Welcome, people in town for TIFF!

Dear people in town for the Toronto International Film Festival, aka TIFF,

Welcome to Toronto! We’re so glad to have you here.

Over the years there’s one thing I’ve always wanted to say to visiting actors, actresses, film makers, etc., especially when I’ve seen paparazzi shots in the newspaper and online:


Sorry for the shouting, but I love my city and as much as I enjoy eating ice cream at Summer’s on Cumberland (I went there often as a child), eating sushi at Sushi Inn and sitting on the big rock (one of my favourite places in the city), Toronto is so much more. I realize that you’re here for work and that TIFF is a busy time. It’s hard to explore any city when you’re on a business trip. I also realize that it’s your job to be photographed by paparazzi in particular settings. But if you have time to get away from TIFF – or are itching to, there are other wonderful places to experience. Click photos for bigger versions.

1. Ice cream: Tom’s Dairy Freeze (630 The Queensway, Toronto, ON M8Y 1K4). It’s 10 km/6 miles from the TIFF Bell Lightbox Theatre, and the best soft serve in the city.

Tom's Dairy Freeze

Tom’s Dairy Freeze. Image credit: BlogTO

2. Leslieville, east of the Don River and about 5 miles/ 7.5 km east of the TIFF Bell Lightbox Theatre. Lots of cool little shops and restaurants. Eat a tasting menu at Bero (889 Queen Street East), go for the Canadian experience and buy a butter tart at Bobbette and Belle (1121 Queen St. East), or some ice cream at Ed’s Real Scoop (920 Queen St East, Toronto).

Butter tart

Butter tarts

3. Also to the east: The Beaches. Further east than Leslieville but one neighbourhood over. There’s another Ed’s Real Scoop here (2224 Queen St East), a great eco-friendly, all-natural organic bakery bakery called Tori’s bakeshop that features an that offers dairy-free, egg-free, casein-free and refined sugar-free goods (2188 Queen St East) and more.

4. You may have filmed a movie there  but have you ever eaten or shopped in The Distillery District? Sip a coffee at Balzac’s Coffee Roasters, enjoy a scoop at Greg’s Ice Cream (my favourite ice cream chain in the city), Tr some spicy chocolate or a liquid chocolate shot at Soma Chocolate & Gelato or have a macaron or freshly made ice cream at Sweet Escape Patisserie.

soma chocolate

Soma chocolate

5. Kensington Market. This is one of the places I always take out of town guests, for it’s multicultural food and cute shops. Rachel McAdams has been spotted there many times. Eat nearby at Caplansky’s deli. Guy Fieri did, and featured it on Diners, Drive-ins and Dives. Caplansky’s has a menu item named after Geddy Lee from Rush (the band, not the Ron Howard film that premieres at TIFF this weekend).

The coffee options in “the market” are plentiful, and they’re all good in part due to a protest every time there’s a HINT that Starbucks might move in. Jimmy’s Coffee, Cafe Pamenar, Grind House, I Deal Coffee, Moonbean Cafe, and Casa Acoreana Cafe are just some of them. My boyfriend claims that Casa Acoreana Cafe makes the best Americano in the city. Somehow all these places survive coexisting in a small area.

Kensington Market

Kensington Market

Go west across Spadina and you’ll find Baldwin Village. On Spadina between Dundas and College is Chinatown. Nearby, Dark Horse Espresso Bar (215 Spadina Ave) is another good cafe, and with free WiFi.

(McAdams also been spotted bowling on The Danforth, known for its Greek restaurants.)

6. Harbourfront: There’s always something going on there. This weekend is the Vegetarian Food Festival, one of my favourite food festivals in the city and I’m not even vegetarian anymore.

Simcoe Wave Deck, Harbourfront

Simcoe Wave Deck, Harbourfront

7. High Park: It’s beautiful in the fall and the closest we have to Central Park. It’s Toronto’s largest public park featuring many hiking trails (off leash allowed for dogs), sports facilities, diverse vegetation, a beautiful lakefront, a dog park, a zoo, playgrounds for children, a couple of eateries, greenhouses, picnic areas, a bunch of squirrels and various events throughout the year.

Also check out Trinity Bellwoods Park, a short walk from The Drake Hotel where many of you will be partying until 4am. (Oh, and The Drake is fantastic on Monday nights. It’s the least douchiest of all the evenings if you’re there between 7pm and 10pm and features 86d, a fan event for foodies and people in the food industry).

High Park

High Park

8. Want to try as many Ontario Craft Beers as you can? Tallboys Bar at 838 Bloor St. West. Bonus: It’s 1.5 miles from Bloor and Avenue (a nice walk), Bloor Cinema is a 10 minute walk west on the same street (turn right when you leave the theatre) and it’s 3 miles from TIFF Bell Lightbox Theatre. Then go next door to Two Bite Saloon (840 Bloor Street West) for some southern food. Two Bite Saloon also makes a fantastic Sunday brunch. Order a Damn Neighbour cocktail – think “whisky sour” but spiced rum and maple simple syrup, invented by a damn neighbour who wanted some damn simple syrup. Then tweet me to say you’re there because I live nearby.

Independent coffee shops are plentiful nearby. You’ll find Aroma 2 doors from the Bloor Cinema, Northwood cafe and bar (cafe by day, cocktails by night at 815 Bloor St. West, Saving Gigi (859 Bloor St West), Ella’s Uncle (899 Bloor Street West).

Also nearby: Christie Pits park.

9. Want your nails done without the toxins? If you’re willing to travel 7.4km (4.6 miles) visit Alma Natural Quick Spa (2105 Yonge St.). Katie will take good care of you. They reopened yesterday after renovating. Other services include facials and hair threading. Look fabulous for those TIFF parties! Bonus: Still need something to wear? Rent, Frock, Repeat.

10. Do you have time for a food tour? Culinary Adventure Company will hook you up.

If you’re back for any length of time, check a bunch of them out. This list also goes for people in town filming movies and especially people filming TV shows. People working on Covert Affairs, Suits, Hannibal, I’m looking at you! It makes me feel good when I see photos on Instagram of the Suits cast at restaurants on Harbord Street, and Patrick Adams in places such as Trinity Bellwoods Park or the Toronto Islands, which you’d have seen a bit of if you flew Porter into Billy Bishop airport. Years ago I saw Jimmy Fallon on the subway. At least, I thought it was him.

So, enjoy your stay! Let me know if you need any other recommendations. I’ve lived in Toronto for most of my life and in a variety of neighbourhoods.

To everyone else: What do you want to add?

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