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The Non-Normie’s Guide to Exploring Toronto

The Unique Traveler's Guide to Toronto Beyond the Basics

The Non-Normie’s Guide to Exploring Toronto

Toronto has a whole lot more up its sleeve than the typical city bus tour and the dazzling CN Tower. 

In this insider's guide, we'll take you on a journey beyond the typical tourist experience, unveiling the lesser-known, offbeat, and culturally rich aspects of Toronto that often escape the spotlight.

Ready to experience the city like a real Torontonian? Here are some spots to check out and activities you can’t miss out on:

The Non-Normie’s Guide to Exploring Toronto

Address: St. Lawrence Market, Upper Level 42, 92-95 Front St East, Toronto, Ontario

Contact details: +1 416 363 4247/+1 416 863 6764

Operating hours:

  • Tuesday to Friday: 9:00 AM – 7:00 PM
  • Saturday: 7:00 AM – 5:00 PM
  • Sunday: 10:00 AM – 5:00 PM

Website

Carousel Bakery is home to Toronto’s famous peameal bacon sand­wiches, and there’s no better way to start your day in the city than trying one of them. They’re like a hug in the morning, warm and comforting with a little bit of salty goodness.

The shop has been operating from the same spot in the St. Lawrence Market for more than three decades. Likewise, their specialty sandwich has been a staple for many Torontonians over the years.

Carousel Bakery’s iconic peameal bacon sandwiches shine in global TV shows, blogs, and top publications like The Washington Post and USA Today, but the shop also boasts a delectable array of sandwiches and wraps for you to try out.

Pro tip:
Long lines start forming almost as soon as the shop opens, so try to arrive even before they unlock their doors.

Head to the Museum of Illusions

Address: 132 Front St E, Toronto, ON M5A 1E2, Canada

Contact details: +1 416-889-2285

Operating hours:

  • Monday to Sunday: 10:00 AM to 8:00 PM

Website

You’ve probably heard about the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) and Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO), but if you’re looking for an artsy but fun and unique experience in the city, head over to the Museum of Illusions.

This one-of-a-kind edutainment destination features over 70 visual and educational exhibits that are designed to tease the senses and trick the mind. 

One of the crowd favourites is the Rotated Room, where everything is tilted on its side, making it appear as if the walls are falling away.

Pro tip:
If you’re a teacher, you might be in luck! Every month, the Museum of Illusions selects one lucky educator who submits an entry to win a complimentary class trip for up to 50 people.

Browse books at The Monkey’s Paw

Address: 1067 Bloor St W, Toronto, ON M6H 1M5, Canada

Contact details: +1 416-531-2123

Operating hours:

  • Tuesday to Saturday: 11:00 AM – 8:00 PM
  • Sunday: 12:00 PM – 5:00 PM

Website

The Monkey’s Paw is the top destination for bookworms. The store specializes in rare and unusual books, making it a treasure trove for collectors and those seeking out-of-print gems.

Their books are also categorized playfully, with tags like “Books that Can’t Be Categorized” or “Unexpected Romances.” The shop is also known for its charming and artistic atmosphere, with vintage decor and a cosy ambience.

The Monkey’s Paw is committed to creating a welcoming and artistic space for book lovers. They host events, readings, and book launches, fostering a sense of community among bookworms in the city.

Pro tip:
Make sure to try out their Biblio-Mat! It’s a coin-operated vending machine that dispenses select random old books.

Get classic comfort food at Cabano’s Cheeseburgers

Address: 75 St Nicholas St #104, Toronto, ON M4Y 0A5, Canada

Operating hours:

  • Tuesday to Sunday: 11:30 AM – 10:00 PM

Website

Cabano’s Cheeseburgers, formerly known as Cabano’s Comfort Food, is a popular burger joint run by Kevin Boyd, a seasoned chef with a background in Michelin-star restaurants. 

Cabano’s offers top-tier burgers and sandwiches without the fuss, served in a contemporary Chicago-style eatery. 

The restaurant’s signature burger, the Cabano Burger, is made with two all-beef patties, cheese on the bottom, lettuce, onion, deep-fried jalapenos, and a house burger sauce.

Pro tip:
The burgers at Cabano’s are juicy and messy, so you’ll definitely want to have some extra napkins on hand.

Take a stroll at Underpass Park

Address: 29 Lower River Street, Toronto, ON M5A 1M6, Canada

Operating hours: Open 24 hours

Website

Underpass Park is a public space designed by PFS Studio and The Planning Partnership. It’s the most extensive park ever built under an overpass in Canada and the first ever in Toronto. 

The park was made as part of Waterfront Toronto’s effort to spruce up the West Don Lands neighbourhood. They wanted to turn a rundown and unsafe area into a cool and friendly public spot.

Now, the park is home to a variety of public art installations, and it also often hosts events, such as concerts, festivals, and farmers’ markets.

Pro tip:
There’s a skating area within the park, so if you ride, make sure to bring your skateboard!

Drink coffee out of a toilet at Poop Cafe!

Address: 678 Bloor St W, Toronto, ON M6G 1L4, Canada

Contact details: +1 416-535-7667

Operating hours:

  • Monday to Friday: 12:00 PM – 10:00 PM
  • Saturday to Sunday: 11:00 AM – 10:00 PM

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Hear us out before you say no! Poop Café is a novelty café with a quirky and humorous theme. 

It’s known for its bathroom-related decor, from toilet seat cushions to urinal-shaped mugs. Its menu items are also designed to resemble poop (though they are, of course, made from safe and edible ingredients).

The cafe’s owner, Lien Nguyen, wanted to create a space where people could “change their minds about poo” and see it in a more lighthearted way.

