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My Toronto: Stories From the 6ix

“Stories from The 6ix” is a series focused on Torontonians and their unique connections to this city. Same city, different stories. Discover Toronto through the locals who know and love it.

Adeyemi Abegsan

Visual Artist / @soteeoh

Adeyemi Abegsan is very proudly Torontonian. His Instagram handle is “Soteeoh” after all (as in T.O., short for Toronto). He has managed to craft an incredible photography career revolving around Toronto. He says, “You’ll see a lot of urban cityscapes because I just like it on a personal basis. But I also spend a lot of time in different neighbourhoods, capturing life, storefronts and signage. I love the fact that you can be in different parts of the city and all the signage is suddenly not English. That’s amazing to me.”

We met at Moonbean, a Kensington Market coffee shop that fosters connecting and disconnecting. A place where conversations swirl around you. Where you can be completely present — mostly because there’s no wifi, but also because the owner, Alan Erdstein, has created a welcoming space that is as much about the people coming through as it is about grinding and brewing their own coffee. It was the perfect place to get Adeyemi’s perspective on the city.

What do you love about Toronto?

This city is by no means perfect, but I love the culture and the diversity. It’s corny and obvious, but polarizing at the same time. Especially in the climate we’re living in now, to have a city like this where you have so many different people from so many different backgrounds all contributing and making this thing work.

What’s your favourite neighbourhood?

Kensington Market. It’s home but I also feel like it’s a microcosm of the greater city. Part of the appeal is its rough edges. I think Kensington specifically does a great job blending that with some higher end culture.

There’s also the East Side Rebellion right now where a bunch of artists are starting to migrate east because that’s kind of how neighbourhoods evolve. Artists make it cool, then the hipsters come in, then businesses come in and then the cycle repeats somewhere else. That’s happening in the east end right now.

When would you recommend people visit Toronto? Why?

I’d say come in the fall, specifically end of September, early October. It’s still warm, you have the leaves changing colour and you have so many things happening. TIFF, Nuit Blanche, every weekend there’s a crazy event. I think we nail it, I think there’s probably few places in the world that compare.

I mentioned TIFF, one of the biggest film festivals in the world at this point, but I would also tell people to go to Manifesto. It’s a lesser known arts and culture festival, but it just celebrated it’s 10-year anniversary. It hosts panel discussions, musical performances and features a whole bunch of local and emerging artists. It’s an amazing way to experience the city because it follows the best from around the city.

Chloe Wilde

Entertainment Reporter / @thechloewilde

Curled on my couch, nestling hot cups of tea, Chloe Wilde and I talked about everything and nothing before getting to the topic at hand: our mutual love of Toronto. She might have grown up in a small town outside of Montreal, but it’s clear she’s made for big city life. It’s no small thing to suddenly switch from pursuing a career in the sciences to one in television. Although that has everything to do with her own drive, she attributes a lot of her opportunity to the city, “Toronto is an amazing city to find your place in the world, to find your passion and hustle to make it a reality. The drive in this city is contagious and you can feel it as you walk through the streets.”

Of course, you might be able to take the girl out of a small town, but you can’t take the small town out of a girl —- at least not this girl. Down to earth in the most endearing way, Chloe balances the fast-paced life of TV host with chill pastimes. We talked about this and more in the comfort of my home.

What’s your favourite weekend activity?

Brunching, obviously. Preferably with a workout beforehand. A few of my favourite spots are Gusto 101, Portland Variety and The Drake Hotel. But my go-to restaurant is Fresh (not necessarily for brunch). It was the first place I ever ate when we arrived to Toronto during the MuchMusic VJ Search and it’s been a special spot ever since. Yummy, sentimental and run by a bad-ass woman named Ruth, who has a passion for plant-based eating.

What’s your favourite festival in Toronto?

TIFF. The entire city comes together and the world takes notice. There is nothing like walking around King Street during opening weekend of TIFF. The city comes alive and the energy is electric!

Lastly, what’s on your must-do list for visitors?

Go to St. Lawrence Market, load up on cured meat, fresh veggies, a variety of cheeses and some vino for good measure, and have a picnic at HTO park on the water. It’s in one of my favourite neighbourhoods in the city next to the Entertainment District, where I spend most of my time.

