Having lived in Montreal, Calgary, and Toronto, and crossed Canada (twice), it became clear to me years ago that this large nation comprises distinct geographical and cultural regions – primarily the north, the west, the prairies, Ontario, Quebec, the Maritimes, and Newfoundland. It is not always easy for a large country, with different regions and needs, to be united. Oddly, one of the unifiers is the belief among many Canadians that Torontonians think they are the centre and heartbeat of the country. Montrealers love to hate Toronto and other cities often feel as if they do not count – that they are left out of the Canadian picture. Period. No matter the perception and by whom, Toronto is a strong, energetic, and thriving metropolis.
The Greater Metropolitan area of Toronto is over 7,000-square-kilometres with close to 6 million residents at the time of this writing. One would think that with the congestion of cars, the sprawl of the city, the high cost of housing, transportation, food, etc., and the obvious gap between the “haves” and “have-nots” this city would feel oppressive and dispirited. But no. It is a pleasurable, even ebullient place where people seem, at least on the surface of things, to be happy in their home town. The city faces many infrastructural, political, economic, issues but I would much rather focus on what I love about Toronto. In no particular order here is what gets to me each time I visit:
- immigration and multiculturalism has led to acceptance of difference
- each neighbourhood is populated by a different immigrant group and named accordingly: Little Italy, Little Portugal, Little India, (multiple) Chinatown(s), Greek town, etc.
- there is are festivals in virtually every one of these neighbourhoods
- excellent international food thanks to the influx and settlement of immigrants from around the world
- there is a great tolerance (and perhaps even embracement) of gays and lesbians – who have the right to marry should they want to
- there is less crime in Toronto than in cities of comparable size
- Toronto is verdant
- people, young and old, still use bicycles for everyday transportation
- waterfront development is growing and is used by those who live there and those who visit this cosmopolis
- the arts scene is vital (and I cannot stress this enough) – whether it be the visual arts, theatre, music, literature, etc.
- independent bookstores have, for the most part, not gone under. One sees them everywhere
- downtown housing and commerce co-exist well
- the resto scene is excellent (from cheap rotis and diner food to expensive and chi-chi bistros)
- the public library system is excellent
- I still bump into people I have not seen in years or decades whenever I visit – despite the large size of the city
Here are some tips of things to do, eat, and see:
Neighbourhoods: If you cover a portion of these areas you will feel that you’ve had a great visit.
- Meander in and out of the streets from Bathurst to Parliament between Bloor (and slightly above) and King or Richmond and you’re safe to cover lots of ground, see tons of neighbourhoods and)
- Shops and visit galleries on Queen St. from University to Dundas West. Some of the best walking/shopping is west of Bathurst St.
- Chinatown and Kensington Market (which are side by side at one point) – near the AGO (See below)
- University of Toronto campus and the Annex, which is very walkable from Chinatown and the Kensington market
- The Beaches (east end of Queen Street and south to the boardwalk along Lake Ontario – just take the Queen St. streetcar east)
- Walk up Yonge St. to just north of Eglington St. (lots of shops that are more of interest, probably, than the main downtown drag between Bloor and Richmond)
- Danforth area (just walk east on Bloor, cross the bridge and you’ll be there)
- Harbourfront and the Toronto Islands
- Historical walks including the one of Mount Pleasant Cemetery
For other ideas you can also look at : http://www.torontotourism.com/Visitor/WhatToSeeAndDo/Neighbourhoods/ and http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2014/07/30/garden/toronto-design.html?ref=garden
Galleries: check out: https://www.nowtoronto.com/art/listings/
- Harbourfront and Power Plant
- AGO (Art Gallery of Ontario)
- ROM (Royal Art Museum)
- Bata Shoe Museum
- Gardiner Museum of Ceramic Art
- The Distillery (http://www.thedistillerydistrict.com/htmlsite/index.html)
- Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art
Take a look at: http://www.toronto.com/best/categories/
- Bellwoods Brewery
- The Black Hoof
- Hub Coffee House
- Local Kitchen
- Young Thailand
- Khai San Road
- S. Lefkowitz
- The Lakeview Restaurant
- The Atlantic
- DT Bistro
- Harvest Kitchen
- District Oven
- Fancy Franks
For more on Toronto take a look at: Toronto Life and Now Toronto
Great shots. I visited Toronto back 1981, didn’t hate it, but didnt like it neither. Since then much has happened, found an interesting article http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_neighbourhoods_in_Toronto and together with your post there are enough reasons to get back and review my impressions from the Eighties.
i lived in toronto from 1980 -1985. i felt the same way – i did not hate it nor did i love it. i enjoyed the city well enough but never felt that i really wanted to be there. however, for whatever reason(s), these last 10-15 years i have had a different feeling about the place. perhaps it has come into its own. or i simply appreciate it as an outsider.