For the perfect merger of big-city excitement and a green retreat on a warm fall weekend, head to Cabbagetown, one of Toronto’s most fascinating and historic neighbourhoods. This leafy ‘hood is also a prime place for families to let the kids burn off some energy, or for the young at heart to soak up some history along with the fresh air. Here’s what not to miss.
Take a walk in this oasis of greenery tucked between Sherbourne and the Don River, and you might feel as though you’ve landed in the Victorian era of Beatrix Potter, author of The Tale of Peter Rabbit. First settled by working class Irish immigrants in the 1800s, these narrow streets are lined with tidy cottages, towering elms, and red-brick Victorian row houses. Behind the wrought iron railings, you glimpse homes lavished with gingerbread fretwork, draped by trailing vines and cascading geraniums. Be sure to make a stop at the historic Riverdale Farm, a three-hectare recreation of an Ontario pioneer farm that’s home to fuzzy sheep, cows, shaggy horses, and the occasional Jemima Puddle Duck look-alike.
The tantalizing aroma of BBQ is your cue to fuel up at Little Shmiddy’s Hot Meat House, a local hotspot for a memorable Sunday brunch. Pack into the tiny space and enjoy the big flavours of healthy housemade granola, triple-berry French toast topped with light-as-air Chantilly cream, and of course, meat—such as an open-faced brisket sandwich, a winning combo of rich meat cradled in jus with avocado, black beans, and a tender cheesy biscuit. If you’re tempted back for more, the dinner menu is worth a return trip, offering housemade charcuterie, as well as hearty mains including a deliciously gooey poutine topped with brisket, curds, and flavour-boosting herbs.
Shop and Drop
Stroll west to Yonge-Dundas Square and stake out a perch for prime people-watching near the splashing fountains. Chill, as brilliant electronic billboards overhead hint at covet-worthy brands available nearby. American Apparel, H&M, and the shops of Toronto Eaton Centre offer up-to-the-minute gear for all ages. If you’re craving a hit of retro fun, the Hard Rock Cafe has got you covered with a dizzying collection of rock memorabilia. Elvis’s shirt, anyone? Make a beeline for the Rock Shop. Hard Rock Cafe Toronto tees are hot collectibles, available in a wide range of sizes (the sweet, infant outfits are especially irresistible).
When you’ve literally walked and shopped ’til you’ve dropped, retreat to Saint James Hotel, a red brick, boutique-sized haven with loads of contemporary comforts (just steps from the theatre zone) that’s such a family-friendly home base even the family pooch is welcome.