The best activity-based gifts in Toronto

We know Etsy novelties and Toronto-branded swag are on everyone’s wish list this year, but the city has sure got a lot to offer beyond the material. Why not help yourself to a new encounter in the 6 and catch up with a pal instead? From DIY sewing studios to killer concert halls, these venues will set you up with striking experiential offerings that are sure to earn you the title of Secret Santa MVP.

Joe Rockheads Climbing Gym Ltd

29 Fraser Ave, Toronto, ON M6K 1Y7

After all the wining and dining of the holiday season, what bloaty Toronto-ites really want is a solid workout. And while there’s plenty of options for active experiences in the city that range from pole dancing to parkour, may we suggest the designed-for-a-twosome introductory climbing course at Joe Rockheads? The legendarily OG rock climbing gym in Liberty Village offers basic beginners lessons for just $40 bucks. You’ll learn the ropes (high-five) on belaying and how to strategically approach the course. Supersize the lesson for 10 bucks and they’ll throw in a t-shirt and two-week climbing pass.

BareBones Bartending School

643 Christie St, Toronto, ON M6G 3E7

Who’s the resident bartender of your crew? If you’re looking for a sweet gift for the self-taught cocktail aficionado, check out the introductory workshops on offer at this entirely hip bartending school at Christie and St. Clair. For $60 bucks, you and your partner, pals or sibs can learn the ropes of a barkeep, from how to saber a champagne bottle, to ordering a bottle of wine at a restaurant, to frothing perfectly peaked egg whites for signature cocktails.

Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts

145 Queen Street W, Toronto, ON M5H 4G1

Skip the stocking stuffers this year and share an evening of high culture at Toronto’s premier performance venue. Operas showing at the stunning Four Seasons Centre in 2016 include such heavy-hitters as Carmen and The Marriage of Figaro. Those with fancy footwork on their mind may rather opt for an evening at the ballet. La Sylphide makes an elegant appearance in March, followed by the critically acclaimed modern romance Romeo and Juliet. If you can hold out until June, Le Petite Prince will be sure to dazzle, while Chan Han Goh’s principal role in Giselle should not be missed.

The Shop

1139 College St, Toronto, ON M6H 1B5

As anyone on the adult colouring book trend will tell you, exploring your creative side is all kinds of therapeutic for the ever-on-the-go urbanite. If you’re shopping for someone who you think could maybe tap into theirs a little more (read: your high intensity stressball pal) – discover the endless DIY workshops on offer at Toronto’s heralded maker’s den, The Shop. The sprawling studio in Brockton Village offers workshops on everything from watercolour lettering to loom weaving to cutting-board crafting and woodworking. Peruse the calendar for upcoming classes and choose from a slew of affordable options.

Nella Cucina

876 Bathurst St, Toronto, ON M5R 3G3

Everyone’s gotta eat, right? Take a directed class at Toronto’s beloved cooking school Nella Cucina, and learn to do Sunday dinner a little better. Whether you need your roomie to brush up on their knife skills (because right now they’re the weakest link during your dinner collabs) or you’ve finally accepted that making homemade pies the way grandma did is a serious #LifeGoal, let the masters at this Queen West cooking haven show you the ropes.

Art Gallery of Ontario

317 Dundas St W, Toronto, ON M5T 1G4

You’ve no doubt walked past one of Toronto’s most beloved architectural gems, but have you taken a tour inside? Peruse the private collection, home to paintings by Tom Thompson, Emily Carr, and Alex Colville or get in on advance tickets for the 2016 season (hint: it includes shows on American photography as well as pop art from the gallery’s collection). If art’s not your thing, look into the special events hosted in the AGO’s inspired hallways; they host wine tastings and other foodie events from time to time as well as their famed monthly party, First Thursdays.

Three words: Pick. Your. Own. Whether you’re looking to come home with a bag of freshly plucked Ontario apples or frolic about the pumpkin patch with your pals, these Ontario farms are ready with all the essential autumnal activities. These close-to-the-city spots offer everything from a quintessential fall wagon ride through the field, to estate wineries, to weekend farmers markets. [Image credit:]
For many years, Toronto’s billiards scene was well, lacking. Elderly dives and pubs hosted rickety tables and a questionable clientele, while beloved brewpubs and craft cocktail spots remained mysteriously billiard-less. For a while there, it seemed there was nowhere in the city where you could enjoy some good company, delicious drinks and a few rounds of pool – that is, until these sweet bars stepped up.
If the first thing on your list of Canada Day 2016 celebrations is a hot seat at the fireworks, know that the city is hosting some next-level light shows from the Lakeshore to North York. Whether you’re in search of a comfy spot on the beach or a patio-side view of festivities, here are the top spots to catch the fireworks on July 1, 2016. [Image credit:]
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