1. Canadian Diamonds from Birks’ Flagship Store
It’s true what they say – diamonds are a girl’s best friend! But Canadian diamonds are even better. Go try on some hand candy at Birks’ flagship store at Bay and Bloor (55 Bloor St W - Unit 152) and fall in love with diamonds that are ethically sourced in northern Ontario. Birks has long been one of Toronto’s top choices for fine jewellery and it’s not hard to see why. With stunning collections for men and women and beautiful stores, it’s easy to lose an afternoon in a jewellery fantasy. Indulge yourself, then show off your new diamond to friends back home – only you will know that these diamonds come with a laser engraving of a maple leaf on the girdle. You can even design your own jewellery around the Canadian diamond of your choice! Diamond jewellery at Birks is available at a wide range of prices. Birks is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Thursday and Saturdays, while Fridays are open until 7 p.m. Sunday hours are 12 p.m. to 5 p.m.
2. Soap from Kensington Market's Blue Banana
This store is famous for its unique gifts such as locally made pottery, artwork and sculptures. Over 200 artists, jewellers and craftsmen fill the store with funky pieces, and the shop is located in one of Toronto’s coolest neighbourhoods – Kensington Market, one of Toronto’s most fabulous shopping districts. Find everything, from home decor to retro fashion, in the unique boutiques lining Kensington Avenue. Don’t miss The Grilled Cheese, right around the corner, for an authentic taste of the neighbourhood, not to mention the best grilled cheese sandwich you will ever have! This area of Toronto is a must-see on any solid city itinerary. But it’s the handmade, organic soaps at Blue Banana that are produced locally in Toronto that keep the locals coming back. They smell fantastic and make a great souvenir gift for anyone. An added bonus is that they will sweeten the smell of your suitcase on the way home! The Mistral soaps come in a variety of yummy scents, like lavender, and the prices start at $4.95. The store is located at 250 Augusta Ave and is open Monday to Thursday from 11 a.m. to 6:30 p.m., Fridays from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., Saturdays from 10:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Sundays from 11 a.m.to 6:30 p.m.
3. Toronto Blue Jays Apparel
If baseball is your sport, head to the Rogers Centre to catch a game under the open dome. Nothing beats a cold beer at the game on a sunny day. The stadium is right next to the CN Tower, so you can plan a full day of Toronto sightseeing, all in one place. The Rogers Centre (formerly known as the SkyDome) was the first stadium to have a fully retractable motorized roof, so you can enjoy a game rain or shine. If you feel like splurging, spend a night in the attached hotel – 70 rooms overlook the field and you will have the most comfortable seat in the house! Relive the Jays’ glory days of 1992-1993 when they were World Series champions two years in a row. Tickets start at just $9 for select games, or remember a well-spent afternoon with a Jays’ ball or jersey, available at the Rogers Centre and starting at $99. The Jays shop is in Gate 5 at the Rogers Centre (south-east corner, entrance off Bremner Blvd) and is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day.
4. Canadian Club Whisky
Canada has been famous for its iconic whisky for decades and if you don’t yet know why, now is the time to find out. Everyone loves a bottle of something as a souvenir, but with Canadian Club you will experience a top-notch flavour and a leading whisky seller, all wrapped up in a Canadian label. You will be in good company when sipping – fans have included everyone, from Queen Victoria to James Bond! The brand has roots dating back to 1858 and it has spent all that time in between perfecting Canada’s favourite whisky. It boasts a long, dry finish after a spicy and creamy taste with hints of vanilla and rich wood. A 750-ml bottle sells for $24.95. Pick it up at the Summerhill LCBO, the largest liquor store in Canada! This store is located in the former Canadian Pacific Railway station in Rosedale, one of the city’s most well-to-do areas (check out the massive and beautiful homes on a stroll around the neighbourhood). The old station boasts a beautiful clock tower and many of the original 1916 features of the building are still evident from inside Ontario’s finest LCBO. The Summerhill LCBO is found at 10 Scrivener Square and is open from 9:30 a.m. until 10 p.m. except on Sundays, when it opens at 11 a.m. and closes at 6 p.m.
5. Canadian Olympic Team Red Mittens
You couldn’t have missed them during the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Games – those bright red mittens waving on the hands of every Canadian fan. Luckily for us, the mittens are still around – and for a good cause, to boot. The Bay sells each pair for $10 and proceeds support Canadian athletes through the Canadian Olympic Foundation for athlete development programs, coaching and equipment. It’s worth the trip to the Bay, Canada's oldest and largest national retailer, just to check out the rest of the huge department store. The Hudson’s Bay Company was actually incorporated by British royal charter in 1670! Now it boasts 92 stores across the country, but you will want to head to the Eaton Centre at Yonge and Dundas to make sure you take in one of Canada’s largest malls and tourist attractions, while you are there. And you can’t go wrong taking home an iconic striped Bay blanket, either! The Bay is located at 176 Yonge Street and is open from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. weekdays, 9:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Saturdays and 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sundays.
