

Transit

If you’re a consistent TTC rider and you don’t use this app, I don’t know how you’re surviving this city.

We’ve all had our fair share of the outstanding services that TTC has to offer – buses that never show up, streetcar delays, or shuttle buses replacing the out-of-service trains.

Well, to put it straightforward: Transit, the app, will save your ass.

Transit is simple, reliable, and gives you *updated* timings of nearby transit lines. With accurate real-time predictions, Transit helps you plan your trips, gives you service disruption notifications, and step-by-step navigation.

Not impressed? It even lets you book an Uber, find a Carshare, or grab the nearest Bikeshare!

It does the jobs of three different transit applications in one single app. Seriously, it’s a lifesaver.

Toronto Parking Finder

Driving in Toronto? Congratulations, you’re free from the wrath of the TTC. And yet, how do you do it? The only thing that’s worse than driving in downtown Toronto is trying to find a parking spot here.

Well, thanks to the wonders of technology, the Toronto Parking Finder app is here to save you.

Partnered with Google Maps, this app gives you the closest and the cheapest parking spots in the city when you enter your destination – it even notifies you about the free parking spots around you.

It also comes with a built-in timer and lets you know how much time is left on a parking meter to help you avoid getting those pesky parking tickets.

Some other parking apps worth mentioning are the BestParking app and the new GreenP app – if you want to give it a shot.

Ritual

Have only twenty minutes to grab lunch? Ritual helps you order ahead of time and skip lines at your favourite restaurants and coffee shops. It makes picking up takeout super easy, and the best part is that there is no extra added fee. It tells you when to leave and, once you arrive, the food and beverages are ready for you.

As if this wasn’t wild enough, you also earn points with every order, which can be redeemed later for free beverages or food.

There’s also an added benefit for businesses: Ritual helps businesses subsidize lunches or dinners for their employees.

Bunz

Bunz was a very popular Facebook group, but now they have their own app! Not a lot of people know about how great Bunz is, but if you’re a student this app is perfect for you.

Bunz is a community that basically lets people trade unwanted items with each other, instead of paying money for it. You can trade clothes, furniture, accessories, services, and a lot more – I got an entire dining table with four chairs for my small apartment for only two wine bottles!

This app is wild, and definitely worth checking out!

BlogTO

Yes, I know this is super basic, but this is my favourite app to scroll through – it gives you access to all the events taking place around you in Toronto, the ‘top 10’ restaurants for practically every food item, and even the latest news. You can find the best Toronto bars, coffee shops, hangout places, and everything else here. Pro tip: you can also save the articles and upcoming events to your list so you don’t miss them.

Want to find out the best taco place? Can’t decide which bar to hit on St. Patrick’s Day? BlogTO got your back!

Best specialty grocery stores in Toronto

Don’t be scared: specialty does not always mean expensive. A trip to a specialty grocery store is well worth the time and effort if you are curious about cuisine and pretty packaging. Specialty grocery stores are like soulmates: there is some place for everyone.

Pusateri’s Fine Foods: “I don’t want to cut my vegetables”

With three locations in downtown, personal service is Pusateri’s mantra, and it rings true. Spotty foot traffic makes the staff to patron ratio seem like 1:4 and most of them are happy to find items for you, as opposed to just pointing in its general direction. Butchers cut both meat and produce. Carrots can be washed and julienned, pomegranate seeds can go home with you without the stubborn rind, and someone else can cry over onion chopping for once. These veg-butcher services come at no extra cost, and neither does the help of a personal shopper.

Bring home what your roommate needs without taking responsibility for choosing the wrong sort of kale for her potluck. English shortbreads and beloved speculoos cookies are always in stock. Sample the sweets of the world without having to dig into your OSAP loan reservoir for airfare and accommodations.

Pusateri’s is my shrine, lay me in a bed of their ready-made quinoa when I die.

Organic Garage: buying rare expensive things at a marginally cheaper price

There is only one Organic Garage, sorry folks. One in the very west of Toronto, the part that doesn’t conveniently sit on the subway line. I haven’t visited their other location in Liberty Village, so I am vouching for the aforementioned location. Keele and St. Clair West can seem like a trek, but the trip is well worth it if you are interested in stocking up on vegan goods and organic produce. Despite the bougie brown brick facade, produce prices here tend to be cheaper than those at Metro. There, organic green kale goes for $2.99. Here, it costs a little less than half the price: $1.47. Produce is always fresh, and neatly arranged for easy access.

