City Living: Best date spots

Now that
it’s March and the first signs of spring are waking up our hibernated libidos,
we find ourselves longing for romance. In a time when love letters no longer look like
and tend to resemble this:

It is hard not to think that maybe the grand gestures of love are long
gone.  We’re not asking to be whisked
away to Paris on a whim (though,
we wouldn’t be mad) but something a little
more imaginative than take out and Netflix would be nice. Whether you’ve been
together for 30 years or three days, taking the time to go on dates keeps
that spark between you a burning, passionate fire of love. There is no excuse
for being in a couples’ rut when there is something for everyone in the Big

The New Couple

As awesome as
it is to sit fidgeting across the table from an almost-stranger that you have
definitely at least imagined making out with,
Toronto singles breathed a sigh of relief when Snakes and Lattes came on the scene to put an end to awkward first date silences. You still get the barfy stomach new-love-interest interaction, but with the built in conversation starter
of over 2500 board games. The playful buffer (also, beer) takes the pressure
off, enabling new couples to test out their chemistry with a game of Alchemy or
play doctor with a round of Operation.
Also, you get to see whether your potential partner is a graceful winner or a sore loser.  

The Frugal Couple

There are
plenty of date opportunities in Toronto for a baller on a budget. High Park is
one of Toronto’s most scenic parks and only a subway ride away.  Pack a picnic and enjoy the fresh air (tip: the
Cherry Blossoms
bloom in late April/early May for an incredibly beautiful and sweet smelling
display = instant spring fever and romance). You can stroll around the pond and
laugh at goats yelling like humans at the zoo,
all at no charge. Plan your day date on a Wednesday and if all goes well, head
back downtown and check out the permanent collection at the AGO, where admittance is free from 6 to 8:30 p.m.

The Active Couple

This lucky
city is home to the number one date destination where you can work up a sweat
with balls and paddles. We are of course
talking about
SPiN Toronto, King
West’s hip ping pong social club (what did you think we meant?). With 12 ping
pong tables, a deliciously inventive food menu and seasonal twists on classic
cocktails, you’ll always have something to occupy those busy hands (if you can
keep them off each other, that is).
Resident DJs, tournaments,
art shows and glow in the dark Tuesdays ensure the place is always bumpin, and
with co-owner
Susan Sarandon in the mix and a steadfast celeb following, you never know who you’ll
run into next.

The Culinary Couple

Food is love,
people. Couples with full hearts and empty bellies can book classes at Calphalon Culinary Center, for interactive hands-on and instructional learning. The calendar offers evening and weekend
classes for everything from the basics like Chicken 101, to more sophisticated cuisine like
Parisian Pleasures or Beer and Nibbles for those who like to keep it casual. Couples classes will
generally run you $300 for the pair, but some classes at the center can start
as low as $20.

The Adventurous Couple

You don’t
have to go too far to get out of your city bubble. The Toronto Islands are a sweet
local getaway for the adventuresome twosome. Bring your bikes (or rent them on site) to cruise around and see the city skyline from just a short
ferry ride away. Lay out on one of the
many beaches, or go off on your own for an out-of-Toronto experience.
Can-Pop superfans can recreate this video by the Moffatts, which was shot
on the Island. We won’t even think it’s weird.

City Living: You vs. Winter (follow our guide and you’ll win)

We know what you’re
thinking – the only good thing about winter is the holidays and they are over
now, so we’d best all hibernate until Easter, right? Wrong. When you live in a country where winter takes
up, oh about half of the year, you’ve gotta do the best you can to adapt and
make the best of this slushiest of seasons. By now you’ve heard the standard advice for the seasonally affected
(Vitamin D, light therapy, exercise, not eating carbs and cheese by the
bucketload, staying away from any Real Housewives-based reality TV, etc.) and if you’re
anything like us, you’re probably all, “thanks doc, I’m still bored.” We hear
you! And lucky for us, we live in an incredible city with no shortage of
activities and events to heat up your social life until that summer sun brings
back the light. Here is a shortlist of
events and ideas to get you out of your gloomy winter bubble.

This is not normally conducive to a happy you.

Get Artsy
Nothing like a little right-brain activity to stave off a seasonal funk. A hit of live music or a stroll around an art museum can help you feel engaged and refreshed. Toronto has seen a burst of arts and culture, offering many festivals and events pretty much every weekend, all year round. It can take a little digging to find the right medium to channel your inner artist but we’re pretty sure these two events will thaw your creative juices in no time: 

 When: now until Sunday, March 3 
Where: Design Exchange,
234 Bay St.
How much: $15 (or free
for DX Members)

Follow NYC-based
graphic designer Stephen Sagmeister’s ten year journey to pin down the true
meaning of happiness. This multimedia
exhibition tackles one person’s approach to finding and defining that most
sought after state of being. Lose yourself amidst interactive projections, digital
and wallpapered prints, gumball dispensers and a full sized bicycle. If you’re still not convinced to leave the
comfort of your couch, get motivated by checking out his TED talk about
happiness by design.

Pick a gumball and state your happiness level.

AGO’s First Thursdays
When: 6:30 to11 p.m. on the
first Thursday of every month
Where: Art Gallery of
How much: $10 in advance/$12 at the door (for members  $8 advance and $10 at the door)

Combining live music,
art, artists, food and drinks, there is pretty much something for everyone at
this new event series. All the galleries
are open during the event, so you can check out the brain bending Evan Penny: ReFigured exhibition and if you can suppress your giggles, join in at one of the nude life drawing stations. In the heart of
the gallery, Walker Court is a surreally beautiful venue to listen to
live music. The first four First
Thursdays sold out, so be sure to get your tickets in advance to the February 7 installment featuring DJ collective A Tribe Called Red and visual
artist Li-Hill (who we pegged as an up and coming visual artist back in November).

