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A Guide to a Fun-Filled Day on the Toronto Waterfront

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Toronto’s dominating skyline is best viewed from the waters of Lake Ontario. Many activities in the Harbourfront district help get you close to or on the lake. (Adrian Brijbassi photo for Vacay.ca)

What I appreciate the most about Toronto’s waterfront is the quality of the small businesses and the emphasis on cultural programming that can be experienced. Big corporations are rare while independent shops and a contemporary art gallery flourish by the shoreline. Even with the hot temperatures of summer fading, the waterfront remains a go-to destination in the city for fun, art, diverse treats, and the chance to contemplate what gives Toronto its stature: Lake Ontario and its enduring ability to connect people from near and far.

Here is a step-by-step guide to enjoy a day in one of the most exciting areas of the city.

10 AM: Grab a Coffee at Boxcar Social

Boxcar Social - Bar - Toronto

Boxcar Social’s Harbourfront Centre location features a full bar and restaurant, as well as some of the best coffee in Toronto. (Photo courtesy of Toronto Waterfront BIA)

Boxcar Social has four locations in Toronto and calls its Harbourfront Centre space “easily our most ambitious”. The cafe specializes in diverse coffee choices made with beans sourced from around the world. What makes the Harbourfront location (235 Queens Quay West) distinct is it also serves lunch and dinner, and features a drink list that spotlights Ontario craft beers and spirits. It seats 200 guests and has a patio, allowing for physical distancing. Start with a coffee and a baked treat as you explore this attractive part of the city.

10:30 AM: Inspired Art at Harbourfront Centre

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The Power Plant Contemporary Art Gallery features a prominent landmark — its historic brick tower. (Photo courtesy of Toronto Waterfront BIA)

Browse artisanal creations in the retail centre attached to Boxcar Social. The Harbourfront SHOP has an artists-in-residence program that ensures the products on its shelves are high quality and ever-evolving. Get your holiday shopping done early with unique choices for items such as kid’s toys, gourmet treats, and one-of-a-kind luxury finds.

Then head next door to the Power Plant Contemporary Art Gallery, which features thought-provoking pieces from emerging artists. Housed in a converted power station noted for its eye-catching brick tower, the Power Plant is a landmark that will draw your attention, as will the imaginative art inside. Debuting on September 26 is the first solo exhibition of Black artist Nathan Eugene Carson, revealing work inspired by the social protests of 2020.

Admission to the Power Plant is free. The gallery is limiting capacity to comply with health and safety protocols during the COVID-19 pandemic.

1 PM: Savour Sushi at Miku

Those of us familiar with the long-time Vancouver sushi fave are thrilled to have Miku as an option in Toronto. Known for its Aburi sushi, which is flame-seared salmon, Miku serves delicious Japanese cuisine that will leave you fully satisfied. It’s located on the ground floor of an office tower at 10 Bay Street. You can make reservations to dine in, if you’re comfortable doing so, or place your pick-up order and enjoy it across the street at Harbour Square Park before continuing with your day.

Extra Treat: Sample a bubble tea at Bubble Baby (258 Queens Quay West). The slushy options include grape and strawberry mango, made with real fruit.

3 PM: Paddle on Lake Ontario

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Now this makes social distancing seem like a thrill. Kayaking on Lake Ontario will put a smile on your face. (Photo courtesy of Toronto Waterfront BIA)

The Harbourfront Canoe and Kayak Centre (283 Queens Quay West) provides equipment rentals for canoeing, kayaking, and stand-up paddleboarding. Beginners can take lessons, too. The centre disinfects all of its equipment and life jackets between uses. You can rent a two-person canoe for two hours ($60) and hit the water for spectacular views of the city from its magnificent great lake.

5 PM: A Taste of Niagara at The Wine Shop

Featuring wines from the Andrew Peller Limited empire, The Wine Shop (228 Queens Quay West) offers tastings of Niagara favourites from wineries such as Trius, Peller Estates, and Wayne Gretzky’s. The Peller group purchased some notable British Columbia wineries in 2018, including Black Hills. Stop into the Wine Shop to sample what they’re pouring and purchase a bottle you like. I recommend the 2017 Peller Estates Private Reserve Chardonnay ($19.95), which his aged for 12 months in French oak and is a creamy, well-rounded white wine that does Ontario’s improving viticulture scene proud.

6 PM: Chill Out at Amsterdam BrewHouse

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The Amsterdam BrewHouse (top left) is adjacent to the Queens Quay West Marina, an ideal spot to enjoy Toronto’s waterfront. (Adrian Brijbassi photo for Vacay.ca)

The Amsterdam BrewHouse (245 Queens Quay West) is a cavernous 14,000-square-foot space with a relaxing patio overlooking Lake Ontario. Just west of the marina, it has fantastic views of the water activity and the sunset. The brewhouse has set up plenty of protocols to stop the spread of COVID-19, providing much-needed peace of mind for diners. The food is dependable pub fare, including pizzas made in a wood oven. The beers are tasty and creative, with a variety of choices that will please aficionados and casual beer drinkers. Flights ($9.75) include four samples of five ounces each. Reservations are required for dine-in guests.

8 PM: Save Room for The Fix Ice Cream Bar

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The Fix serves up addictive treats like The Campfire, which levels up the concept of s’mores. (Photo courtesy of Toronto Waterfront BIA)

Located inside another popular restaurant, Joe Bird, The Fix (207 Queens Quay West) serves decadent creations made with its own soft-serve ice cream or flavours from Kawartha Dairy, a favourite in southern Ontario. If you want to feel as if you’ve been whisked off to cottage country, sample The Campfire (Butterscotch Ripple ice cream, burnt marshmallows, caramel flakes, and chocolate-dipped s’mores cookie) and get ready to immediately dream about your next visit to the marvellous waterfront.

A MAP SHOWING LOCATIONS MENTIONED IN THE ARTICLE

Note: Vacay.ca has partnered with the Toronto Waterfront Business Improvement Association to create content that showcases the area and its local businesses.

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Adrian is the editor of Vacay.ca and VacayNetwork.com. He also edited "Inspired Cooking", a nutrition-focused cookbook featuring 20 of Canada's leading chefs and in support of the cancer-fighting charity, InspireHealth. "Inspired Cooking" was created in honour of Adrian's late wife and Vacay.ca co-founder, Julia Pelish, who passed away of brain cancer in 2016. Adrian has won numerous awards for his travel writing, travel photography, and fiction, and has visited more than 55 countries. He is a former editor at the Toronto Star and New York Newsday, and was the social media and advocacy manager for Destination Canada. His articles have frequently appeared in the Huffington Post, Globe & Mail, and other major publications. He has appeared on national and local broadcasts, talking about travel, sports, creative writing and journalism. In 2019, he launched Trippzy, a travel-trivia app developed to educate consumers about destinations around the world.