6. Local Maple Syrup
No trip to Toronto (or Canada, for that matter) is complete without sampling some of the delicious maple syrup for which this beautiful country is famous. Be sure to take some home with you to keep the vacation “flowing” – Canadian maple syrup is delicious on pancakes and waffles, but locals know the best pairing for authentic maple syrup is bacon – delicious! If you can plan your vacation to be here during maple sugar season, you won’t regret it. The Toronto and Region Conservation Authority hosts sugar bush maple syrup festivals throughout March and part of April. The earlier in the day you arrive, the fresher the pancakes will be and the more time you will have to explore the rustic and beautiful maple syrup farms. Many offer carriage tours, guided hikes and, of course, maple syrup tastings. Can you get more Ontarian than that? Bottles of the sweet stuff start at around $9.99. Check out trca.on.ca to plan a sugar bush day.
7. Steamwhistle Beer
If there is one thing Toronto has an abundance of, it’s beer! Canadians love their brews (cartons are known for having holes in the sides, large enough for mittened hands to fit through) and Steamwhistle is one of Toronto’s finest local brews. After poking through the recommend brewery tour, make sure to pick up a “two-four” to take home with you. The pilsner is known for its “floral hop aroma, sweet graininess with distinctive grassy notes, and balanced by a clean, crisp finish and pleasant lingering bitterness.” Really, it’s a light, crisp beer in a signature green bottle and one that the locals are proud to call their own. A 12-pack of bottles costs $23.95 and is available at The Beer Store. But remember – some Canadian beers have higher percentages of alcohol than American beers, so take care to check the labels and make sure you have a plan to get home safely if you plan on drinking – Steamwhistle has a five per cent alcohol content. The Queens Quay Beer Store location (350 Queens Quay West) is open 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Fridays, 9:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturdays and 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. Sundays. The brewery is found at 255 Bremner Boulevard and is open Monday to Thursday from 12 p.m. to 6 p.m., Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sundays from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
8. Roots Apparel
A Roots T-shirt is a ubiquitous souvenir for any visitor to the city of Toronto. Stepping into one of their stores is like walking through the front doors of an old Muskoka cabin – paddles mounted on the walls, leather armchairs and lumberjack-checked pillows await shoppers weary from sightseeing. Check out the location at Yonge and Eglinton at 2670 Yonge Street for the most authentic feel. The famous Roots beaver adorns everything, from its ultra-chic leather totes to their super-comfy sweatpants owned by every self-respecting Canadian. The best part? Many of their products are made right at home in Toronto! Roots has something for men, women and kids, and their styles range from relaxed and traditional to modern and fun. And their yoga line is totally eco-friendly! A Roots T-shirt starts at $14.95 – and it will last you a lifetime. Stores are open 9:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday to Friday and open until 6 p.m. on weekends.
9. Toronto Maple Leafs Jersey
Don’t miss the Hockey Hall of Fame downtown – after all, it’s the sport that defines Canadians! The Maple Leafs are part of the “Original Six” members of the NHL and they are Toronto’s favourite team (despite their rather dismal record – the team hasn’t won the Stanley Cup since 1967). Toronto fans love the team all the same and it’s nearly impossible to grab tickets when Toronto gets Leafs fever. The Leafs play at the Air Canada Centre (ACC), but don’t pass by the old Maple Leaf Gardens, where the team played for 68 years before moving in 1999. It is currently being renovated for new tenants, but go take a look at Carlton Street and Church Street in Toronto's Garden District. The Leafs won 11 Stanley Cups from 1932–1967 while playing at the Gardens! Pick up a jersey or puck for the hockey fan in your family, so you can cheer along with the rest of the Leafs supporters. Jerseys at Real Sports Apparel start at $129.99 for adults, $89.99 for kids and the store offers on-site jersey personalization with name and number application. The store is located at Maple Leaf Square, outside Air Canada Centre, and is open 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. weekdays, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturdays and 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sundays.
10. Niagara Wine
Every visitor to Toronto should make the one-hour trip out to Niagara to see the world-famous Niagara Falls. Located on the Niagara River that drains Lake Erie and Lake Ontario, the waterfalls are the most powerful in North America! They also form the border between Ontario and New York. Be sure to include a trip on the Maid of the Mist to get down to water level and feel the spray. Viewing from the top is free!
