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Cabbagetown’s rags-to-riches history makes this neighbourhood as unique as it is wonderful, with its 7.5 acre working farm, beautiful parks, family festivals and charming Victorian homes. Its residents have a strong sense of community and a rise-up spirit of ownership that is apparent throughout the neighbourhood and culminates in their annual Fall Festival. Held the first weekend in September, the Festival showcases local talent, businesses and residents to create an interesting experience for the whole family. The main streets close and people come out in droves to enjoy the sights and sounds of this authentic, friendly neighbourhood. But don’t wait until autumn — Cabbagetown is worth checking out, and here’s why!


Once upon a time…

In the 1840s, during the great famine in Ireland, many starving Irish citizens fled for Canadian shores. Hundreds settled in what was then the outskirts of Toronto and what became known as Cabbagetown because the Irish ate plenty of cabbage and made ends meet by planting cabbage patches on their front lawns to supplement incomes from various lakeshore industries. This working-class neighbourhood area grew prosperous but was hit hard by the Depression, becoming one of the “worst Anglo Saxon slums in North America.” The southern part of Cabbagetown was flattened in the late 1940s and the Regent Park housing project was built. The northern part was scheduled to be demolished as part of an urban renewal plan, but to the relief of current Cabbagetown-ers, the neighbourhood escaped this fate. The ‘70s saw change and ‘urban renewal’ exchanged for a restoration emphasis in the ’70s and ‘80s. Having risen Phoenix-like from impoverished beginnings to its current strength and beauty, Cabbagetown is now one of Toronto’s top neighbourhoods.


Bricks and Mortar

Cabbagetown was once described by the New York Times as having “the largest enclave of restored Victorian homes in North America.” If it’s a character-filled home you’re looking for, you’ll find it in this pedestrian-friendly neighbourhood. You can wander local streets and literally spend hours admiring the stone walkways, beautiful gardens and magnificent homes. A classic collection of Victorian-style architecture (1860-95), these homes are infused with authenticity. It is easy to see why so many young urban professionals have been drawn to this area. With most of these brick homes the first on their sites, the Cabbagetown Preservation Association was developed to ensure that both restoration and new developments stayed true to the architectural integrity and historic character of this charming neighbourhood.


A breath of fresh air…

Feeling green? Cabbagetown offers some great parks for a quick outdoor escape close to home. Allan Gardens, located at Gerrard and Sherbourne has a beautiful parkland, outdoor gardens and historic greenhouse. On a cold day, tuck inside, check out some exotic plants or take a guided tour. Or, if you’re feeling really daring, go ahead and elope – yes elope — but plan well enough ahead to book a photographer/the greenhouses for some quick ‘pics’ to capture the day! Not feeling so brave? Instead try wandering over to Wellesley Park, which has two hectares of space and some wonderful features, including a wading pool and sand pit for the kids and a path down to the nature trail between Rosedale Valley Road and the Bayview extension for runners. The park is also home to the Forsythian Festival – a parade / party with outdoor performances, pansy planting and more! This celebration of spring should not be missed.

Last but not least, Riverdale Park — located in the heart of downtown Cabbagetown — is a must-see. From 1894, the Riverdale Zoo was located here, but when the Toronto Zoo opened in 1974, the site was restored to a farm to allow city kids the chance to experience a working farm. Guests are invited to shadow the farmer during daily chores and perhaps lend a hand collecting eggs, mucking out a stall or milking a cow. So many animals to see! Finish your day by touring the farm’s 7.5 acres in a picturesque setting including ponds, butterfly gardens and woodlands.


Taxi!

With Cabbagetown pretty much the heart of down town, getting around is easy. Throw on some shoes, jump on your bike, take the car or take advantage of the TTC’s regular service (www.ttc.ca). The Yonge and Bloor-Danforth lines are in walking distance and buses/ streetcars are readily available. The Sherbourne bus and Parliament streetcar connect passengers to stations on the Bloor-Danforth subway line, while the Wellesley and Carlton Street buses connect commuters to the Yonge-University-Spadina subway line. Prefer to drive? The Don Valley Parkway is approximately five minutes away, while Toronto’s downtown business and entertainment districts are less than ten minutes from Cabbagetown.


Coffee… Where art thou?

