50 things to do this fall in Toronto 2014
Fall events and activities in Toronto present us with our last chance to comfortably explore this city before the desire to hibernate kicks in come winter. And given just how bad last year's cold spell was, there's added pressure to get out there and make the most of what Toronto has to offer. Thankfully, we're spoiled for choice. From outdoor activities that make the most of fall colours to major art events to culinary opportunities that will fatten you up before the temperature plummets, the city is abuzz with things to do.
Here are 50 things to do this fall in Toronto.
Grapple with the Politics of Fashion
Fashion obsessives, pop culture buffs and even political junkies will find something to love in the Design Exchange's latest exhibit. Guest curator Jeanne Beker weaves the threads of countercultural style, from '60s mod dresses to PETA's bloodied fur coats, with high-concept, boundary-pushing runway fashion from Alexander McQueen, Jean-Paul Gautier and Hussein Chalayan and items worn by Pierre Trudeau, Jacqueline Kennedy, and Michelle Obama. To get a sneak peek, check out our gallery of highlights from the exhibition.
Check out the best photojournalism in the world
The annual World Press Photo show at Brookfield Place is one of the premier photography events of the year, with hundreds of images displayed in the Santiago Calatrava-designed atrium. From heart-wrenching scenes of war zones to delicate portraits to stunning images of sporting action, the exhibition is a feast for the senses. It's also free and devoid of the stodginess some affiliate with gallery settings. If you work downtown, it's the perfect lunchtime activity, and you'll leave with plenty to think about. Runs September 30th to October 21st.
Get bleary-eyed at Nuit Blanche's all night art carnival
Toga party disguised as Toronto's biggest art event? Throwback to crafty dress-up sleep-overs past? Important step forward in bridging fine art with the unwashed rabble? Toronto's all night, multi-zone party October 4th means congested transit and Dollar Store feather boa trails across the city's all night eateries, but maybe you'll have a meaningful moment between Instagram opps - though zone titles like "The possibility of everything" and "The Night Circus" are highly suspect, and there's no number to call this year to ask "is it art?"
Hunt for treasure at the Fall Vintage Crawl
Every spring and fall, Toronto's vintage retailers give us all an excuse to enjoy a drink or two and blow way too much cash all in one night. (That's handy, because as we all know, drunk shopping doesn't count.) The Toronto Vintage Crawl has grown ever-larger with each passing season; this year's, set to take place October 9th from 7pm onward, is no exception, with 44 vendors - flung as far as Riverside and the Junction - taking part. For maximum efficiency, plan a route through Kensington, Dundas West, West Queen West and Parkdale; check out a map of vendors here.
Watch worlds collide as Long Winter takes over the Bloor Cinema
Long Winter, Toronto's carnivalesque music and art series, adds film to the docket this year, as the team stages its first Bloor Cinema Hot Docs takeover on October 11 with a midnight screening of unreleased documentary Depeche Mode - The Posters Came From The Walls, the Toronto premiere of Marie Losir directed Alan Vega (Suicide) doc Just a Million Dreams, and TO's first screening of Frederic Nauczyciel and Frederic Nauczyciel's documentary The Fire Flies Baltimore/Paris. Naturally, there will be live music, too. What more could you want? A second takeover is planned for December 4th.
Check out the reloaded Buffer Festival
Toronto's YouTube-centric festival is back for a second year October 17-19th. If the words "like, comment, subscribe" mean anything to you, you'll be thrilled to know that the 2014 roster of guest YouTubers, in addition to returning faces like Charlie McConnell, has been beefed up with additions like Epic Meal Time, Shay Carl, and Rhett and Link. I'm taking bets to see if Davey Wavey wears a shirt. Tickets to each event are $15 and going fast for some of the bigger names. (If you're not around that weekend, fast rapper and pale kid Watsky plays the Danforth Music Hall on November 10th.)
