A Toronto Transformation

What to do in Toronto (when you’re bored of the bar)


“Guys, I’m a genius! I’ve totally figured out this Korean remote- wait, who requested ‘The Nuts’?”

One of my favourite things about Toronto is the plethora of fantastic restaurants and bars the city has to offer. Being able to find any kind of food or drink at any hour was something I dreamed about in ye olde days of the small-town reporter life.

However, even when the world is my oyster in terms of bars/restaurants (mmmm, oyster bar) to give my budgeted weekend entertainment duckets to, occasionally I get a hankering for something entirely (or even slightly) different.

So, I have compiled a list of a few places to go/things to do on a chilly evening where drinking is not the first or at least not the only order of the night:

Snakes and lattes – As a teenager I developed a severe aversion to boardgames when someone tricked me into playing Settlers of Catan or Risk or something for a thousand mind-numbing years. I have since discovered many more enjoyable games that make more reasonable  demands on my time, and am a big fan of a low-key cozy games night with pals, which is the whole point of this boardgame cafe.

Get well – Ok, this is technically a bar, but bear with me. It has a gimmick! Free arcade games! I went for a friend’s birthday party and had a grand old time damaging my eyes playing Tetris. All of my Canadian politeness nearly flew out the window as I told the dim outline of the guy lurking behind me that it might be a while as I did not intend to stop hogging the machine until I had achieved the high score. There was an awkward moment where we sized each other up before I relented, said, “Haha. Just kidding?” and moved on to pouring coins into the jukebox. Still, it’s a good bit of nostalgic fun, and not as anti-social as say, playing tetris on your laptop alone while eating an entire box of chocolate. (Not that anyone has ever done that. *blink*).

Dj Skate Night – Despite the emotional havoc my recent venture to Harbourfront caused, DJ Skate Night was a great time. Aside from the skating and the view of the lake, the Natrel rink features a cafe, heated change rooms with locker and skate rentals, skate sharpening and a couple of outdoor fireplaces to thaw your fingers and toes by when you need a break. Also, the sharpening guy very sweetly pointed out that my skates were actually quite sharp when I cluelessly handed them over rather than just taking my money and grinding them into lethal weapons, so, extra points for him.

Karaoke in Koreatown – It seems everyone has a different favourite spot to rent a private room and caterwaul to their heart’s content among friends. Lately mine is the almost-hidden Gorhe Gorhe  (which, according to the internet, roughly translated, means Gorhe Gorhe in English) on Bloor. Keep in mind these guys are cash only, songs are listed by title, not artist and the mysteriously over-buttoned remote is all in Korean, but the staff at the front desk have been total sweethearts about reminding us which ones we need to use. They offer a small selection of booze and an array of dehydrated sea-creatures and what looks like ancient pickled eggs for the hungry (and adventurous).

Trivia night – Again, there are many to choose from. I like Wednesdays at The Drake. There’s always an interesting mix of folks willing to shell out the $2 per person and bring along three or fewer friends whose brains might prove useful. I have yet to assemble a totally crack team for this, as, while my friends are of course, all brilliant wealths of information, a lot of them have really similar interests to me. We’ve got every top-40 song clip from the 90s on on lock, but please do not ask us anything about any superbowl ever. We’re just not that well-rounded! Remember not to trash-talk neighbouring teams excessively as they will be marking your answers.

A class or party at the Toronto Circus School – I have yet to brave one of these, but I think a trapeze or silks class would be SO much fun and am determined to get one under my belt this year. I’ll report back once it happens. 

Indoor Rock climbing at Joe Rockheads – If you haven’t had enough of wearing a harness, Joe Rockheads offers plenty of wall space for your very best spiderman impersonations along with lessons to ensure you’re as safe as possible while scrambling up the walls. Helpful hint: if you’re a lucky sufferer of hyperhidrosis like yours truly, it wouldn’t hurt to invest in a little chalk bag to clip to your harness to keep your grip grippy, not…drippy.

Slowdance Night – This one takes a little more planning, as lovely and amazing Slowdance night host, Sherwin, is actually based in Montreal, and only brings slowdance night to Toronto once a season or so, but if you have a chance, these throwback dances  (with actual dance cards) are a blast! It’s prom without all the angst and with designated dancers to get even the shyest wallflowers on their feet and into a friendly, rotating embrace on the dancefloor.

Swing or Salsa at Dovercourt House – Speaking of dancing, I poked my head into a swing night on my way into a slowdance once and was immediately pulled into the room by a lovely older gentleman who lindy-hopped me around the room to a live band before I could stop laughing and catch my breath to explain that I actually had another dance to get to, but it looked like a riot and I definitely intend to make my way back to make a proper night of it.

Friday Nights at the ROM – they’ve finished up for the season, but fingers crossed these themed parties will make a comeback this spring and again next winter! I am definitely a fan of partying with dinosaurs.

1st Thursdays at the AGO – I have yet to make it out to one of these, but it seems to be the same basic concept as the ROM parties. Lots of food vendors, music and art in a unique setting. The first Thursday of February was already fully booked when I looked into it last week, a testament to how popular they’ve become.

A Night at the Opera or the Ballet – A good excuse to get dressed to the nines if I ever heard one. If you’re under 30, Canadian Opera Company tickets can be had for $22 and National Ballet tickets could be yours for $30!

Don’t forget to check out my “My Toronto” page for more handy Toronto info!

Any other ideas, my Toronto friends? Leave your favourites in the comments!

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