How to Spend the Perfect Day Trip in Toronto

When I was recently home in Albuquerque for Christmas, I failed miserably at being a tourist in my own city. But my friend Simone, of the sassy award-winning blog Skinny Dip, is a rock star. She created for me the best itinerary for her home digs, a little town called Toronto.

Meeting Simone for the first time.

I have so many trusted online friends who I’ve never met, but Simone and I got to spend some quality time together when she last visited Las Vegas for (what else?) a blogging convention. I hope you enjoy her Toronto itinerary for the perfect day trip in Toronto as much as I did. I made it to Montreal this year and have been to other places in Canada, but not Toronto.

I’ve always wanted to go!

Enter Simone:

Like Abby’s Las Vegas, Toronto has worlds within worlds: Since it is Canada’s largest city, with a population of 2.7 million and a metro area of more than 5 million, it has to. Toronto is ridiculously multicultural. I always joke that you know you’ve gone for a really long walk in the city when it feels like you’ve passed through 12 different countries! Almost 50 percent of Torontonians born outside of Canada, and a  911 service that is equipped to answer calls in more than 150 languages.  I live in a heavily Portuguese and Italian neighborhood that borders on a main artery that is lined with Latin American eateries, Greek diners and East African restaurants. A few minutes on the subway and you can easily go from Little Portugal to Koreatown to Chinatown to Greektown to Little India and still have enough time to make it back to the Westside for dinner plans at that Somalian restaurant you really like.

Simone Paget Skinny Dipp day trip in Toronto

Simone with the Toronto skyline.

Here’s what I consider a perfect day trip in Toronto, done local-style:

Wander: Most of Toronto’s downtown core can easily be accessed by foot or by a short streetcar or subway ride. Wander around the tree-lined streets of The Annex – a student area close to the University of Toronto that is full of coffee shops, restaurants and used bookstores. Take a jaunt down to Kensington Market – a large multicultural market that makes you feel like you’re in another country all together. When you get tired of browsing the fruit & vegetable stands, taquerias, organic vegetarian restaurants and vintage clothing stores, you can walk down the street to Chinatown for some Dim Sum. Head over to the cobble-stoned Distillery District – once one of the largest alcohol processing centers in North America, all of the Victorian Industrial buildings have been converted to art galleries, shops and restaurants.

Shop: I love the Queen Street West strip – a shopping area full of restaurants, coffee shops and independent clothing stores featuring lots of indie Canadian designers. If you keep wandering west, you’ll eventually hit Ossington St – another great shopping area especially if you’re looking for high quality vintage & independent clothing finds!

Simone Paget Skinny Dipp day trip in Toronto Chinatown Kensington Market

Simone with friends in Chinatown.

Eat: I eat out WAY too much in my city because there are just so many good places. Here are my top five:

1. La Bella Managua – chef Jesus Morales makes Nicaraguan comfort food, and it’s delicious. His ceviche, pollo a la parilla, tamales and ropa vieja are to die for.

2. Tacos El Asador: Grab a picnic table at this tiny eatery and enjoy more Latin American comfort food and the best tacos in the city.

3. Harlem: Inspired by the 1920’s Harlem Renaissance, this cozy restaurant serves a fusion of Caribbean, Creole and southern doul food all, to a great soundtrack.

4. The Real Jerk: a visit to Toronto isn’t complete without a enjoying a meal at this Jamaican Eatery. Order a Red Stripe beer, some oxtail and enjoy the kitschy island-themed decor.

5. Marben: Farmhouse-chic dining with all locally raised & grown ingredients. If you like burgers, try theirs. It’s like an orgasm in a bun.

Drink: After a long day of walking around, nothing beats a little Vegas-style glamor that comes along with enjoying a drink and the view from the roof-top of the Thompson Hotel.

Simone is a freelance writer based in Toronto and the author of Skinny Dip — a cheeky blog about love, sex, relationships and everything in between. When she’s not writing her heart out, she loves wandering around her city, large cup of coffee in hand, in search of the next great story.

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I'm a life-long travel junkie journalist who works hard to find adventure in everyday life after two years of travel and expat living.

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  1. Abby! So mad at you for two reasons:

    1)How did you not mention you have blogger friends in Toronto when you know I am back here!

    2) Agree with all her recommendations so I checked out her site and now I won’t be doing any work all afternoon!

  2. That’s so funny! As I was posting this morning, I thought of you… And how I wish I could come visit now that you guys are both back! You will love Simone!

  3. Hahaha, so amazing, when I was reading this I was thinking “I want to go to Toronto and make Ayngelina do all of these things with me” then I scrolled down to see Ayngelina had already been here 🙂

    Unrelated to this post but important- Abby meet Ayngelina, Stephanie and I in Mexico pleeeaassee

  4. I wish I had been able to read this post when I went to Toronto way back when.

  5. I would trust any recommendations from Simone!! Hopefully I’ll make it to Toronto soon…

  6. I love Toronto. I went there for spring break my first year of college (I know, I know). I went to the Hockey Hall of Fame and scored a fake ID. Wish I would have had this guide though! Would have helped!