Their menu features a variety of desserts, such as poopuccino (coffee with foam art resembling poop emojis), bingpoo (their version of Korean bingsu), and poo-pudding (a chocolate pudding served in a toilet bowl).

Pro tip:
Bring a camera with you! It’s not like you’ll get to eat at a poop-themed cafe any time soon after, so make the most of your visit.

Go thrifting at Public Butter

Address: 1290 Queen St W, Toronto, ON M6K 1L4, Canada

Contact details: +1 416-535-4343

Operating hours:

  • Monday to Sunday: 11:00 AM – 7:00 PM

Website

If you’re looking to take home vintage retro jackets, you’ll enjoy thrifting at Public Butter. They’re a quaint clothing store known for their large selection of high-quality vintage clothing.

In addition to clothing, the store offers vintage accessories, shoes, and collectable items, like vintage jewellery, bags, hats, and shoes. The store also has a collection of vinyl records, making it a go-to spot for record collectors.

Pro tip:
You don’t need to worry about missing Public Butter and its extensive catalogue when you go home, as they also have an online shop.

Enjoy a meal at Java House

Address: 537 Queen St W, Toronto, ON M5V 2B6, Canada

Contact details: +1 416-504-3025

Operating hours:

  • Monday to Sunday: 10:30 AM – 2:30 AM

Website

Java House is a casual dining restaurant known for their all-day breakfasts, pad thai, and fajitas. This is the perfect food joint if you’re looking for an affordable casual dining restaurant that serves good food and has a relaxed atmosphere.

Java House also has a full bar, which serves beer, wine, and cocktails. They’re known for serving freshly cooked and filling meals, so make sure to come hungry! 

Pro tip:
Try pairing your meals with Java House’s sangria pitchers. Keep an eye out for their regular promos too!

Have a barrel of laughs at The Corner Comedy Club

Address: 243 Queen St W, Toronto, ON M5V 1Z4, Canada

Contact details: +1 647-228-4084

Operating hours:

  • Wednesday to Sunday: 7:30 PM – 12:00 AM

Website

The Corner Comedy Club is a hip spot for stand-up comedy. The club has a capacity of 100 people and hosts a variety of shows, including showcases, open mics, and special events.

You can find a great lineup of up-and-coming comedians in this intimate setting. 

The owner, Joe Tuccitto, founded the space believing Toronto’s home-grown talent is ‘offering the same level of comedy as’ the big names from LA or New York.

Pro tip:
Book your tickets in advance. The club is small and popular, so tickets can sell out quickly.

Shop at Stackt Market

Address: 28 Bathurst St, Toronto, ON M5V 0C6, Canada

Operating hours:

  • Tuesday to Sunday: 9:00 AM – 11:00 PM

Website

Stackt Market is a quirky market constructed from about 104 shipping containers stacked to and on top of one another. The containers have been converted into shops, restaurants, and event spaces. 

The market puts a strong emphasis on sustainability, evident in its repurposing of containers. 

You’ll find over 100 vendors selling everything from food and drinks to clothing and home goods.

Pro tip:
Make sure to have some cash on hand, as some vendors at the market don’t accept cards.

Try the famous tacos at Seven Lives 

Address: 72 Kensington Ave, Toronto, ON M5T 2K2, Canada

Operating hours:

  • Monday to Sunday: 12:00 PM – 7:00 PM

Website

You definitely can’t miss out on Seven Lives’ tacos. They’re a popular taqueria renowned for their high-quality and authentic Mexican tacos. 

Sean Riehl, the owner and chef, hails from San Diego and boasts experience working in top-tier California dining establishments. He first made waves during the 2012 Toronto Underground Market.

Our personal favourite is their famous specialty, the Baja fish taco. It’s served with deep-fried mahi-mahi, pico de gallo, and cabbage, and it’s just scrumptious. 

Pro tip:
Go early. The restaurant is popular, so it can get crowded, especially on weekends.

Explore the Prehistoria Museum and SkullStore Oddity Shop

Address: 397 Dundas St E, Toronto, ON M5A 2A7, Canada

Contact details: +1 416-363-1060

Operating hours:

  • Wednesday to Sunday: 1:00 PM – 7:00 PM

Website

The Prehistoria Museum and SkullStore Oddity Shop is a two-in-one establishment that’s popular among geeks and history buffs. 

It’s a small, free-to-visit natural history museum that houses a collection of artefacts from around the world, including dinosaur eggs, Egyptian amulets, Viking axes, a whale skeleton, and even a duck-billed platypus taxidermy mount. 

The SkullStore is the gift shop of the museum, and it’s one of the world’s biggest oddity shops. They sell sustainably sourced crystals, fossils, skulls, butterflies, taxidermy mounts, ancient artefacts, and salvaged furs. 

Pro tip:
Occasional discounts are available on select items, so be sure to check their social media accounts for announcements.

Sing your heart out at Echo Karaoke 

Address: 693 Bloor St W, Toronto, ON M6G 1L5, Canada

Contact details:

Operating hours:

  • Monday to Thursday, Sunday: 4:00 PM to 2:00 AM
  • Friday to Saturday: 4:00 PM – 2:30 AM

Website

To end your fruitful day in the city, head to Koreatown and sing your heart out at Echo Karaoke. They have numerous private rooms and thousands of songs to choose from, so you’re sure to find all of your favourites.

If you need liquid courage to sing, Echo Karaoke has a full bar, with a variety of drinks to choose from. They also have a snack menu, with items like chips, popcorn, and candy.

For a low-cost, low-key karaoke option, check out their coin karaoke, which has small booths for couples or individuals.

Pro tip:
Take advantage of their early bird specials for discounted drinks and rates.

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