Get humbled before the works of a master
From October 18th to January 11th, the AGO is showing Michelangelo: Quest for Genius. Big deal, right? Some dead guy who didn't even bother to erase the guide lines he made under his sketches. I kid - while the drawings in this exhibit will be small, the weight of Michelangelo's skill be something you never forget. Committing the human form to paper with sensitivity of this magnitude has been often mimicked, but perhaps never matched. Well, maybe Rembrandt.
Get your game on at the last-ever Gamercamp
There's a point in every game where the credits must roll. (Well, maybe not in MMOs, but you get the idea.) So too it is with Gamercamp, Toronto's independent gaming festival and conference, which is set to fold after this fall. Between October 17th and 19th, expect panels of industry experts, a four-floor arcade of playable games, and a Saturday night arcade/bash featuring craft beer. Tickets and passes for the events are available now.
Check out a classical breakdancing performance
Ever wondered what it would look like if a crew of breakdancers threw down to Bach? Me neither - but you'll be able to find out at at Massey Hall between October 16 and 19. The Red Bull-sponsored Flying Bach tour, which has been crisscrossing the globe with an unusual blend of classical tunes and contemporary dance, is set to make its first-ever Toronto appearance. Tickets are on sale now; preview the show below.
Mingle with porn stars and stock up on sex toys
The Everything to Do with Sex show enters its post-pubescent stage this year, turning 15. Here you'll find a dazzling array of sex toys, porn stars, leather, and more than a few drooling attendees, particularly when the live performances get underway. New avenues of pleasure await if you enter with an open mind. Check out the market place and ask lots of questions. This year's event goes down October 24-26th at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre.
Scout the art world underdogs at Feature Art Fair
Autumn's Art Toronto (Oct 24-27, 2014) is the city's biggest arts fair by a long shot, but newbie Feature: Contemporary Art Fair (Oct 23-26) doesn't seem interested in competing. Rather the lovingly curated fair of a modest 23 galleries and 60 artists at the Opera Centre will compliment the bigger, glitzier, ordeal at the Metro CC - where surely more money will change hands, yet perhaps a fair less driven by opening galas than charted by challenging work is long due.
Crown the next big thing in the photography world
The Aimia Photography Prize doesn't get the attention it deserves. Few fine art prizes are awarded solely on the basis of public voting, but the $50,000 that'll be taken home by one of the four photographers on the shortlist (two from Canada, two from abroad). That's a lot of responsibility, but also fun. In addition to an exhibit at the AGO, this year's prize will feature an art truck roaming Canada with information about the photographers and their work. Voting is open until October 27th, with an awards ceremony on the 29th.
Go on a 2014 space odyssey at the TIFF Lightbox
Can you stomach seeing those blue dresses the scary twins wore in The Shining up close? Opening Halloween night, TIFF's Stanley Kubrick: The Exhibition is next in a long line of stellar, fan-pleasing installs at the King Street cinema (such as this creep-out Cronenberg tribute). The exhibit, featuring documents, swag, and props like 'Starchild' from 2001: A Space Odyssey, runs until January 25, which might give me time to get over those Shining nightmares I had from age 7-13. Maybe.
Strut your costume genius at Church Street Halloween Block Party
The Church Street Halloween Parade is an annual tradition. Several blocks will be car free, so you can show off the costume you meant to start DIY-ing in early September but actually bought on Ebay with $90 rush shipping two days prior. Unacceptable costumes for 2014: Rob Ford, Rob Ford's [anything], Rob Ford as [anything], [anything] as Rob Ford. Leave your political snark where it belongs - in the ballot box (Doug probably won't be swinging by Pride 2015 either).
Appreciate the power of the pumpkin
If you're the type that carves immaculate jack-o-laterns, then you must feel at least something stabbing at your heart when teenage kids smash them on the street before 11pm has rolled around on Halloween. Protect your pumpkin! And put it in the parade. Every year the biggest pumpkin death march takes place at Sorauren Park on November 1st just after sundown.
Hoard a literary haul at Toronto's biggest zine fair
Canzine organizers Broken Pencil (the zine that reviews zines, as the quip goes) have been at this a long time, and they know how it's done - on November 1st, everyone gets a big tote bag on the way in to fill to the brim with goodies like handmade books, indie comics, art prints, buttons, t-shirts, records, cassettes, cards, and of course, old-school photocopied zines. I hope Wholly Shit, the punk church review zine and my favourite zine ever, will be there, but I heard he got bored and quit. So punk.