The coffee culture of Cabbagetown is evolving — that is to say, it’s not the café epicentre of Toronto quite yet — but if you head over to Parliament Street, caffeine is ready and available. If it’s a non-fat, no-foam, Grande latte you are looking for, Starbucks has gone before you. If you are Canadian through and through, you are also in luck as Tim Horton’s offers two locations. Coffee Time also has great poured coffee; its free Wi-Fi and casual atmosphere is perfect for a quick caffeine oasis. Finally, for those who like their coffee a little more out of the box, try Jet Fuel, although as they will tell you themselves, people either love them or hate them. At about $3 for a large latte (served in a pint-size glass), $2 for small, the prices are right. A request for decaffeinated coffee will get you a funny look – they don’t serve it – but there is hope for hydration with a range of teas, hot chocolate and hot or cold freshly squeezed concoctions made with a funky lemon-squeezing machine. Although it is different from the mainstream coffee houses, some people swear by Jet Fuel and promise that after a few visits, this unique café will feel more like home.


Date Night

Whether you are looking for a specialty restaurant, pub, take-out or fine dining fare, Cabbagetown will not leave you disappointed! For sushi lovers, look no further than Omi Japanese Restaurant. The friendly staff serves up some of Toronto’s best sushi in a funky yet beautiful atmosphere, with a menu that delivers only creative, fresh and delicious. For an interactive dining experience in one of Toronto’s oldest buildings, the Stonegrill on Winchester Street offers a great atmosphere and succulent dishes cooked on volcanic rock right at your table! For a superb international dinner menu and a fabulous brunch menu, head over to The Peartree Restaurant. The Peartree’s patio is fantastic in summer — and in the colder months, if you’re in need of a sunshine infusion, dine under the morning sun in their solarium, definitely one of Cabbagetown’s hidden gems. Ever tasted a true blue Aussie burger? Fresh ground beef, bacon, lettuce, tomato, mayo and cheddar (and a huge selection of other toppings) come with the surprising twist of a perfectly fried egg, beets and grilled pineapple. Found on every Australian street corner, both pubs and local shops serve up this delectable mess. So unless you have the time and money to head ‘down under,’ the reality of experiencing such bliss is unlikely unless you make your way to the Gourmet Burger Company. Located right in the heart of Cabbagetown, it is one of the many extraordinary restaurants and reasons enough to make this neighbourhood your home!


Does this come in a size 7?

Cabbagetown is probably not the first place you think about when it comes to shopping; however, the reality is that retail therapy is alive and well in this neighbourhood where hidden treasures abound. For the most part, Cabbagetown’s shopping terrain falls in the boundaries of Parliament Street, although on a smaller scale, shopping opportunities abound on Carlton Street, and in clusters along Gerrard Street, Sherbourne Street, and Wellesley Avenue. For those of you who love an eclectic mix, your shopping experience includes antique stores (Green’s Antiques on Parliament), sweet & specialty shops (Daniel et Daniel’s Food Shop), vintage stores (Second Thought Clothing), funky floral experts (Simmons Flowers), health food stores and specialty gift shops to name a few. For your household and home design needs, pop into Mi Casa. And for one of the best places in the city to get framing work done, check out Posterity Graphics — they’ll turn that old but meaningful photo or print into a finished masterpiece. A newer addition to Cabbagetown, “Labour of Love,” has a whimsical mix of hand-crafted jewellery, vintage furniture and original dresses by Montreal designer Valerie Dumaine. The store encapsulates the eclectic-ness that is Cabbagetown, and is just one example of why this neighbourhood is simply wonderful for shopping. So breeze in, blow in or barge in for a shopping experience that is sure to be an adventure.

For more information on great shopping and a more comprehensive list of restaurant choices, visit our friends at BlogTO (http://www.blogto.cabbagetown).


Where to take the kids…

Wherever and however you spend your days — unless you’re homeschooling, of course — your children need to go somewhere! Looking for a great school? Refer to our list below! From preschool to high school, Catholic or public, Cabbagetown has some great options. Most Toronto schools have definite enrollment boundaries, so it is always a good idea to contact the school you have in mind to ensure your new home falls within their boundaries. For more information, visit the Toronto District and Toronto Catholic School Boards websites.

When school’s out, and in typical Toronto style, it is either too hot or too cold to be outside, there are myriad other things to do in this area. You can pack up the children and head over to Cabbagetown’s Public Library, which has an amazing selection of children’s books and DVDs (269 Gerrard Street East). Want something a little more active? The Cabbagetown Youth Centre on Lancaster Avenue offers sports and arts & crafts programs, while the Cabbagetown Community Arts Centre on Parliament will keep your children on their toes with their music, drama and dance programs. For ballet, modern dance, jazz and musical theatre, the Canadian Children’s Dance theatre (509 Parliament St) was hailed by the Globe and Mail as “a national treasure.” So if you have budding dancers, enroll them today. And why not pop in afterward for a gelato at the Sweet Creamery — your children and your taste buds will thank you!