Reflections by Paul Bica
If you are fortunate enough to live in the city of Toronto, then gather round, because this is a pretty darn great city to live in. Sure, it may not be known for inspiring romance like Paris or for housing the Queen like London, but it has some wonderful qualities that make Toronto unlike anywhere else. It isn’t just the capital of Ontario and the largest city in Canada — it’s a city filled with awesomeness!
1. We Attract a Lot of the BEST Art.
Whether you’re a fan of music, theatre, poetry, visual art or any other artistic medium — Toronto surely has something to offer you. Mirvish brings in the big-budget musicals and celebrity actors, while Tarragon, Passe Muraille and dozens of other smaller theatres debut new and exciting theatrical works. The ACC is constantly attracting big names from Celine Dion to Greenday and small bars and clubs all over the city act as ideal venues for emerging artists.
And when it comes to visual art, the options are seemingly endless. The Art Gallery of Ontario houses some of Canada’s and the rest of the world’s best work. And for those who are just starting up there are small galleries and coffee shops everywhere that are willing to display their productions. Authors and writers as well can thrive in this vibrant city. We even have a special event every fall called Nuit Blanche where all these wonderful art forms can come and be seen and experienced by the public free of charge. If you’re in need of artistic inspiration — Toronto is the place to be!
2. We Have a Group for Virtually Everything.
Although Toronto is undeniably a big city, it offers a huge variety of groups in order to ensure everyone has somewhere to turn to whether the challenges you’re dealing with are physical, emotional, cultural, sexual, psychological, financial and anything in between. 211 Toronto helps connect you to exactly what you’re looking for. If you aren’t experiencing anything serious, but want to get to know new people and feel part of a group, meetup.com has hundreds of Toronto groups that are holding events almost every day of the week. It may be a big city — but you don’t have to feel alone.
3. People Protest, Parade and Race Anywhere for Just About Anything.
Gridlock and detours aside, the amount of events that go on in Toronto is downright exciting. During the summer you can almost always count on there being half a dozen events going on every weekend. And sure, that sometimes means you get in your car only to turn on the radio and find out the DVP is closed or you hop on a bus and learn it’s turning back early for a parade — and then you grumble and curse at the delay. But when all is said and done, the fact this city lets so many diverse events take place is a truly beautiful thing. The Santa Clause Parade, the Scotiabank marathon, the Taste of the Danforth, the Gay Pride Parade, the Caribbean Carnival and the Ride for Heart are just some of the worthwhile events that cause the city to close down a few of its streets for everyone’s enjoyment. And a little bit of partying in the streets is just what any good city needs!
4. We Get all the Seasons… at Their Best.
Snow Flower by Helen M Overland
Now, it may be hard to see or appreciate this when you’re bundled up in a parka against the cold or sweating out your insides on a humid day but for the most part, this city provides us with some pretty decent weather. The lake keeps us from getting too overheated during the summer and also takes away the stagnant chill other cities experience. We don’t have the 40+ temperatures that the Southern United States are prone to and we also escape the negative 30s experienced by much of Northern Canada. If by chance you come upon a day where you are dying for either a warm heater or a cooling A/C, you have only to rely on the underground PATH system to get you virtually anywhere. We have the joy of experiencing each of the four seasons in their best and pleasantly distinct versions. A crisp but liveable Winter, a refreshing and not overly rainy Spring, a warm and sunny Summer and a spirited, cool Fall. Vancouver gets the rain, Ottawa gets the snow and we, my friends, get the happy medium.
5. The CN Tower Lights up the Skyline.
Okay, so it may no longer be the tallest freestanding structure in the world — a title it held until it was surpassed by the Burj Khalifa in Dubai in 2008-but that doesn’t mean we didn’t hold that honour for over 33 years. Our beautiful tower has only gotten more awesome over the years! The multi-coloured and ever-changing LED lights added to the tower’s surface allow it to literally light up our skyline every evening and the new EdgeWalk gives the city’s daredevils a totally unique, out of this world experience. So when all is said and done, this great tower of ours is only getting better!
6. We Have Countryside Right in the Heart of Downtown.
As with any major city, there are undeniably some areas of Toronto that have unsavoury odours. This can’t be helped. Where with other cities you may never find relief, Toronto makes up for its big city qualities by bringing elements of the countryside into its centre. If you’ve ever paid a visit to the cuddly creatures at Riverdale Farm, strolled through certain sections of the Don River Trail, done some thinking at Allan Gardens, or simply sat down for a rest in Harbourfront’s Music Garden, you know exactly what I’m talking about. In Toronto, you can have all the benefits of city life, while still having quick and easy access to the countryside experience.
7. Our Hospitals are Some of the Best in the World.
What is there in this world more worth celebrating than good health? Fortunately for us, we have some of the best hospitals in the world at our disposal. The Princess Margaret Hospital is Canada’s leader in cancer research, St. Michael’s Hospital is recognized for its investigation, prevention and treatment of heart disease and SickKids is frequently considered one of the top three hospitals in the world for children’s care. Cheers to good health!