Party at the El Mocambo one last time
If the rumours are true (and this time, it looks like there's no white rock & roll doves to save us - or possibly even that iconic sign), the El Mo is no more as of early November. We've heard tell of an all ages rave that will send the El Mo off in style Halloween night (more info to come) so plan to dress as your favourite Rolling Stone - they all look like zombies.
Whip your hair back and forth at Toronto's best heavy music fest
Stuck in the City's hardcore punk festival Not Dead Yet is back November 20-23 and they're pretty impressed with the line up - and have a right to be. Venues S.H.I.B.G.B's, Sneaky Dee's, Nocturne, Hard Luck, The Garrison, Magpie, Soybomb, and more are in for hosting shows for the likes of Forward, Perfect Pussy, Iron Lung, Career Suicide, Destruction Unit, Pleasure Leftists, S.H.I.T., and way more. Naturally the fest offers tons of all-ages options for the wee ones.
Bid a stylish farewell to WORN Fashion Journal
Independent style magazine WORN broke the hearts of fashionable folks around the world when they announced that their next issue will be the last. The final volume - a double-issue tome - is now available for preorder (and they're only making as many as they get orders for, so get cracking). To celebrate the launch, and mourn the mag's end, staff plan to throw their annual late-November party, the Black Cat Ball, one final time. Expect drinks, girls in poofy vintage dresses, and probably some crying. Keep your eye on the WORN Twitter for updates.
Get literary at Toronto's massive new book fair
The inaugural Inspire! Toronto International Book Fair will take place November 13-16 at the Metro Convention Centre with over 400 authors on hand, including such heavyweights as Margaret Atwood (but of course), William Gibson, Anne Rice, and Kathy Reichs. Along with the literary highlights, there will be sections and stages devoted to culinary writing (with Elizabeth Baird and Rose Reisman in attendance), children's books, romance novels, and memoirs. The fair will be capped off with Canada's Self-Publishing Awards, which will dole out $50,000 in prizes. Derek Flack
FOOD & DRINK
Raise a glass at Oktoberfest
Time to grab a stein, eat some sauerkraut, and pretend you enjoy listening to tubas. Toronto will play host to several based around the traditional German festival; though Toronto Oktoberfest at Ontario Place (October 3-4th) bills itself as the "only authentic Oktoberfest party," your other options - including shindiigs at Wychwood Barns and the Amsterdam and Mill St. brew pubs - will provide more than enough fun (and suds) to keep non-purists happy. Prost! (For details, check our our preview post on Oktoberfest events happening this fall.)
Fill yourself up at a poutine-eating championship
The fifth annual Smoke's Poutinerie World Poutine Eating Championship returns Saturday, October 4 at Yonge Dundas Square. If you'd like to try your hand (or gut) at competitive eating, an amateur contest takes place at 2am, while pro eaters take a turn at 3pm. Everyone else can enjoy free poutine, a beer garden, and live '80s glam-rock, arguably the poutine of music. (If you are reading this after October 4, just go to Poutineville for all-you-can-eat poutine on Tuesdays and stage a one-man poutine-eating contest against yourself for $15.)
Warm your lungs with a dose of bourbon
Listen, you need to drink bourbon this fall. Because it tastes like wood, but also because it's underwritten by sweetness, just like the end of summer, when everything swells with desire. Um, ok. I'll calm down now. But it's true. Do it right at Bourbon Week. For one week in November 14-20th) the city goes golden as select bars bust out the good stuff to celebrate the strange interstice between summer and winter.
Check out a new brewpub
A brewpub invasion is on its way to Toronto, and you can already get in on the fun come fall. Duggan's Brewery returns to the pub game with its new spot in Parkdale (currently open on a pop up basis but soon to go full time, while Louis Cifer readies to grace the Danforth this autumn. Those should get you through fall. Come next year, you can look forward to two more beer destinations in Liberty Village.
