Stuck in the city for a summer? What can you do to escape the humid air and sticky sweat of the overcrowded Dundas Square? We all have our favourite season and most would applaud summer when reminded of Toronto’s frigid winter. This year we’re replacing our air conditioning and cold showers with lively events and cool neighbourhoods. If the idea of exploring Toronto’s many sub-communities makes you think of frizzy hair and sweat, slick some gel in your mane and trade those jeans for shorts. Everyone’s doing it. Even Toronto’s top event planners have committed themselves to summers in their favourite community. Culture, food, celebrations and music represent a summer in the big city.
If you were to ask Stephen Weir what his favourite part of the summer in Toronto is, he’d first shrug off the idea of summer due to a busy work schedule. Weir is the public relations rep for the Caribana Festival in Toronto. He spends most of his summer planning the festival, prepping the streets of Toronto for one of its busiest celebrations in the city. “I don’t really get much of a summer, but if I did, by some freak accident, I’d probably say with my involvement in the festival that I thoroughly enjoy the Caribbean community,” said Weir. Little Jamaica is a community that caters to Weir’s sub-culture preferences, located on Eglinton West, the community thrives with calypso music and the aroma of spicy Caribbean dishes. “I’m a bit of a foodie, so I guess I’m really attracted to this community because I’m attracted to their food,” laughs Weir. This community is bordered with many Caribbean shops and Jamaican restaurants, serving the official dish: fried plantain, jerk chicken, rice and peas. This community offers an eclectic experience of red, yellow and green with a wide variety of exotic fruits. A must-see in the summer, with its natural habitat reflecting a market in Jamaica, you’ll think the beach is just feet away and the rum is flowing freely.
This community is an important summer asset to the Artistic Director of the TD Jazz Festival in Toronto, Josh Grossman. “It never gets old, there’s always something to see and somewhere to explore, and in the summer, it’s that much more exciting– people spill out onto the patios, it’s a community that truly embodies summer,” said Grossman. Little India has many restaurants and cafes appealing to the South Asian community, it is an exciting adventure for everyone to explore throughout the summer months. Drop in to a restaurant to taste your favourite Indian dish in a community that reflects the market in South Asia, or grab a glass of palm wine to cool off after browsing the market. The smell of curry or savouring a popular Indian dish will enhance your experience in Little India. “The summer is all about high-energy music, you’re sure to catch this on the streets of Little India,” said Grossman. While the population is not purely South Asian, this East-end area is famous for catering to Toronto’s South Asian community. The neighbourhood originated when the Eastwood Theatre began to play Bollywood films. Not only is Little India an exciting way to escape the city, located on Gerrard Street East, it is officially one of the largest South Asian communities in North America. Feel free to cool off after a long day of browsing the restaurants with a Bollywood film in the air conditioned theatre.
This neighbourhood started a Jewish hub and quickly evolved to become the famously eclectic outdoor market, bordered with both new and used clothing shops and fresh produce. The streets are animated year-round with excitingly upbeat music that gets you through the lethargic winter and makes you dance through the streets in the summer sunshine. An eclectic community with the rumored “best sandwich in the world,” sits at the corner of Kensington and Baldwin. In the summer you can help yourself to some fresh produce and acquaint yourself with the friendly locals pounding their drums or singing along on street corners. Julian Sleath, Programming Manager of the City of Toronto, enjoys the upbeat community in the summertime describing it as “a step out of the city into a world of excess in art and music.” As a city programmer, Sleath sees the value in a multicultural mosaic booming in the downtown core. Just west of Dundas Square, the neighbourhood can be heard from bordering streets. “In my career it is important to know all aspects of the city, from the less beautiful places to the very wealthy neighbourhoods. As a frequent cyclist, Kensington is lovely place to bike to for fresh produce and a cup of iced tea,” said Sleath. Take up biking and hit the streets to check out this culturally eclectic market, if not for the food and music, for the beautiful graffiti art lining all alleys and walkways.
If you’d like a more laid-back location and prefer to not travel by two wheels, the Toronto Harbourfront is the best location to sit back on a bench at the end of the pier. Not only is it a romantic location to bring a date and watch planes land on Toronto Island, but also represents Toronto’s multicultural reputation, with scheduled events at the Harbourfront Centre. Originally the Harbourfront was used for shipping and industrial purposes but was quickly recognized as the prime location for city events and family gatherings. With a stage that hosts many theatrical performances, the boardwalk along Lake Ontario is a prime location to refresh yourself with ice cream and lemonade. Chris Lorway, the Artistic Director of the Luminato Festival, says that he prefers the waterfront location based on his Maritimer roots. “It’s a little unnerving to sit by a mass of water that looks like the ocean without the scent of saltwater, but it really is one of the greatest locations downtown to make the most of your summer.” There are many family events that take place at the Harbourfront Centre, and even Sleath admitted to joining his British friends at the lakeview location to race their motorized mini-boats. The beautiful marina overflowing with cruise boats and personal yachts is a sight to experience while enjoying a cold beer with friends or exploring the boardwalk. Lorway’s number one tip to enjoy your summer on the waterfront: “bring your dog, go for a walk, spend the night at a pub that overlooks the water. It’s a place you’re guaranteed to enjoy through the entire season.”