things about toronto

15 things you have to explain to visitors about Toronto

Toronto can be a confusing place for the newcomer: strict liquor laws, a sometimes bewildering set of transit rules, and, among its denizens, a puzzling and intense affection for weekend brunch.

According to Statistics Canada, 2.5 million people living in the Greater Toronto Area were born overseas. At the same time, many Canadian-born Toronto residents are from somewhere else: a small town, another province. Just about every Torontonian knows what it's like to field the questions from visiting friends and family.

With that thought in mind, welcome to Toronto, dear guests. Here are a few things you should know.

We love craft beer and local wine, but the LCBO thinks it's 1927
Want to grab a beer to take home after work on a Sunday? Forget about it. LCBO opening hours are designed to catch you out, or so it seems. Supermarkets and corner stores are, for reasons too complex and infuriating to list, dry. The Beer Store has a definite article for a reason.

Toronto exported so much peameal bacon it earned a nickname
Hogtown used to be a pejorative term other cities levied at Toronto, mainly because of the excess amount of resources and attention the city commanded in the late 1800s. The name became a term of endearment when the William Davies Company, a large waterfront stockyard, made peameal bacon an international delicacy.

things about toronto

Everything is under construction
Sometimes moving around than city feels something like taking a tour of a live-in construction site. No-one remembers the last time the streetcar and bus lines were last free of diversions.

The CN Tower is the best compass
Travel writer Bill Bryson was talking about the Sydney Harbour Bridge when he wrote: "you can see it from every corner of the city, creeping into frame from the oddest angles, like an uncle who wants to get into every snapshot," but the observation is also be true of Toronto's most famous landmark, which has marked downtown since 1976.

It's pronounced "Young"
But everyone has their own way of pronouncing Roncesvalles. Stick with Roncey and you will sound like a local.

We stole poutine from Quebec and we're not sorry
Fries, gravy and melty cheese curds are ours now, too. We do it quite well.

Cars won't stop at pedestrian crossings unless you hit the button
Some signs tell you to point, but it's really not necessary if everyone has already stopped.

No-one is safe from the dreaded short turn
The TTC says short turns--the practice of kicking everyone off the bus, streetcar, or subway train so the driver can turn around--are a necessary evil, a way of benefiting many by inconveniencing a few, but that's scant consolation.

Main Street station isn't downtown and Royal York isn't near the hotel
Painful and sometimes costly mistakes to make.

things about toronto

There's really only one practical way to get to the island
The bucolic idyll of the Toronto Island might be just a few metres from the mainland in places, but for complex historical reasons the city still operates a number of ferry services instead of just building a bridge. In Summer, the ride is in equal measures spectacular, claustrophobic, and time consuming.

Nudity is strictly limited to the Hanlan's Point Beach
Those clothes had better be back on by the time you step off the sand. City council spent several months in the early 2000s wringing its collective hands over the consequences of allowing too much skin at Hanlan's Point. Officially the bathing area "clothing optional," so there's no pressure to bare all.

But the city has other, excellent places to catch a tan
The Beach neighbourhood has spectacular sand that would be worthy of a city with a more fortunate oceanside position. And let's not forget Bluffer's Park.

Raccoons rule the city after dark
This city is home to anywhere between 100,000 and 200,000 raccoons, depending on the source. After dark, Toronto becomes Raccoon City, a giant playground for dextrous critters to forage, fight, and err... procreate.

things about toronto

No, you can't afford to see the Toronto Maple Leafs
Things have been disappointing around Maple Leaf Gardens and the Air Canada Centre the last 47 years or so anyway. Blue Jays tickets, however, start at $11.65 and they've won a championship in the last 30 years.

We're sensitive--tell us we're world class
No world class city spends more time worrying about what other people think as much as Toronto. Please, be nice to us.

What would you add to this list? Add your suggestions to the comments.

Chris Bateman is a staff writer at blogTO. Follow him on Twitter at @chrisbateman. Photos by bigdaddyhame, syncros, JPanda and chewie2008 in the blogTO Flickr pool.


Join the conversation Load comments

Latest in City

12 photos of Casa Loma brilliantly lit up for the holidays

You can now fly direct to three new US cities from Toronto

Downtown Toronto is getting a new outdoor skating rink

Condo of the week: 390 Cherry Street

Toronto startup wants to solve city's parking lot woes

5 underrated neighbourhoods to rent an apartment in Toronto

New development could completely transform King and Bathurst

Someone is putting up poop flags in Toronto