Staycation in the city

Who needs the black flies of cottage country or the lineups at Pearson? Spend your vacation in Toronto instead
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Who needs the black flies of cottage country or the lineups at Pearson? Spend your vacation in Toronto instead
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1. Have a pint…or five
Dry until the ’90s, The Junction is fast becoming one of the beeriest ‘hoods in the city. Drink your way through our ultimate pub crawl

Start at the newest spot, Junction Craft Brewing (only open Thurs.–Sat.), where veteran brewer Doug Pengelly’s mad-science experiment of a brewhouse is churning out suds with custom-built equipment and unconventional brewing methods. We recommend sampling his understated, lower alcohol ales. Then do a 180 and hit the Indie Alehouse brewpub for food and some seriously boozy brews with funky ingredients like raspberries and coconuts. Carefully cross the street to friendly neighbourhood craft beer bar Hole in the Wall before wandering a few blocks west to 3030, the ’hood’s other ale-centric haven, to play board games and pinball or listen to the live band. Dinner? Yes, you need dinner. Hit up Playa Cabana Cantina, a hot new Mexican spot. Order a margarita…if you can handle it.

2. Do the town right
Out of ideas for date night? Follow this itinerary for an unforgettable evening

Check in to the Shangri-La Hotel in the early afternoon and go for a dip in the pool overlooking University Avenue’s grand boulevard. Soak up some vitamin D in the infrared sauna or on the rooftop deck and then spend some time getting reacquainted with your sweetheart back in your room (marble tubs, king-sized beds… need we say more?). Next, head to JaBistro, an intimate, secret gem of a restaurant around the corner on Richmond Street. Take a seat at the sushi bar and watch the masters thinly slice, press and prepare fish, flown in fresh daily. To be truly awestruck, order aburi and watch the chef blowtorch your sushi. Now walk over to King West and get ready to paddle your partner — on the ping-pong table, that is. SPiN Galactic, co-owned by celebrity table tennis aficionado Susan Sarandon, boasts 12 ping-pong tables and two full bars. Rent a table for $60 an hour; loser buys the drinks.

3. Join the club
Even the boatless love an urban yacht club

When Noah Aiken-Klar, a trained lawyer who works as regional director of the Trillium Foundation, and his wife had to say goodbye to the family cottage five years ago when her parents sold it, they found a new sanctuary just 15 minutes from home. A private boat from a dock near the foot of Bathurst takes them, and other members of the Island Yacht Club, to Blockhouse Bay on Muggs Island. The club boasts a pool, tennis courts, a day camp for kids and offers sailing lessons. “It’s a true resort in the city,” says Aiken-Klar. “My wife and I try to make time during the week for a meal and a game of tennis without the kids.” You don’t have to own a boat to join, and a non-boating family membership is an affordable $1,995 for the season. Initiation fees for new joiners are waived for 2013 only ($2,000 for non-boaters and $8,000 for boaters). That’s a whole lot cheaper than owning a cottage — and the only traffic you need to worry about is the kayaks.

4. Culture thyself
This summer’s arts season is smokin’ hot. Here’s what you shouldn’t miss

Angels in America: Book back-to-back theatre nights this July to see Soulpepper’s staging of parts I and II of this now classic play. The saga follows seven people living in New York City in the thick of the 1980s AIDS crisis. Bring tissues.

dance: made in canada / fait au canada: This hip, four-day festival will make you rethink dance. Running in mid-August at Toronto’s Betty Oliphant Theatre on Jarvis, it features short pieces by Canada’s leading dancers and choreographers.

Daniel Faria: Skip the AGO and head to Bloor-Lansdowne to see what’s set the arts community abuzz. Faria’s namesake gallery exhibits everything from modern interpretations of Baroque paintings to a collection of family portraits by leading international artists. The New York Times called him a “Toronto tastemaker” and Maclean’s voted Faria an “ambassador of cool.”

5. Dive in
Cool off at the Regent Park Aquatic Centre and get to know the neighbourhood

It’s not the Toronto Athletic Club, but Regent Park’s new aquatic facility is a marvel of modern architecture and kid-friendly to boot. Designed by award-winning firm MacLennan Jaunkalns Miller Architects, the swimming centre has three pools, a waterslide and even a Tarzan rope. It’s also a great introduction to the ongoing revitalization of the area. After a dip, cross the street to savour some freshly made pastries, crepes or omelettes at the colourful Paintbox Bistro, a social enterprise run by talented chef Chris Klugman (Bistro 990, Rosewater Supper Club) and staffed by residents of the community. Post-nosh, saunter over to the Daniels Spectrum, a new cultural centre where there’s always something arts-related going on. Then wear out the kids with a stroll around Riverdale Farm in nearby Cabbagetown to say hello to the pigs, sheep and goats.

6. Shop in the sun
Grab your car keys and hit uptown’s Shops at Don Mills, an upscale outdoor mall

Our favourite shop is YellowKorner, a photography gallery owned by Blair Trudell. The 36-year-old lawyer stumbled into YellowKorner in Paris on his honeymoon and was so blown away with its concept — high quality art by world-leading photographers at prices even second-year associates can afford — that he launched the first Canadian outpost. Spruce up your summer wardrobe at Anthropologie, with its romantic, whimsical clothes and accessories, and then nab yourself a $600 bottle of balsamic or a take-home dinner at McEwan’s Grocery — truffle mac n’ cheese, salads, sauces and pastries all have celeb chef Mark McEwan’s seal of approval. Finally, wind down with cocktails at Joey — yes it’s a chain — but the sprawling rooftop patio makes it the most happening resto in the mall.

WEB EXCLUSIVE: Bonus ideas

7. Flex in the city
Exercise boosts those happy-inducing serotonin levels like nothing else can. Here are three spots to meet ripped financiers, woo new clients or just breathe

Type A
Union is an airy, King West fitness studio where instructors know the names of their Bay Street, model and actor clients because most classes are kept to 10 people or less. Here, workouts are efficient — barre (ballet meets strength training), spinning, gravity (gliding board sweating) and the body-building TRX class popular with guys. Hot tip: Instructors and clients don lipstick and fishnet leggings from Toronto’s sexiest workout wear line, MICHI, so if you want to pick up, make an effort.

Turn your squash partner into a client at the Mayfair Club, which is populated with high-powered executives. This is more than a gym — with tennis and squash courts, pool, spa, salon, restaurant, bar and childcare starting at $6/hour, you may want to move in. The flagship location, on the lake at the bottom of the DVP, is an easy zip across town from your office. Membership fees are $135/month and there’s an $800 registration fee.

Zen Master
Sunlight streams through floor-to-ceiling windows of 889 Yoga and Wellness Spa on the third floor of the Thompson Hotel. Get back in touch with your breath in one of the 30 classes each week — or skip the class and get a massage and organic body wrap at the spa.

Illustrations by Isabel Foo