Sunday, August 18, 2019

SPIN Toronto

Playing ping pong in a basement bar is a lesson in how bad most people are at the game, balls are flying everywhere, they litter the ground like you have wandered into a ping pong driving range. Still it is fun to pick a new ball out of the table bin and let fly for one or two more volleys of returns before the ball veers off to parts unknown. It seems like everyone has played a few games when they were 13, then put away the paddles for briefcases.
An old bathtub full of SPING ping pong balls

SPIN is located in an alley off of 461 King Street West near Spadina Avenue, just down the alley about mid-block, with a flight of stairs down into the table tennis club. The 12,000 square foot club has a sign above the stairs - PING with the letter I spinning around until the sign says PONG, and 12 ping pong tables.

I finally had a chance to check out the games room just this past week. The menu is limited but they have plenty of booze and draft beer. Luckily you don't have to be an athlete like playing tennis might require, you just have to be able to swing your arms as you attempt to place the ball on the opponents side of the table, of course easier said than done.

Once you get the pros in your group to stop the slams, it can be quite fun to whack the lightweight, orange and branded balls across the room. Besides the cost for your food and drink, the charge is $9 per person, per hour. It's great as a team building event with workmates, a way to make your first date a little less awkward or if you are really competitive - a place to crush your opponents without having to throw axes around.

Saturday, August 17, 2019

Toronto Argonauts at the CNE

Double Blue took on the Double E during the opening of the 2019 Canadian National Exhibition on Friday, August 17. What makes the CNE even better - free entrance included with your ticket to the Canadian Football League's Toronto Argonaut game at BMO Field. Our public transit ride brought us right to Exhibition Place where we bypassed the ticket lines to go directly to the gates, showed our Argo tickets and then proceeded in an orderly fashion into the EX.

Some of the Argo Cheerleaders
Runners with flags sprint around the sidelines after an Argo touchdown. Plus they set off their canon

We spent a great day wandering the midway and buildings throughout the annual fair before we made our way into BMO Field for the 7:30pm game between the Edmonton Eskimos and the Argos. Typically the gates open around 6:00pm and they let you into the stands at 6:30pm. Heading into the arena with over 16,000 fans we wandered the halls checking out the beverages and food choices and there was a game day special for draft beer - five bucks a piece!
The teams are already on the field at that point doing exercises, yoga and calisthenics while the water girls/guys are making sure the athletes stay hydrated. First of all it seems like there are thousands of players and coaches and they tend to wander around the sidelines and onto the field all the time, which seems weird. Then they clear the field, only to return minutes later for the team introductions with colourful smoke blowing at the players entrance. There are too many to individually name so they just say here are the Toronto Argos, here are the Edmonton Eskimos and finally they start the pre-game ceremonies.

Ready for the snap
Edmonton making a field goal

Football can be pretty exciting and the crowd really gets into the action, especially when they ask us to make noise and we pound our legs on the metal stadium floors. Breaks in the game take place to allow for network commercials, then the teams once again line up head to head as yards become the goal of the team. Edmonton was in charge for most of the game and sadly the Argos lost to the Eskimoes 41-26. Still had fun and can highly recommend the entertainment combo.

After the game you didn't have to hurry home, you could still enjoy all the events and attractions during the the night time CNE.

Opening day CNE 2019

Toronto's annual mega fair returns to Exhibition Place from August 16 till September 2 with a lot of old and a little bit of new - but that's how traditions are made. I stopped going to the EX for a long time after the closing day riots (or just riots in general), but have returned for the last couple of years to see the grand old lady again. Some of my favourite traditions have disappeared this year, such as the water show in the harbour and ribfest in Bandshell Park, but it is still fun to wander the Canadian National Exhibition grounds looking for ice cream waffle sandwiches, enjoying adult beverages in the Muskoka zone/Beach Bar while watching buskers and hopping on the Sky Ride.
Midway rides
Hamsters were very popular prizes for 2019
Giant crowds surrounded the horizontal bar challenge. You have to hang by your hands for two minutes to win a gigantic prize. Nobody we saw could do it but it was exciting to watch them try.

Parking on the grass in adjacent municipal parkland was banned in 2013 so there is very little available parking in the area, so take public transit. The GO Transit Lakeshore Line stops include Exhibition Place, otherwise take TTC, uber, lyft, taxi, bike or walk.

