Best of the City 2010: nine fun-filled activities, from karaoke to tennis

Best of the City 2010: nine fun-filled activities, from karaoke to tennis

Family memberships at the Rosedale Tennis Club are a steal; Right: the 5 Drive-In offers malt shakes and cotton candy alongside summer blockbusters (Images: Jay Shuster)

Family tennis club
Rosedale Tennis Club
Rosedale Park, 20 Scholfield Ave., 416-922-7906

City racquet enthusiasts usually have two options: public facilities that are asphalt, uneven and filled with people who hog the courts, or a club that’s so expensive, you’ll feel guilty every day you don’t go. Then there’s the Rosedale Tennis Club, where a mere $275 buys a full-season (mid-April to early October) family membership. That’s access for two adults and any number of their kids (ages five to 17) to eight courts shaded by a row of oaks and maples. Once a member, you can try out for competitive teams, put your kids in a Progressive Tennis camp (the European methodology in which Justine Henin was trained) and mingle in your whites at the club barbecue. Resident tennis director Richard Nicolson is a respected coach in junior tennis and also manages York Racquets, one of the top clubs in town.

Posh yoga
889 Yonge
889 Yonge St., 416-925-7206

This midtown yoga centre is stylish and eco-conscious without a whiff of crunchy granola. The well-appointed urban retreat was founded by sisters Christine and Emily Russell, who take a five-star-hotel approach to achieving your asanas. The two studios (which accommodate up to 12 and 35 yogis) are separated by a plush tea garden, where Ayurvedic blends are served between sessions. A signature class is Detox Flow, when the room is heated to 32 degrees Celsius to stimulate the release of toxins and improve circulation. Don’t be surprised to see Greta Constantine’s Stephen Wong or a visiting celeb (ahem, Rachel Weisz) on the next mat—it’s just that kind of place.

stagette wine tour
Niagara Wine Tours International

The best bridal parties serve wine—buckets of it. For $95 a person, a Niagara Wine Tours guide will equip your group with hybrid bikes and lead you at a leisurely pace to tastings at four VQA wineries, provide a picnic vineyard lunch, and transport any bottles you may pick up along the way. Bump up the package by staying two nights at a Niagara-on-the-Lake inn, like the boutique Shaw Club (from $375). Ladies, it has a spa.

Comedy Bar
945 Bloor St. W., 647-898-5324

A priest and a rabbi walked into a comedy bar, and it was actually funny. Opened in 2008, this tight basement space took in Toronto’s funniest, edgiest alt comics when there was hardly a stage left for them to work. Fans accumulated quickly, and now the joint is packed on weekends, especially Fridays, which are Catch 23 improv night. Bookings range from experimental (a recent improv festival devoted to the theme of combustion) to populist (the musical-improv Gleeks). Somewhere in between is Neil Hamburger, the satiric bad-comic alter ego of comedian-musician Gregg Turkington—you saw him on Jimmy Kimmel.

Core workout
283A Queens Quay W., 416-203-2277

The classes at Harbourfront Canoe and Kayak Centre, taught by four Iron Man types, are like a spin class for your upper body. Sessions begin on shore with warm-ups and ab work. On Mondays and Wednesdays, they lead disciples through speed and circuit training; on Fridays, endurance is tested by paddling to the Islands or to Ontario Place. They provide the recreational-size kayaks. If this all sounds too intense, get your feet wet with a more leisurely paddle on the lake: the centre also runs breezy socials and nighttime kayaking and canoeing excursions. Kayak­ercize is $25 per class, $99 for five classes, $175 for 10.

outdoor movies
5 Drive-In
2332 9th Line, Oakville, 905-257-8272

The 5 Drive-In, family-run since 1962, feels like the movie theatre the megaplex forgot. It’s a three-screen operation, and thank goodness. Families, teenagers and nostalgic movie lovers (on a nice summer Saturday night, they might get more than 1,000 cars) pull into the scraggy, seven-hectare field for a double bill that begins at dusk. Kitschy trailers (remember the dancing hot dog?), little kids in PJs, lawn chairs set up in the back of Dad’s pickup, blankets and bug spray are a welcome change of scenery from elbow-to-elbow city cinemas. The diner-style concession stand serves the usual nachos, popcorn, licorice and pizza, but there’s also a county fair circa 1958 theme to the menu: Pogos, cotton candy, pickles-on-a-stick, funnel cakes, five-cent candy, malt shakes and floats. (Just about the only non-throwback is the movie selection: it mostly shows the big summer blockbusters.) Avoid long summer weekends (they’re packed) and go on a discount day: Tuesdays are only $5 a person admission (kids are $2). On Thursdays, a full carload is just $15.

Cheap Sunday-night music
The Dakota Tavern
249 Ossington Ave., 416-850-4579

Sunday nights, a loyal group of off-duty servers and west-end artists pay $5 cover and gather in this lower level saloon of barrel-shaped bar stools, steer skulls and barnboard. The draw? Resident blues rock band The Beauties. The five members (including Jud Ruhl, brother of the Dakota’s co-owner Maggie Ruhl) turn the place into a sweaty mess as everyone dances to covers (the Pixies’ “Gouge Away,” a mash-up of Ryan Adams’ “To Be Young” and Bob Dylan’s “Subterranean Homesick Blues”) and the band’s original songs. A new self-titled album released in June means they may be playing less regularly, but similarly talented fill-in bands guarantee entertainment long after last call.

Bar Plus
360 Yonge St., 416-340-7154

Spend one after-midnight session in a private room here, closing your eyes and braying Coldplay to the ceiling, and you’ll be elated at the relative un-karaokeyness of the place. No fungus grows on the microphones, and no one will need to ask, “What’s that stain on the couch?” The seating is leatherette, there’s ’80s-neon lighting, and the flat-screen selection includes every modern-day song imaginable, plus multi­national selections from Asia. Korean soju figures prominently on the bar menu. All this upstairs from a Swiss Chalet at Yonge and Gerrard. From $25 per hour for a five-person room.

Skate park
The Beach Skateboard Park
Lake Shore Blvd. E. and Coxwell Ave.

Nestled between Ashbridges Bay and the pumping station, this 6,500-square-metre skate plaza, completed last fall, mimics an urban streetscape—Commerce Court was a clear inspiration. Board babes (and babies—some appear to have come straight from kindergarten) share the concrete space, with the vets carefully winding around the newbies on their way to the floating manual dish, recliner, stair sets and handrails. Tricks aren’t off limits for the younger set: as one little daredevil put it, “I ate some candy, I drank some pop—I’m ready to go.” Free.

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