The space emits a warm ambiance with its wooden paneling and string lights, turning shopping for groceries into a welcome adventure. Their variety of organic foods (fresh and pre-packaged) is unparalleled. Yes, they have all the flavors of Daiya’s dairy-free cheesecakes (my favorite is key lime). Be sure to call in advance, if you are searching for a specific product. Parking at this location is free, and spots are abundant. The parking lot is nearly as great as my affinity for this hidden gem.

Cheese Boutique: for the cheese addict in you

This cheese haven has been around since the 70’s, bringing cheeses, charcuteries, and exotic fungi from around the world. Despite being on the pricier side, you get what you pay for and staff offer free cups of espresso and biscotti in store. With over 500 varieties of cheeses and three aging rooms, this is the spot to find the rarest of cheeses. The location also has a small produce section for fresh vegetables at slightly higher-than-normal prices. However, the pates and mousses they import from Quebec go for $7 in sizeable blocks. Their sandwiches, made with house-baked breads and cured meats, are also a popular choice; they’re priced at around $3.00 per 100g.

While gelatos and most bakery items are made in store, you can also find Nadege products like blue velvet bars and cinnamon cakes. This is the spot to be for unique food items and their aging room (open to the public) makes for an unforgettable experience.

The ten best vegan restaurants in Toronto

The popularity of plant-based eating has skyrocketed in the last few years, as evidenced by the mounting number of restaurants dedicated to vegetarian and vegan cuisine in the city. The following 10 gastro-tastic places to eat offer options ranging from deliciously indulgent to heartily healthy that omnivores and herbivores alike will enjoy!

1. The Hogtown Vegan: Specializing in Southern-style comfort food, their meaty seitan sandwiches like the Philadelphia “cheesesteak” and Unchicken Burger could fool even a true carnivore.

Location: Kensington Market

2. Planta: For a more upscale dining experience, Planta offers a beautiful ambiance and freshly made gourmet food. Try the artichoke heart crab cakes and cocktails.

Location: Yorkville

A delicious meal from Planta. MADELEINE KELLY/THE VARSITY

3. Fresh: One of the OG veggie restaurants in the city, with a large menu featuring fresh cold pressed juices, salads, burgers, bowls and offering brunch on weekends.

Location: all over the city.

4. Urban Herbivore: Offers everything from generous helpings of protein-packed salads to gluten and nut-free vegan cupcakes!

Locations: Kensington Market and The Eaton Centre.

5. Mythology Diner: This retro-inspired diner was opened by Chef Doug McNish last year, located in a community that is now known as Vegandale. It offers all the comfort food classics. The menu is constantly being updated with seasonal favourites. Staple menu items include seitan wild wings and the Reubonator sandwich.

Location: Queen and Dufferin.

Mythology Diner brings classic diner treats with a vegan twist. MADELEINE KELLY/THE VARSITY

6. Doomie’s: Mythology’s former neighbour, Doomie’s recently relocated to the Vegandale Brewery, but still offers a huge assortment of burgers and other greasy gluttonous goodies to devour, like deep fried oreos and waffles. Try the vegan Big Mac!

Location: Queen Street West.

7. Copenhagen Vegan Cafe & Bakery: The newest edition to Vegandale, Copenhagen is a classy little bakery offering savoury and sweet baked goods, milkshakes, and specialty caffeinated drinks. It’s a great place for a coffee or study date.

Location: Queen Street West.

8. Cosmic Treats: In the heart of Kensington Market, Cosmic Treats has out-of-this-world desserts like scrumptious sundaes, brownies and baked goods galore. They also have a menu full of comfort foods like lasagne and chicken pot pie.

Location: Kensington Market.

9. Grasshopper: With one location close to UTSG, Grasshopper is a great place to hit the books while munching on some mac and cheese or deep fried Mexican rice balls.

Location: College and Spadina.

