Photo Credit: Michael Kristensen on Unsplash
Staying entertained during this lockdown period
Evangeline Cowie, The Mike Contributor
Since the first COVID-19 related lockdown back in March, life has lacked normalcy. Schools, stores, and restaurants have been closing; social bubbles have radically reduced, and the feeling that this could last forever has become the new normal — one that has made everyone adapt to a new lifestyle.
Toronto has been particularly hard-hit by the increase in cases, which has sent the city into a second lockdown. The many new restrictions have, yet again, affected many people, including students.
Being a university student in the middle of a global pandemic is certainly challenging. Online schooling presents many obstacles while opportunities to relax and destress have become scarce. However, it is still important to make an effort to adjust to life in the pandemic and find ways to keep a handle on some forms of normalcy.
Despite the lockdown, Toronto remains alive and there are still a wide variety of activities that are available, easily accessible, and very affordable (if not free!). Furthermore, the lockdown could provide an opportunity to enrich your personal life without leaving the comfort of your home. Below I’ve included some things I have done to enrich my life during the lockdown, which you should definitely consider trying as well!
Places To Go
The following places are in or around downtown Toronto, and all of them are accessible and respectful of social distancing requirements.
St Lawrence Market
The Saint Lawrence Market has been a part of the culinary scene of Toronto since 1803. It is a wonderful place to explore different kinds of food and support local businesses. The ability to support local has become especially important during the pandemic as smaller businesses have been particularly affected. The Saint Lawrence Market remains open during COVID-19, despite the most recent lockdown, with restrictions and adjustments in place to assure the safety of the vendors and customers. The market is currently working take-out only, but there are still some wonderful vendors and restaurants to benefit from and try out! Furthermore, the building itself is quite beautiful and rich in history. The Saint Lawrence Market is located at 93 Front St E, Toronto, ON M5E 1C3. You can find out more about the restrictions here: http://www.stlawrencemarket.com/pages/covid19/. You can read more about the market and the vendors that remain open here: http://www.stlawrencemarket.com/pages/covid19_store_closures/
The distillery district is a wonderful area to explore. It has great little shops, cafes, and restaurants, many of which are open for take-out following the new lockdown. It is also a beautiful place to explore the new locations for wonderful pictures! Whether you want to grab a coffee or shop around, the Distillery District is a great place to unwind!
Learn more: https://www.thedistillerydistrict.com/
High Park is a wonderful part of Toronto and is especially beautiful in the winter. Located at a distance of just a short walk away from High Park station, this public park has many walking paths that are fun to explore! As the snow falls and days become shorter, it is harder to get outside and enjoy the cold weather. Simply going for walks is a wonderful way to relieve stress, encourage physical activity, and get some fresh air, which can be particularly difficult during these times.
Boardwalk, The Beaches
If you feel cooped up, the Beaches are also a great place to go and relax. Take a walk along the Boardwalk located in the center of the Beaches on Lake Ontario. There are some beautiful scenery to enjoy and perfect places for a picnic; make sure to pick up some good food from one of the many cafes or restaurants along Queen Street on your way down!
Things To Do
The following are things that you can do to alleviate stress and boredom within the comfort of your own home!
Start a journal/blog
Many students might feel overwhelmed these days having to deal with online school, the challenges of staying social while also staying safe, and finding ways not to go crazy at home all alone. Sometimes starting a journal can be a great outlet for stress! You can write about your day, how you’re feeling, or even start writing short stories — whatever makes you feel calmer. You can choose to write on paper or you can explore some great online journaling options!
Learn a new language
During the semester, it might be difficult to learn much else besides the large amount of school work everyone has, so December break can become a great opportunity to learn a new language. There is an abundance of apps to help you learn a new language, such as Duolingo. Not only the process of learning a language is a stimulating activity, but it can be very useful! Furthermore, learning something different can make sure you are staying productive while still getting a break from the normal learning environment.
Watch Ripley’s Aquarium live stream
If you feel like passing the time by looking at some interesting sea life, Ripley’s Aquarium offers access to a live-stream of their tanks where you can watch fish and other aquatic life in their ‘natural’ habitat. If you have never been to the aquarium, this live stream is a great chance to see what you’ve missed! If you’ve already been there, it is a great chance to re-discover the wonderful marine life the aquarium has to offer. You can access information on the live stream on their website.
