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Sunday, April 30, 2017

The top 10 thrift stores in Toronto

Thrift stores in Toronto offer super-low prices, a sweet variety of vintage garb and often support local charities. You never really know what you're going to find at these shops, so you're in for a surprise every time you visit.

Here are my picks for the top thrift stores in Toronto.

Value Village (Bloor/Lansdowne)

Located close to the Lansdowne subway station, this expansive Value Village location has everything a second-hand shopper might be looking for: furniture, clothing, accessories and home decor.

Double Take

This Gerrard East second-hand store, run by the Yonge Street Mission, is doing more than its part to serve the surrounding community. It's focused on providing clean, suitable clothing for anyone who needs them as well as a comfortable shopping experience.

St. John's Thrift Store

Despite its small exterior, St. John's Thrift Store on the Danforth has a healthy selection of clothing, homeware, collectibles and other goodies for Toronto's east side thrifters. Any revenue made is invested right back into the local community by St. John's Compassionate Mission.

National Thrift (Kingston Rd./Lawrence)

National Thrift's location on Kingston Road in Scarborough offers one of those day-long thrift shopping excursions that is well worth the time. The big-box store has more than enough stock to choose from in the clothing department.

Saint Vincent de Paul

Expect a huge selection at this store stocked with racks upon racks of donated clothes and a ton of 1970s-style furniture. It's well-organized and has a good mix of everyday wear.

Thrift Town

Thrift Town's biggest selling point is its super affordable furniture and mattresses. The mattresses are new and they're sold alongside a vast selection of used and factory-reject furniture that customers claim to be long-lasting. The store also stocks used clothing for people of all ages.

Hidden Thrifty Store

Parkdale's Hidden Thrifty Store is the brainchild of Aya Oryem, a former Goodwill employee who knows how to get the best (and most affordable) thrift store finds. Her store is filled with inexpensive, second-hand treasures.


This Upper Beaches thrift location is the only one of its kind and operates with young Toronto families in mind. Its quaint storefront offers children's books, clothing, toys, household items and kitchenware. It's volunteer run and is part of the Pegasus Community Project.

Sas Mart/Smart Wear

You've probably walked by this Kensington Market thrift store dozens of times without noticing, but pop in next time! It's full of deals on men's and women's clothing, a specialty in new and vintage housewares and some really great and curious oddities.

Just Thrift

There's so much clothing and homeware packed into this 10,000 square foot store. It's very well organized and has a showcase section for nicer, more collectable and higher-end designer items. It also has regular sales. 

by Phil Villeneuve via blogTO

The 10 most romantic restaurants in Toronto

Romantic restaurants in Toronto will let you up your game on date night. Impress that special someone with yummy food, a good wine list, a candlelit dining room and stellar service.

Here are my picks for the most romantic restaurants in Toronto.


You better make reservations for this French restaurant with an ever-changing tasting menu. This nearly hidden, third-storey spot is perched above the busy Queen and Spadina intersection, which ups the romance factor.

Bar Begonia

Head to France without leaving the city at this Parisian-style cocktail bar and bistro on Dupont. This dimly lit space with an excellent beverage program suits an intimate evening out.


Meat eaters will appreciate a date at this Dundas West Argentinean-style grill house that has lots of shareable options on the menu.


Find this wine bar and restaurant right beside the entrance to Bay Station. It's a small, cozy spot where you can sit at the bar and while away the night chatting over drinks and snacks.


Nothing says a fancy night out like Yorkville and French food, so if that's what your looking for, head to this beautiful room.


Grab a seat at this intimate West Queen West spot, which is also veggie friendly. You'll want to sit and linger in this dining room with lots of exposed brick.


You never know what you're going to get at this highly regarded restaurant near King and Niagara that strives to use fresh and seasonal ingredients. Be sure to make a reservation in advance.

Midfield Wine Bar

This Dundas West destination is all about wine. Sit back and sip on a glass (or two or three) and grab something from their eclectic dinner menu (the food here is as good as the wine).


You might have a hard time finding this restaurant hidden inside the elusive Templar Hotel. But once you do, you'll be rewarded with a great meal (and hopefully a great date too!).


Vegetarians and meat eaters will find a lot to love at this Canadian-inspired restaurant in Little Italy that's famous for its wood-burning oven. Cozy indeed.

by Amy Grief via blogTO

The top 10 stores for windows and doors in Toronto

The top stores for windows and doors in Toronto can help you upgrade your home when the time comes to invest in some energy-efficient, stylish portals to the outside world. Whether you choose to refurbish what you already have, bring home some architectural salvage or get brand new customized pieces, it helps to know where to shop.

Here are my picks for the top places to buy windows and doors in Toronto.