10. Apiecalypse Now!: Donuts, pizza and punk rock! Located across from Christie Pits, the Pig Destroyer Destroyer pizza is a must-try, and they recently opened a bar above the diner!

Location: Bloor Street West.

Vegan Pizza from Apiecalypse Now!. MADELEINE KELLY/THE VARSITY

 

Six unique restaurants in Toronto

Toronto prides itself on being an extremely multicultural city, and with that assertion comes the effects: we are littered with amazing food options here. Now, I’m not going to talk about the standard cuisines of some countries – such as Italian, French and Lebanese –which are universally praised in every major city around the world. Instead, this list will showcase the six best restaurants from underrated cuisines.

Check these places out if you are looking to take advantage of the multiculturalism of this great city!

1. Tuk Tuk Canteen: Although somewhat similar to Thai food, this Cambodian joint will give lovers of Thai food great exposure to a plethora of new flavours.

2. African Palace: A great Ethiopian and Eritrean restaurant, which showcases the many flavors and unique cuisine of the Horn of Africa.

3. Cookie Martinez: Although not massive in geography, this place is massive in personality, from the lovely owner to the beautiful and vibrant colors. This is a must-try for anyone who loves Latin-American cuisine – especially those who love arepas.

4. Vos Restaurante Argentino: Argentinian steak is something everybody should try. Period. Popular around the world – especially in parts of Europe and Latin America – this spot is a must for anyone looking to try something new in Toronto.

5. Royal Myanmar Restaurant: From the interior of the restaurant to the food itself, this place screams traditional and it is perfect just the way it is. Located in a very unassuming area, this restaurant will provide you with great traditional Burmese meals.

6. Borrel: Although a prominent nation, The Netherlands has never really been able to bring their cuisine to the forefront in outside markets. Borrel tries to change that as they provide great Dutch comfort food and creative cocktails.

Things to do on campus this weekend

Here’s your list of to-do’s for this chilly January weekend on campus.

Saturday 

1. Varsity Blues Men’s Hockey vs. Brock Badgers 

Come out and cheer on our Varsity Blues men’s hockey team this Saturday at 6pm. Students get in free with their TCard and the first 100 guests will get a complementary Varsity Blues toque!

When: Saturday, January 12, 6pm.

Where: Varsity Arena, 299 Bloor St. W.

2. Making the Dead Talk 

The Laboratory Medicine and Pathobiology Student Union is hosting their annual symposium this Saturday exploring a variety of topics in forensic science.  The conference will include a career panel, a poster fair, multiple speakers, and a demonstration of live forensic techniques. As an added bonus, food is provided!

When: Saturday, January 12, 6pm.

Where: Macleod Auditorium, 1 King’s College Circle.

3. Tommy Thompson Park Winter Outing

Okay, it’s technically not on campus but the U of T Ornithological Club is hosting a hike at Tommy Thomas Park this Saturday and it’s definitely worth checking out. The club plans to walk a few kilometers hoping to spot ducks, raptors, and owls. Even if you’re not a birder, it’s still worth tagging along; a winter afternoon hike is the perfect opportunity to clear your mind. If birds are your thing, make sure to bring binoculars!

When: Saturday, January 12, 11am.

Where: The group is meeting in the parking lot at Unwin Ave. and Leslie St.

Sunday

4. Day of Percussion 2019 

U of T’s Faculty of Music has teamed up with the Ontario Percussive Arts Society to host a day in celebration of percussion instruments. The event will include clinics by drummer Sarah Thawer, mallet players Frozen Earth Duo, and the percussion section of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra. There will also be a afternoon and evening concert for your listening pleasure.

When: Sunday, January 13, 10am-9pm.

Where: University of Toronto Faculty of Music, 80 Queens Park Cres.

5. Drop-In Basketball 

Keep up that new years exercise resolution with drop-in basketball this Sunday. Shoot some hoops or participate in a low-stakes scrimmage.

When: Sunday, January 13, 12pm-4:50pm.

Where: AC Field House 1 and AC Field House 4.

6. Copy Editing  

Come copy edit for The Varsity! No experience is required – we’ll show you the ropes.

When: Sunday, January 13, 11am-2pm.

