The Distillery District is a National Historic Site with rich history, located east of downtown Toronto. It had its beginnings with the opening of the Gooderham and Worts Distillery in 1832. Founded by two brothers-in-law, it eventually became the largest distillery in the British Empire, covering about 13 acres (52ha) and producing millions of gallons of distilled whiskey and spirits in the 1800s.
Even after the Great War prohibition era, this huge plant still survived. After over a century and a half of continuous production, the distillery ceased operations in 1990. Immediately it became one of the most popular filming location in Canada and continues to be used for that purpose. Some of the more well-known films shot here include Cinderella Man, Chicago, X-Men, The Hurricane, and Against the Ropes.
In 2001, a local company, Cityscape Holdings Inc., purchased the land with the hopes of maintaining its historical integrity while also offering something more to the city’s residents and visitors. The District was unveiled in 2003 as a wonderful pedestrian-only village entirely dedicated to arts, culture and entertainment. Today, the area is widely regarded as one of Canada's premier arts, culture and entertainment destinations—a place brimming with creativity and creative people.
The Distillery Historic District boasts a great variety of restaurants, cafes and a sophisticated shopping district. In the Distillery, you can visit a plethora of art galleries and artists’ studios that feature works by local, national, and international artists. You’ll also find a number of excellent performing arts venues.
The Ultimate Shopping Fun
Strolling in the car-free District, you’ll find shopping at the Distillery a much different experience than shopping anywhere else. Forget about franchises, chains or traditional mall stores; discover some of Toronto’s best, most interesting, and award-winning stores, shops and boutiques offering one-of-a kind goods and wares from around the world. Several upscale boutiques as well as many other retail establishments make the district unique. In most cases, you’ll have the chance to talk with the owner or artisan, people who take pride in what they do and have an intimate knowledge of their products.
Exploring the District, you'll find a huge range of remarkable items—a fireplace you can move (and even hang on your wall), award-winning purses made from recycled seat belts, the world’s best mattress for $60,000, exquisitely crafted designer jewelry, the latest in lifestyle apparel, state-of-the-art home accessories, one of the city’s best selections of jeans, fabulous footwear, and world-class cosmetics. There is simply no better place in the city to find something unique for yourself, your home or your loved ones!
What About Food?
Grab a quick bite on-the-go or taste top-notch local and international cuisine at the Distillery. Whatever your tastes—fresh seafood, old-world Italian, succulent steaks, or traditional pub fare—you 'll find the best of the best in fine and casual dining. Explore the Distillery and you’ll not only have lots of quick inexpensive options like sandwiches, wraps, and a salad bar, but you'll also discover a new world of gourmet fare set within stunning architectural designs. Whatever atmosphere you prefer—intimate and romantic, casual and elegant, or hip and sophisticated—you’ll find what you want in one of the award-winning restaurants in the neighbourhood. In warmer weather, enjoy your meal on one of the many acclaimed patios.
If you are a chocolate lover, prepare to be delighted by the chocolate-making process in the micro chocolate factory of the Distillery, doubling as another one of the Distillery's many galleries. Large windows allow easy viewing of the rooms where chocolatemakers, who are true food artists, creating delicious truffles, cookies and intoxicating drinking chocolate! The small tables and chairs provide a nice angle on much of the action, and the truly dedicated can take to the tiered bench-seating that faces the production windows. Have one "tasting note" and enjoy the atmosphere!
This Is the Place for Art Lovers
If you love art, you’ll delight in exploring some of Canada’s preeminent art galleries and some of the finest art dealers, artists and artisans from around the country. Virtually every artistic discipline is on display here, from photography, to painting, sculpture, ceramics, textiles, glass and some of the most sensational outdoor sculptures you will ever see. The surprising range and depth of art specialties that await you include historical and contemporary photography to Canadian and international paintings, sculptures and art installations. Ponder the canvases of the great Quebec masters, or the provocative realizations of internationally acclaimed photographers. Wander the artist’s studios in search of that one-of-a-kind creation.
Festivals and special events are commonplace at the Distillery Historic District, which hosts one of the most unique festival line-ups in Canada thanks to its spacious 13 acres, pedestrian-only brick-paved streets and dozens of great venues to play and perform in. Throughout the year, the Distillery hosts dozens of celebrations and special events such as the Distillery Jazz Festival, Partigras, the Roots Music Festival, the Antique Festival, various art exhibitions and much more. Check out the weekly Farmer’s Market to get a calendar of Distillery events. The calendar is also available here.
World-class theater and entertainment thrive at the Distillery District, with some of the finest performing arts companies in the world located in this neighbourhood.
- The Young Centre for the Performing Arts houses.
- The Soulpepper Theatre Company, recently named “Best Theatre Company in Toronto” by NOW and EYE magazines. Soulpepper recognized the hip allure and charm of The Distillery site and chose to relocate here in 2004.
- George Brown’s Theatre School has earned a national reputation for training new actors. Students learn from professionals in surroundings of the highest calibre and perform for the public five times per year.
Also, be sure to check out the Distillery's own venues:
- Dancemakers has been on the leading edge of dance in Canada for almost four decades. Their “Centre for Creation” at the Distillery fosters creativity and inspires exchange between artists and the public.
- Nightwood Theatre was founded in 1979 and forges creative alliances among women artists from diverse backgrounds. "Created to be a powerful voice for women…the company more than fulfills its mandate,” says the Globe and Mail.
- Tapestry Opera is dedicated to the creation, development and performance of new opera through its unique and collaborative work process encouraging exploration and discovery and promoting dialogue among all participants.
The Hippest Address In Town
If you’re addicted to the urbane lifestyle, or if you’d love to live in the 13-acre picture-postcard-esque Victorian village, the Distillery District is definitely the perfect location for you! For those planning to live in the city, "Toronto’s closest thing to SoHo, Covent Gardens or Granville Island" is only a 10-minute walk to the heart of downtown and a 90-second drive to the Gardiner or DVP. You’ll have all kinds of cool stores and a medley of restaurants, cafes and bakeries at your doorstep. You'll also enjoy the renowned Paris-like “patio culture” during the warmer months. You'll be living at the center of the arts scene, where culture is created and lived everyday. As mentioned above, the Distillery is also for pedestrians only, which will help ease your mind on children safety. You’ll be able to stroll with your family through the brick-paved streets day or night and never worry about cars or traffic. And last but not least, your home will be "green" with today’s latest eco-conscious technologies!
The Deaf Culture Centre
The Deaf Culture Centre is open at the Distillery, a project by the Canadian Cultural Society of the Deaf. It features a museum, an art gallery, a gift shop, research archives, state-of-the-art visually rich technology highlighting deaf historical artifacts, literature, sports, ASL/LSQ interactive website/television and a multimedia production studio. The centre welcomes everyone as a convergent point for deaf and hearing-impaired people to immerse themselves creatively within deaf culture. Its primary function is to enrich and elevate the achievements of the deaf community for all the world to understand and appreciate.
By subway: take the subway to Castle Frank station on the Bloor line, then take the 65A Parliament bus, and ride it straight down Parliament. Exit at Front St. and walk one block south to Mill St.
By King streetcar: Take the 504 King streetcar and exit at King and Parliament. Walk 2 blocks south on Parliament to Mill St.
By Cherry St. 172 Bus: take the bus from Front & Bay St. to Cherry Beach via The Esplanade and Mill St.
Interested in living in the neighbourhood? Browse the MLS Listings for the perfect house or condominium available in this area.