10+ Things to do on the East end of Toronto

By Steven Wright

Feels like summer in the city even thought its barely spring in Toronto, that has inspired me do a series of articles of things to see and do in this great city! Toronto is Canada’s largest city, the capital of the Province of Ontario and is constantly evolving. It is a vibrant and culturally diverse city, who’s unique neighborhoods are great to explore to get the whole experience eh. So I thought I would start with the series with a look at 10 things to do on the east end of the city.

The Danforth
(Danforth Avenue and Chester Avenue, Chester Station on the Bloor/Danforth TTC line)
This area is known as Greek Town, it is a lively neighborhood with quaint restaurants, shops and boutiques. In early August the street shuts down for a weekend festival called Taste of the Danforth. This is a great area to grab a seat on one of the many patios for drinks and dinner, people watching and shopping along the way. I love Christina’s (492 Danforth) for an amazing Greek dinner and Il Fornello (576 Danforth) for pizza and salad at lunch.

Chinatown East and Gerrard India Bazaar
(Gerrard Street East between Broadview and Carlaw and then Coxwell and Greenwood, TTC Streetcar 306)
East of the Don Valley on Gerrard Street you can find great markets, shops and restaurants featuring Chinese and South Asian cultures. At Broadview visit China Town east with fresh fruits and vegetable markets, dried foods, butchers and much more. Then continue down the street to Coxwell and the Gerrard India Bazaar, boasting the largest South Asian market in North America with over 100 shops and restaurants.

Allen Gardens Conservatory
(In Allen Gardens – the block of Jarvis, Carlton, Gerrard, Sherbourne)
An oasis in the city, Allen Gardens is one of the oldest parks in Toronto, but its star attraction is the Conservatory. Open year round, free, and home to hundreds of exotic plants from around the world, the 16,000 square foot space features tropical plants, cactus and succulents. The first Sunday in June is The Toronto Cactus & Succulent Club’s Annual Show & Sale. Its a great opportunity to buy and learn how to care for your new succulent from the pros at amazing prices. This is where I gained a love for succulents and appreciate them as I travel around the world, I was lucky enough to visit a succulent sale in Barcelona at the Conservatory in Park de la Ciutadella last year and wished I could have taken one home.

King Street East
(King Street from Church to Parliament TTC Street Car 503/504)
There is always time to shop for home decor or that special piece to take home as a memento of your trip, I recall on a trip to Brussels trying to figure out shipping costs and the exchange rate on the Euro to get 4 – Louis XVI chairs home. This stretch of King Street is a great spot for inspiration and shopping for interior design. Start at Church Street and have a look at the current exhibit in the Toronto Sculpture Garden, then continue to Jarvis Street and visit Arts on King (165 King East) for at high end Canadian artist works. The rest of the strip features a series of home and design stores from modern and contemporary to antiques to  and high end Italian kitchens. Some of my favorite stops include: Ma Zone (63 Jarvis), In Design (214 King E), EQ3 (220 King E), Urban Barn (275 King E ) and Up Country (310 King E).

The Historic Distillery District
(55 Mill Street at Trinity Street, TTC Parliament Bus)
The former Gooderham and Wortz Distillery has been transformed into The Historic Distillery District. This pedestrian area of restored Victoria era industrial buildings is now a chic destination for tourists and locals alike, home to live theatres, galleries, fashion, design and jewelry boutiques, unique cafes and award-winning restaurants. It hosts Woofstock, a summer festival for dogs and the European style Toronto Christmas Market in November and December. Its also a great place to grab dinner and spend the evening on the patio enjoying the music and events, my favorites are the Boiler House and The Mill Street Brew Pub.

Leslieville, The Beach and Ashbridges Bay
(Queen Street E from Carlaw to Leslie & Woodbine to Neville Park, TTC Streetcar 501/301)
From Carlaw to Leslie you are in the heart of Leslieville, here you can find a number of quaint shops, antique stores and cafes. Some of my favorites are: Machine Age Modern (1000 Queen E), and Ethel (1091 Queen E). Continue down Queen Street to get into the area called The Beach from Woodbine Ave to Neville Park. The Beach area is a desirable residential area because of its extremely close proximity to the beach at Ashbridge’s Bay. It is a lively area with shopping, bars, restaurants and cafe’s, when you are not sunning on the beach, playing some beach volleyball, swimming in the lake or walking the boardwalk people watching. In July the area hosts the Beaches International Jazz Festival, and Ashbridge’s Bay is home of many firework presentations throughout the summer.

