• eat
  • shop
  • see
  • go
  • stay
  • daytrip
  • map
  • calendar
  • transport
  • weather
  • currency
  • tofrom

City Hall

Toronto for History Buffs


Black Creek Village shoots

Step back in time to the 19th century at Black Creek Pioneer Village.

Fort York National Historic Site played an essential role in the city’s turbulent past, and today boasts the largest collection of original War of 1812 buildings. Throughout the summer, the Fort York Guard, comprised of musketmen and musicians, perform various demonstrations including artillery firing, drills, battle tactics performances and more.

Black Creek Pioneer Village recreates Ontario life as it was in the 19th century, complete with more than 40 heritage buildings including a town hall, a one-room schoolhouse, a general store, harness shop and saddler, and a broom maker’s shop.

Take a grander look at the city’s past at Casa Loma, a Gothic Revival home that was once the private estate of financier Sir Henry Pellatt and his family. Built from 1911 to 1914 at a cost of $3.5 million, the majestic palace boasts more than a dozen rooms, towers and an underground tunnel that connects to the stables. Open in 1913, the Elgin and Winter Garden Theatres is the last surviving Edwardian double-decker theatre in the world, and has hosted the likes of such performers as Charlie McCarthy and George Burns and Gracie Allen. Twice a week, guests can tour the former theatre, which was home to vaudeville acts and silent films, to see the historic dressing rooms and hand-painted flats and drops.

Situated across from the current City Hall (100 Queen St. W.), Old City Hall (60 Queen St. W.), was the largest municipal building in North America at its time of completion in 1899. Until it closed in 1966, it was home to local government offices and courthouses. A looming clock tower is one of the building’s identifying features, along with bronze casts of gargoyles that were reinstalled in 2002, in tribute to the original four statues that flanked each corner.

high tea

A spread of dainties at Afternoon Tea at the King Edward Hotel.

EAT Partake in the centuries-old English tradition of afternoon tea at the Omni King Edward Hotel (37 King St. E.), which serves savory finger sandwiches, pastries, and scones with Devonshire cream in an elegant setting.

Once a private home that was transformed into a diner in 1929, The Senator is the city’s oldest restaurant. With fixtures from 1948, the menu is chock-full of comfort foods like bacon and eggs with baked beans, homemade meat loaf, and liver and onions. Barberian’s Steak House dates back to 1959 and boasts an extensive collection of Canadiana art and artifacts that includes paintings by members of the Group of Seven and firearms and rifles used during the War of 1812. A menu of classic dishes includes New York strip loin, shrimp cocktail, rack of lamb and French onion soup, as well as an after-theatre menu with cheese or beef fondue and a Grand Marnier soufflé for two.  —Linda Luong Luck

Nathan Phillips Square Skating is a Toronto Tradition



Nathan Phillips Square skating is especially enjoyable at night, beneath the city lights

Although the recent weather hasn’t exactly been frosty, a spin on the skating rink at Nathan Phillips Square remains a quintessential winter-in-Toronto activity. Located in front of City Hall, the reflecting pool is transformed into a frozen paradise for both novice and advanced skaters, and is particularly beloved by families. The rink is open daily, but is especially pretty (and romantic) at nighttime when the concrete beams overhead—known as the Freedom Arches—are lit up by a cascade of twinkling lights. Access to the rink is free if you have your own skates, but rentals are also available (adults $10, kids age 12 and under $5; helmet rentals are $5).  —Linda Luong

• Nathan Phillips Square, 100 Queen St. W.; nathanphillipssquareskaterentals.com
• Map and reviews

Hot Date: Enjoy a Bright Night in the Big City

(photo: City of Toronto)

NOVEMBER 17  As winter weather arrives, there are few better ways to keep warm outdoors than by gathering with thousands of revelers to enjoy the Cavalcade of Lights. For the 45th year in a row, Toronto’s official kick-off to the holiday season decks City Hall and Nathan Phillips Square (100 Queen St. W.) with thousands of festive bulbs and a massive, beautifully decorated Christmas tree, and celebrates their inaugural illumination with musical performances and a fireworks display. The lights will remain aglow through the end of December, while public skating draws crowds so long as there’s a chill in the air. Free admission; dial 311 (within Toronto) or visit here for more information.  —Ana Taveira

Hot Art: Nuit Blanche’s All-Night Viewing Party

All Night Convenience is among the interactive displays at this year’s Nuit Blanche