Listen to some podcasts
Start listening to some podcasts and make it a part of your daily routine. From general knowledge to particular topics in social justice, podcasts are a great way to relax while still learning and feeling productive. While podcasts are educational, many of them are presented in an enjoyable and even relaxing way. Here is a list of podcasts on a variety of topics, all of which can be found online and are free to access.
- Stuff you should know: This podcast has many episodes on topics that are not necessarily widely known but that can contribute to your general knowledge about the world around you. This podcast is available on the iHeart Radio website. You can access the podcasts by following this link: https://www.iheart.com/podcast/105-stuff-you-should-know-26940277/
- The one you feed: This is a podcast pertaining to a wisdom that can serve you over the course of your life. This includes dealing with anxiety, changing behaviours, and bad habits, as well as promoting mindfulness. You can find the podcast on Spotify and online by following this link: https://www.oneyoufeed.net/all-episodes/
- POD Save the People: This podcast led by activist DeRay McKesson is a great resource if you are particularly interested in social justice and movements. The podcast focuses on the issues that are not in the news and will contribute to your understanding of social movements. It is available online on Crooked.com, on Spotify, and on Apple podcasts.
- Stop podcasting yourself: If you prefer comedy, this podcast is great for you. While there is no particular theme, the hosts Graham Clark and Dave Shumka entertain guests discussing a variety of funny topics for an overall enjoyable and stress-relieving listen. Plus, it is a Canadian podcast! Listen on Spotify or online at Maximumfun.org: https://maximumfun.org/podcasts/stop-podcasting-yourself/.
If you do not find any of these options particularly interesting, there are a wide variety of podcasts available online and on Spotify so you’re bound to find a few ones perfect for you. Being stuck in quarantine is a great opportunity to explore different kinds of podcasts and enrich your knowledge about the world around you. It can be hard to feel motivated but, at the same time, easy to feel that you are not doing enough. Listening to a podcast can be done simply sitting around while still accomplishing something for the day.
Hope For a Post-Lockdown World
While Toronto is currently in lockdown, it won’t last forever! Here are some things to look forward to doing once lockdown is over (which will hopefully be before the Winter Break)!
The Toronto Zoo previously offered walk-through and drive-through options to enjoy the many beautiful animals that live there. These options enable social distancing while allowing you to take in all that the zoo has to offer. Furthermore, there is a wonderful night exhibit TerreLumina. This walk-through of the zoo takes you to the year 2099 and back using lights, projected videos, and an original soundtrack to represent a life of harmony between humans and animals. Tickets are currently available and, if all goes well, TerreLumina will be open starting December 13th.
Learn more about visiting the Toronto Zoo: https://www.torontozoo.com/
Learn more about TerreLumina: https://www.torontozoo.com/terralumina
The ROM and AGO
The Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) and the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) are both wonderful ways to pass a quiet afternoon over the Christmas Break. Both of them have a wide variety of exhibits and are perfect for those who enjoy exposure to culture and history. These sightseeings are not only interesting but very accessible. Both places are within a walking distance from the St. George campus. Finally, both the ROM and the AGO offer excellent deals for students. The ROM is relatively inexpensive and even offers free admission on Wednesdays for post-secondary students with a valid school ID. The AGO is free for anyone under 25 with a valid ID.
Learn more about the AGO: https://ago.ca/
Learn more about the ROM: https://www.rom.on.ca/en
Sweaters and Snowflakes
This pop-up event is a great way to enjoy a patio during the winter. Though it is currently not open due to the new restrictions, they have plans to open on December 10th and to stay open throughout the Christmas holidays. Sweaters and Snowflakes is a beautifully decorated outdoor area with many things to do. Located on the south corner of Bathurst and Richmond, this holiday pop-up offers a heated dining experience with a wide selection of food. There is also a holiday shop where visitors can purchase small gifts and places to take cute holiday photos!
Learn more here: https://www.sweatersnsnowflakes.com/#/
While this is a difficult time for us all, do not forget that there are still many things for you to do and explore while staying safe. Toronto is filled with culture, and there are still opportunities to take advantage of everything that this city has to offer despite the restrictions.
This time is wrought with worry, anxieties about the future, and lack of motivation that can make students’ life very difficult. Try to contribute to local and small businesses. Make sure to make time for personal growth, cultural enrichment, and increase your social awareness. Wear a mask and stay safe!
Hopefully this list will help you in planning your activities over the next few weeks to break away from the feeling of being stuck at home with little to do. Try to explore what all of these opportunities have to offer with your family members or friends (within the constraints of the restrictions) and learn more about the wonderful city of Toronto.