The top 10 shopping malls in Toronto
Malls in Toronto are havens of unabashed, unabated consumerism, where Amy Heckerling's '90s don't need nostalgic revisiting, because they never really went away. Unsurprisingly, Toronto has a love-to-hate-it relationship with Cher Horowitz's second home - many of you answered our highly unscientific Twitter polls by telling us not which malls you liked most, but which ones you despised the least.
However, Torontonians still patronize malls like a Mean Girl - both Yorkdale and the Eaton Centre boast over $2 billion in sales per year - and the best ones manage to provide enough diversity, convenience, escapism and top-notch people-watching to keep us coming back. So read on, loser. We're going shopping.
Here are the top shopping malls in Toronto.
A trip to Yorkdale is all about perusing Mink Mile staples without the pressure to buy anything or leave - like visiting a museum of useless things money can buy (the admission fee is surviving the apocalyptic parking lot). Nothing cures suburban ennui like eating Kernels popcorn while playing "spot the apology jewelry" at Tiffany. For the more dignified, there are unique stores like Topshop, L'Occitane and Zara Home, and tons of covetable fashion items for all budgets.
Scarborough Town Centre
Unfairly maligned for being east of Victoria Park, Scarborough Town is a useful, logically planned resource for shoppers more interested in variety than marble floors and designer duds. Its mix of major chains, big box retailers and independent shops offer just about everything, including high-end makeup, those ubiquitous transparent yoga pants, bizarre British candy, and axolotls. It also makes the list for being the only mall in the GTA city with adequate clothing options for plus-sizes.
This Etobicoke mall is home to many of the same shops as Yorkdale, the Eaton Centre and Bayview Village, adequately servicing west-enders with plenty of upscale choices. The mall, best known for its iconic tented roof, is the city's best for a day of relaxed window shopping. The environment, meant to replicate a stroll through a series of manicured gardens, is serene and simple (though the layout can be overwhelming), and crowds are often minimal. The mall's only real flaw is a lack of high-quality food options.
Thanks to a makeover and Mayor Mel's transit plan, this North York staple is clean, spacious, and easy to access. Fairview manages to pack a lot - books, booze, small appliances, toys and fashion for every age and budget - into a manageable space, meaning shoppers can find everything they want without having to give up an entire day. However, the sub-par, chaotic food court does little justice to the mall's signature atrium above.
The Shops At Don Mills
Cadillac Fairview paved paradise (or at least this writer's former favourite mall) to create this outdoor complex, intended to bring highbrow shopping to an otherwise humble neighbourhood. The European piazza feel of the central courtyard and dining that stays open late inject some liveliness to the area. Stores like Oak+Fort and YellowKorner photography make for a diverse shopping experience, but the mall suffers from a try-hard vibe (think valet parking) and poor use of space.
Billed as the "Largest Chinese Indoor Mall in North America," this Markham tourist attraction is more about visual overstimulation, exploration and snacking on addictive cream puffs from Beard Papa's (the world's most perfectly, disturbingly named snack stand) than stocking up on the necessities. Many of the nearly 500 market-style shops trade in the cutesy, kitschy and unusual, but there's no shortage of practical finds like small electronics, cosmetics (including legit BB cream) and kitchen gear.
Toronto Eaton Centre
Though it's overcrowded and inefficient, the city's largest mall remains a fashion destination, with stores like J. Crew, a flagship H&M, and Michael Kors (with the arrivals of Saks and Nordstrom pending). Recent revamps have elevated dining options, and brought visual interest to standard mall staples like Sephora and Shoppers Drug Mart. Stay away on weekends and holidays, when it transforms into the naked mole rat exhibit at the Toronto Zoo.
Vaughan Mills is worth the trip for flagship store Bass Pro Shops alone. This temple of outdoor gear, taxidermy, and inanimate objects shaped like fish is equal parts surreal and scary, like an early Michael Moore movie. The mall itself delivers bargains from Joe Fresh, Holt Renfrew's hr2, and outlet versions of almost every major shoe store, as well as nostalgic entertainment from Lucky Strike bowling and adults night at Lego Land (which is neither as dirty nor as sad as it sounds).
East York Town Centre
It still needs a makeover, but this modest mall is weird and wonderful, with the area's only Target, a throwback bowling alley, a produce market, cute kitchenware, and apparel that could outfit Jilly's dancers. The Dollarama is deceptively great, loaded with scores like DVDs (hello, Barefoot Contessa box sets) and perfect bad gifts (Twilight Scene-It for $3). Thorncliffe Park is rife with delicious Middle Eastern and South Asian eats, and the food court is no exception.
Practically a city unto itself, this Mississauga mall is similar to Scarborough Town Centre in its mix of independent, chain and big box retailers. Though slightly less eclectic (and far harder to navigate) than its eastern counterpart, Square One stands out for bringing western GTA residents less-common stores like Lush, Target and Boathouse. The mall is also home to vital community services, including the GTA's largest farmer's market and the Square One Older Adults Centre.
Did we miss any? Leave your favourite Toronto mall in the comments!
Writing by Ashley Petkovski. Photo by Daniel Gueorguiev from the blogTO Flickr pool.