Warm up with a meat pie
The Brits, Aussies and Kiwis among us are asking "What are you, new?" And the answer, for many Torontonians, is yes; the savoury pie, a staple food for our Commonwealth cousins, appears to be trending as a food item in the city. Ever since Kanga bounced into the downtown core earlier this year, the pie scene's been beefed up by north-end bakery Wiseys, who specializes in New Zealand-style pies, and Pie Squared, who capitalize on the pie's portability with a square shape and fun flavours.
Get drunk on apples
If you're unwilling to spend an afternoon in an orchard picking your own apples, you can just head to your local bar, where you'll find the fall fruits converted into what might be their greatest form (aside from pie, obviously). You'll find tons of great hard ciders in Toronto's beer bars, including our picks for Ontario's top 10 ciders. One notable newcomer to the cider game is the Brickworks Ciderhouse, whose Batch 1904, a dry UK-style cider, just hit a number of Toronto pubs.
Go on a guided mushroom picking tour
Forget pumpkin spice lattes - fall is prime mushroom season. More edible mushrooms appear in the wild in early fall than any other time of year, and if you head out on a foray with the Mycological Society of Toronto, they can help you nab some of that deliciousness for yourself. The society has meetups scheduled throughout October in forests near Barrie, Alliston, Bolton, Guelph and other spots; you'll travel through the woods in groups, and experienced foragers can help you identify your finds.
Feast at a new restaurant
It was a bountiful summer for new restaurants and the arrival of fall is a great excuse to take in the new crop of dining destinations. Thoroughbred on Richmond might be a great place to start, the multi-level restaurant boasts a house-party vibe and is serving up a snack bar menu on the first floor and large format seafood feasts and hearty family-style roast dinners. Other noteworthy or seasonally-satisfying new spots include; Kadbanu on Dundas West for hearty Persian stews; Poutineville in the Annex for its carb-loading qualities; and Branca for its meaty Argentinian fare.
Brew your own beer
Let's be honest, beer tastes pretty damn good no matter the season. But there's something about brewing beer that screams fall. How is it possible to look forward to winter without some booze on the go? Luckily for us, Toronto's got a new home brewing supply store. Noble Hops has just opened on Dundas West, and promises to outfit you with everything you need to make a hoppy cold-weather-fighting brew. There's even lesson nights on Wednesdays for the uninitiated.
Say hello to some farm animals
Can't escape the city this fall? Let the country come to you. The largest indoor agricultural fair and international equestrian competition in the world, The Royal Winter Fair, takes over Exhibition Place from November 7 to 16 for 10-days of horse shows, petting zoos, livestock competitions, fudge eating, butter sculpting, sweater-buying fun. The event has become increasingly food-focused over the years, which just makes sense. Get to know your farmer, guys. It makes dinner taste better.
Check out a pop-up shop
Though they tend to be announced short-notice, a few promising pop-up shops have already appeared for this fall. The Toronto Lifestyle Market (October 8-12 at the Gladstone) is set to feature local brands like Daniel Wellington, Felony Case and Vitaly. If name brands are more your speed, e-tailer Gilt has teamed up with Diet Coke for a pop-up (until October 25 at 363 King St. West); it's heavy on branding, but equally heavy on gorgeous clothes from Elizabeth and James, House of Harlow and Marc by Marc Jacobs - plus, you might score a free soda out of the whole deal. Also going from webstore to real-life is Fitzroy Boutique, who will be bringing their edgy/girly wares to 944 Queen St. West until mid-October.
Visit Toronto's newest architectural marvel
Designed by Pritzker Prize-winning architect Fumihiko Maki, the recently opened Aga Khan Museum is one of the most significant cultural institutions to grace Toronto in years. A seamless merging of modern design and traditional Islamic architecture, the structure is both austere and gorgeous. Boasting a collection that covers over 1000 of Islamic history, this is more than just a wonderful piece of architecture; it's a cultural institution of great importance to a city that likes to tout its diversity.
