Toronto Tips and Recommendations for AERA 2019

Published by motsig on

By: Alison Koenka


I’m especially excited that AERA is in Toronto this year because I grew up there and visit my family often! Because a lot of AERA attendees have asked me for recommendations, I thought it might be helpful to circulate this document.

One caveat is that I haven’t lived in Toronto for almost a decade, so I’m probably not as knowledgeable as others who have lived there more recently.

Two really great resources for Toronto recommendations (especially restaurants) are Toronto Life and BlogTO.


Sorry to begin this document on a negative note: it’s probably not going to be the most pleasant weather in early April. For those of you who went to AERA in Chicago a few years ago, it’s likely to be pretty similar: cold, windy, and probably rainy. Snow and ice aren’t out of the question. I suggest bringing an umbrella and warm coat if possible.


  • There are two major airports in Toronto: Pearson (YYZ) is the major one; the newer and less-well-known airport is Billy Bishop Airport.
  • Billy Bishop is located right downtown (probably a 10-minute Uber from where you’d be staying) and isn’t nearly as busy as Pearson. I’d recommend taking a look to see if flights are available from your airport to Billy Bishop.
  • If you do end up flying in and out of Pearson, here are a few tips:
    • I highly recommend taking the UP Express ( to travel between Pearson and Union Station (the latter is located downtown). The fares are reasonable (about $12 CAD for each one-way ticket) and it’s so much more enjoyable than taking an Uber, spending a lot more money, and sitting in traffic.
    • Pearson is a complete zoo (especially if you’re flying out of Terminal 1). If you don’t have Nexus and you’re flying internationally, I strongly recommend arriving at Pearson at least 2.5 hours before your flight (maybe even 3 hours to be safe). Note that you might be able to go through the fast security lanes with TSA precheck, but don’t take my word for it!
  • Once you’re in Toronto, it’s really walkable. If you’re traveling somewhere in the city that’s not within walking distance, here are some other options:
  • Public transportation (i.e., the TTC): although Torontonians sometimes complain about it, Toronto has a pretty good public transportation system (especially the subway). You can travel places really quickly via subway, streetcar, and bus; I think the fare is a little more than $3 CAD.** but I recommend avoiding the TTC during rush hour(8-9 am; 4:30-6:30 pm) if possible –very unpleasant! **
  • Uber/Taxis (and I think Lyft, too): Ubers in Toronto are reliable (based on my experience) but the cost seems to add up quickly whenever I’ve taken them.


If you have time to explore other parts of the city during the conference, I definitely recommend doing so! Here are some of my favorite neighborhoods:

  • The Distillery

– A cool area close to downtown-just a little bit east

– Great place to walk around with some fun restaurants (e.g., El Catrin) and coffee shops (e.g., Balzac’s)

  • King/Queen West (e.g., King or Queen and Ossington)

– This area is great for trendy restaurants (although many will be pricey)–and if I’m remembering correctly, there are lots of boutique clothing stores in this area as well, especially along Queen

– I also love Chinatown, which is at Queen/Dundas and Spadina (i.e., on the way to the Queen West area)

  • The Annex

– This is where University of Toronto is located; if it’s a nice day, it’s a really pretty campus to walk through

– There are lots of reasonably-priced restaurant options along Bloor St.

  • Yorkville

– The ritziest area in Toronto –if any celebrities are filming in Toronto, they’re probably staying in Yorkville.

– Good area for people-watching, (expensive) clothes shopping, and restaurants

  • Leslieville and the Beaches

– Leslieville is east of downtown –another great place for restaurants and coffee shops

– If you keep going east, you’d get to the Beaches. I’d highly recommend a trip to the Beaches if AERA were in the summer (there’s a great boardwalk that’s right on Lake Ontario), but unless it’s an unseasonably warm/sunny day, I’d give the Beaches a miss in early April 🙂

  • The Danforth

– I haven’t spent nearly as much time in this neighborhood as I wish I had, but this is definitely the place to go for the best Greek food in the city


Good news: Toronto is a major foodie city. And because it’s one of the most diverse cities in the world –one of my favorite things about Toronto! –you can find almost any kind of food that you’re looking for…and it will be excellent.

Bad news: Toronto restaurants are very expensive. I’ve tried to include a range of options (price-wise), but even the more affordable onesare unfortunately not cheap.If you’re traveling from the US or Europe, the currencies will offset this caveata little bit.

