I’ve always loved my hometown of Toronto, but it wasn’t until I was in my early 20s did I begin to fully explore the city. There is so much to discover, and all the great independent shops that line the streets of the city. There’s a little something for all interests, whether you’re looking for food, clothing, books and so much more.
Being a gigantic geek, one of my first priorities while exploring the city was to find the best nerd sanctuaries. Video game boutiques, comic book shops and traditional PnP/board game stores were all within my purview. Through my years of exploring I have found a wide variety locations; ranging from well known locales to hole-in-the-wall, diamonds in the rough.
For the benefit of all my fellow Canadian dweebs out there, I have compiled my list of the top hot-spots in Toronto. I will be releasing them in small batches over the next few weeks as part of the Nerd Tour of Toronto series. I’ll start things off today with four great places found in The Annex region of the city.
There are actually quite a few BMVs located across Toronto, but the one found on Bloor Street is a three-floor colossus that puts the rest to shame. Filled to the brim with used or “less than new releases”, nearly anyone can find something they like in this sprawling book depository.
But what is the nerd appeal? If you’re brave enough to hike up the shop’s two flights of stairs, you’ll be rewarded with a third floor devoted entirely to comics, sci-fi/fantasy novels, gaming books and so much more. Anytime I’m in the neighbourhood I stop in to pick up some discounted trade paperbacks, or just to browse around some of the fantasy oddities they have lying around.
Directly across the street from the BMV is a smaller, more unusual bookstore. The Labyrinth has a much different vibe than the behemoth across the street, and caters more towards the manga-loving, artistic crowd. On top of books, you can also purchase t-shirts, toys, posters and a few other neat knick-knacks.
I’ll usually pop in to the Labyrinth every couple of months to see what kind of deals they have on artbooks and hard-to-find trade paperbacks. Their inventory is notably hit-or-miss, but the staff members are friendly and are more than willing to chat about their wares.
Probably the most prominent used game vendors in the city, A&C Games has a rather small location that is absolutely chock full of vintage gaming goodness. I can’t think of a single gaming system that they don’t sell titles for, including foreign products (PAL, Japanese) and less popular systems (WonderSwan, Atari Lynx). The selection of games is so expansive that it borders on overwhelming – and although the prices are a little steep – it’s extremely enjoyable to sort through walls of old cartridges, looking for titles you’ve haven’t played in years.
On top of being a vendor the owners also operate A&C World, a community gaming zone. Players can pay a flate rate of $5 to gain access to a wide variety of consoles and games during open hours. Tournaments are held regularly, featuring titles such as Street Fighter, King of Fighters, Smash Brothers and so many more. Truly a unique gaming experience in Toronto!
There are plenty of comic shops in Toronto, but The Beguiling is almost universally considered among the best in the city. Although featuring many mainstream comics, its widespread acclaim is a result of the store’s huge collection of alternative, avant-garde and underground titles. You can find anything from local oddities to webcomic compilations within its walls, including artist-signed copies at no additional cost!
The Beguiling is also a hotspot for book launches and other similiar fare, having featured meetups with famous folks such as Harlan Ellison, Neil Gaiman and many more. Their event listing can be found on the store’s website, so give it a look and see if any of your favourite artists are coming to town.