8. Lots of Neat Stuff is Filmed Here.
Simply meandering through the streets of Toronto can easily have you stumbling upon a block full of white vans setting up a massive film or television set. With Toronto having all the qualities of a major American city and everything being slightly cheaper, many big-name films head North to do their filming here. American Psycho, Cruel Intentions, Chicago, Good Will Hunting and X-Men all spent time shooting within our city limits-and those are just the American productions! Canadian television shows such as Being Erica, Rookie Blue, Flashpoint and Murdoch Mysteries are all filmed primarily in Toronto. Being Erica even has episodes that show her working at Casa Loma or Black Creek Pioneer Village and Rookie Blue constantly has cops racing off to “a disturbance at Queen and Dufferin” or “a fight outside the Rogers Centre”. Pretty cool stuff! So the next time you see a lineup of film gear — play your cards right and you just might wind up in the background of a blockbuster movie!
9. We Have our Own Islands.
Toronto Islands by Ashish Gupta
Yes, folks, it’s true. Toronto is so awesome we couldn’t be contained in one plot of land — we had to stretch out over Lake Ontario and start our own “baby Torontos” — The Toronto Islands. They have beaches, baseball diamonds, volleyball courts, cafes, restaurants, an amusement park, gardens, pools — oh right, and an airport! It truly is a one of a kind getaway — and it’s all just a quick ferry ride away!
10. Torontonians Believe in Sports of Every Kind.
Whether you’re a lover of baseball, soccer, football, hockey, lacrosse, basketball or virtually any other sport, Toronto has a team you can cheer for. When you go to a game of any kind — you’re sure to come across plenty of diehard fans and if you want to get involved for yourself, The Toronto Sport and Social Club makes it very easy. We don’t always win, but boy do we love to play!
11. We Have Libraries Left, Right and Center.
Everyone in Canada has the right to read and write — and libraries help make that possible. The Toronto Public Library system makes fun and education through literature available to all Torontonians. Getting a card and taking out the books, magazines and films of your choosing is completely free. With close to a hundred locations to choose from, there’s bound to be one near you and because they’re all connected, virtually any book can be delivered to the location of your choosing. There’s nothing quite like a good library… or a hundred of them!
12. The Longest Street in the World Runs Right Through our Centre.
Now, truth be told, there is some debate on this one because up until 1998 The Guinness Book of World Records recognized Yonge Street at the longest street in the world. Then there were some changes in the road up North and the debate as to whether it was still the title holder began. The fact is, at 1,896 km, this is one superbly long street. What happens when it connects with other major streets such as Dundas and Bloor? Well, my friends, then we are treated to the epic “pedestrian scramble” where all pedestrians can run, walk, or roll their ways across the intersection simultaneously. This is an honour only enjoyed by the biggest and best cities — so enjoy!
13. There is No Food you Cannot Get.
Plenty of cities rave about their food. You will certainly find exquisite cheese in Paris and fresh pasta in Rome — but few of them can provide as much variety as is offered in Toronto. There are restaurants in Chinatown (Dundas and Spadina) that will have you feeling as though you’ve stumbled into a joint in Peking. In fact, head to Little Italy, Greektown, or any other cultural centre and you’ll be entranced by how authentic the dishes are. Even if you can’t make it to the source, you’re never far away from a Green Mango, Panda Express or another delicious cultural restaurant or take-out joint.
When you want to cook traditional cultural cuisine at home, it’s infinitely easier here in Toronto because of the culturally specific grocery stores scattered all over. Looking for Chinese herbs or rare seafood? Check out the Fu Yao Supermarket. Seeking out Latin or Caribbean flavors and spices? Pay a visit to Kensington Market. Often, with the wide variety of cultures the city seeks to appeal to, you won’t even have to travel that far. A trip down the ethnic foods section of your local grocery store will frequently lead you to just what you’re looking for.
And if you crave the healthy goodness of organic meat, produce, grains and dairy that are produced and distributed locally you will certainly be in seventh heaven when you pay a visit to any of the Farmer’s Markets located in the city. Although many of them are primarily open in the summer months, several such as the St. Lawrence Market and the Dufferin Grove Organic Farmers’ Market, are open year-round for your health and enjoyment.
14. The Distillery District is a Journey into the Past.
If you have ever opened a Canadian-based fashion magazine, there is a very good chance you have seen at least one photo shoot done in The Distillery Historic District. It’s no wonder, when the place is filled with cobblestone streets, old brick buildings, vintage windows and green wooden doors that make you feel as though you’ve left present day and entered old Toronto. Grab a coffee at Balzac’s, pick up some chocolate or gelato at SOMA and then catch a Soulpepper show at the Young Centre for the Performing Arts. You truly can feel as though you’ve spent a day in an entirely different world.
15. We’re Holding the 2015 Pan Am Games.
Naysayers may whine about how much it will cost or the fact it isn’t the same as hosting the Olympics. The fact is, this great city of ours is hosting a major athletic event and that’s something to celebrate! We’re going to see all kinds of new facilities go up and plenty of excited tourists roaming the streets. We get an opportunity to fill up the stands in our own hometown with red and white clothing and Canadian flags. We get to volunteer for opening ceremonies, closing ceremonies and everything in between. Best of all, we get to show off everything our city has to offer. So here’s to the 2015 Pan Am Games!
What do you think? Know of an amazing restaurant, brilliant tourist site or beautiful Toronto landscape? Please share! There’s nothing better than seeing a totally new side to the place in which you live. So let’s get out there and take advantage of everything this great city has to offer!