West Queen West and Ossington

Grunge meets chic along Queen Street west of Bathurst, dubbed "West Queen West" by locals. While it's still possible to find a run-down hardware store shouldering a high-end hipster bar, more of the latter are moving in these days. Almost completely devoid of the familiar chains that plague older sister Queen West, this area is instead filling with vegan spa resorts, trendy ethnic restaurants, and European kitchenware shops; much farther west a bustling art scene is blossoming.

The neighborhood's landmarks, the Drake Hotel and the Gladstone Hotel, enjoy much success for their creative, eclectic decor and their happening nightlife. Businesses like these, which revolutionized the once-shabby district and gave it its current über-cool image, helped pave the way for a second wave of émigrés. An eclectic smattering of restaurants and more than 300 art galleries vie for real estate with fair-trade coffee shops and boutiques featuring Canada's hottest new designers. Trinity Bellwoods Park punctuates the neighborhood at the center and provides a beautiful setting for a picnic or a bench break.

Farther west, after the overpass next to the Gladstone Hotel, is Parkdale, a once crime-infested and still fairly run-down neighborhood that's become home to North America's largest Tibetan community. Apartment buildings streaked with prayer flags and shops offering everything from beef momos (dumplings) to singing bowls have been a welcome improvement over the once derelict storefronts.

The previously shady strip along Ossington Street, north of Queen West, is Toronto's newest it spot. Fashion designers, artists and musicians, and creative restaurateurs have flooded the street, and the area now attracts attention for its sudden and celebrated gentrification.

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