Ryan Silverstein

Entrepreneur / @ovoryan

On the 42nd floor of the Four Seasons Residences, you get a sprawling view of Toronto. It’s a view that Ryan Silverstein sees every time he’s home when he’s not on tour with Drake or crushing his own work in Los Angeles. “I grew up here. I love watching the city grow and progress,” shares Ryan. “Watched different buildings go up, new areas grow. The fact that Yorkville has changed to what it is now. It’s just cool to see the evolution. Toronto as a whole is just a beautiful place. People don’t get it. You can’t compare Toronto to New York, LA or Louisiana. We have our own vibe.”

Travelling the world can be considered a full-time job for Ryan these last few years. He’s never in one place for too long, so what he cherishes about Toronto is “an overwhelming sense of peace.” With this in mind, it’s the positive energy that stands out to him the most. We focused a lot on that as we watched the city from his own Mount Olympus.

What do you think surprises people the most when they visit Toronto?

The personality of Torontonians as a whole surprises visitors, I think. We’re such happy people. I don’t know if it’s the air, but I find that everyone just goes about their everyday, whether it’s stressful or easy, with the same positive mentality. Everyone will wave to each other and smile. You don’t get that in a lot of other places. It’s one of our best characteristics.

What’s a must-do for tourists, whether they’ve been here before or are first-timers?

You can watch a game anywhere, but the vibe in Toronto stadiums and arenas is different. We have so much love for our teams, so much passion, that it’s a really amazing experience. Whether it’s basketball, baseball, hockey and now soccer, it’s a great time. No matter what day of the week it is, there’s always something to catch. So you really can’t miss it.

What’s your favourite neighbourhood?

Yorkville is my favourite neighbourhood, where I live. My whole family’s here, my dad’s business is next door, my brother’s tattoo shop is here. There are great restaurants. It’s popping, especially during the summer. But, overall, you can come and have a clean, fun time. Toronto is full of clean streets, clean people, clean all-around vibe. You can’t find that anywhere else. Here it’s all positivity. I wake up and I just feel happy.

Sasha Exeter

Blogger / @sashaexeter

Sasha Exeter may have travelled around the world, studying in Europe and the States, but it’s undeniable that over the years she’s become a Toronto staple. Proudly representing the city in everything she does, which includes an impressive list of healthy activities, stylish events and downtime with loved ones, she’s a wealth of knowledge on what to get up to in the city.

Balancing a love of the finer things in life with simpler ones (note: simpler does not mean easier as they often include some intense sweat sessions), Sasha’s lifestyle shows how many amazing options are available on a daily basis. This city is far from boring and Sasha reminds us why.

What do you love most about Toronto?

I’ve lived in many other cities and I have yet to find one close to it. Almost half the city’s population was born outside of Toronto so it’s a true melting pot fusing different cultures from all over the world. Thankfully for us, this results in specific pockets within the city that reflects other countries allowing those who immigrate to the country a chance to hold on to their cultures and others a chance to learn about a new one. In Toronto, you can literally take a trip around the world without ever leaving the city limits.

What do you think surprises visitors the most about the city?

The city’s emerging food and art scene. We’ve definitely stepped it up when it comes to our culinary game and it’s been really exciting to see chefs open new spaces that not only have delectable and unique menus but are also visually appealing spaces.

We often head to Nodo in the Junction neighbourhood and Nervosa Trattoria is a spot I think we will always go to for date nights because of it has sentimental meaning and their cocktails, pastas and massaged kale salad is to die for.

What would be a perfect day for you?

The perfect day consists of running along the MGT waterfront, hikes or walks on some of the city’s best trails, brunch al fresco with my love, followed by some flower and market shopping.

I also enjoy bringing visiting guests to Toronto Islands and Centreville. It’s only a short ferry ride away, which is also why it’s often forgotten by tourists and locals. But there’s multiple islands to explore, the most beautiful views of the Toronto skyline (hello…photo opps!), beaches, canoe/kayak and bike rentals, picnic areas, and even a themed park for families with kiddies.

Interviewer: Meghan Yuri Young is the editor of her eponymous site encouraging readers to pursue happier, healthier lives through her own experiences. Follow her adventures: Meghan Yuri Young on Instagram.

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