How to shop the One of a Kind Show

The One of a Kind Show's spring edition is a little more than a month away! This year the spring show celebrates its 40th anniversary. More than 450 vendors will be selling everything from fine art to fine décor to fine food. With that many vendors and so many handmade treasures to be discovered, it's essential to plan well to make the most of your visit.

When is it?

Wednesday, March 27 to Sunday, March 31, 2019

Show hours are:
Wednesday, March 27, 10 am - 9 pm
Thursday, March 28, 10 am - 11 pm (special late night shopping!)
Friday, March 29, 10 am - 9 pm
Saturday, March 30, 10 am - 9 pm
Sunday, March 31, 10 am - 6 pm

What to wear

Comfortable shoes and socks. With 450 vendors along 17 aisles, you will be doing a LOT of walking. In fact, you will likely walk more than two kilometres.

Layers. Early may in Toronto can still be cool, especially when there's wind, as there often is so close to Lake Ontario. A light jacket and/or fleece that can be removed and carried easily can make a big difference to your shopping day.

What to bring

Refillable water bottle. With up to 12,000 vendors and shoppers on any given day, it can get warm, so bring water to cool you down. A water truck with eight fountains can be found along the back wall at the far end of Row M. Washrooms are close by. Consider also the comfortable Hydration Lounge in the centre aisle, presented by SodaStream.

Credit cards and cash. Some vendors cannot process debit card transactions, and sometimes the WI-FI can fail, so be sure to have some cash on hand. Several ATMs are positioned around the show's perimeter.

Sturdy, re-usable bags. Help your vendors reduce costs and do something for the environment by bringing your own bags. Or do as some veteran shoppers do and bring a carry-on suitcase with wheels and extendable handle for easy pulling. Reusable bags are also available at the show box office.

Your tickets. Tickets can be purchased at the door, but to save yourself the potential hassle of waiting in line, why not purchase them through the OOAKs web site ahead of time, or at your local DeSerres store. If you buy them online, be sure to print them out or save them to your cellphone. Which brings us to the next point...

Your cell phone. It may seem obvious, but you definitely don't want to forget your phone. You'll need it to:

  • find your companions should you get separated, as well as for arranging pick-ups and drop-offs;
  • photograph the booth name and number of a vendor you want to return to later, or to take a pic of a neat product -- with permission, of course;
  • support the One of a Kind Show and vendors by posting and sharing your experience and finds to social media! Remember these important hashtags: #OOAK19 and @ooak_toronto!

How much time

Prepare to spend at least four hours. Some diehard fans spend the whole day or visit for several hours over two days to ensure they take in the whole show.

Plan ahead

Do your homework. In the days leading up to the show, be sure to visit the One of a Kind web site to learn the lineup of special events and seminars, as well as to buy your tickets in advance.

Special offers. The One of a Kind Show offers early-bird pricing, and special offers like the Great Day Out and the Late Night Out packages. These are usually time sensitive, so be sure to check the web site for more information.

Free tickets. Vendors sometimes offer tickets at a discount, or even raffle off free tickets. Don't miss the opportunity -- keep an eye on your favourite vendors' social media feeds for details.<.p>

Vendor research. The One of a Kind Show web site lists all vendors at the show, with brief bios, descriptions and pictures of their handmade works. Each year new vendors join the show: 100 for the Spring show! To find out who they are and what they'll be selling, check the "New to the Show" drop-down menu in the "Meet the Artisan" section.

Pre-shop. Visit the One of a Kind Online Shop to see items available for purchase. Note the vendors and products that interest you. Booth numbers should be available on the One of a Kind Show web site by early March. Check the "Show Guide & Map" section under "Plan Your Visit." Vendors will also be sharing booth and product info on their web sites and in their social media feeds in the weeks leading up to the show.

Also remember to check the One of a Kind Show Facebook page, Instagram and Twitter feeds for real-time info about the show and vendors. And don't forget to follow the hashtag #oak19 on both Instagram and Twitter.

Map out a route. If you have limited time at the show, this is the best approach to ensure that you don't miss your must-see artisans or products. Of course, serendipity is one of the show's great delights, so if you have the time, take it. Many visitors to the One of a Kind Show do a complete first pass, noting vendors of interest along the way, then retracing their route in earnest.

Bring a friend. It's always more fun with company. If you have divergent tastes, accommodate!

Your day(s) at the show

Show time! Rule No. 1: pace yourself. Know your time limit and your stamina. It can get crowded and noisy, and warm and tiring. There are plenty of benches and seating areas throughout, so don't be afraid to take frequent breaks.

Pick the right day and time for you. Some days and times can be very busy, others less so. If your schedule is flexible, try to avoid the crowds. Every year is different, but generally speaking weekday mornings between 10 and 12, afternoons between 1 and 4 and evenings between 7 and 9 tend to be less busy. The exception is Thursday, when the Late Night Out special event draws more shoppers.

Weekends are usually busier throughout the day for obvious reasons, but Saturday evening and Sunday morning tend to have lighter crowds.

Remember to eat. Try to plan your route so that you can enjoy some samples from the food vendors when you start to get a little hungry. If it's time for a proper meal, head to one of the cafes on the floor for a light lunch or dinner. If you're feeling more informal or adventurous, give one of the food trucks a try. While they may strike some as a bit expensive, the food and service are very good, and the variety -- from Greek to Chinese to Indian -- keeps it interesting.

Themed areas

The One of a Kind Show has some booths grouped together by theme. The show calls these Neighbourhoods:
  • Flavours. Handmade edible goodies, from terrines to condiments to cookies, this is the place for foodies.
  • Fashion district. As the name suggests, clothing and accessories from artisanal designers across the country.
  • Rising stars. Talented new creators making their debut at the show. The booths are smaller, but often wonderfully inventive.
  • Green. If you thought handmade goods are already more environmentally friendly, these makers take it to the next level!

Did we miss anything?

Let us know in the comments below!

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