Tag Archives: Toronto

How to spend a day of your vacation/staycation in a Toronto neighborhood

One way to enjoy a staycation is to visit neighborhoods you normally don’t go to and treat them like you would any neighborhood in a city you are visiting. If you are from Toronto and think this is a good idea, then BlogTO has a number of pages devoted to what you can do in many of this city’s neighborhoods . Here’s a list of some of them I put together:

This list is also great if you are a tourist and want to see what the various neighborhoods of Toronto offer. Toronto has more great neighborhoods not on this list, ones you have likely heard of, like West / Queen West, the Beach/Beaches, and Harbourfront. Add some of these neighborhoods listed above to round out your trip to this city.

 

On the unnecessary preciousness of architecture

From this, New TD Centre signage reflects a time when brands trump architectural vision – The Globe and Mail, comes this:

Up against that, TD Centre still retains the purity of a temple. And you don’t put billboards on a temple, unless you want to anger the gods.

It’s worth reading that article to get a viewpoint of someone who thinks of architecture as something pure and museum-like.

To me, the owners of the TD buildings are doing reasonable things with a building that functions as a work environment. You can make the argument that the building should never vary from the original intent of the architect. You can also make a good if not better counter argument that the building should be able to adapt to changes over time, and that the building should allow for the people in it to make adaptions to suit them.

The author seems to be arguing that building should remain fixed and never change, never learn. If that seems like an odd idea — that building should learn — I recommend this book: How Buildings Learn, by Stewart Brand. You can get it here. Also, if you search for it on Google, you will see alot of material derived from it.

 

How to find the best used bookstores in Toronto

Easy: check out BlogTO’s great list of The Best Used Bookstores in Toronto. Two of my favorites bookstores are BMV books and Ten Editions, both close to each other. I highly recommend them. Even if you know of some of them, chances are you haven’t been to them all.

Toronto has alot of great stores for new books, but if you are looking for vintage or obscure books, this list is what you need.

(Photo via a link to BlogTO)

Do you know someone in Toronto who hasn’t much money and needs dental services?

Then I recommend you read this: Dental Services – free dental care – Mobile Dental Clinic – City of Toronto Dental Clinics) and see if that person qualifies for free or lower cost dental services that the city of Toronto provides.  They have a mobile service which could be a great thing for someone who has limited mobility.

 

Notes for Parents on Summer Day Camps in Toronto

My kids spent many years going to summer camps in Toronto. If you have to or want to send your kids to summer camps, you might find these notes useful.

The first two things you need to do: 1) get out a calendar and 2) determine your budget. Do this in February. Really! When you get out a calendar, you will likely see that the kids have 9 weeks off in the summer (for some reason I used to think there were only 8 weeks off for the kids). Next, get a budget, because you will need to account for camp costs as well as transportation costs and extra costs like if you have to pick your kids up late. When you have a calendar and a budget, your camp options will come into clearer focus. Also, you can start thinking about other things happening in the summer, like vacations, visits from family, work assignments, and other things that will affect you.

As far as organizations offering camps, the cheapest camps by far – by far! – are the ones run out of community centers from the City of Toronto. They also fill up really fast. By March, if I recall. Book those first.

North Toronto Soccer had relatively lower costs than most camps. Great if your kid loves soccer. Note: ask how much time the kids spend outside. That can be a very tough camp in the middle of summer. (Not just NT but any outdoor camp.)

My kids liked the film camp at NFB, and it was indoors and so good during some weather, but one year was enough. Also, doing it with kids under 10 was better.

If your kid loves to do art, the AGO camps are great. If you are thinking of becoming a member and signing up, do both: members used to get a break on camp costs.

Harbourfront had some of the most interesting camps. DD loved them, but DS did not. Also, Harbourfront has buses that take your kids to and from camp from various locations around the city. Saves time, costs money. Can be a lifesaver.

Hockey camps are the most expensive, some going for $600 a week. UCC had relatively cheaper ones, but they fill up really fast too. UCC has lots of good camps, and they are in line with camps at places like AGO and NFB, but the hockey ones always filled up right away. Sign up for those first! Also there were hockey camps at Larry Grossman arena that were good and not as expensive.

Another benefit of hockey camps: the kids spend alot of time in not hot facility. Great experience during the hot days of summer.

To save some money, put your kids in camps with long weekends. That one day can save 20-50 bucks

To save more money, take time off and spend time with your kids. Note: this may not be cheap, either. If you plan to take a week off and plan to take your kid to a different venue every day, you will see it will add up. If you want to do this to save money, your goal should be to find activities you both like that aren’t too expensive, be it going to the Islands, having picnics, bike rides, kite building and flying, etc.

