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10 Underrated Attractions in Toronto

A List That Doesn't Begin with the CN Tower

Every major city in the world has that one well-recognized landmark: the Eiffel Tower in Paris, the Empire State Building in New York, the Taj Mahal in Agra, and I'm sure you know the CN Tower in Toronto. Then, there are the smaller, but still famous attractions that follow. For Toronto, there's Royal Ontario Museum, Canada's Wonderland, The Rogers Centre, Casa Loma, and the list goes on. But we never discuss the less popular but invigorating destinations that even locals aren't familiar with. The following locations include some of Toronto's most unique and inviting places.  

10 - The Yorkville Rock

Situated at the heart of Yorkville’s urban park, a 650 ton rock rests where it is visited by hundreds daily. This is not just any rock—this metamorphic rock is estimated to be approximately 1 billion years old. It was removed in pieces from the Canadian Shield, a region of precambrian rock surrounding Hudson Bay. Twenty truckloads later, the rock was brought to Toronto where it now serves as a city landmark. Tourists as well as locals stop to take pictures with the ancient rock every day.

Accompanying the Yorkville rock is a $3.5 million park built just outside the entrance to Bay Station where you will find an endless strip of boutiques, fine dining, bars, and cafes. In 2008, the area was ranked as the third-most expensive retail space in the entirety of North America. The park delivers a sense of natural relief within the busy city, displaying a variety of enchanting landscapes such as miniature forests, marshes, prairies, and orchards—the perfect home for the historic Yorkville rock.

9 - The Monkey’s Paw

Catering to every book-lover’s dream, this unusual antique book store collects unique books and strange artifacts that you would be lucky to find elsewhere. The founder, Stephen Fowler, has the shop sectioned into four, distinct categories: the beautiful, the arcane, the macabre, and the absurd.

This unconventional secondhand book store is also home to the “Biblio-Mat”—the world’s first vending machine for books. Simply slide in a toonie and the machine will spit out a random, rare piece of literature from the 20th century. The book may even come with old photographs or pamphlets for you to explore.

8 - Above Ground Art Supplies

Located directly beside OCAD University on McCaul Street, Above Ground Art Supplies is a three-story house dedicated to selling an infinite supply of art inventory. The shop started out in 1983 in a compact, second-story location which swiftly expanded over the following 15 years. Today, the house is one of three branches of Above Ground Art Supplies.

The store is jam-packed with hard to find items, spilling into more than 15 categories including printmaking, sculpting, framing, graphics, children’s crafts, and painting. Each year, after the store conducts spring cleaning, there’s a massive supplies sale of end-of-stock, over stock, and discontinued items—a haven for artists and crafters.

7 - The Half House

At 54 ½ St. Patrick Street, you will find precisely what the title suggests. This house, unlike any other, is split directly down the middle, now standing as a solo one-half. People visit the house frequently to get a picture from just the right angle for the perfect Instagram post.

The house is part of a row of six others, all built together in the 1890s. By the 1950s, most of the block of Queen, McCaul, St. Patrick, and Dundas Street was purchased in small chunks by Windlass Holdings Ltd, a company which used manipulative tactics to secure land deeds. So when the owner of 54 St. Patrick Street had enough, he complained to the Toronto Star that the company was “blockbusting” (a method used to frighten people into selling their property for at a low price). He claimed to have received over 300 directives on his property that year alone. In the end, though the company was interested, it was never able to secure what is now 54 ½ St. Patrick Street. However, the company managed to claim the neighboring house which was joined to number 54 St. Patrick Street. This resulted in extreme precision during demolishing the other half of the structure. Right down to the woodwork, nothing on the other half of the building was disturbed. The house has remained untouched since then. The city currently lists the value of the home at $648,000.

6 - Kensington Market

Just west of Toronto’s Chinatown, Kensington Market is a busy urban neighborhood drenched in history, foods, and products from all around the world. Many know this area to be a “funky,” 27 hectare district dedicated to diversity and festivities. The market varies in architecture and culture, screaming color and “hippie” vibes since the early 1960s.

Kensington Market is a promise of unique stores, vintage thrift shopping, street performers, supermarkets with fresh produce, restaurants, pubs, and coffee shops. You can be sure to find a huge vegan variety within the dining. Some of the most popular food spots in the market include The Burgernator, Wafels & More, and El Trompo.

