The Bata Shoe Museum
by Patrick Stahl
If you're looking to soak up some history and have fun at the same time, you have to make a trip to the Bata Shoe Museum on the South-West corner of Bloor and St. George. I wouldn't hesitate to call it the hidden gem of Toronto's museum collections. The ROM and the AGO are incredible, but their collections are vast, and it can be overwhelming to try to see everything they have to offer. Bata is perfect because you can spend anywhere from one to three hours there and see everything. Their admission prices are lower than the average museum, and they even offer pay-what-you-can on Thursdays from 5:00 P.M. to 8:00 P.M.
You begin in the basement ,where the majority of the shoes are kept. If you only have a short amount of time to take in the museum, this is the must-see area. I would recommend starting directly to your left so as to keep the timeline clearer for yourself.
Shoes by Charles Hoffman
The display begins with the shoes of different ancient civilizations (Egypt, Greece, China, etc.) and then moves on to various religious themed shoes, from Buddhism to Catholicism. I would say the standouts of this section are the shoes of Ancient China, where female foot binding was the norm. Some of the women's shoes are as small as three inches as they strove to keep them from growing since birth.
Another display of note is the occupation section, where you are invited to guess for which employment each shoe was designed. Many of the answers are incredibly surprising, so you'll want to take your time here. You then move on to a collection of women's shoes divided by decade. It's fascinating to see the extreme changes footwear underwent every ten years. The basement exhibit finishes off with a collection of men's shoes, so there really is something for everyone! And if the kids get tired of the displays, there are shoe-related games to keep them entertained so you can take in all the exhibits you want.
The Bata Shoe Museum
Interior by joevare
You then make your way upstairs to see their temporary collections. Their current exhibits are "JUNO sole," "The Roaring Twenties," and "Native North American Footwear." If you're a music buff, you'll certainly appreciate the vast collection of signed shoes. The colour and bling of the 20s is invigorating, and the intricacy of North American footwear is unbelievable.
It's the perfect museum to attend with kids because it isn't too huge and there are lots of things to keep them entertained. But it's also fun to tour with friends because it brings up so many interesting discussion points. No matter who or what brings you to the Bata Shoe Museum, there is no doubt that you'll have a blast while you're there and leave having picked up some great conversation pieces!
327 Bloor Street, West Toronto, ON
Monday - Wednesday, Friday & Saturday: 10:00am – 5:00pm
Thursday: 10:00am – 8:00pm
Sunday: 12:00pm – 5:00pm
Adults - $14
Senior citizens (65+) - $12
Students (with ID) - $8
Children - $5 (children under 5 are free)