Where: The Varsity‘s second floor office, 21 Sussex Ave.

 

 

Best first date spots in Toronto

Let’s be real, Toronto is a great city for romantic time with that someone special. But on a first date, don’t settle for the cliché wine and dine. Open your mind to some unique possibilities you didn’t know existed.

To get started, I have compiled a list of exclusive dating categories to choose from based on your taste. Make the first date one you truly won’t forget.

Are you the adventurous type?

If you are, you should check out Scarborough Bluffs Park.

Located east of Toronto’s downtown core, this beautiful park will offers a spectacular glimpse of Lake Ontario. At the same time, you can enjoy a hike or walk along its many trails. The view is definitely Instagram-worthy!

If physical activity is not ideal, why not try one of Toronto’s Escape Rooms. Lock yourself in a room with hidden clues to achieve answers and escape the room you’re in! It’s the perfect get-to-know-you activity.

Try one out at: Escape Casa Loma, The Great Escape, or Riddle Room.

Do you love the great outdoors?

Why not stroll across Toronto’s Harbourfront? I assure you it is budget friendly!

In an instant, you’ll be on the docks, surrounded by yachts on Lake Ontario. There are also beautiful lights at night.

Do you have expensive taste?

Think big. Now think extravagant! Toronto has you covered. Why not make a romantic first impression up the CN Tower?

Not only can you grab spectacular views of the city, but also grab a bite at the 360 Restaurant.

Better yet, how about being whisked away on a helicopter provided by Toronto Heli Tours over our beautiful city? It’s sure to wow your date.

Whatever you fancy, this list should make your first date memorable and unique — you might even get asked on a second date!

Five dead giveaways someone is not from Toronto

 

1. They don’t complain about the weather

There are two variations for these anomalies. One is the sweet, sweet summer child hailing from some nicer, warmer place. They’re wearing board shorts or leggings in December, adamantly insisting they are completely fine surviving the five-minute walk to class, and really, who needs a hat anyways? All while you can physically see their fingers turning a dangerous shade of purple.

The other group is the overprepared, hardened northerners. Spot them rocking two pairs of socks, fleece pants, and a jacket that is probably better suited for alpine mountain-climbing than for a walk over to Con Hall. Don’t even think about mentioning that the -30ºC is a bit chilly – you will be in for a lecture about how ‘there is no such thing as too cold, only underdressed!’, and that your shivering, your midterm marks, and probably world hunger can all be solved by adding an insulation layer.

2. They make eye contact

Hold on, did that stranger you just passed on your way to Robarts — did they look you in the eye? Did they actually turn up their lips — into a smile? You haven’t seen one of those in years. Sure, we Torontonians pride ourselves in being polite — we’ll give you streetcar directions or chat about the best places to eat without a hitch, but actually acknowledging other people we don’t know? That would be a very different question.

3. They like the TTC

A genuine TTC compliment is the closest thing you can get to a cardinal sin in Toronto. If the subway gets to your station on time every day of the semester, you wouldn’t hear a peep. But god forbid if repairs (that coincidentally keep the same trains that we are riding from crashing into each other) close the subway for the weekend. You won’t hear the end of it.

Yes, we know that it’s technically one of the best transit systems in North America, but you don’t get your Toronto licence unless you bash the TTC at any given opportunity.

4. They suggest swimming in the lake

Ah, Lake Ontario. Every Torontonian knows that the mix of sewage, bacteria, weird plastic bits, and, more likely than not, a wide assortment of eldritch horrors is a swim you wouldn’t wish on your worst enemy.

So, when you hear your new friend ask if they should bring a swimsuit to your trip to Scarborough Bluffs, be sure to chastise them.

5. They don’t drop the ‘T’

Do you remember that scene from Argo, where Ben Affleck corrects the Americans’ perfectly pronounced ‘To-ro-n-to’ into Toronto’s real name? That scene is 100% accurate.

Taranah is the one and only way to say our city’s name, preferably accompanied with a Tim Horton’s double-double in one hand and a Blue Jays shirt. If your friend actually pronounces Toronto how it should ‘technically’ be pronounced, you can bet that they also call the Skydome the Rogers Centre.