I’ve starred the restaurants that I’m extra excited about recommending.


I don’t go for breakfast/brunch in Toronto very often, but here’s one suggestion:

  • Bar Buca (  
    • Delicious, Italian-style breakfast/brunch (I bet lunch and dinner are also amazing)
    • Note that breakfast entrees are about $12 CAD
    • I highly recommend “al forno” (baked eggs, ricotta, and pesto)
    • 17-minute walk from Convention Center


  • Aroma (  
    • Originally founded in Jerusalem in the mid-90s, there are now many Aroma locations around Toronto–not only is it a great coffee shop, but there are a lot of good quick and affordable options for both breakfast and lunch (I personally don’t love the décor, but besides that, it’s great!)
  • Banh Mi Boys (
    • I’ve never been here myself, but I’ve heard that this is another place to get a quick, delicious, and affordable sandwich
    • 16-minute walk from Convention Center
  • Japango (; also a good option for dinner!
    • Really good sushi/Japanese food
    • Very quaint –not good for a large group
    • Depending on what you order, this would probably be about $20 CAD for lunch
    • 21-minute walk from Convention Center
  • Marche/Movenpick (
    • There’s a chance that I’m just feeling nostalgic for my teenage days 🙂 but I think that Marche is another good choice for lunch –especially if you’re looking for a sit-down option for a group –also very easy to get a bunch of separate receipts (everyone goes up to order their own food)
    • Relatively affordable (I think around $15-20CAD)
    • 10-minute walk from Convention Center
  • Paramount Middle Eastern Kitchen (  
    • A fast-growing chain that opened its first location in Toronto
    • I’ve only been here once, but I remember the food being delicious and affordable
    • 7-minute walk from Convention Center (note that this could also probably be a good dinner option)
  • The Pearl **
    • Incredible Chinese restaurant
    • Go for dim sum and have it as an early lunch (ideal time would be 11:00 or noon) As far as dim sum goes, it’s a little on the pricey side but not outrageous
    • 16-minute walk from Convention Center


(** note: many of these will require reservations far in advance)

Somewhat Close to Convention Center:

  • Alouette (  
    • I haven’t been here yet myself, but I’ve heard it’s so good! It was just rated a top new restaurant in 2018
    • It’s described in the following way: “Evoking a chic diner, this narrow eatery serves elevated comfort dishes plus French staples.”
    • Note their sister restaurant “Alo Bar” located in Yorkville; it is pricey but has delicious food, cocktails, wine, and a great atmosphere
    • 16-minute walk from Convention Center
  • Ardo ( **
    • Simple and delicious Italian food, wine, and cocktails; great service
    • A little more expensive than Terroni (see below) –at Ardo, pastas and pizzas are about $20 CAD
    • Probably not good for groups larger than 4-6
    • 23-minute walk from Convention Center
  • Byblos ( **
    • Really good Spanish tapas
    • Depending on how much you order, can add up price-wise
    • Good for small-to mid-sized groups
    • 8-minute walk from Convention Center
  • Nami (  **
    • Authentic and delicious Japanese food
    • The black cod is worth every loonie and toonie 😉
    • Right next to Terroni on Adelaide; 20-minute walk from Convention Centre
  • Richmond Station (  
    • Expensive (e.g., the burger is $24 CAD)
    • I went here once (albeit a while ago) and loved it -I remember it being a fun, cool atmosphere; contemporary, adventurous menu items
    • I think the winner of Top Chef Canada opened this restaurant
    • 18-minute walk, 9-min drive from Convention Center
  • Terroni (  **
    • Good and authentic Italian food, and pretty afford able as far as dinner options in Toronto go
    • If you order pasta, the spaghetti al limone is my favorite
    • If you can get a reservation, this is probably a very accommodating space for a large group
    • There are locations all over the city, but the one on Adelaide is a 20-minute walk and 6-minute drive from the Convention Center
  • Walrus Pub and Beer Hall (  
    • I haven’t actually eaten here, but it comes highly recommended for good pub food
    • A really fun atmosphere –and I suspect that this place would be able to accommodate slightly larger groups (but I recommend double checking this!)
    • 11-minute walk or 4-minute drive from Convention Center

Farther away from Convention Center:

  • Bar Isabel(  
    • Many would argue that this is one of the best places for Spanish tapas in the city
    • I’ve been once and it was delicious –and a really fun atmosphere
    • Caveats are that it’s noisy, not good for large groups, and expensive-but so good!
    • 48-minute walk and 13-minute drive from Convention Center
  • Bellwoods Brewery (  
    • If you like beer, I’ve heard this is a great spot
    • I haven’t been here myself, but I bet the food is good and looks affordable (under $20 CAD)
    • 41-minute walk or 10-minute drive from Convention Center
  • Boxcar Social (Queen’s Quay –pronounced ‘Queens Key’ location:
    • Affordable coffee shop/bar, lunch, or dinner option (note that Tues
    • Thurs they close at 8:00 pm)
    • I’ve never actually eaten here, but their lattes are delicious and it’s a great atmosphere (based on the other location I visited)
  • DaiLo (  **
    • I went here once and loved the food and atmosphere
    • Food is described in the following way: “New Asian Cuisine is predominantly Chinese fare but it follows the French tradition”–as you can probably tell from the description, it’s really creative (and delicious!) food
    • Because it’s tapas-style if I’m remembering correctly, it can quickly become expensive
    • 12-minute drive from Convention Center
  • El Catrin (  
    • Good, affordable Mexican food in a great area of the city (The Distillery)
    • This place is especially fun in the summer because of their great patio, but the inside is great too!
    • 32-minute walk from Convention Center; 10-minute drive
  • Queen and Beaver (  
    • A fun, upscale British-style pub
    • I slightly prefer their sister restaurant with the same concept called “The Oxley” (in Yorkville)
    • 27-minute walk; 8-min drive from Convention Center
  • Tabule Middle Eastern Restaurant (Queen East;
    • Good and relatively affordable (mains are $15-30 CAD, but most are $15-20) Middle Eastern food; I went once and liked both the food and atmosphere
    • 15-ish minute drive from Convention Center
  • Union (  
    • French bistro restaurant; I haven’t been here in a long time, but remember it being very good (but unfortunately expensive)
    • Located on the West end –a really hip area with lots of other bars and restaurants surrounding it
  • Wynona (  
    • I haven’t been here yet, but a high school friend co-owns it and I’ve heard very positive things
    • It’s described as a “breezy seafood, pasta and wine restaurant”
    • Based on what I know about this restaurant, I think it would be ideal for small groups
    • 10-minute drive away (but over an hour walk)

A Few General Resources:

Recent Toronto Life and BlogTO recommendations:

What appears to be a great list of Korean restaurants:

A list of recommended vegetarian options:

** Anywhere that I’ve ever gone in Chinatown (Queen and Spadina) has been delicious!


  • I don’t go to museums very often in Toronto, but I hear that a few good ones are:
  • Ripley’s Aquarium (
    • This is relatively new and supposed to be pretty amazing! If you’re bringing kids, this would be a good activity (but I’m sure it would also be great without kids!)
  • CN Tower (  
    • This is one of the tallest freestanding structures in the world and a huge tourist attraction –I think tickets are pretty expensive and I’d personally recommend giving it a miss (but that may be my personal bias because I’m scared of heights…:))-
  • Hockey Hall of Fame (  
    • If you like hockey, this would be a great thing to do; also within walking distance of the Convention Center
    • Disclaimer that I’ve never actually been myself:)
  • Shopping
    • A few unique Canadian stores are:
      • Indigo/Chapters/Coles:
        • The Barnes and Noble of Canada….but Indigo is better (in my humble opinion)
        • In addition to books, they have a great collection of home items (candles, blankets, stationary, etc)
        • In most locations, they have an amazing children’s books/toy section–and lots of Canadian books if anyone wants to bring their kids back a souvenir:) Also a great baby section.
      • Roots:
        • Really comfortable sweatshirts, sweatpants, etc.
        • Beautiful leather products (but expensive)
      • Over the Rainbow:
        • A (pricey) clothing boutique located in Yorkville that’s especially well-known for jeans
    • The Eaton Centre is relatively close to the Convention Centre (about a 20 minute walk), which is one of the biggest shopping malls in the city. There are many stores here, including Indigo and Roots
  • If the weather is nice and somewhat warm:
    • Run along the Martin Goodman trail (but beware of bikers :))
    • Walk near the water in the Harbour front area (which is very close to the Convention Center)
Categories: AERA 2019