The one time that you’ll be excited about crowds of people at the AGO.
Get Laughing
Laughter is the best
medicine, so check out the listings at the city’s many comedy clubs. Whether it’s stand up or sketch, a $15 dinner and a show or a $3 amateur
night, we’re sure you can find something to tickle your funny bone. Here’s a roundup of the monthly calendars at Yuk Yuks, Absolute ComedyAlt.comedy (every Monday at the Rivoli), Second City, and Comedy Bar.

Some funny shit happens here.

Get outside
Say NO to Vitamin D
deficiency by getting outside and showing winter that it’s not the boss of you.
You won’t exactly be getting a tan, but a little outdoorsy time is a proven cure
for SAD sufferers. Get bundled and make use of the city’s outdoor rinks or channel your inner child and go tobogganing. Who says that patio season is over? Sip some
spiked hot chocolate by the fire pit at the Drake Sky Yard or one of the city’s
winterized patios. Feeling really ambitious? Head up to Algonquin Park for a weekend of winter camping. You won’t exactly be roughing it in one of their yurts, which provide basic furniture and electrical heat, but a little winter campfire jam sesh never hurt anyone. The glorified tents are available all year round and can accommodate up to six people, making it a weekend getaway that can cost you less than $20 a night.

Look how cute and cozy this is!

Get competitive
Having a games night
with friends kills two birds with one stone: not only are you socializing and
spending time with people you might have accidentally ignored during your
hibernation, you’re giving your sleeping bear brain some much-needed
exercise. Game nights aren’t all
complicated or condescending kids activities anymore, check out new games geared towards adults (like the
hilariously cruel Cards Against Humanity available at Snakes and Lattes or print it yourself at Staples). If getting out of the house is the goal,
there is no shortage of trivia nights popping up all over the city  to foster some friendly competition.

Terrance Balazo will get your brain juices flowing at the Drake.

Now that doesn’t sound
so bad, does it? While summer is the season of impulse and last minute plans,
it’s so much harder to get motivated in the winter, so plan ahead. Shake the winter lethargy off
your fancy shoulders and get out there allllll year round. 

It’s Valentine’s Day – got plans?

Whether you’re single, in a relationship, or “it’s complicated”, the pressure’s on to do something today. Fear not – if you haven’t yet figured out your game plan, we have some non-cheesy ideas to help you out.
Flying solo?
The great thing about being single for V-Day is that you don’t have to consider anyone else when making plans. Pretty sweet.

If staying in, grab some wine, takeout and a classic romance like The Way We Were or Breakfast at Tiffany’s. These flicks focus on good storytelling and great acting, so you won’t roll your eyes at the love stories.  

Lisa: My best Valentine’s Day ever was at my friend Fran’s house. We were both single, so she invited me over, cooked her famous KD, with dill pickle-flavoured Crispers and tortilla chips with spinach dip. We dimmed the lights, lit some candles, and laughed more than I ever have before on Valentine’s Day.

Take the pressure off to do something romantic and hang out with friends. The Drake Hotel’s 86’D Monday, Valentine’s Edition, is a great night out. Bartenders will compete for the honour of best Pink Squirrel. What’s a Pink Squirrel, you ask? Find out tonight at 7 p.m. There’s also great live music from Boot Knives to go along with your cocktails. 
 This is not the Pink Squirrel that will be at The Drake.

Michelle: Being single on Valentine’s Day can be super fun. I’ll have dinner with my other single friends at Woodlot and dance up a storm at The Modern Love Affair party at Footwork. Valentine’s Day doesn’t just have to be about romantic love.
A deux
Of course, being in a relationship for Valentine’s Day is great. On what other day of the year is it acceptable to publicly proclaim your affections in the most over-the-top way you can think of?
Instead of typical roses and chocolates, why not show your love by making something yourself? The effort put in will be majorly appreciated. We love Bakerella’s massive list of sweet treat suggestions. Like her 14-layer cake. 

Bakerella’s mega-impressive 14-layer cake
Rachelle: Valentine’s Day will always hold a special place in my heart. I got engaged on V-Day in Quebec City during Winter Carnival. My husband Ariel proposed in front of 80,000 onlookers at the annual Winter Carnival parade. We became local celebs, made it into two newspapers and were the photo of the day on Le Soleil’s website.
Just because you’re taken doesn’t mean you have to have a quiet, candlelit dinner. Go for a skate on an outdoor rink with some hot chocolate, then play a board game at Snakes and Lattes. Some friendly competition, a wobbly pop and a few good laughs is a lovely way to spend an evening. 
 Play nice! Image source.
Christina: Favourite spot? My house! I hate going out to restos because more tables are crammed into the same space. This year, the fiancé and I are grabbing some lobsters, a bottle of wine, and watching America’s Funniest Home Videos. Wow… I just realized how domestic that sounded. 

Another fun idea is a staycation. Find a deal on, or get a package from a hotel like The Drake or the Yorkville InterContinental. It’s a getaway without the hassle of travel, and you won’t even have to make the bed in the morning.

Debra: For one of my fave Valentine’s Days, Matt had our friend Chef Ezra Title drop off a delicious meal at our house. Matt’s a fantastic cook, but this was nice as he didn’t have to do anything but follow some simple instructions, and we had a brilliant meal at home with nowhere to go after but our living room to listen to music and drink wine.

 Happy Valentine’s Day!