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A Place in the Sun: What to See and Do at Harbourfront

Harbourfront and summertime, like warm sun and sparkling water, represent a near perfect combination. A lively roster of cultural celebrations, arts festivals, live performances and a stunning lakeside view make the area a popular weekend destination during the warmer months. Harbourfront Centre is the undisputed engine of activity here. During the day, it’s abuzz with free events and festivals. By night, it becomes a hot venue for some of the world’s most innovative musical acts. Weekends see the spot flooded with visitors and locals alike. While Harbourfront isn’t packed with dining possibilities, the options prove more than sufficient—the view alone is worth the price of an entrée. Grab your sunglasses and sunscreen and come see what all the excitement is about in this changing district!

EXPLORE

CONTEMPORARY ART The Power Plant Contemporary Art Gallery is one of the city’s most revered spaces for the display of innovative art. In July, catch Auto Emotion: Autobiography, Emotion and Self-Fashioning. The highly personal exhibit sees 14 artists mine their own lives for art’s sake.

NATIVE TALENT The Museum of Inuit Art boasts Canada’s largest display of Inuit art. Peruse a range of fascinating works, from historical and contemporary stone carvings, prints and wall hangings, 1,000-year-old Thule figures to modern masterworks, including Joe Talirunili’s Woman with Pail.

WATERFRONT GARDEN The Toronto Music Garden is a little-known waterfront oasis. Inspired by J.S. Bach’s Suites for Unaccompanied Cello, renowned cellist Yo-Yo Ma worked with landscape designer Julie Moir Messervy to create the public park’s evocative design. Each movement of the Suite is given form in its own unique section of the garden. Guided tours of the garden are offered Wednesdays at 11 a.m., or grab an audio guide from the Marina Quay office (539 Queens Quay W.) and take a self-guided tour any day of the week for $5. All summer, the garden is brought to life with live music. Shows take place every Thursday at 7 p.m. and Sunday at 4 p.m. See page 57 for lineup. Admission is free. Call 416-973-4000 to confirm.

EAT

ON THE WATER Satisfy your craving for seafood at Pier 4 Storehouse, which is open for dinner daily.

GREAT VIEW Overlooking the water, the Westin Harbour Castle’s Toulà Ristorante and Bar is an elegant spot for fine Italian cuisine.

DIM SUM Many locals make the trek from downtown to sample the dim sum menu at Pearl Harbourfront.

CASUAL ITALIAN Il Fornello in Queen’s Quay Terminal serves up yummy Italian mains like wood-oven pizzas and pastas.

SNACK FOOD Looking for a quick bite? Hit Harbourfront Centre’s Lakeside Terrace (235 Queens Quay W.).

CHEAP & CHEERFUL Journey over to the World Café (235 Queens Quay W.), an outdoor market-style tent open on weekends offering a variety of international cuisine for an inexpensive ethnic alternative. SHOP

TREAT YOURSELF Grab a souvenir at Queen’s Quay Terminal. The industrial space was converted for commercial use in the 1980s and now houses more than 30 shops and restaurants, including Tilley Endurables, known for iconic summer hats, and Canadian designer Tanya Lam.

LOCAL DISCOVERY Discover the craftwork of some of the nation’s best contemporary artisans at Bounty Contemporary Canadian Craft Shop.

OPEN MARKET Find everything from Indonesian textiles and Native crafts to jewellery from Thailand and South America at the open-air International Marketplace (235 Queens Quay W.); open Saturday and Sunday.

LISTEN

TOUMANI DIABATE’S SYMMETRIC ORCHESTRA July 5 He’s known as “the prince of kora”—a harp-like traditional African instrument. Mali’s musical royalty kicks off his North American tour in Toronto. Harbourfront Centre Concert Stage, 235 Queens Quay W., 8 p.m., $25 to $30; call 416-977-4000 to buy.

BEATS, BREAKS & CULTURE July 6 to 9 Electronic music in all its genre-bending forms is feted with concerts from Shout Out Out Out Out, among others. Work your old school moves: the weekend also features the nation’s largest break-dancing competition Pop, Lock & Load IV, and a screening of the documentary Rock the Bells.

WORLD RHYTHMS July 13 to 15 Take a musical journey around the world and impress your friends with your knowledge of the mbira, the berimbau and the cavaquinho. Mash-up kings Sa-Ra Creative Partners perform and Motown’s guitar virtuoso Dennis Coffey makes his Toronto debut at the festival. Food, dance and visual arts from around the world are also on offer.

EMILY HAINES July 25 Metric’s lead singer takes the stage to promote her solo debut. Juno nominee Patrick Watson opens the show. Harbourfront Centre Concert Stage, 8 p.m., $25 to $30; call 416-977-4000 to buy tickets.

GLOBAL HIP HOP: THE FOUR ELEMENTS July 27 to 29 Hip hop gets the academic treatment with workshops and discussions that delve into its cultural impact. The music isn’t overlooked, however. Look forward to live performances from Montreal’s Nomadic Massive and Cuban poetess and rapper Telmary as well as Toronto’s first ever FreeStyle urban dance and DJ competition. A screening of Wild Style 25 (in tribute to the 25th anniversary of the classic hip hop film’s release) is followed by a concert featuring Busy Bee and Grand Wizard Theodore.TOUR

ISLANDS IDYLL Toronto Harbour Tours offers an hour-long, fully narrated tour that covers all the scenic bases and still makes time for exploring the Toronto Islands. Don’t worry if you miss the boat. Daily departures are every 30 minutes between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m., $23.95.

DINE & DANCE Want to add a little dinner and dancing into the mix? In addition to its one-hour tour of the Islands and Harbourfront, Mariposa Cruise Line offers a three-hour evening cruise. Harbour tours depart daily starting at 11 a.m., $19.95 to $46.95. Last tour departs at 4 p.m. Call for evening cruise dates and prices.

AHOY, MATEY! Conjure your inner pirate on the Kajama, a three-masted tall ship that makes daily tours of the Harbour and the Islands. The Kajama departs daily at 11:30 a.m., 1:30 and 3:30 p.m., $19.95.

TIP! See local craftspeople at work. The Craft Studio (York Quay Centre, 235 Queens Quay W.) is a fully functioning workspace staffed by local artists that is open to the public from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily.

WEB EXCLUSIVE! Get the inside scoop on the city’s summer fun. Check out 10 Summer Festivals.

—Flannery Dean

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