Your Green Label Dos and Don’ts Guide to NBA All-Star Weekend in Toronto
Toronto is hosting the NBA All-Star weekend for the first time, and it’s also the first time the festivities will take place outside of the United States. As a five-time All-Star attendee (Los Angeles, Orlando, Houston, New Orleans, New York) and a native Torontonian, I think I can speak with some authority on how to survive the weekend. Here are a few dos and don’ts of thriving in Toronto for All-Star.
DO bring an external battery and a charging case.
The parties and events will be hot, unlike the temperature, which will cause your smartphone to drop in battery life much more quickly than usual. It’s important to bring your charger with you, but bring an external battery (case or a brick—preferably both) to be safe. You won’t always be able to get to an outlet and your phone will most likely die at the worst time.
DO wear layers.
Unless Mother Nature delivers us from the evil grip of winter, you can expect it to be brick-cold in Toronto. It’s February and the downtown core gets exceptionally windy (King Street and Front Street are the worst). Make sure you layer up and bring boots because even if we don’t have snow in the forecast, there will still likely be snow and ice on the ground. Bringing suede shoes will be risky, as they’ll likely get ruined in the snow, while leather jackets will certainly not keep you warm enough.
DON’T come without a roaming plan.
All-Star is all about the experience, and part of it, quite frankly, is showing everyone on social media what a good time you’re having. Your phone will roam here, but if you’re the kind that is #nevernotSnapchatting, relying on Wi-Fi is helpful, but limited. You’re going to want a data plan.
One option is to add a pack to your existing plan. I add an unlimited North American data-and-texting to my T-Mobile plan for only $10 when I am in Canada. Or you can buy a certain-size plan and reset your phone’s settings once you arrive to keep track of your usage. If you have an unlocked phone, you can get a pre-paid SIM card from a carrier like WIND so you know exactly how much you’ll be spending to give everyone else FoMO.
DO stay in the downtown core or on the subway line.
The major areas you’ll be frequenting for All-Star Weekend are Yonge Street, from Dundas Square South to Lake Ontario; the Eaton Centre; the Air Canada Centre; Exhibition Place; and Ricoh Coliseum. All of those attractions, with the exception of Exhibition Centre, are quick walks outside or in the PATH system (our underground mall), or 10-minute rides on the subway.
Exhibition and Ricoh can be accessed using Uber or streetcars. Most parties will be on Queen Street West, King Street West or in our Club District, which is just north of the Rogers Centre (we still call it SkyDome).
Toronto is a grid, making it pretty easy to get around if you stay downtown, and the CN Tower is handy for getting your bearings. Ask your hotel or Airbnb for an exact address so you can find it on Google Maps and plan out the closest public transit.
DO save a map of downtown Toronto that includes subway lines on your phone.
Toronto has three main methods of public transit: subway, bus, and streetcar. All are run by the TTC, the Toronto version of the MTA. The subway is open until about 1:30-1:45 a.m. (although they may extend to later hours for All-Star). You’ll want to stay somewhere on the yellow line (Yonge-University-Spadina) or on the green line (Bloor-Danforth). Streetcars are not dependable when it comes to running on schedule and can get stuck when there is a lot of snow and ice. However, some lines, like the 501 Queen streetcar, run 24 hours a day. Buses are a little more reliable than streetcars. Load up on tokens (one token = one ride), as it’s cheaper to buy in bulk. And yes, we do have Uber here, too.
DON’T just bring American money.
The Canadian dollar is on a downward slide, making American dollars stretch a lot further against our home currency. You can exchange it here, but keep in mind you often get ripped off by currency exchanges at airports. Bringing a mix of both will help you out, as most items in Canada are similarly priced—but in Ontario, we have a 13% tax on almost everything. Many stores, cab drivers and bars will take American, but they won’t necessarily honor the exchange rate, so you’ll probably lose money.
DON’T try to get into every party you RSVP’d to on the same night.
All-Star has a plethora of events: brand experiences put on by brands like Nike and adidas, Kevin Hart’s usual parties, clubland rangers, dinner events, and brunches. If you want to party-hop, stick to one area. There is often so much going on and plenty of egos, so constantly changing venues can lead to waiting in lines and a very chilly evening (in temperature and spirit). Pick an area of the city, pace yourself and stay there, if possible, to avoid the disappointment. You can often find an early event and a night party in the same block, making planning a whole lot easier.
Image: Charlie Lindsay