  7. Haha that’s funny. I also once went to Canada for spring break — there was tons of snow! That was exciting to someone living in Florida. 😉

  8. I read this and I was like “Why didn’t Abby ask ME to do a Toronto itinerary for her?!”
    Simone is awesome. We’re friends! Ayngelina, I will introduce you.
    A few notes:
    The Real Jerk is closing down (it’s been around for YEARS but surprise, surprise, they’re tearing it down to build a condo like every other part of this city).
    Marben and Tacos El Asador are good eats. I haven’t been to the others or heard much about them. Another Mexican favourite in Toronto is the newly opened Grand Electric – some of the best Mexican I have ever had!
    Simone is lucky to have been to the Thomson Rooftop –one awesome view of the CN Tower. But if you don’t have a connection, you’ll be hard-pressed to see that view.

    Simone really does know the ins and outs of dating and the TO scene. Her blog is a great read. Miss her! (Simone, I miss you!).

    And Abby, seriously get yourself over here so we can show you a good time!


  9. PPS Shameless Self Promotion: my blog is half travel/half Toronto so you should visit it!

  10. Thanks for all the tips, Natalie!!! I REALLY, REALLY, REALLY need to go… All of you ladies in one place?! Sooo jealous!

    How did so many of my favorite bloggers end up in one city?!

  11. NP! You do? Montreal, first and not us? 😛 But I will be in NYC March 1 so come meet me there for the NYT Travel Show and I’ll smuggle you over to Toronto (flight will be much cheaper!) and I’m sure one of us can house you. 🙂

  12. I want to go to Toronto too! And now I really want an orgasm in a bun 🙂

  13. Haha I love the way she writes!

  14. On the two short visits to Toronto that I had in the past few years, I walked everywhere — or so I thought. I missed some of the spots that Simone mentioned. I’d love to go back and explore further.

  15. I agree with Ayngelina! I’m home too, we could have made her day trip even more lovely than it was! (well Ayngelina would have… I would have waited at the bar for them to finish up and had ‘after day trip’ beers with them)

  16. Toronto is on my to visit list !! 🙂 as long as Las Vegas!!

  17. How does everyone suddenly live in Toronto?

    Marko, you’d love Vegas!!

  18. This is a great day-in-Toronto post…especially for summer visitors, I’ve just shared it with a few future visitors to TO! It is as sad thing that the Real Jerk is having to close! No idea how I have never been to Tacos el Asador yet, but thanks for putting it back on my food radar!

  19. Hey! Glad you love Simone’s picks — and thank you for sharing with potential Toronto tourists. 🙂

  20. I visited Toronto for the first time in July and I loved it! I did a lot of the things she mentioned in that list!

  21. So jealous! It sounds like such a cool city!

  22. Well, if we end up interviewing for teaching in Japan positions, I’ll be visiting there as well. 😛

  23. Ah T.O., my hometown although it’s been years since I’ve been there. Probably due for a trip back 🙂

  24. By the way I love how I turned your comment wall into all about me 😉

  25. I need to reconcile my differences with Toronto. And I’ll take this blog post with me.

  26. I was born and raised in Canada but have never been to this fascinating city. 🙂 One day I’d love to explore it and DEFINITELY want to try out your restaurant recommendations. 🙂

  27. Candice, Krista… You girls, me, Toronto?!

  28. Toronto is on my list for 2013… I should remember this post 🙂

  29. PISH Toronto!

    Come to Halifax!! Weeeee!

  30. A couple friends have been to Toronto lately and loved it – I want to go, and if I do, I’m bringing this with me!

  31. I haven’t been to Toronto but omg this makes me want to go! Tacos El Asador sounds amazing!! Def on my trip list now 🙂

  32. Haven’t really explored Toronto, except for the particularly child-friendly bits. Sounds so interesting all those international neighbourhoods.

  33. Great round up of my hometown. Yep, it really does seem that everyone is from Toronto. I love it here! Natalie, I didn’t know that the Real Jerk was closing down. So true what you say, the condos are taking over downtown.

  34. Condos were taking over Vegas, but it seems to have died down… I’m so jealous that so many big bloggers are in one town!!

  35. I’m like Krista, Canadian, but have never been, this makes me want to go, maybe on a stopover to Calgary sometime. I like the idea of shopping AND supporting Canadian indie designers.

  36. never been. wanna go. You have the most awesome sounding friends everywhere!

  37. Great tips! I definitely want to go to Toronto one of these days, so I’m bookmarking this one.

  38. Abby, why would anyone want to go to Toronto………for only a day? 🙂

  39. I’m commenting kind of late in the game here but I just wanted to say it was so cool to see everyone’s positive responses to the post! In Canada, Toronto sometimes gets a bad rep as “the big bad city that thinks it’s the center of the universe” so it’s really neat to see other people as excited about what my city has to offer.

    @ Red Hunt – I didn’t know the Real Jerk was going to close. This makes me very sad! I hope it’s still open when I’m back in the city in the spring so I can consume as much of their jerk ribs, oxtail & coconut linguine as possible. Oh the pina coladas too…sigh. Go to Tacos Al Asador…the food is awesome!

    @Abby – Please come visit any time. There’s so much beyond this little itinerary that I’d love to show you!

    @Natalie – Hi hon!! Had no idea you knew Abby too. xox

    @All the other Toronto folks – LET’S MEET!

  40. I love Toronto, haven’t been in a while but would love to get back there soon.

  41. I love Toronto! We went to the film festival a few years ago and I had a great time exploring the city. Safe, clean, friendly, and cultural- what else could you ask for?

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