The Door Store

This Castlefield Design District stalwart is the place to go for reclaimed doors. They also carry unique hardware to help accentuate the reclaimed or vintage look.


This manufacturer and design studio is the place to go for drool-worthy windows and wooden doors. They also specialize in lift and slide doors perfect for those overlooking a backyard or patio.


The Junction Triangle shop sources reclaimed wood from old barns to make their custom sliding barn doors available in a range of styles.


The Davenport showroom is where to go for Scandinavian windows and doors. All their product is manufactured in Sweden and Denmark.


This windows and doors company with showrooms across North America has been around for more than a century. They have a huge range of wood and wood-clad made-to-order shapes and styles.

Door Studio

This door specialist does front doors, patio doors and garage doors as well as windscreens for those looking for a glassed-in balcony.


This King East showroom specializing in high-end avant-garde aluminum doors and windows as well as glass walls. 

Andersen Windows & Doors

This is who to turn to for slightly more economical doors and windows available in a range of materials.

Bigfoot Door

As their name suggests, Bigfoot does extra large doors and windows. These are the kind that usually fill up entire exterior walls or if you're looking for something that goes floor to ceiling.


This is one of the most well-known names when it comes to windows and doors. Their showroom near Bayview and Eglinton has a lot to look at but most of their products would be characterized as somewhat traditional.

by Jaclyn Skrobacky via blogTO

Instagram star captures colourful photos of Toronto at night

12 must-see concerts in Toronto this May

The top concerts in Toronto this May ring in spring with chart-toppers alongside brilliant songwriters and outdoor venues officially opening for business.

April kinda sucked for music city, with HMV saying goodbye, more venues facing doom and CMW’s sad parade of out-of-touch, basically offensive panels, but next month looks brighter.

There are so many hot tickets coming up, I couldn’t even list them all: Mastodon, Ryan Adams, Mac Demarco, Sigur Ros...even Shaggy!

Festivals are also heating up: Briefcasefest is in its fifth year of embracing underground metal, Next Music from Tokyo and Kpop Con bring music from the other side of the world, CBC Music Festival returns to the beach and Drone Day goes into year four of atonal worship.

Those aside, here are my picks for Toronto concerts this May.

Events you might want to check out:

Bishop Briggs (May 3 @ Mod Club Theatre)
If you’ve turned a radio on pretty much any time in the past year, you’ve probably heard her moody, alt-pop breakout hit “River” (and had it get stuck in your head a few dozen times). Only an EP into her career, Briggs is already one to watch.
Slowdive (May 5 @ The Danforth Music Hall)
The shoegaze revival has brought many long-lost bands of the genre out of hiding, but Slowdive aren’t just in it for a quick, lucrative reunion gig or two. Their first new album in two decades actually comes out the same day as this gig at the Danforth.
Father John Misty (May 5 @ Royal Alexandra Theatre)
The curmudgeonly folk weirdo/LSD enthusiast is back with another dose of Pure Comedy - this time somewhere much nicer than the “parking lot next to a freeway” he was last at for NXNE, so expect more posi vibes and less high-speed traffic ambiance.
Feast in the East (May 6 @ Jam Factory T.O)
DIY music things aren’t known for their permanency (especially in this city), but Burn Down the Capital’s monthly food + bands gathering at Jam Factory has been going for six years. Enjoy tunes from locals Phedre, Zones and more, plus free eats as always.
Laura Marling (May 10 @ The Danforth Music Hall)
She's only 27, but that’s impossible to tell from the Brit songwriter's work; Laura Marling’s already put out her sixth LP of delicately composed music that belies wiseness beyond her years. Get enamored with her (if you’re not already) at the Danforth.
Perfume Genius (May 11 @ Mod Club Theatre)
Three years since putting out the career-making Too Bright, Perfume Genius is back with new emotive jams, and the few snippets released so far reveal hints of big hooks and cool experimentation.
Future (May 16 @ Budweiser Stage)
After spending much of last year guesting on tours and tracks for others, Future came back big for 2017, releasing two LPs within a week. He's bringing along fellow hip-hop powerhouses Migos, Tory Lanez and Kodak Black for a headline tour.
Deafheaven (May 19 @ The Garrison)
Deafheaven’s success typically takes them only to bigger venues or festivals nowadays, so it’s a treat when you can catch them somewhere small (as anyone at their nuts 2015 Adelaide Hall gig will remember). The Garrison gets you in tighter than normal with one of modern metal's most intense.
The xx (May 23 @ TD Echo Beach)
The UK founders of melancholy, electro-tinged pop's explosion have finally made their long-awaited return, and somehow, the new record managed to live up to everyone’s impossibly high expectations. You might be able to still nab tickets to the Monday show, but hurry.
Chance The Rapper (May 24 @ Budweiser Stage)
Revelling in a slew of Grammy wins and an epic birthday party (Google the boy's birthday cake when you have a sec), this steadfastly independent rapper brings the Colouring Book tour back to Toronto for a victory lap.
The Weeknd (May 26 @ Air Canada Centre)
Toronto's pensively crooning pride and joy is clearly busy tooling a new clothing line and showing off his famous new GF all over the dang place, but that doesn’t mean he’s too busy to come home for a visit. Scope out Abel (and probs Selena too) at ACC.
Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds (May 31 - June 1 @ Massey Hall)
Roughly a month after Massey was graced by PJ Harvey, a kindred alt-rock icon inhabits the historic space. Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds perform for two nights in honour of last year’s devastatingly beautiful The Skeleton Tree.

