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Inside & Outside

FEED YOUR HEAD
Trampoline Hall is a forum for the tangential chatter that comprises most human exchange, but which rarely makes it to the stage on the conventional literary lecture circuit. Lecturers (all amateurs, by request of the organizers) offer Tarantino-esque riffs on a myriad of subjects from wrestling in the 20th century to carrier pigeons. The creation of up and coming Canadian writer Sheila Heti (The Middle Stories) and charismatic ringmaster/host Misha Glouberman, Trampoline Hall stages shows (always on a Monday) at scrappy College Street landmark Sneaky Dee’s (431 College St.). Shows begin at 8 p.m. Tickets are $6. See the web site, www.trampolinehall.net for upcoming dates.

BRING DOWN THE HOUSE
The sentimental favourite of West Queen West’s jaded scenesters, The Gladstone Hotel (1214 Queen St. W.) is not only Toronto’s oldest continuously operating hotel; it’s also been called the best karaoke bar in the city. Lose yourself on the well-trod stage of the Melody Bar or enjoy the show from the comfort of your seat (coward!). One note: the management does not look favorably on renditions of UB40’s Red, Red Wine. Karaoke runs Thursday to Saturday from 9 p.m. to 2 a.m.

GET ROCKED
Music critic Carl Wilson’s live music series Tin Tin Tin is an experiment in genre dissolution and spontaneous creation where musical hybrids like “a capella techno” and “electro-improv pop” emerge, if only for an evening. Staged in the underground club of The Drake Hotel (1150 Queen St. W.) the last Wednesday of every month, Tin Tin Tin sees an ever-changing roster of musicians merge in the creation of a one-of-a-kind event. Admission is PWYC; show starts at 9 p.m. Visit www.thedrakehotel.ca or Wilson’s own site at www.zoilus.com.

GET NAUGHTY AND BE NICE
What do you get the person who has everything? On December 13 at 7:30 p.m. Come As You Are (701 Queen St. W.), the city’s most inviting erotica shop, answers that Christmas quandary with their how-to seminar Sex Toys From Santa: a Guide to Buying Sex Toys Over the Holidays. Sympathetic to lovers of all kinds, NHL fans receive a 15 per cent discount on online orders originating from Canadian cities with a NHL team that would have been playing if it weren’t for the lockout. See www.comeasyouare.com for details.

WATCH AND LISTEN…FOR FREE
Mingle with the culturally minded locals at one of the Royal Ontario Museum‘s (100 Queen’s Pk.) jam-packed Friday nights in December. Combining live music and classic movies, the evenings make for an economical night on the town; admission to the permanent galleries is free Fridays between 4:30 and 9:30 p.m. and tickets to special exhibits are offered at a 40 per cent discount. December sees performances by the Royal Conservatory of Music and jazz singer Dione Taylor, while film classics A Christmas Carol and It’s A Wonderful Life are screened. The fourth-floor lounge Glass buzzes late into the night. For details, call 416-586-8000.DRINK, DRINK AND BE MERRY
A few suggestions for places to toast the season: The view is unparalleled and the martinis are divine at Park Hyatt’s posh Rooftop Lounge (4 Avenue Rd.). Take the chill off at Pravda Vodka Bar (36 Wellington St.). The Russian lounge houses more than 50 varieties of the belly-warming spirit along with a traditional spread of dark Russian rye bread and pickles, not to mention an enviable selection of caviar. The communal tables make for an inviting, get-to-know-you atmosphere at Brant House (1 Brant St.). Even before its official opening, the stylish resto/lounge provided A-list partying space for the likes of Jamie Foxx, Kevin Spacey and Mark Walhberg during the last Toronto International Film Festival.

TASTE HEAVEN
Indulge in one of the season’s greatest luxuries: a steamy bowl of hot chocolate at Queen Street gem Red Tea Box (696 Queen St. W.). It takes fifteen minutes to make, with real chocolate melted into a mixture of hot milk and fragrant spices. If chocolate ain’t your bag, don’t fret. The petite tea salon also serves a variety of yummy afternoon teas accompanied by assorted sweet and savoury dishes.

EXPRESS YOURSELF
On December 8 and 15 from 5:15 to 8:15 p.m. artist and teacher Kerry Kim demonstrates life-drawing techniques at the Art Gallery of Ontario‘s (317 Dundas St. W.) Amedeo Modigliani exhibit. Supplies, including live model, are provided and the lesson is covered in the cost of a Modigliani ticket. At the end of January, the AGO will create a DVD of all works made. For more information, call 416-979-6608.

GET IN THE MOOD
Every year the fifth floor of The Bay (176 Yonge St.) transforms itself into Christmas Street, a sparkly wonderland of holiday ornaments and décor. And Martha Stewart would definitely approve as not an inch of the 7,000 sq.-ft. is wasted. Oversized snowmen, candy canes and toy soldiers share space with thousands of decorations grouped together in themes: from classic Victoriana to fairyland.

