Unique, historic neighbourhood in Downtown Toronto featuring restored industrial architecture
Distillery District offers a historic escape in the heart of Toronto, characterized by converted Victorian Industrial architecture, cobblestone walkways, and various art installations. In 1831, James Worts immigrated from England to Canada and opened a mill for grinding grain with his brother in law William Gooderham. Following the tragic death of his wife, Worts took his own life, leaving Gooderham to continue the business without him. After partnering with Worts’ eldest son, he added a distillery to the mill in 1837 where where they began producing Whiskey. Gooderham & Worts thrived throughout the 1850s and in addition to the distillery and flour mills, the distillery included a wharf, storage facilities, an ice cream shop, a barrel-making cooperative, and a dairy. In 1871, Gooderham and Worts became one of the largest exporters in spirit production, shipping millions of gallons of whiskey all across North and South America.
The Distillery District was revitalized in 1990s and became the number one film hub of Canada and second only to Hollywood. In the early 2000s, they began restoring the district and turning it into a pedestrian only neighbourhood that would highlight and preserve its rich history. In May 2003 the district reopened and has been one of Canada’s top tourist attractions ever since. The annual Christmas Market pulls in hundreds of thousands of visitors every year, offering food and products from local vendors, iconic picture locations, and a massive Christmas tree display.
In the Distillery District you can expect to be surrounded by lots of young professionals. Young urbanites who love the combination of industrial architecture full of history with modern condo units and being in the heart of Toronto. You won’t find many families with kids in this neighbourhood due to the size and layout of many of the condos and lofts. Art lovers love this area thanks to the galleries, performance venues, and live music that characterize Distillery District. This area is best for those who want to be in a convenient downtown location but also appreciate the relative peace and quiet that the Distillery District offers. It is important to mention that the neighbourhood gets pretty hectic while the Christmas Market is running so you will have to be prepared for that is you decide to live here. There are hundreds of thousands of visitors every year which means high traffic, lots of pedestrians, and a lot of Christmas music.
As mentioned, the annual Christmas Market is a huge event with tons of food, music, and attractions. However, the Distillery District has much more the offer than just the Market. Local restaurants like El Catrin, Cluny Bistro, Pure Spirits, and Madrina Bar y Tapas, are right outside your door. If you’re interested in shopping, check out Queen’s Trunk, Bergo Designs, Liberty Clothing Toronto, Peace Collective, Crimson & Clover, and GOTSTYLE. Many of these shop feature local Toronto designers giving you the chance to support local. Peace collective which was founded in Toronto gives a portion of their proceeds to CAMH to support mental health treatment, Food Banks of Canada, and UNHCR Canada’s effort in protecting refugees.
In terms of entertainment, check out the various art galleries located in Distillery such as ARTA, Corkin Gallery, and Thompson Landry. If you’re more into performance art, look into upcoming events at Young Centre for Performing Arts and Ernest Balmer Studio. After attending a show or doing some retail therapy, head over to one of the breweries located in the Distillery District, such as; Mill Street Brewpub, Izumi Brewery, or if you walk a little outside the area, Goose Island Brewhouse on The Esplanade.
By now you have a pretty good idea of things you can do in the Distillery District. Aside from shopping, visiting restaurants and pubs, and catching a show, you can learn about the areas rich history. There are informative plaques located all over the neighbourhood that give visitors an idea of what life was like in Toronto when the Distillery first opened. There are are artist studios open to the public where you can check out what local artists are working on including crafts, artisans, and jewellers. Yummi Candles offers candle making workshops where you can choose from dozens of scents and colours to design and create your own candle. The Distillery District is also the location of the Luminato Lights Festival, an international arts festival featuring love letters to Toronto, shining a spotlight on local artists and creators. CONTACT Photography Festival is a yearly attraction that runs in the Spring, and features photographic art from all ages and career levels.
There aren’t a ton of options for schools in or around the Distillery District as the demographic is largely young professionals without children. However, there are a few schools within a reasonable distance of the neighbourhood.
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