Fall is when Toronto truly comes to life with incredible style, art and design. Immerse yourself in the local art scene and explore the lesser-known galleries outside of big-ticket hotspots like the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) and Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO). Then, grab some late night eats and drinks so you can continue the conversation well after.
You know a neighbourhood is on the rise when the artists start to invade. Leslieville has been growing exponentially over the last few years and is home to Project, a gallery that opened its doors in 2013. Focused on local emerging and mid-career contemporary artists, it has featured the work of abstract artist Callen Schaub, Hakka-Chinese painter Ness Lee and street photographer SoTeeOh. The range of collections that can be found here is vast, yet the focus quite singular.
Afterwards, head down to Queen Street East to the Broadview Hotel. A local favourite, it represents one of the most drastic transformations the city has seen. Once the notorious strip club Jilly’s, it’s now a go-to destination for its impeccable design, food and rooftop patio – one of the most popular hotel rooftop bars in Toronto.
Regent Park is arguably the largest revitalization the city has seen in decades. Its community cultural hub, Daniels Spectrum, is home to many art and community initiatives and organizations. Open to the public and free of charge, its Hallway Galleries showcase the work of artists from Regent Park and beyond. With its mantra, “Rooted in Regent Park, Open to the World,” it is home to some incredible organizations and collections that will inspire anyone who walks through its doors.
For even more diversity after, head to Sukhothai on Parliament, the original location that has since spawned two others as well as trendy Thai spots such as Pai. It’s a hole-in-the-wall restaurant that serves some of the best Thai food the city has to offer.
Although The Power Plant has a large following that could easily put it on the same pedestal as the ROM and AGO, it also boasts a laid-back vibe that’s perfect for its Harbourfront surroundings. Touted as Canada’s leading non-collecting, public art gallery devoted to contemporary visual art — it’s nevertheless more than a gallery.
It also hosts lectures and features interpretive tools that invite visitors to question, explore and reflect upon their experiences. Essential to the cultural infrastructure of the city and country, it’s internationally recognized while championing groundbreaking contemporary Canadian art.
Once you’ve walked through the Powerplant and taken in all it has to offer, you can head just a few feet over to Boxcar Social, which overlooks Lake Ontario. It has an impeccable selection of both coffee and alcoholic beverages to cap the night off.
Coldstream Fine Art can be found in the heart of the downtown core. Since it doesn’t have a specific niche, its mission is to represent talented artists from all corners of the art world. This is reflected in its past exhibitions, which include New York-based painter Gareb Shamus’ first Canadian show, “Squeezed”; German twin sisters Hanna and Franziska Barczyk’s “Bodies”; and a Toronto group photography show dubbed “This City.”
Since you’re right by King Street West, go bar hopping, hitting places like Baro, Belfast Love, Locals Only and Lavelle along the way. You can’t go wrong with cocktails at any of these places and whatever you’re craving, there are plenty of diverse options. My personal favourite is just slightly north on Portland at Gusto 101.
As you head further west, you’ll be blown away by how many amazing art galleries there are. Follow this route — you can’t go wrong. First, head to Mercer Union on Bloor. This non-profit, artist-centred space isn’t afraid of taking on ambitious projects. From there, walk south to Scrap Metal Gallery, which focuses on bold, critical and poetic contemporary art. Next door at the Daniel Faria Gallery, you can catch the works of select heavy-hitters such as Douglas Coupland, Shannon Bool and Mark Lewis. End the night at one of the best artist-run centres in the city, Art Metropole x MOCA Toronto. You’ll definitely walk away with a few new prints and books.
Consider heading south to The Drake Hotel afterwards, known for supporting local artists like Insa, Ness Lee and Tobias Williams — all curated by Mia Nielsen. From there, continue the search for art on Queen West or turn it into a pub crawl. The night is always young in this part of the city.
Just north of Mercer Union, you’ll find Cooper Cole, a stunning minimalist gallery often filled with bold and challenging artworks. Diverging from stereotypically pretentious spaces, this gallery highlights mid-career artists who defy genres yet predominately fall into pop surrealist styles.
As soon as you wrap up the gallery experience, you’ll naturally stumble upon The Greater Good Bar, which is virtually next door. The sequel to the wildly popular Get Well Bar, famous for being a craft beer video arcade, it brings the same vibe to North Toronto. What sets it apart? It serves pizza from North of Brooklyn Pizzeria. Bring an appetite.
Considered by many to be one of Toronto’s very first “Done By Community” spaces, Blank Canvas Gallery will bring you north of the downtown core. It fosters professional, underground and grassroots art and cultural events in an effort to “bridge the gap between emerging and professional creatives and drive culture forward for marginalized groups.” The gallery has also hosted pop-ups and magazine launches.
End your night at The Stockyards, a local favourite for some down-to-earth, delicious BBQ. Unfortunately, its smash hit chicken and waffles are only available until 3 p.m. because of how popular they are. So, consider going before you visit Blank Canvas. It’s a great stop for freshly made burgers and sandwiches as well.
See it. Snap it. Share it. In every neighbourhood, around every corner, through every door
there's something that begs to be discovered in Toronto.
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