Don’t be too dazzled by camp promises. You might think: wow, my kid will learn SO much at this camp. They will learn things. And they will likely have fun. But think of camp as really good babysitting/daycare. Camps are mostly run by teens, and alot of camp time is getting kids to and from locations, feeding them, tracking them, etc. My son hated that. Also some councillors are really great, others are just there to do the minimum. One week my son went to a hockey camp and loved it because the councillors were great. He went to the same camp a few weeks later and didn’t because the councilllors had changed.

See if you and your kid’s friends can go to the same camp. Talk to other parents and try to make this happen, especially if your kid is not extroverted. Camp can be stressful for introverted kids: having old friends can help. Some kids thrive on camps and love them. Others can’t wait to be old enough not to go.

Try to pick up your kids on time. Once camps are done, usually around 4, the councillors will likely round the kids up in one place and more or less have them sit around until you get there. It is super boring, and it will likely make it harder for you to send your kid to such camps in the future.

My kids were done with camp by about 11. I know there were camps that go well into the late teens, but that wasn’t for mine. Likewise, overnight camp was not really an option for mine. Yours may be different.

Keep receipts for all camps. Keep them in one spot. You should be able to get a significant tax break from them, assuming you are paying taxes.

Resources to help the homeless deal with the cold in Toronto

If you see someone in Toronto who appears to need help in dealing with this cold weather, and you aren’t sure what you can do,  this page is worth reviewing: the City of Toronto’s Extreme Cold Weather Alerts page. It has numbers you can call and other information, including links to TTC Token Distribution Locations and information on 24-hour drop-ins available during extreme cold weather alerts.

Beyond resources related to cold weather, the city of Toronto has additional material on how to get involved to with the problem with homelessness in Toronto.

Obviously there are many more ways to help the homeless in Toronto throughout the year. These links are just a starting point if you are looking for information.

Is the TTC’s Metropass worth it? Yes. But it depends…

In this otherwise really good piece by Ed Keenan – Six things we learned from John Tory’s transit announcement: Keenan | Toronto Star – he made this comment

At a new price of $141.50, a Metropass costs almost as much as 51 tokens or 47 cash fares. For most weekday commuters, that math doesn’t add up.

At first thought, this seemed right to me. If you only use the Metropass to go to and from one location each business day, it isn’t worth it. For example, assuming most months have 22 working days, then that is 44 tokens, which is less than the 51 tokens it is worth.

Where the Metropass math adds up is when you start to be a heavier use of the TTC.

If you travel on the TTC daily, then you can get in as many as 62 trips/tokens on the TTC and a Metropass will be a good buy for you. Even in February, that is 56 trips/tokens. Daily users easily benefit from it. But if you don’t travel every day on Toronto transit, there are other ways to make the Metropass worthwhile.

For people who use it to go to work and then do after work activities, the Metropass is a good idea.  For example, if you take trips to and from work, as well as using it to go to meet friends or to take after work classes or to go to the gym, then you can benefit from having and using a Metropass. For example, 44 tokens for work plus 3 trips a week to classes plus one to friends adds up to 16 more tokens a month for a total of 60 tokens.

For people who have to stop to pick up their kids from childcare, the Metropass is good value. I used to pick up my son daily after work. That was 3 tokens every day, so most months that was 66 tokens.

For people who can share it, the Metropass is great value. For example, if a couple works different shifts, then together they potentially need 88 tokens each month to get them back and forth to work. Sharing a Metropass could save alot for such a couple.

Even people who don’t use the TTC all that much can still make the Metropass work for them if they can reduce the cost of it. For example, people who can buy the Metropass on subscription can get it for a lesser amount. That means you need to take less trips to break even. And if you pay enough taxes to break be able to claim your Metropasses as a tax expense, then you also need to take less trips to break even with the purchase.

If you take your total transportations costs, including taxis, Zipcars, etc, then you might find that having a Metropass is worth it. For example, you might find you grab a cab a few times each month because you don’t have tokens or cash. Switching to a Metropass, you find you do that less and therefore your overall spending on transportation each month is going down.

Cost aside, the other great benefit of the Metropass is convenience. All the hassle of dealing with buying tokens is gone. That convenience means you may be more likely to use the TTC when you have a Metropass, which leads you to make your money back from getting it. Also, you may find you enjoy yourself more by getting out more. It’s an intangible benefit, but a good one nonetheless.

I think for heavier users of the TTC, the Metropass is definitely worth it. And to be fair to Ed, he acknowledged a number of these points in a discussion he had on twitter.  Whether or not the Metropass is worth it to you will depend on your own use of the TTC and your own math.