Cherry and Sugar Beach
(The foot of Cherry Street & the foot of Lower Jarvis Street)
Speaking of the beach, Toronto has a few more beach destinations on the east end of the city. At the foot of Cherry Street in the Port of Toronto find Cherry Beach, a sandy beach with off leash dog area on the shore of Lake Ontario, a great place to relax and catch some sun, get involved in a beach volleyball game and watch the boats drive past. Off Cherry Street you can also check out Polson Pier, a lakeside destination with a licensed patio, swimming pool and activities including beach volleyball, indoor soccer, rock-climbing, go-karting, human foosball, and indoor event spaces. Sugar Beach is located on a 8500 square metre pier and is Toronto’s newest and hippest beach park beside the Redpath Sugar factory. Spend the day on this sandy pier equipped with a lounge chairs and umbrellas and granite maple leaf water feature to cool off in.

Church and Wellesley
(Church Street at Wellesley, TTC Wellesley)
Church Street from Carlton to Alexander is the home to Toronto’s GLBT community. The short strip is filled with shops, restaurants and bars. It is a prime destination for brunching, sitting on a patio people watching and the area comes alive on weekends after 11 when the bars and dance clubs get in full swing. The area is home to one of the largest Pride Festivals in North America, each June, which occupies many parks and closes Church Street for the weekend of festivities including a huge parade on Sunday closing a section of Yonge Street. A few of my favorite places to eat include: Cafe California (538 Church), Hair of the Dog (425 Church) and brunch at Fire on the East Side (6 Gloucester).

Pawn Shops
(Church and Queen Street, TTC Streetcar 501/301)
My Dad often took me to the Pawn Shops on Church Street when our family would visit the city, he loved to have a look around and see what deals were available. The same shops I visited as a kid are thriving in these challenging times and you never know what you will find on offer. The History Chanel has even launched Pawnathon Canada, featuring Pawn Master Howard Green and his  H. Williams & Co. shop (145 Church). Another favorite is James McTamney & Co. Inc. (139 Church).

Historic Cabbagetown and Riverdale Farm
(East of Parliament Street, between Wellesley and Carlton)
This is a coveted neighborhood within the city having a great number of the properties listed as historical. Parliament Street has a number of shops, bakeries, markets, restaurants and bars. Locals choose Jet Fuel (519 Parliament) for coffee, Johnny G’s  Diner (478 Parliament) for brunch and The Pear Tree (507 Parliament) brunch and for dinner (ask to sit in the solarium or back patio). Wonder down Carlton Street and enjoy the historic homes, at the end of Carlton walk through the park to Riverdale Farm, the only working farm in the city. A great place to bring the kids and visit all of the farm animals, there is also access here to the Lower Don Recreation Trail, a great place to hop on the bike, roller blades or walk along the trail to head to one of the beaches or north along the Don River. The area hosts the Cabbagetown Festival each September, and there is a Farmer’s Market at Riverdale Farm on Tuesday’s from May until October.

St Lawrence Market
(Front Street and Jarvis Street)
When traveling around Europe I love to explore the local markets and the St. Lawrence Market is Toronto’s best. Open Tuesday through Saturday its a great place to get farm fresh fruits, vegetables, meats, fish and cheese. St. Lawrence Market was just named” The Best Food Market in the World”, by National Geographic. There are a number of booths featuring cooking equipment, wine and take away food. The north building features The Sunday Antique Market on Sunday’s, arrive early to get your best pick. The area around the market includes a number of quaint shops, restaurants, theatres, the Flatiron Building and the soon to be completed L Tower by architect, Daniel Leibskind above the Sony Centre for the Performing Arts. There are more restaurants along The Esplanade, one block south of Front. In August, come here for BuskerFest to see some of the World’s best street performers in action.

BIXI Bike
(Locations all over the city)
Just launched last year, BIXI Bike is a new bike rental premise giving users the opportunity to rent a bike for a period of time and drop it off at one of the many locations across the city. The city has a number of dedicated bike lanes (hopefully more coming soon), and there are lots of areas along the waterfront, parks and Don River Trail for you to give them a go. They come complete with a rack and lights, but bring your own helmet. Perhaps one of the best ways to get around and see the sites of the city.

Toronto Posts:
Winterlicious – Toronto’s dining gem
10+ Things to do on Toronto’s Waterfront
10+ Things to do on the West End of Toronto

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