Determine the future of Toronto
While it might be too late to enter the mayoral race and save us all from what at times seems like an underwhelming crop of candidates, you can still vote to determine the future of this city. In fact, this might be the most important thing to do this fall on the list. To help you chose, check out this platform guide to mayoral candidates and this primer on would-be city councillors. If you don't vote, you suck. So mark October 27th down on your calendar and get out to your nearest polling station.
Steep yourself in Toronto history at the new Fort York
Fort York is, to some degree or another, the cradle of Toronto. But damn it if anybody talks about it with any excitement unless it's because there's a music festival taking place at Garrison Common. That might just change with the arrival of the new Visitor Centre, a sleek, modern museum space nestled under the Gardiner Expressway that by all rights should help to keep this historic property relevant for generations to come.
Get over your TIFF deprivation with a film festival
While TIFF is long over already and Hot Docs is a long way off, Toronto actually goes bananas for film festivals in the fall and winter. Palestine Film Festival is on until Oct 2, then look out for spooky After Dark (Oct 16-24), Hitchcock 9 (Nov 1-16), Reel Asian (Nov 6-16), Planet in Focus (Nov 6-9), European Union (Nov 15-30), Regent Parkt (Nov 19-22), Brazil Film Fest (Nov 27-30), Blood in the Snow (Nov 28-30) - even Long Winter is breaking into film screenings
Learn how to take pretty pictures of all those colourful leaves
Is there a better time to brush up on your photography skills than fall? Yes, the city erupts with colour, but think also of the warm light that defines the fall sunset. You don't have to take cliched photos to appreciate the opportunities that the season offers. And guess what? The first step towards cultivating your vision as a would-be photographer is to feel in command of the camera. Take a class, and then put on a sweater and get out there and shoot.
Run yourself into shape before the big fade
The svelte body you carved over the summer months needs maintenance. If you've been riding a bike, it's time to go high impact and hit the pavement in your best runners. The winds of October are much kinder when you're jogging (and you can dispense with all of those full length spandex outfits). Better get angry if you want to make the marathon, though. That's October 19th. I'll give you a half marathon for fitness and fun, but the big one is for those who find solace in the thump, thump, thump of otherwise deafening training runs.
Curl up with a book by a fireplace
Is there a better way to mark fall than by nestling around a fireplace? Nope. The sudden cold is jarring enough to make us crave fire, simple flame. For coffee, hit up The Good Neighbour, with its round reading table beside a (mostly realistic gas) flame. For beer, C'est What is the place. If outdoor fires are your thing, on the other hand, it's the Drake Sky Yard.
Unwind with an album from Sonic Boom's new Spadina location
Toronto's oldest indie record store Sonic Boom is now open in its sweet new spot at 215 Spadina, where many new memories of records bought and live bands enjoyed is yet to be made. While it's too late to celebration Cassette Store Day (a real thing) at their grand opening, it's always in season to support indie music shops.
Spring for some cozy outerwear
Cling to that denial all you want - it's still going to be parka season any day now. Next time you're in Rosedale, pop by Love The Design, where Tuck Shop Co. will be bringing their Toronto neighbourhood toques and other snuggly items for a pop-up shop until December. Or head to Yorkville, where menswear store Uncle Otis has just launched their very own collaboration parka with Canada Goose. If all that's too rich for your blood, there's always the VV Boutique - check out our new list of the top 10 thrift stores in Toronto.
Escape the city for golden pastures
You may not want to hit the beach, but fall is one the best times to escape Toronto for wine, food, and adventure. There's an enormous amount of things to do and places to see within a couple hours of Toronto, and the drive will never look quite so pretty than in early October. Hit up Prince Edward County, taste some Beamsville wines, put on some fat before winter, or take in some art. Ontario: it's yours to discover.
Shop til you drop during Toronto's craft show mania season
Toronto loves its late fall craft fairs. Big names like One of a Kind (Nov 27-Dec 7) and the Toronto Christmas Market will be joined by indie fair City of Craft and countless others - check out our list from last year for an idea of what's to come, and ready your loose change - no crafter likes breaking dozens of $20s every hour.
