One Day, Four Bikes
Cycling advocate Yvonne Bambrick maps a downtown tour via Bixi, Toronto’s four-month-old, 80-station-strong bike-sharing program.
1. Grab a bike at Bloor and Spadina. It can be rented with a credit card for $5 for 24 hours, with the first 30 minutes free. Ride east along Bloor and turn south down St. George, a great street with a continuous bike lane that cuts through the University of Toronto. At College, take a right and dock the bike near Augusta. Then walk south through Kensington market, a tight enclave of small houses, funky vintage shops, spice stores, and friendly coffee shops (Ideal is my favorite).
2. Pick up another bike in Chinatown (at Kensington’s southern edge) and ride east on Dundas, past the Art Gallery of Ontario. Turn north on Bay until Gerrard, then east until Jarvis. Dock the bike and check out Allan Gardens , a lovely park with a nineteenth-century tropical greenhouse.
3. Pick up another bike and go south on Jarvis, down a very hard-fought bike lane, then head west on Queen and south on Church, and dock the bike along Front. Walk to St. Lawrence Market; buy some fruit, cheese, maybe even a fish sandwich, and beer or wine at the provincial liquor store (LCBO) next door.
4. Borrow one last bike, ride down to the water, drop it off it by the ferry docks, and either take a ferry across to Center Island or walk east a few blocks to the newly constructed Sugar Beach, complete with metal palm trees, deck chairs, and trucked-in sand fronting a giant sugar refinery. Across the street is Sherbourne Common, a city-run water-sculpture park that’s actually a storm-water-treatment plant. Sit. Eat. Drink. Relax.
The Best Away-Game Sports City in the Americas
For good seats at reasonable prices, says Sportsandthecity.com blogger Navin Vaswani, there’s nowhere better than Toronto and its poor-to-mediocre local teams.
Blue Jays (MLB): Though the stadium’s now called the corporate Rogers Centre, she’ll always be the SkyDome to me. I love a seat upstairs, in Section 524A, behind home plate, three rows in. You receive a tremendous view of the ballpark and a chance to watch the amazing Jose Bautista while nursing a Labatt’s beer that costs nearly as much as the ticket (toronto.bluejays.mlb.com).
Toronto FC (MLS): The best bang for your pro-sports buck is at BMO Field. Sit in the Supporter’s Section, 112 to 118. It’s rowdy, it’s loud, and it’s a blast. You can find a pair of tickets online for between $80 and $120. Footy fandom is alive and well in Toronto; the team, not so much (torontofc.ca).
Maple Leafs (NHL): They’re perpetually awful but remain the hottest ticket in town. Your best bet is to buy secondhand tickets on StubHub, Craigslist, or eBay. Sit upstairs at the Air Canada Centre in the “cheap seats” (usually $80 to $120), far away from the suits and the sushi (mapleleafs.nhl.com).
Raptors (NBA): Unless Kobe Bryant, Canadian hero Steve Nash, or the Miami Heat are in town, tickets are easy to come by. Sit wherever you want at the Air Canada Centre; there’s generally seats for every price level (from $30). Drink up; it will hopefully keep you from wondering why Andrea Bargnani can’t rebound (nba.com/raptors/).
Where to Point Your Camera
With the stars descending in a few weeks for the Toronto International Film Festival (September 8-18), local filmmakers reveal their geographic muses.
“Facing south on Clinton Street, just past College, looking at the Monarch Tavern (12 Clinton St.) and Bitondo’s Pizzeria (11 Clinton St.). I love that little section of Clinton Street, which is mostly residential and still retains the feeling of what Little Italy used to be.” —Sarah Polley, Away From Her and the upcoming Take This Waltz
“The view from 180 Panorama (55 Bloor St. W.) is pretty great—the bar looks to the north and the ravines, so you see an uncharacteristic city skyline mixed with a beautiful density of green. There is something about the lounge itself that strongly evokes drinking in the afternoon while reclining.”—Jennifer Baichwal, documentaries Manufactured Landscapes and Act of God
“Regent Park (Gerrard St. E. at Parliament St.). In the late eighties, I lived in a semi-squat right beside Regent Park, Canada’s oldest and largest subsidized-housing project. Some of the boxy, quasi-Soviet-style architecture, reflecting Canada’s strong socialist roots, still exists despite long-planned ‘revitalization’ (read: gentrification) of the neighborhood.” —Bruce LaBruce, The Raspberry Reich and the upcoming Gerontophilia
“Front Street by the Gooderham Flatiron Building (49 Wellington St. E.). You get this great road that divides into two and gives an incredible view of the city. This was one of the first locations I remember being enamored of when I was 12 and we lived in a small town in British Columbia and would visit Toronto.”—Ruba Nadda, Cairo Time and the upcoming Inescapable
“Between the photos of Elvis and Tom Jones, the neon lighting, and the legion of regulars outfitted in sweatpants and fanny packs, the Delta Bingo hall in St. Claire (1799 St. Clair Ave. W.) transports you to a bygone era.”—Alan Black, documentaries Strongman and Jackpot