Where to hang
Massive redevelopment has only shrunk the U's vacuous open spaces. But if there's one constant bright spot at York, it's York Commons, outside Vari Hall, a hub of student activity. York's rep as a hotbed of leftie passion is daily on display here abuzz with citzen-led campaigns -- a heartening reminder that the ivory tower should be about more than grades and grads.
York - aka the bus loop at the end of the TTC's 196, 106, 60, 36, 35, 41 and 107 routes. Add VIVA's 3, 10 and 20 and you have your Lotto 6/49 numbers for the next couple of draws.
Welcome to the GTA's largest transit hub not yet serviced by a subway; you're probably going to stay a while. York is actually the most sprawled-out single campus of any post-secondary institution in Canada. And because it's so remote, you can forget about exploring much off campus without an internal combustion engine. There's a commercial fuel depot nearby (har, har), although, of course, we suggest pedal power.
On the bright side, there's the wicked echo chamber known as Vari Hall. Go stomp out your frustrations. York has an admirable history of activism. The student federation and other groups have made a name for themselves campaigning, for example, against Pepsi's monopoly (albeit unsuccessfully) and the muzzling/expulsion of outspoken students by the admin. Given the recent vicious attacks on women sleeping in their dorms, the current compelling preoccupation is safety and security. Look for a major campus Take Back The Night trek soon.
York is also hearteningly multi-ethnic, perhaps because of its proximity to the tossed-salad mosaic of the GTA. Student life isn't always harmonious if you consider the constant political tug-o'-war between Palestinian supporters and pro-Israeli government forces. But it helps make the U more exciting than the food court.
If you aren't planning to run off to "nearby" big box stores, try the on-campus shopping options at York Lanes, where all your needs can presumably be satisfied. Beware: if you're imagining a fusion of Yorkville and Hazelton Lanes, you will be disappointed.
For food, there's a Great Canadian Bagel. (Remember those?) How about Blueberry Hill? Yes, there's still one in Toronto, and it's at York. Things go downhill from there. In the adjacent Student Centre food court, you've got every burger chain you can count off on your greasy digits. The bars are okay if you like the Firkin-style approach.
York's pretty good for sports. Of course, there's the big tennis stadium, but the bonus of having a fairly new campus with plenty of space is that you can put down a bunch of multi-use fields, courts and gyms. It's York - where every game feels like an away game.