See up and coming talent at Toronto's five new DIY venues
Bored of the bar scene? Watching artists like Pharmakon, SINS, and Bile Sister at a total of five new DIY venues (Ratio and 8-11 in Kensington/Chinatown, Jam Factory in Riverside, S.H.I.B.G.B.S and Geary Lane on Geary) has been a highlight of the year so far. From hidden backyard patios to sprawling warehouse shows, genuine music fans are building alternative spaces that infuse the city with intimate concerts and an undercurrent of excitement. Don't miss out on the renewed basements at Smiling Buddha and HMV either.
Pay a visit to the brand new June Callwood Park
Nestled between Fort York and Coronation Park, this hyper-modern green space is yet another example of Toronto getting it right when it comes to urban design. Set to open on October 4th, the park is as much an art exhibit as it is a recreational space. An audio element broadcasts the voice of the urban activist after whom the park is named saying "I believe in kindness." Designed by architecture firm gh3, the grassless park will provide much needed respite for the throngs of folks living in condos in the area.
Give cyclocross a try
Toronto has a well deserved reputation for great mountain biking trails, but that's not the only type of riding they're good for. Fall is cyclocross season for many road cyclists, as they don modified road bikes to hit the trails. It's a great way to extend cycling season, and cyclocross bikes are ideal bikes to ride on city streets when the snow starts to fall. The sport is rapidly gaining North American popularity, and you can see what all the fuss is at Centennial Park on October 15th and 16th, when the Midweek Cycling Club hosts a number of races, some of which will go down at night under the lights of the ski hill.
Go on a park crawl
Join a musical parade on Sunday, October 5 and hop from park to park as David Suzuki's Homegrown Park Crawl snakes its way from Christie Pits Park through Bickford Park and Fred Hamilton Park before reaching Trinity Bellwoods. Taking place Sunday, October 5 from 10am to 5pm, a party at each park will offer entertainment and nature themed activities along with $5 foods from vendors like Harvest Kitchen, Marben, Pizzeria Libretto, Rasa, The County General, Ursa, Windup Bird Cafe and many, many more.
Go for a swim outside!
It's always nice to give the middle finger to dropping temperatures by engaging in some activity that you're not supposed to be able to come fall and winter -- like, say, swimming outdoors. You won't want to try this out the pool at home (really, please don't do that), but the massive indoor/outdoor pool at the Sheraton Centre is open right through the cold months, allowing you to duck under the protective glass and resurface in the brisk air while your body enjoys the warmth of a perfectly heated pool. Day passes for non-guests are $35.
Enter a ravine and stay all day
Toronto's ravines are core to the city's identity. Our poets have hailed them, our artists have painted them, and since the very beginning of urban life residents have sought refuge in their dense, cool spaces. These are the perfect places for a hike, for a leisurely ride, and if you're creative enough, for a picnic. Find a flat spot on the rocks by the riverbed, and soak up a scene that is both quintessentially Toronto and natural all at once.
Take in the fields of gold at Rattlesnake Point
The GTA is home to its fair share of beautiful conservation areas perfect for day trips, but none are quite so glorious in fall as Rattlesnake Point. Perched atop the Niagara Escarpment, the park looks south down to the lake across the still semi-rural landscape of Halton. The vista is remarkable, but so too are the hiking trails that line the cliff top. For those who like to picnic, there are open areas aplenty just north of the escarpment wall. If you fancy yourself a fit cyclist, you can try the hill leading into the park: it's as tough as its gets around these parts.
Take a ride on Toronto's most underrated bike path
Toronto might not compete with European cities when it comes to bike lanes, but it's got a few standout paths when it comes to scenery. The waterfront trail is at times amazing, but if you're looking for something more post-apocalyptic, the Finch Hydro Corridor trail is the stuff of dreams. While the trail is set for major expansion, the stretch from Dufferin to Yonge is this weird mix of industry and pastoral fields that glow warm at the peak of autumn.
Writing by Aubrey Jax, Natalia Manzocco, Liora Ipsum, and Derek Flack.
Lead photo by Benson Kua in the blogTO Flickr pool
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