BE AN OLYMPIAN
Run the first 10m of the 100m sprint on an official Mondo track; test your slapshot skills against a computer generated goalie or ride the virtual bobsleigh, wind, icy spray and roaring crowd included. All this and more can be experienced at Olympic Spirit (35 Dundas St. E.), a five-storey, 50,000 square foot tribute to the Olympics past and present and the only Olympic-themed attraction in the world. Equipped with multimedia theatres, one can watch “The Calling,” a gooseflesh-creating montage of triumphant victories and heartbreaking defeats. Adults $21, youth 13-17 and Seniors $17.50, kids 4 to 12 $12. For more information, call 1-888-466-9991 or visit www.OlympicSpirit.ca.GET YOUR SKATE ON
When the weather turns frightful, Canadians sharpen their blades and hit the ice running. Harbourfront Centre’s Natrel Skating Rink (235 Queens Quay W.) boasts a pretty view of the city’s harbour. Nathan Phillips Square‘s (100 Queen St. W.) landmark rink livens up downtown’s City Hall. Both spots offer skate rentals for under $10, change rooms and concessions.

ENJOY SOME ICE, ICE, BABY
Dozens of Ontario’s best ice carvers will chisel more than 20,000 kg of ice into a fairytale cast of witches, fairies and princesses at the 22nd annual Designs In Ice competition, December 27 to 29 at Yonge-Dundas Square (southeast corner of Yonge and Dundas streets). Audiences vote during the three-day event, picking first, second and third prize. Winners are announced December 28. For information, call 416-368-3338.

LOOK AT THE SKY
Locals and visitors alike will be amazed at the Magic of Light Show Saturday nights in December at Nathan Phillips Square (100 Queen St. W.). This seasonal extravaganza features a 30-minute pyrotechnic show, a tree lighting with more than 100,000 lights and live DJs spinning seasonal tunes. Magic of Light runs from 7-10 p.m.

CHECK OUT THE FLORABUNDA
Local landmark Allan Gardens Conservatory (19 Horticultural Ave.) holds its annual Christmas Flower Show from December 5 to January 2. Visiting the historic 13-acre site is a holiday tradition for many. Delight in an abundant display of poinsettias as well as holiday-inspired sculpture and topiary, spread out over the conservatory’s six greenhouses. Opening day features strolling carollers, horse and carriage rides around the park and hot cider and cookies. Admission is free but a donation to the Daily Bread Food Bank is encouraged. For more information, call 416-392-7288 or visit www.collections.ic.gc.ca/gardens.

BE A KID
Smack in the middle of the historic neighbourhood of Cabbagetown sits Riverdale Farm (201 Winchester St.), a 19th century pastoral playground dotted with horses, cows, pigs, goats, sheep and chickens. December 10 is the annual Christmas tree lighting, and includes carolling, a marshmallow roast, baked goods and country crafts. December 11 Santa Claus comes to town.STOP AND LISTEN
The historic Cathedral Church of St. James (King Street at Church) is the only church in North America with a set of twelve Change Ringing Bells (bells that swing a full 360 degrees and take 12 people to operate). The distinctive sounds peal out Sunday mornings from 10-11 a.m. They’ll also ring on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and at midnight on New Year’s Eve. Tower Captain of St. James Guild of Change Bell Ringers, Derek Sawyer describes the bells as “a smooth, seamless cascade of sound forever changing.” Group tours are available by appointment.

CRUISE ON A CHILLY AFTERNOON
Toronto Harbour Tours (416-777-5777) sails the chilly waters of Lake Ontario passing the Toronto Islands and the Gibraltar Point Lighthouse in a fully-heated tour boat on select dates throughout the month. Evening cruises include a dinner buffet and dancing. Boarding begins at 6:30 p.m. and returns at 11 p.m. Dates are December 2 to 4, 9 to 11, 16 to18 and New Years Eve. Cost is $69.95 per guest. Book online at www.merrycruises.com

HIT THE ROAD
The streets of Toronto and the historic buildings that line them give up their secrets in the Haunted Streets of Downtown tour from Muddy York Walking Tours (416-487-9017; www.muddyyorktours.com). The city’s ghost stories, urban myths and legends are told in this two-hour travelling tale.

WALK WITH THE ANIMALS
On Sunday December 26, The Toronto Zoo (361A Old Finch Ave.) invites visitors to spend the holidays with the animals of the Eurasia Pavilion during their annual Treats Walk. Watch as Siberian tigers, polar bears and reindeer receive their own Christmas treats. Hot chocolate and strolling carollers fill out the fun. Admission is free all day long (donations of non-perishable food items are encouraged). For more information call 416-392-5900 or visit www.torontozoo.com—Flannery Dean

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