And on your way back to Toronto, why not stop at one of Niagara’s beautiful wineries for a tasting and a bottle? The area is known particularly for its ice wine and Rieslings, and the wineries themselves boast beautiful vineyards, especially in autumn with the bright reds and oranges of the changing leaves. If you can’t spend a night in beautiful and historic Niagara-on-the-Lake, then at least bring one of your favourite bottles home from the many vineyards you will visit. Lailey offers a nice Sauvignon Blanc that retails for $18.95. Lailey vineyard is located at 15940 Niagara River Parkwy Boulevard and tastings run from 12 p.m until 5 p.m.
11. Mill Street Beer
Mill Street Brewery operates out of an original tankhouse and is located in a 19th century Victorian industrial building in Toronto’s Distillery District. Locals head to the BrewPub for its great food and for the 13 Mill Street beers on tap. The brewery has won Canadian Brewery Of The Year several years running and it’s not hard to see why. Sample one of Mill Street’s many brews to get a taste of why Torontonians love this bar – the Original Organic is a classic staple. It uses organic hops and malt to create a light, crisp and refreshing flavour, with a clean finish. A 12-pack of Organic sells for $23.95. Beer sold in Ontario is available only at LCBO stores or the Beer Store, but there are plenty of both in Toronto. The Queens Quay location (350 Queens Quay West) is open 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Fridays, 9:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturdays, and 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. Sundays.
12. Local Gifts from the St. Lawrence Market
The St. Lawrence Market is located at the heart of Toronto and an afternoon spent wandering through will give you the unique taste of the city itself. Booths run by Torontonians, born all over the world, sell everything, from cheese to jewellery, and the pace inside the market is no different than the bustling, hurried pace of the city itself. Located in a huge downtown warehouse, there is no end to the maze of delicacies, such as Canadian poutine, freshly butchered steaks and local fruits and vegetables. Downstairs has great shopping for clothes, objets d’art and international treasures that Toronto’s multicultural communities call their own. Pick up some Alex Farm gouda for an incredible local cheese for around $6. The market is at 92- 95 Front St East and is open Tuesdays through Thursdays from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., Fridays from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Saturdays 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.
13. Green Beaver Body Care
Whether you are hunting for lip balm or sunscreen, Green Beaver’s organic line is a Canadian staple and you will soon find out why. The company eschews chemicals in its brand and uses only pure, natural ingredients in its (awesome) products, including carrots, cranberries and lavender. Talk about looking and feeling good! The company’s lip balms are found in the purses of most Toronto women and their lip shimmers ($5.95) add a touch of style to an otherwise outstanding balm. They also offer a gluten-free line of body care products. Find them at nearly every natural health store in Toronto, including the Health Shoppe, just steps from Summerhill’s LCBO. It’s at 1375A Yonge Street and open from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Wednesday, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Thursday and Friday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday and from 12 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Sunday.
14. Canadian Fashion
If you love fashion, head to trendy Yorkville where Toronto’s well-heeled locals do their designer shopping. There you will find Canadian brands, such as Pink Tartan, created in Toronto and sold all over the world. Head to 77 Yorkville Avenue to see the store’s luxe designs. Its historic building provides the quintessential Yorkville shopping experience – designer shopping in beautiful surroundings. This is just one of many beautiful stores dotting this sweet and stylish neighbourhood. Don’t be fooled – our cold winters don’t make our fashion any less cutting edge. It just makes us braver for wearing trendy styles no matter what the weather outside! Fashion lovers with any budget are sure to find treasures in Yorkville, whether it’s a cute scarf or a whole new winter wardrobe. Spend a day lunching and shopping and indulge yourself in Toronto’s chicest neighbourhood. Pink Tartan is open from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. weekdays, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Saturdays and 12 p.m. to 6 p.m. Sundays.
If you are looking for an excuse to pick up just one more pair of shoes on your vacation, look no further than Toronto’s Bata Shoe Museum! This is the place to come if you are feeling guilty about the number of shoes stuffed into your own closet – because this museum has over 10,000 pairs! The museum at Bloor and St. George streets offers a fascinating look into world culture and history through – what else? – footwear! Visitors can check out everything from ancient Egyptian sandals, sky-high ‘60s platforms, Chinese bound foot shoes and rare collectible from around the world. Don’t even think about leaving the museum without a shoe souvenir in hand – or on foot. The chic museum shop boasts everything, from glossy coffee table books all about shoes to unique ornaments, shoe-themed jewellery and even stylish home decor. You may need just as much time to browse the gift shop as you will to see the museum’s collections. The shop is open during museum hours. Monday to Thursday and Saturdays, it is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Thursdays from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Sundays from 12 p.m. to 5 p.m.