Pedestrian Sunday is an excellent example of how communities still come together today to share what they have to offer to one another. Every Sunday, pedestrians are allowed the opportunity to walk freely and openly through the market’s streets without the worry of cars passing through. Many shops bring their products to the sidewalks and you may find it to be a great time to seek good deals. Whether it be food, music, or art, Kensington Market is a must-visit Toronto location.

5 - University of Toronto’s Bamboo Forest

Known to University of Toronto students but kept secret to the rest of the city is a breathtaking, indoor bamboo forest. Reaching heights as tall as 30 feet, this bamboo forest was built using a combination of natural and artificial light to achieve a tropical escape for any passing visitor. It grows within University of Toronto’s Terrence Donnelly Centre for Cellular and Biomolecular Research (CCBR). Benches are conveniently placed throughout the garden, welcoming the public for a peaceful getaway.

4 - Bata Shoe Museum

North America’s world-renowned shoe museum was erected in May of 1995 on Bloor Street West. It holds over 13,000 shoes and artifacts, stretching over 4,500 years through the history of shoes. Though it may seem so, this destination is not strictly dedicated to shoe lovers—the museum aims to attract the eye of anyone with the slightest interest in foreign cultures and history. The galleries contain ever-changing exhibitions and will promise a glimpse of something new for each visit. For those looking to find the best of the budget attractions in Toronto, the Bata Shoe Museum offers a “pay-what-you-can” entrance fee every Thursday evening from 5-8 PM.

A captivating feature would be the museum’s large collection of shoes belonging to famous individuals throughout history. Ranging from celebrities of the Victorian Era to the present, the display includes Marilyn Monroe’s red leather stilettos, Napoleon Bonaparte’s silk socks, Justin Bieber’s maroon sneakers, as well as a multitude of others.

3 - Snakes & Lattes

North America’s first board-game themed cafe was first opened in August of 2010 by Ben Castanie and Aurelia Peynet. By 2016, it was pronounced the largest board game cafe in the world, spreading over 7,500 square feet. The very busy and ever expanding destination is both a cafe and library of thousands of board games. As of December 2017, Snakes & Lattes has a third and even larger location extending to 10,000 square feet and three floors of play and restaurant space. The newest location can easily seat up to 240 guests with their custom-made tables and benches. The company is expanding their operation to the United States where their new shop is expected to open in the late summer of 2018.

In the shop, you can pay a $6 fee for full access to a world of board games. The staff is ready to happily assist you in explaining the rules to any board game selected, without so much as glancing at the instructions. The shop is welcoming to players of all ages as it is populated with young people as well as adults looking to share a good time with friends and family. You may also order elegant dishes as well as a wide variety of drinks as you play. The cafe serves such delights as espressos, teas, coffees, and even alcoholic beverages such as beer and wine. Each shop contains their own line of 14 craft beers like their Side Launch Dark Lager or their Angry Orchard Crisp Apple Cider.

2 - Hocus Pocus

Torontonians have given this store another name—“the Harry Potter store.” This heavily-decorated, magical themed store is undoubtedly packed daily by travelers from around the world who come seeking rare treasures that are nearly impossible to get your hands on elsewhere. Hocus Pocus has everything your witch heart could possibly desire. There are sections dedicated to each of the four Hogwart’s houses as well as ink and nib pen kits, pencil quills, wax seal kits, art prints, posters, paper goods, fascinating games, music boxes, and one-of-a-kind knickknacks. You will also find many collectable products related to other fantasy worlds within classical literature and film series.

The store is closely situated to another Harry-Potter-themed destination. Only a 15-minute walk away from Hocus Pocus you will find “The Lockhart”—an enchanting bar of which hosts many of the same customers.

1 - The Rage Room

Just as the title suggests, this hellbound location gifts you the opportunity to set free your stress and frustration through the art of physical outburst. The destination was brought to North York by Battle Sports in 2016 and hasn’t had a moment’s silence since then. Due to the high demand of hyper-raged individuals in the city, a second branch was opened at Yonge and Dundonald in the Fall of 2017.

For only $20, you can be sent, in full gear, to spend 30 minutes in the rage room. Coveralls, face shields, gloves, and vests will keep you well-protected from the savagery you plan on releasing. You will be given five plates to begin with, followed by a wide variety of inanimate objects to demolish using a wide range of weapons. From electronics to glassware, you can chose to erupt on nearly anything of your choosing. The room offers such articles as wine glasses and chairs, extending to television sets and printers, each varying in pricing. You may even choose to bring along your own objects to smash for an extra $20. Whatever the case, the Rage Room is a perfect attraction for those seeking therapeutic, physical release.


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