Experiencing Toronto Like A Local
A dynamic metropolis along Lake Ontario’s shore, home to a mix of tourist attractions, and filled with skyscrapers surrounding the world-famous CN Tower – there’s a lot to say about the largest, most diverse city in Canada: Toronto.
Whether you stay in Toronto for a week or a year, not a day will go by without you finding something new and exciting to do. The city hosts historical museums and art galleries, international film festivals and ultra-modern shopping complexes, family-oriented science centers, and mesmerizing islands. You name it, Toronto has it!
But the story doesn’t end at these popular tourist attractions. No matter how thoroughly you’ve explored the city, there are still new experiences waiting for you. So buckle up your seatbelt as I take you through a day I spent in Toronto, doing all the things you probably haven’t (and will be dying to try by the end of the article).
Balzac’s Coffee – The Ultimate French Experience
On a nice, bright day in the summer of 2017, I opened my eyes to the sun shining through the window onto my face. I took a deep breath and smiled to myself, knowing it would be one of the most adventurous days of my life. I was off to explore the parts of Toronto that no one usually talks about.
To start my day, I needed a coffee and some croissants. But not the regular Timmy’s fare…my soul was yearning for something new. And so, I headed to the Distillery District looking for the ultimate French experience.
As I entered Balzac’s Coffee, the aroma of coffee surrounded me while the warm, soft tones in the environment had an intensely soothing effect. Attention to detail was evident from the intricate and mesmerizing interior. Inspired by the cafes of Paris, Balzac’s Coffee was hands down one of the prettiest places I’ve seen in Toronto. Additionally, I learned that the cafe is big on sustainability and serves traditional and fair-trade blends along with several other beverages – Latte agréable et crémeux, s’il vous plaît! Upon research, I found that the chain was set up in 1996 in the district of Stratford to provide Canadians and tourists with a complete French experience in North America. Each roaster was created to celebrate the historical importance and cultural nuances of the surrounding area, so visitors get an impressive blend of French and local culture.
You can grab a coffee at any roadside Tim Horton’s, sure, but you don’t want to miss out on the experience of Toronto’s most beautiful coffee shop!
Walking On The Edge – 116 Stories Above The City
After having my coffee, I knew I wanted to do something daunting. But not the regular roller-coaster kind of adventure – something more than that.
And so, I headed to the CN Tower.
But I didn’t just see the sights from the viewing floor like everyone else. I went higher than that, to a place less known and talked about, owing to its recent launch. Quite literally, I, with a group of other friendly and fun people, hung handsfree around the circumference of the tower. With protective gear in place, we took a walk on a 5-ft wide pathway in a full circle around the top of the tower’s main pod – 356 meters above the ground.
The experience was thrilling, stimulating, and adventurous, to say the least. I was scared, had shaky hands, screamed at the top of my lungs, and felt my heart pounding in my throat. But boy, was it worth it.
And if you ask whether I’d do it again – certainly YES!
Watching The Sun Set At The Bluffs
To calm my nerves, I decided to watch the sunset behind the waves. But I didn’t want just any hectic beach. I wanted to go somewhere peaceful. So I headed to a lesser-known area around the shoreline of Lake Ontario: Scarborough Bluffs Beach.
It was around 8:30 p.m., and there was barely anyone else there. The only thing I could hear was the waves hitting against the shore, while the sun turned orange and painted mesmerizing hues of golden-yellow all across the sky. Finally, with the sun almost down and emitting its last rays of light for the day, I heaved a sigh of gratitude and said my prayers. It’s safe to say that I had the most soothing experience of my life at the Bluffs on that warm summer evening.
Bohemian Shopping And Korean Dinner – The Perfect End
To end my day, I didn’t head to the Eaton Centre as I usually would. Instead, I took to Kensington Market, a bohemian neighborhood of diverse restaurants, vintage shops, tattooists and cuisines from all around the world.
As you’d expect, I was starving by then, and I found myself craving Korean food. So I stopped at Chopsticks+Forks and had a delicious meal of kimchi and Korean stew.
I had collected once-in-a-lifetime experiences, but I couldn’t let it end without some souvenirs to help me reminisce on one of the best days of my life. With this in mind, I headed towards the shops and purchased a vintage jacket imported all the way from India, a classic pair of earrings, and a retro vase for my coffee table.
If that’s not the perfect end to a memorable day, I don’t know what is!
I hope you enjoyed learning about my day spent doing lesser-known things that don’t make it onto most lists of activities in Toronto. But believe me, I had more fun doing these than I would participating in the more popular activities of the city. As they say, it’s the little things in life that matter the most.
If you’ve done any of the above, or other activities that people don’t usually talk about, share your stories in the comments below. I’d love to hear about your experiences!
Shahraz Ali is a freelance content writer currently living in Lahore, Pakistan. With a half American and half Pakistani heritage he brings the best of both worlds into his writing with sophisticated simplicity and thoughtful details. Shahraz started writing in 2012 when he fell in love with his pen. He was the youngest ever Pakistani to win the best writer of the year award from the Islamabad Times in 2016. He enjoy a good cup of coffee, watching good movies & tv shows, and reading novels.