The Six: It’s not because Toronto has a “6” in its area code, or even its postal code. Back in the late nineties, the Province of Ontario combined the six cities in the greater Toronto region into one. The resulting megalopolis is now the 4th largest city in North America. What do they love in Toronto? Drake, for one. Boy, do they love them some Drake. The week I was there I read, saw, and heard Drake news every day of the week. And he didn’t even do anything newsworthy.
They also love poutine, which is a fancy word for French fries smothered in gloppy gravy and sprinkled with cheese curds. Other things Torontonians dig: pronouncing their city “T’ronnnah,” really expensive parkas with fur-lined hoods, surviving cold winters, rooting for a hockey team that almost never wins, and raising some of the world’s funniest comedians.
Toronto is currently experiencing a dispensary boom: where once there were a handful of MMJ outlets, now there are nearly 90 (although the exact count is uncertain, as more open every day). Word to the wise: Canada (and Toronto) remains legal for medical marijuana but not recreational. (Yet.) So arrive with your Health Canada card if you expect to be served.
Cannabis legality: Medical only (doctor authorization required)
Nicknames: T.O., Queen City, The Six
Pop culture claim to fame: Did I mention Drake yet?
Dispensaries on Leafly: 88
For the record: City law makes it illegal to swear in a public park. Canadians value politeness, eh.
At 4:20 p.m., you are: Checking into the King Edward Hotel in downtown Toronto, because you feel like indulging in old money luxury. The Eddie, as it’s known around the Six, is a grand old barn built by a whiskey baron who founded the distillery that would go on to produce Canadian Club. A recent $40 million renovation has the Eddie looking spit-spot once again, with guests enjoying the hushed elegance of the Consort Bar, high tea on weekends, and royal high-backed lobby chairs for private tet-a-tets. At the Eddie you’re within walking distance of the Entertainment District and the Air Canada Centre, home of the NBA’s Raptors and the NHL’s Maple Leafs. Bonus: Plenty of royal portraits (King Eddie himself, Queen Elizabeth, et al).
At 4:40 p.m., you are: Cabbing it to Queens of Cannabis, Toronto’s only woman-owned and operated dispensary, in the city’s Bloorcourt neighborhood. Hang out and talk medical strains with co-owners Brandy Zurborg and Tania Cyalume, enjoy an aromatherapy massage in the back studio, or purchase chocolate edibles or cannabis-infused guacamole.
Distinctive dispensaries in other neighborhoods: Cannawide Dispensary and Cannawide Top Shelf, one company with two locations within a block of each other in Kensington Market, Toronto’s world-famous vintage district; The Toronto Dispensary on Church Street, east of the U of T campus; and 416 Medicinal Health Center near Stanley Park.
Hot local pick: Don’t forget a box of delicious Mary’s Wellness infused tea (peppermint, chamomile, or chai) while you’re at Queens of Cannabis. You’ll want this Toronto specialty later tonight for a sleepytime sip.
At 5:35 p.m., you are: Perusing the glassware at the Toronto Hemp Company, Canada’s most complete cannabis accessories emporium. Owner Dom Cramer opened his Yonge Street shop in 1994, and since then the joint has become known nationwide for its selection of pipes, papers, vaporizers, and all things desired by the cannabis consumer. The main floor overflows with consumption tools; the basement is all about grow supplies. Whatever your needs, Dom’s got you covered.
At 6:25 p.m., you are: Settling in for a cocktail and appetizers at Signs Restaurant & Bar, one of North America’s most unique eateries. Signs is an easy four-block walk down Yonge Street from Toronto Hemp Co., and you’re going to be telling your friends about this place. It's staffed with deaf servers, bartenders, kitchen staff and hosts. Your menu contains helpful instruction in American Sign Language (ASL), which you’ll use to communicate with your server. (Hint: The sign for “martini” is one of the easiest in the book.) Pasta dishes are among their specialties, along with, of course, the Toronto staple: poutine. Ask for the check early, because you’ll need to hustle to make curtain at your next stop.
At 7:31 p.m., you are: Laughing your ass off at The Second City, the cradle of North American comedy. It seems churlish to call this the Toronto offshoot of the original Second City in Chicago because the Toronto stage has created its own legends since first opening in 1973. Gilda Radner, John Candy, Rick Moranis, Eugene Levy, Catherine O’Hara, Mike Myers, and hundreds of others cut their comic teeth here. Do yourself a favor: plunk down $30, yuk it up, and lay bets on which of tonight’s comics will be on Saturday Night Live next season.
Inside tip: Stick around after the show when members of the cast indulge in a little improv, just to strengthen their chops.
At 11:15 p.m., you are: Shaking it and making it at one of the city’s hot nightclubs. Check outWayward (skews young, trendy, dressed to kill, bottle service); Apt. 200 (more relaxed, informal, hang out and play some pool or video games with your craft cocktail); Ballet; or Uniun.
At 2:15 a.m., you are: Enjoying a soothing cup of Mary’s Wellness infused tea. Seriously. This stuff is awesome. You will sleep like a baby. A baby who really, really likes to sleep.
Late the next morning, you are: Rising and shining at the Dineen Coffee Company, on Yonge Street, if you’re looking for expertly pulled java and a pastry; or at Le Petit Déjeuner, on King Street, if you’re looking for a fuller menu with mind-blowing French specialties.
Local tip: The toast champignon, a halved bagel topped with sautéed mushrooms, onions, and bacon, at Le Petit Déjeuner is to die for.
At 12:15 p.m., you are: Walking off that breakfast with a stroll through the Hockey Hall of Fame, which is, I kid you not, located in a Toronto shopping mall. Take a gander at the most famous trophy in professional sports, the Stanley Cup, which contains the name of every member of every championship team, hand-tooled into the trophy’s collars. Marvel at hockey memorabilia like Wayne Gretzky’s battered Edmonton Oilers helmet and Jim Craig’s goalie pads from the US Hockey Team’s “Miracle On Ice” win over the Soviets in 1980.
At 1:34 p.m., you are: Thinking about visiting the top of the CT Tower, but come on, you’ve got better things to do, such as checking out some of the world’s most beautiful, expensive, exotic, and rare footwear at the Bata Shoe Museum. This cobbler’s paradise was founded in 1995 by Sonja Bata, the businesswoman and philanthropist who, along with her husband Thomas J. Bata, ran the family-owned global footwear and fashion accessory company. The building itself is an architectural gem, and its collection of more than 13,000 shoes includes indigenous footwear from all over the world. I know. You’re saying "A shoe museum? Really?" Trust me. It’s completely worth it.
At 2:43 p.m., you are: Shopping in the vintage boutiques of the Kensington Market, Toronto’s justifiably famous funkytown. If secondhand jeans and throwback jerseys aren’t your style, stroll a few blocks to Queen Street West, named one of the 15 coolest neighborhoods in the world. Enjoy the abundance of trendy boutiques, indie patisseries, and art galleries there.
At 4:19 p.m., you are: Feeding loonies and toonies into the Biblio-Mat, the world’s first randomizing vending machine for used books, at Monkey’s Paw bookstore on Dundas Street. Now you’ve got your reading material for the flight home. Time to catch a cab to the airport!