As Brokelyn’s resident Canadian, I’ve spent a great deal of time traveling between my hometown of Toronto and my current town of Brooklyn. And that has meant carefully watching the exchange rate between the two countries. I still remember my excitement on the day, in the spring of 2010, that Canada’s dollar finally edged (ever so briefly) beyond US currency. (I also remember the smug, derisive look on all my cashiers’ faces when I tried to slide them my Canadian bills as payment. Canada has always accepted American currency.)
But I’m not here to tell you about that victory, no sir. I’m here to accept defeat, because the Canadian dollar is currently at just below .70 cents American, and is also slated to dip much lower than that by the end of the year. In other words, you damned lucky Americans: there’s never been a better time for us all to take a trip up North! Besides, many of you have already threatened to move there if Trump gets elected.
So here’s a Canadian-approved guide to your impromptu weekend getaway in Toronto, Ontario, with Canadian prices adjusted to their US equivalent in parentheses, so you can see just how easy you’re getting off because of the exchange rate. Keep the change, you filthy animals.
HOW TO GET THERE
This is Canada’s main airline, and it’s usually the pricier option, with in-flight movies and the whole bit. But they’ve been steadily decreasing flight prices in order to compete with the budget-conscious competition, so their flights can actually be cheaper than most. Right now, for example they’ve got a deep discount, where you can fly roundtrip to Toronto for just $213 USD!
Canada’s weird and wonderful affordable airline, once a humble fleet of just a few dozen jets and two or three domestic destinations but now the country’s premier budget option for traveling like a classy MF. They are like the Oscar Healthcare of flying, with in-flight perks such as free wine and food, and free cappuccino lounges equipped with wifi at every departure point — not to mention an adorable raccoon as their mascot. They’re always offering sale fares, too. Right now, you can fly roundtrip to Toronto for $221 USD.
If you’re really strapped for cash and you can bear a 12-hour bus ride, Megabus is an unbelievable deal. Last-minute fares creep up to around $60, but book now for a trip a few weeks from now and you can get to Toronto for $20 USD. You could even opt for just one way’s fare, flying there and bussing back.
WHAT TO DO
Drink their espresso: Gloria (478 Roncesvalles Avenue)
I remember stumbling in here to use the bathroom, and ending up with one of the better americanos I’ve ever had in Toronto. For $2.50 ($1.75)! Gloria is an unassuming little café in Parkdale that only just opened up, and it boasts a similar vibe to Crown Heights’ Colina Cuervo (actually, they have identical ceramic tiling). Minimal and unpretentious, but excellent. There are plenty of other much-loved indie coffee shops along Roncesvalles Avenue if you want to crawl, but this is the best northernmost place to start your day with a reliable cup of caffeine.
Try their craft beer: Get Well Bar (124 Ossington Avenue)
The exchange rate here is pretty low, too: Toronto has only a handful of good craft beer bars, and Brooklyn, as you know from our beer books, has many more. But Get Well is easily my personal favorite, with its ultra-divey vibe, arcade games, and wide selection of $7 ($4.80) drafts. Just don’t try the North of Brooklyn Pizzeria in the back — you’ll be sorely disappointed they used the name of our borough. There’s also the excellent Bellwoods Brewery nearby, which is a better happy hour option for people-watching along the bustling Ossington Avenue strip.
Do some vintage shopping: 96 Tears Vintage (1714 Queen Street W.)
96 Tears was previously just a regular pop-up at flea markets, but has now evolved into this curated brick-and-mortar outfit tucked innocuously into a strip of antique furniture and design shops. Generally speaking, large vintage stores tend to be so overwhelming that you give up on the selection halfway through, but 96 Tears has a temptingly small collection of well-maintained garments with iconic brands in their earliest editions. Think Jack Purcell pre-Chuck Taylor type stuff. Not too pricey, either: a $10 ($6.95) sale rack outside and most items hovering around $30-60 ($20-40) range.
Score thrift store finds: Kind Exchange (multiple locations)
Kind Exchange is an instant consignment store much like a Beacon’s Closet or a Buffalo Exchange, but it’s even more accessible to common folk who can’t be bothered to keep everything they own in mint condition (because clothes, they are for wearing). Thrift-shop-meets-vintage prices run anywhere from $3 ($2) hats and scarves to $60 ($40) coats, but nothing’s outrageous and you can always find a deal. And if you want to sell stuff, you can get 30% store credit for your digs, or 25% cash on-the-spot.
See some dirt cheap movies: Rainbow Cinemas & Magic Lantern Theatres (Various Locations)
$5 ($3) movie Tuesdays, and $10 ($6.95) otherwise. That’s pretty much all you need to know. Much like Cobble Hill Cinema, this place screens independent flicks and second-run blockbusters. So go to Canada, and watch all of the movies for none of the money. The popcorn is the perfect amount of salty.
Have some free outdoor fun: High Park (1873 Bloor St. West)
Nestled between two hip neighborhoods, Parkdale and The Junction, High Park is Toronto’s biggest green space. Like Prospect Park, eh? If you find yourself in the city during the summer months, you can catch a free Shakespeare play there; in the winter, this 400-acre monster looks like something out of a Brontë novel. Either way, it doesn’t cost you a pretty Canadian penny to wander through it.
Eat their signature Canadian foods: Swiss Chalet (multiple locations)
Please, please do not go to Toronto without eating Swiss Chalet. It’s a rotisserie grill and restaurant chain that has captured the hearts of millions, simply because it is mediocre. You simply must sit through a bottomless fountain soda and contemplate the strange log-cabin kitsch of this place, while chowing down on literally anything off the menu as long as it’s dipped in chalet sauce. But I recommend the dark-meat quarter chicken dinner with french fries and chalet sauce for $9.50 ($6.60), which was my order once a week every year for 10 years.
This list isn’t by any means exhaustive— consider it your gateway drug to Toronto, should the dollar fall any farther/Trump actually get elected. There’s plenty more to keep busy, if you stick around long enough. Also, as if you needed another reason to visit, this.