The 10 coolest downtowns in Canadian cities

Whether venturing to a new city or enjoying your own, the downtown core is an important area to enjoy. Typically, a city’s downtown is attractive, welcoming and highlights cultural or historical elements of its city. It can be lively or quaint or both–as long as it keeps you occupied and safe, right?

Expedia has taken to surveying downtowns across Canada, and it recently released its “10 of Canada’s coolest downtowns” list. The ranking was based on the “top walk scores” as well as a city’s “innovative art scene” and the details that make a city unforgettable. While some of these selections may not be in your top ten (or on your mind at all), some travellers are enjoying them, so perhaps it’s time to rethink the city centres that typically leap to mind (like Montreal’s, which didn’t even make the list).

You may be surprised by the city that took top spot on the list — it has a population of just under 40,000.

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No. 10: Downtown Vancouver, B.C.

Vancouver was named the third most liveable city in the world in 2017, according Ipsos Top Cities Index, so it’s not a surprise that its downtown would have an appeal too. Whether you’re an organic nibbler who appreciates sustainability or just want to enjoy nightlife without a worry, downtown Vancouver has variety for you to play with. Music is also a great attraction — Vogue theatre, anyone? (Yahoo)

No. 9: Downtown Burnaby, B.C.

Keeping on the west coast, Burnaby received a walk score of 64 and it’s this high score that makes the downtown accessible and fun. The Shadbolt Theatre, Hart House Restaurant, and the city’s abundance of cultural and artistic showings, make it an escape worth visiting.
(Tourism Burnaby)

No. 8: Downtown Quebec City, Que.

The 400-year-old buildings and cobblestone streets may draw you in, but Quebec City’s electric nightlife will keep you. The report cites spots like La Boîte à Pain and Noctem Artisans Brasseurs as favourites, but a major must-see is Le Cercle, which just so happens to be celebrating its 10th anniversary on Nov. 11. Another huge attraction? The Hotel de Glace, of course.

No. 7: Downtown Longueuil, Que.

Some of the list’s highlights include Resto Pub St. Mark, Bungalow Bar Salon and Restaurant Messina. While you’re drinking and dining, make sure to check out the creativeness of the city, too. Lumifest, for example, is a three-day event that highlights various installations, outdoor dances, and large-scale projections (like the one shown here) that take over the city’s streets.

No. 6: Downtown Lunenburg, N.S.

The sea of colour is instantly captivating, and its accessibility and charming portfront make Lunenburg a cozy downtown that’s easy to navigate. The “sleepy village” will slow you and let you live life at a more reasonable pace while you venture to Ironworks Distillery or take in Inuit art and sculpture work at Power House Art. (Yahoo)

No. 5: Downtown Brandon, Man.

The report cites “recent revitalization projects” as being a main attraction for Brandon’s downtown appeal. More coffee shops and small boutiques (Ten Thousand Villages, Abby Rose) are adding personality to the neighbourhood, and the upcoming Christmas Market has its own skating rink. Also, Komfort Kitchen is an go-to spot for, you guessed it, comfort food.
(Brandon Downtown Biz)

No. 4: Downtown Winnipeg, Man.

Located in the heart of the downtown core, the Winnipeg Art Gallery (WAG) is a perfect starting or ending point for exploration. You’ll come across many Manitoba-celebrated works including an extensive (and one of the world’s largest) collection of contemporary Inuit art. There’s also the Museum of Human Rights, which is the second of its kind in Canada (the first being in Ottawa). The city is looking to further accommodate pedestrians, too, and make business and culture thrive without being too overbearing. “Pyramid Cabaret is like the Kinder Surprise of entertainment,” the report notes. “You never know what you’re gonna get. Just go there. Trust us.” There’s also a revolving restaurant, Praire 360, worth noting too. (Yahoo)

No. 3: Downtown Moose Jaw, Sask.

Who doesn’t appreciate a good trolley tour? The tours typically occur between May and August and provide riders with a scenic route of Moose Jaw’s historic avenues, all onboard an early 1900’s trolley. Don’t be surprised to see full wedding parties on it. In addition to the quaintness of the trolley, there’s venues like the Sukaneen Ship Pioneer Village & Museum to get even more enthralled in Moose Jaw’s heritage. There are also dozens upon dozens of murals to gawk over. This is certainly not the “big city living” type of downtown and many can appreicate that. (Yahoo)

No. 2: Downtown Toronto, Ont.

Then there are those that crave that big city downtown core and for that we salute Toronto. The report notes Kensington Market is the “coolest of the cool” downtown neighbourhoods, and if you’re a fan of a laid-back lifestyle, healthy food choices, offbeat pop-ups (and events), and an ecclectic mix of characters–it will be your favourite too. You can also take in opera, sports, comedy, parks–and you don’t need a car to reach them.
Yet, it still is not “the coolest” on the list….
(Ryan Emond)

No. 1: Downtown St. Thomas, Ont.

Expedia’s coolest downtown goes to St. Thomas, Ont. Why? According to the article, the Railway City Arts Crawl (February 23-24, 2018) is one you shouldn’t miss. It also suggests the Rail City Bistro and The Back Alley as places to rest and refresh. Other events like the Pumpkin Prowl are also bringing in more people to the large downtown core of St. Thomas. According to the Downtown Development Board’s chair, Earl Taylor, the downtown is “tremendously large compared to other downtowns,” and in the last year over 22 businesses have opened up. “It’s not only just tourists and shoppers that are seeing the viability of downtown St. Thomas but small businesses as well. They’re not going to the malls…they’re coming downtown.”
(Instagram / railwaycitytourism)

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