by Shazia Khan via blogTO

The birth of Canada's Wonderland in the 1980s

Canada's Wonderland shock and awed for the very first time on May 23, 1981. A wave of giddy publicity crested as Canada swooned for its first ever theme park - a 370 acre nirvana of wild rides, colourful fancies and family entertainment located in Vaughan.

The hype was so great that expected attendance on day one was in the ballpark of 40,000 people. In actuality, only 12,000 showed up.

Canadas WonderlandOn opening day Premier Bill Davis opined on the majesty of great Canadian entertainment, Wayne Gretzky helped raise the Canadian flag, and guests including Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera mingled with mascots of their cartoon creations.

CBC's athlete of the year Kathy Sutton (née Cox, daughter of sculptor E.B Cox) arrived by parachute, just before 10,000 balloons were released and 350 white doves flew into the sky. Wonderland had arrived in grand style.

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Both the Conklin family and Disney had rejected the city of Toronto as a suitable location for a theme park (owing to our sub-freezing temperatures that would sully profit for nearly half the year).

In the early 1970s, however, powerhouse media conglomerate Taft Broadcasting waded into the lucrative Canadian market, choosing Vaughan over other contenders such as Cambridge and Milton.Canadas WonderlandCanadas Wonderland

There was initial outrage that the Americans were using this big shiny theme park as a Trojan horse for coarse American culture, but that soon gave way to the more vocal crowd who wanted giant roller coasters and didn't care any about their geo-pedigree.

To be fair, Taft scrapped plans to install a replica Eiffel Tower at the centre of the park (as it had been in Wonderland's sister parks Kings Island and Kings Dominion), instead constructing a mighty "Canadian" mountain ("Wonder Mountain").

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Taft also brought with them ownership of Hanna-Barbera, an animation studio whose roster included Yogi Bear, Scooby Doo, The Flintstones and The Smurfs - perfect characters to embody the spirit of the park and make it even more irresistible to legions of cartoon-watching kids.

Canadas Wonderland

Original 1981 big boy pants rides included the Dragon Fyre (later Dragon Fire), Wilde Night Mares, the Mighty Canadian Mine Buster, Wild Beast, and the Rage (a swinging ship).

Junior rides included the strangely spooky Ghoster Coaster, and Thunder Run. The gross food hit-of-the-midway was deep fried Broccoli, certainly a stimulating thing to eat before setting out on a corkscrew rollercoaster.

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The children's area started out as "The Happyland of Hanna-Barbera", with three main areas including Yogi's Woods, Bedrock and Scoobyville (Yogi's Woods was converted to Smurf's Village in 1984).

Families could also explore Medieval Faire, International Street, or walk to the very top of Wonder Mountain (sadly closed after a fatality in the early 1990s).

Hanna Barbera

When asked to comment on what made Canada's Wonderland different from the perennial favourite the CNE, Wonderland's General Manager Howard Tate commented "we're different kinds of places but I'll say that this is a like a 1982 Cadillac. The CNE is a 1959 Ford".

While Wonderland's first summer season successfully wound up, plans for the next year began to take shape, including the filming of an episode of CTV's enormously popular series The Littlest Hobo on the grounds of the park.

The episode "Forget Me Not" serves as one long commercial for Canada's Wonderland, and is probably the most Canadian thing you will see in a long time.

For those who were there when it opened, Wonderland was an utterly magical, indescribable place to visit: the CNE and Ontario Place would never be the same again, and the era of low key amusement parks such as Crystal Beach were effectively over.

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Wonderland has successfully evolved in quantum leaps over the last 34 years, adding bigger rides, flipping ownership several times and rallying with gusto to stay relevent during changing eras.

That said, it would be near impossible for them to ever match that wonder-full launch in the summer of 1981.

Ed Conroy's Retrontario plumbs the seedy depths of Toronto flea markets, flooded basements, thrift shops and garage sales, mining old VHS and Betamax tapes that less than often contain incredible moments of history that were accidentally recorded but somehow survived the ravages of time. You can find more amazing discoveries at

by Ed Conroy via blogTO