Toronto is one of the world’s true “world cities.”
Museums, theatres, colleges, and all different hallmarks of culture line the city from end to end. It’s a diverse city, with a significant immigrant population, including one of the biggest Arab populations in Canada. Caught between Great Lakes cities like Detroit and the economic and media superpower that is New York City, it represents a beautiful blend of both regions’ attitudes and cultures.
And, of course, it’s a great place to shop.
That being said, while you’re sure to be spoiled by choice in Toronto, it’s still possible that you might want to cross the border and check out American shops on the other side, especially give the states of the Canadian dollar. Here, then, is a quick guide to some of the better options when it comes to cross border shopping near Toronto.
Cities have a way of coupling with one another—Los Angeles and San Francisco being perhaps one of the most popular and well-known examples. That being said, LA and the City by the Bay have completely different cultures, traditions, and “feels” to them. To mistake one for the other or—worse still—make the assumption one
Such is the case with Rochester and New York City itself in New York State.
Rochester has a smaller, less busy, more classical Northeastern feel to it, all while allowing for the kind of quirkiness that helps small businesses and boutiques thrive. There are great sites out there for promoting both the city and its booming commercial district
One of the things you always want to look for when it comes to cross border shopping is finding “something new” that makes the trip worthwhile. This is especially true when it comes to traveling for cross border shopping from a place as commercially and culturally-rich as Toronto. After all, it’s not as if shopping in Toronto is like shopping in the wildest parts of Wyoming, or the most frigid and remote parts of the Territories.
Rochester offers a blend of class and prestige that’s rarely seen outside the “world city” category. You’d expect to find classy and original boutiques in cities like London, Paris, Rome, New York and, yes, Toronto, but not so much a “little” city like Rochester. Even so, from the Waterloo Premium Outlet region to the business district, Rochester proves more than capable of holding a candle to its bigger and bigger-name rival in the Big Apple.
One place of note is “The Avenues,” a region in the city which specializes in everything from chic new cafes to premium galleries and other such outlets for fine artwork.
What’s more, on a practical level, Rochester, unlike some options on this list, isn’t so far away from Rochester as to make a trip from Toronto an “event.” Any trip into New York State from Ontario is going to mean some hours spent in transit, but owing to its smaller size and, therefore, its slightly-smaller profile, traffic to Rochester shouldn’t be too terrible.
Buffalo isn’t the luckiest city. It’s commonly overshadowed by Long Island, Rochester, and the five mighty boroughs of New York City herself. It’s a city that’s largely defined by its sports teams—and oh, what tragic histories they have. The Buffalo Bills are about as snake-bit as a franchise can get—no playoffs since 1999, and say the words “Wide Right” or “Music City Miracle” in Buffalo at your own risk—while the Buffalo Sabres’ are and have been the NHL’s worst team the past couple of seasons, with their last flash of glory likewise being marred by tragedy (and Brett Hull’s “No Goal” goal in triple overtime…also in 1999.)
That being said, Buffalo doesn’t just represent a closer alternate when it comes to quality cross border shopping for Toronto citizens, it represents a less expensive one as well. Shopping in Buffalo also means a nice mix of the cosmopolitan and quirky. Check out Elmwood Village for a good example of the former, as it offers a nice selection of trendy boutiques and fashion outlets. You wouldn’t traditionally think of Buffalo as a “fashion city” but, hey, as in Toronto, come fall or winter, it’s cold up there! As a result, you can find great deals on some fantastic coats and warm, thigh-hugging boots in the Fashion Outlets of Niagara Falls region. In addition to that, you’ll want to check out locales selling Buffalo specialties, such as East Aurora.
If small town shopping is your thing, you’ll definitely want to give West Seneca a try. West Seneca is another northern New York State town, one which is potentially easier or faster to reach than Rochester.
The big draw here used to be the West Seneca Mall. It was a nice, centralized shopping location which offered a mixture of northern New York specialties as well as the sort of cosmopolitanism which makes New York City so popular. That center is gone now, and in its place, there’s a more decentralized shopping scene in West Seneca. Whether you’re looking for something as upscale as a Barney’s or Nordstrom’s or local offerings unique to Seneca. Further reason for excitement? There’s a possibility that the new planned stadium for the Buffalo Bills could be built in the area, which would of courses mean more shops, more restaurants, more traffic, and more commercial income for the region.
We haven’t talked about restaurants too much as of yet, but the area offers everything from Asian cuisine and seafood to bars, pubs, and grills, all at highly-affordable prices, meaning you’ll be able to shop and get refreshments, all at a bargain, on a day trip to West Seneca.
This makes for a long day trip, to be sure, but taking the train cuts down the travel time, and will allow you to motor over to the Motor City in just a few hours. From there, you can enjoy the rest of the area.
The most obvious caveat regarding a day-trip from Toronto to Detroit, however, isn’t the length of the journey, but the end destination itself. If there’s a poster city for the post-Recession bust, it’s Detroit, and sadly, the city is still reeling from the effects of the 2008 economic calamity. That being said, the large Arab population in Detroit could be a welcome sight if you are an Arab immigrant living in Toronto and looking for some cross border shopping with familiar cultural scenery. At the same time, the city’s restaurant scene near the soon-to-close Joe Louis Arena area is a good one…and gives the perfect opportunity after a long day of shopping to catch a classic Original Six clash as the Red Wings and Maple Leafs.
No matter what and where you choose, rest assured—cross border shopping near Toronto has never been a hotter option…even given the frosty winter temperatures.