Near downtown Toronto lies a 13-acre, pedestrian-only village that represents the largest set of Victorian Industrial Architecture buildings on the continent. The Distillery Historic District is a hub of culture, shopping, and entertainment all its own; once a run-down set of almost fifty Gooderham & Worts Distillery buildings (with a long history producing oodles of spirits, temporarily manufacturing acetone during the first World War and closing completely during Canadian prohibition), the area was restored with 1800′s-style timber and brick and reopened in 2003. Here are some ideas for what to do when you pass through.
1. Take a tour. The best way to experience the District is to just walk around; at the Distillery Visitor Centre, you can get more info and pick up a map. You can also take a Segway tour, a ghost tour, or a walking tour.
2. Dine and sip. There are plenty of safe bets for a good meal, but the Brick Street Bakery and Tappo are mouthwatering just to walk past. There are also outdoors places to relax with coffee or a beer. Balzac’s Coffee is atmospheric and designed like a Grand Parisian cafe. SOMA is a chocolate shop that has truffles to satisfy even the most demanding of sweet-tooths.
3. See an art gallery. The Pikto Gallery has a range of photography exhibits, and the Blue Dot Gallery has art, sculptures and jazz concerts, but there are numerous other options for head-tilting and interpretation-sharing. Most have schedules on their websites, and you can find a studio directory here.
4. Look for Magneto. Before the place was redone, the Gooderham-Worts buildings were used for films like Chicago, Mimic, Three Men and a Baby, and The Recruit. But the exterior of the distillery is where Erik Lensherr (a.k.a. Magneto) goes bananas and first discovers his mutation at Auschwitz in X-Men – in case you’re a comic book lover who thinks something about the distillery looks a little too familiar.
5. Get theatrical – that is, attend a theater performance in one of the many venues, like the Young Centre for the Performing Arts. Keep in the loop with Canadian Dance Assembly or DVST performances, too.