Tuesday, September 03, 2013

Some of the best things about #Toronto

Known for being one of the most multicultural cities in the world where half of the population was born outside of Canada, Toronto is rich in diversity, enjoying the beauty of other backgrounds. The annual Caribbean Carnival brings the culture and rhythms of the sun soaked islands to prominence during the three week celebration. Beautiful costumes are overshadowed by the beauty of the dancers as pictured above. Over 200 distinct neighbourhoods can be found within the metropolitan boundaries, with over 140 of them being officially recognized by the municipality. Some of the communities were started by immigrants that gathered together in small areas - places like Greektown, Little Italy, Koreatown and Chinatown and local events bring in visitors who can experience a part of the culture of the founding peoples. Other neighbourhoods became known as a destinations like the St Lawrence Market, the Entertainment, Financial and Fashion Districts and Kensington Market.
A dragon head waits for a dance in Chinatown

Recently the Toronto grew larger than Chicago to become the fourth largest city in North America. Its building boom brought comparisons to the growth in Dubai and construction cranes dot the skyline putting up residential condominiums, office towers and other commercial structures. 
Toronto's skyline looking west

The downtown core has seen skyrocketing levels of residents with a population that has tripled in five years. But the city is not made up of only concrete, steel and glass. It also has quite a few parks that provide peaceful areas for relaxation and play to families and visitors. One of the larger recreation areas is High Park with its Grenadier Pond, mini-zoo and forest trails. In 1959 Tokyo, Japan donated a number of Cherry Trees to the park, now dozens of the fruit trees bring thousands of people to the nature area during the spring fruit blossom season. Other major parks include Trinity Bellwoods, Scarborough Bluffs, the Toronto Music Garden, Riverdale Farm, the lakefront parks such as Sunnyside and Ashbridges Bay, and of course the Toronto Islands where you need to take a ferry to visit.
Walking some dogs in High Park
Toronto Island boardwalk entrance to a sandy beach. The Island paradise also includes a clothing optional beach on Hanlan's Point
The City of Toronto requires some types of development to spend a portion of the construction budget on public art. Some of the installations are placed in park settings and are just kind of wild. The fishing bobbers pictured above are near the Gardiner Expressway and beside the Big Red Canoe. Several funky sculptures are located in the Distillery District or just placed beside the building that paid for it - like the big elastic band, the round immigrant family and the toy soldiers.
The city is the capital of the Province of Ontario which treasures the past with a mix of old and new. Toronto was also originally known as York started by the British in the late 18th Century. Violence was part of the history of the small town when it was ransacked during the War of 1812. You can see the defensive walls, canons, demonstrations of musket fire and how the settlement lived at Historic Fort York. Over in the east side of town is the Distillery District, full of paving stones and a history of alcohol since 1837 when the Gooderham and Worts Distillery opened. It now represents the largest collection of Victorian Industrial Architecture in North America.
Closing major roads and having pedestrian friendly neighbourhood parties is a big tradition in Toronto. Buskerfest which features street performers recently moved from the St Lawrence Market area onto Yonge Street across from the Eaton Centre while the ever popular doggy extravaganza Woofstock remains down in the Market. Some of the other popular street festivals include Taste of the Danforth, the Celebrate Bloor Street Festival and the giant Pride Festival and parades. Many of our festivals take place off the streets in movie theatres, parks or in tents: Toronto International Film Festival (tiff), Chin International Picnic, the Toronto Jazz Festival, the Canadian National Exhibition (CNE) and Fashion Week. Cultural festivals like Luminato and Nuit Blanche - the all night art event, take place at venues all over the city and bring many into the city for music, dance, literature and contemporary art.

Speaking of street performers, our city has quite a group of regulars that can be found around some of the tourist hot spots - like the Eaton Centre, Yonge-Dundas Square and Harbourfront. Toronto Batman is one of my faves, pictured above, along with character actor Kate Mior, Spock Vegas and Silver Elvis.
Toronto gets excited about dressing up in costumes during several anime cons and comic cons held throughout the year. Anime North has thousands of attendees dressing up in amazing outfits representing comic, gaming and anime characters.
Besides parks, clubs, restaurants, movies and festivals there always seems to be a conference or show on at one of the many conference centres - Metro Toronto Convention Centre, Toronto Congress Centre, Toronto International Centre and the many facilities in Exhibition Place. Car and motorcycle shows along with fitnesshealth and lifestyle shows are some of the most popular events.
Cars and girls, girls and motorcycles
Competitors to the Toronto Pro Supershow
Exhibition Place and Lake Shore Boulevard go from a normal road to a race course in about a month, just in time for the Honda Indy Toronto held in early July every year. We have several other professional sports franchises in town that are always looking for a win - from the almost champions Toronto Maple Leafs, the trying hard Toronto Blue Jays, Toronto Argonauts, Toronto FC, Toronto Raptors, Toronto Rock and the Toronto Marlies. If sand is your thing there is beach volleyball, if not there is always Toronto Roller Derby. If you don't like clothes you can ride nude during the annual World Naked Bike Ride in the month of June.

I almost forgot Toronto Bike Polo
You can find history and art at several museums: Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO), that's a macaroni staircase jutting out of the ROM building, above), Royal Ontario Museum (ROM), Bata Shoe Museum, Gardiner Museum is really cool, Hockey Hall of Fame, Casa Loma and the Ontario Science Centre.
Mayor Rob Ford keeps politics from being boring
Sadly we don't have any natural waterfalls that I am aware of, but you can find plenty of lovely fountains with bubbling water to relax by. The round fountain in Berczy Park by the Flat Iron Building is tops for me.
Street art which include many of Gregory Alan Elliott's yellow hearts and poems, and graffiti can be found in most alleys around Toronto. Sometimes the murals are commissioned pieces but most often the work is done without permission and has to be removed. Then there are the crappy tags and marks that just deface a property. We had the famous British artist Banksy drop by one year and paint several works which have been either destroyed or removed - except for one placed under Plexiglas.
Che Guevara looks out at the world on this busy black and white mural
Concerts can happen on patios or at concert stages, smaller clubs and the major locations at Air Canada Centre, Rogers Centre, Canadian Ampitheatre, Massey Hall. Festivals bring back some of the older bands like Platinum Blonde to rock the crowds. It is easier to go to a club or patio because it is so hard to buy tickets to a concert today. Within seconds of tickets going on sale seats are sold out and you have to buy them for hundreds of dollars on the secondary market.
Companies love to give out free product to future customers - it gets the word out to thousands of people in a short amount of time. The best samples involve alcohol but you can get just about anything - from pork ribs to ice cream and NOS Energy Drinks. Top places for samples are around Yonge and Dundas and near Union Station at Bay and Front Streets.

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1 comment:

Unknown said...

Awesome post!
Great coverage of Toronto

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