Opening day ceremonies started at 10am and other special events included the return of the Indoor Lantern Festival, 50 Greatest Photographs of National Geographic, a Silent Disco and a Burton Cummings concert at the Bandshell. New events or exhibits for 2019 had the EX Race extreme sports competition in place of the old parkour exhibition and Raccoons Reimagined around the Princess Margaret fountain. CNE Woodstock Weekend August 17-18 concerts will pay tribute to the 50th anniversary of Woodstock "with musical tributes to the iconic artists who performed at the Festival including: Janis Joplin, Creedence Clearwater, Sly and the Family Stone, The Band, Crosby Stills Nash and Young (Neil Young), Paul Butterfield Blues Bands, Santana, The Grateful Dead and Jimi Hendrix. Joni Mitchell will also be featured since she wrote a song performed at Woodstock."
Gaming Garage
This year I actually found the CNE Gaming Garage powered by AMD which was a hit with the computer gaming/esports and arcade crowd. The garage was moved to opening day weekend timeslot. Games and tournament play featured Rainbow Six Siege, League of Legends and Community Overwatch, Pinball and Dungeon & Dragons. They also had a stage with keynote speakers, panel discussions and prizes.
National Geographic 50 Greatest Photographs

Shipping containers were placed in Bandshell Park for the Under $6 in the 6 with food specials that are much less expensive than the booze you can purchase in the shipping container bars. Opening day included some kinks as they had to wait for the food inspector to open and two places didn't open for some reason. Special foods around the CNE were frozen spaghetti ice cream and pickle lemonade splash and then your typical deep fried Mars bars, etc.
Legend of the Silk Road Indoor Lantern Festival

See more of the EX after the jump.

Friday, August 16, 2019

Fields of flowers

Late summer flower blooms are bringing people to working farms full of lavender and the ever popular sunflowers. We visited Butt's Berry and Flower Farm in the Guelph area to see their gorgeous dahlia flowers. They are cutting the flowers for sale but in the next couple of weeks there should be fields full of the many colorful varieties of dahlias they have.

Other great photo opportunities exist in the GTA at places like Terre Bleu Lavendar Farm and the Davis Family Farm where the sunflowers are very popular and these places are setup to welcome paying visitors.

Saturday, August 10, 2019

Cherry Street bridge stuck

I mean this bridge has had enough, the boss keeps wanting it to go up and down, endlessly and probably without a word of thanks. So the bridge built in 1968 is just off Lake Shore Boulevard and is stuck in the up position since August 2nd, 2019 due to mechanical/electrical failure. Unless you want to try to jump the harbour you will have to enter the area from the east.
The City of Toronto has provided an update to their plans to get the bridge working again by hiring a specialized bridge engineering firm. "The work is complex and will require multiple stages to complete, including securing the bridge to remove the malfunctioning components, large cranes to lower the bridge, and inspections. The work will be performed in a way that prioritizes safety for everyone involved, including the public and the workers." Estimates suggest that repairs could take approximately one month to complete and the bridge is supposed to be replaced within the next year and a half during the Port Lands Flood Protection Program. "The City of Toronto and Ports Toronto appreciate everyone's patience as we work through this situation as quickly and safely as possible. Detour signage will remain in place. Motorists, cyclists and pedestrians who want to access or return from the port lands while the bridge work is underway can use the Don Roadway, Carlaw Avenue or Leslie Street."

Taste of the Danforth 2019

Greektown celebrates another street festival and Danforth was packed between Broadview and Jones Avenue for Taste of the Danforth. Lineups and good food went hand in hand as families strolled along the street, weaving around vendor booths, a small midway and various stages and other attractions.

Taking place from Friday, August 9 to Sunday, August 10, 2019 the streets were closed to vehicles to allow the many thousands of people to enjoy the culture and food of Greece. The 26th anniversary of Canada's largest street festival has about 1.6 million people take in the fun over the weekend.

Love the corn on the cob

Midway amusement rides

Friday, August 09, 2019

Urbacon graffiti mural

The construction company's building off Lake Shore Boulevard East has a cool graffiti mural depicting all sorts of engineering and construction scenes.

Thursday, August 01, 2019

Simcoe Day 2019 activities and attractions in Toronto

August long weekend fun brought to you from the City of Toronto includes swimming, golf, tennis, farms, zoos and much more. Non-municipal events include the massive Carabana Festival with the Grande Parade on Saturday, August 3 at Exhibition Place, the Scarborough Ribfest and a Food Truck Festival.
Watch the Simcoe Day fireworks

Here is Toronto's media release about their Simcoe Day events.

The City of Toronto encourages residents and visitors to take advantage of City-run attractions and recreational opportunities on Simcoe Day – Monday, August 5. Named after Lieutenant-Governor John Graves Simcoe, who founded York/Toronto in 1793, Toronto's annual civic holiday is celebrated (though not as a statutory holiday) the first Monday of each August.

Swimming and wading: Municipal outdoor pools, swimming beaches, splash pads and wading pools across Toronto will be open on holiday Monday. Swimming beaches that are open are supervised between 11:30 a.m. and 6:30 p.m. Indoor pools and community centres will be closed on the August 5 civic holiday.

Golf: All five City-run golf courses will be open and will offer holiday rates. These affordable, high-quality, TTC-accessible golf courses are open daily during the summer.

Tennis: Many of Toronto's municipal tennis courts will offer public hours on August 5, varying by location. There is no fee to play during public hours. Tennis players are asked to share the courts by limiting their play time to half-hour intervals if others are waiting to use the courts.

