Here’s where locals of this west-end Toronto neighbourhood go to have a good time.
West is best on this leafy stretch of Bloor Street West. Nosh on traditional Eastern European delicacies like paczki and schnitzel as you browse nearby Bloor West Village’s unique boutiques or enjoy a beverage on one of the many patios. Just be sure to pack some food to go for a picnic alongside the Humber River at the historic Old Mill.
Can’t-miss experience #1: Indulging in brunch, jazz and/or a massage at the Old Mill
Once the site of Toronto’s first sawmill, locals have gathered at the many iterations of this event venue for celebrations of all kinds since 1914. At Old Mill Toronto (21 Old Mill Rd.) visitors can enjoy the picturesque grounds overlooking the Humber River, book a blissful massage at the spa or tuck into a brunch buffet. The Terrace room serves a lovely cuppa at afternoon tea, but for a nightcap, seek out a spot in the stone-walled Home Smith Bar—on weekends, this intimate setting hosts the area’s best jazz nights.
Can’t-miss experience #2: Paddling to Lake Ontario
You can stroll the trails along the Humber River—which is recommended—but why walk when you can paddle the Greater Toronto Area’s only Canadian Heritage River, instead? Rent a canoe or kayak from Toronto Adventures (9 Old Mill Rd.) for a self-guided and beginners-welcome trip downstream to Lake Ontario. Lessons and guided tours are available—including full moon nighttime paddles. No car? No problem. The outfitter is a five-minute walk from Old Mill subway station.
Can’t-miss experience #3: Exploring the Humber River
With parallel pedestrian and bike trails, Etienne Brule Park is the ideal spot to experience the scenic beauty of the Humber River at your own pace. Once across the historic Old Mill bridge, stop to watch anglers cast their lines, or join bystanders in late September to cheer on the migrating salmon (yes, a chorus of encouragement!) as they jump a succession of dams while swimming upstream. Head north along the river for forested areas and perfect picnic spots before heading back on the trail or through the streets of the adjacent Baby Point neighbourhood.
Can’t-miss experience #4: Taking a self-guided Eastern European food tour
Stroll east from Old Mill along Bloor Street West and be rewarded with a stretch of shops, delis and bakeries featuring the best in Eastern European delicacies. From sweet treats to cured meats to stuffed dumplings—mainstay Amber European Restaurant (2372 Bloor St. W.) has been serving up pierogis to locals for 40 years—this neighbourhood satisfies every craving. For food and more, mark your calendar to attend autumn’s Toronto Ukrainian Festival, the biggest of its kind in North America, which showcases the best of Ukrainian arts and culture.
Can’t-miss experience #5: Strolling a store with a theatrical past
The historic 1,400-seat Runnymede Theatre opened to great fanfare in 1927. The landmark has since seen use as a movie house, a bingo hall, a bookstore, and now has a new life as a Shoppers Drug Mart (2223 Bloor St. W.). Fortunately, many of the historic interior elements are still intact and fully refurbished. Head to the rear of the store to admire the clamshell wall sconces, the atmospheric blue ceiling (sans clouds and twinkling lights that mimicked a starry night sky) and the stage where vaudeville had its day.
Getting to Old Mill:
Take the Line 2 Bloor-Danforth subway to Old Mill station