Riverdale Farm: This farm in the city has a variety of domestic farm animals. The breeds represent animals that were commonly found on a turn-of-the-century Ontario farm. Riverdale Farm is open daily, including August 5, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and admission is free.

High Park Zoo: The zoo in High Park is home to animals such as bison, llamas, highland cattle and reindeer. The High Park Zoo, which has entertained people for more than a century, is open daily from 7 a.m. to dusk, with free admission.

Toronto Island Park: Residents and visitors can enjoy what Toronto Island Park has to offer during the holiday long weekend. Businesses will be open and ready for a busy long weekend. Ferry tickets can be purchased online to save time at the Jack Layton Ferry Terminal (at the foot of Bay Street). Centre Island Beach and Ward's Island Beach and the Eastern half of Gibraltar Point Beach are currently open, with lifeguards on duty from 11:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. daily.

Information about the park's amenities is available at As a result of high lake levels, there are no ferries to Hanlan’s Point, and the west side of Gibraltar's Point, Hanlan’s Point Beach, Olympic Island and Snake Island are closed.

Conservatories: A variety of flowers are in bloom at Allan Gardens Conservatory downtown and Centennial Park Conservatory in Etobicoke. Both conservatories are open, with free admission, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily.

Toronto's history museums

Simcoe Day at Fort York: Fort York National Historic Site (250 Fort York Blvd.) will feature tours, demonstrations and a re-enactment of Lt.-Governor John Graves Simcoe reviewing the troops on Simcoe Day. An exhibit presented by the Ontario Black History Society is featured in the visitor centre's lobby. Fort York's hours on Simcoe Day are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and admission is free that day. There will be a ticketed performance of Jason Wilson's Sumach Roots musical production Monday evening.

The City's other nine history museums will be closed on August 5 but will be open on Saturday, August 3 and Sunday, August 4.

Staycation Sundays: Each Sunday in August, visitors to seven of the Toronto History Museums feature Staycation Sunday. Visitors can picnic and play in the gardens, courtyards and outdoor spaces from noon to 5 p.m. The participating museums in the "Staycation Sundays" series are Colborne Lodge, Gibson House Museum, Mackenzie House, Scarborough Museum, Montgomery's Inn, Spadina Museum and Todmorden Mills. Entry to the grounds is free. There are admission fees for tours inside the museums.

Emancipation Day: Events this weekend at two of the Toronto museums, Montgomery's Inn and Mackenzie House, will mark annual Emancipation Day. The day is observed in many countries on various August dates to commemorate the emancipation of enslaved people of African descent. Montgomery's Inn presents the drama Finding Freedom - The Joshua Glover Story at 5 p.m. on August 3 and 4. Mackenzie House celebrates the stories of some of Toronto's earliest Black residents, with a tour of the downtown neighbourhood surrounding Mackenzie House starting at 10 a.m. on August 4. Participants will also learn about Mary Ann Shadd Cary, a journalist, publisher, teacher and lawyer who was an anti-slavery activist. Admission is free.

Other attractions and services

Toronto Zoo: The Toronto Zoo offers peak-season hours (9 a.m. to 7 p.m.) daily on the Simcoe Day long weekend, with the last admission at 6 p.m. Visitor highlights include the newly opened Kangaroo Walk-Thru, Penguin Awareness Weekend, Splash Island – the zoo’s vast splash pad, daily animal shows in the Waterside Theatre and Keeper Talks.

Transit service: The TTC's holiday service schedule will be in effect on Simcoe Day. It means TTC routes will operate on Sunday schedules but will start early, at 6 a.m.

Sunday, July 28, 2019

Medieval Times Dinner Theatre

The empire is run by a Queen who demands loyalty and requires death defying acts of combat, plus you get to eat with your fingers and you only have to cheer, you don't have to fight because they have knights for that. Enjoy 'epic battles of steel and steed' in Toronto's Exhibition Place at 10 Dufferin Street.
Everyone gets a paper crown
Exciting jousting
A dismounted knight battles one still on horseback

The tournaments and four-course feast lasts two-hours and includes displays of horsemanship by Spanish Horses along with jousting and sword fights. You can usually find discount codes online at Medieval Times website if you search long enough and if you go for one of the VIP packages you could get seated along the edge of the arena looking into the eyes of the knights and get banners to cheer on your team knight.

See more chivalry, fighting and pageantry after the jump.

Saturday, July 27, 2019

Fantastic Planet Art Exhibition #distilleryTO

For the paranoid, yes there is someone or something watching over you as you wander the historic Distillery District. I will have to check if people have gone missing from the bricky neighbourhood, do the giant ghostly figures snatch people from above and toss the bones in seldom used alleyways?

This exhibition is almost over - it started the 1st of June and continues to Wednesday, July 31, 2019 - weather permitting. Galaxy, Parer Studio and the district are bringing the art installation to visitors and the description says that the figures are illuminated aliens that are exploring our "Fantastic Planet with a message of Peace, Love and Creativity".

Doors Open

Scarborough Bluffs





Lake Ontario

Nathan Phillips Square