SEPTEMBER 29  Artistic inspiration isn’t subject to the whims of a nine-to-five schedule. It occurs at any time and in any place. During Scotiabank Nuit Blanche, creativity happens overnight, as thousands of residents and visitors descend with the sun to engage with more than 40 commissioned art installations in and around the Entertainment District, City Hall and Nathan Phillips Square, Ryerson University and the intersection of King and Church streets. (An additional 100 independent projects will be displayed across the city.) Among the most intriguing of these dusk-to-dawn displays are All Night Convenience, a 300-square-foot “store” created by Rhonda Weppler and Trevor Mahovsky that grows darker as patrons carry away its illuminated retail goods, and Museum of the Rapture by Douglas Coupland, which explores the separation of mind and body through a labyrinth of signs and living tableaux in an underground parking lot. Begins at 7 p.m., free admission; click here for more information.

Hot Art: Visuals, Easily Viewed

Henry Moore's Two Forms sits prominently outside the Art Gallery of Ontario

Toronto’s vibrant visual art scene means that galleries are sprinkled throughout the city. But you need not buy a ticket to view some very high-quality works. Public sculptures and installations decorate many of our parks and street corners, and are equally worth your interest. Often designed by acclaimed  artists—such as Henry Moore, whose sculptures can be found in front of City Hall (100 Queen St. W.) and the Art Gallery of Ontario—these works add flair to the streetscape and can even remind us of our history, as the circa-1870 Canadian Volunteers War Memorial in Queen’s Park does. Whether you guide yourself on a full-fledged Toronto art tour or just happen to come across an installation, take a minute to strike a pose, snap a photo and take a memory of Toronto’s urban landscape home with you. For further details, click here.

Fitness on the Go:
3 Places to Get Your Workout on in Ottawa

When you’re travelling, it’s easy for your fitness regime to slip up.  All of a sudden you’re no longer hitting the gym – and all the eating out and afternoon drinks start to add up. Luckily for you, Ottawa has no shortage of fitness options, so we’ve rounded up three great ones with drop-in rates that will get you moving. By Erin Morawetz. (more…)

Hot Date: The Cavalcade of Lights’ Dazzling Display

NOVEMBER 27 Witness the heart of downtown Toronto illuminate the night sky at the 44th annual Cavalcade of Lights. This jump-start to the holiday season sees City Hall and its surrounding area shine with a colourful display of luminescence that includes a mesmerizing fireworks show and the lighting of the city’s official Christmas tree. For more dynamic entertainment, check out the jaw-dropping aerial stunts performed by trampoline acrobats, plus live concerts by such artists as Divine Brown. End your evening at the public skating party while a DJ spins upbeat tunes. Nathan Phillips Square, 7 p.m., free; call 416-492-2489 or visit here for more information.

Hot Date: Welcome In!

Peek inside Toronto's Old City Hall and many other buildings as part of Doors Open

MAY 29 & 30 Step out into the street and discover some very interesting buildings as part of Doors Open Toronto, an annual celebration of the city’s architectural excellence. This free event offers visitors access to 150 unique modern and longstanding structures—including Old City Hall, St. James Cathedral and the reopened City Hall Podium Green Roof—each with their own historical, cultural, architectural and even environmental stories. Some locations offer tours, interpretive materials and activities to augment your visitor experience. And don’t forget to bring your camera—some of these sites are not open to the public at any other time of the year. Various venues and times; call 416-338-0628 or click here for further details.

Start Planning Now: Scotiabank Nuit Blanche Returns!

A luchador climbs the steel cage in Shaun El C. Leonardo's <em>Battle Royal</em>, to be presented at this year's Scotiabank Nuit Blanche.

A luchador climbs the steel cage in Shaun El C. Leonardo's Battle Royal, to be presented at this year's Scotiabank Nuit Blanche (photo by Ricky Auyeung).

How would you prepare to stay awake from dusk until dawn? Would you train by gradually depriving yourself of sleep over a series of nights? Or you could try the opposite approach and seek a surplus of shut-eye leading up to the all-nighter, in the hope of stockpiling your 40 winks. (But how much is enough? 80 winks? 120?) And of course, there is the middle way: frequent doses of caffeine.

Whatever your preference, you’ll want to start planning now, as the countdown to Toronto’s fourth annual “all-night contemporary art thing,” Scotiabank Nuit Blanche, officially began today, with the announcement of its 2009 programming.

The event, beginning on the evening of October 3 and continuing through to the next morning, unites Torontonians (and visitors—last year, more than 100,000 people travelled to the city specifically for Nuit Blanche) in a celebration of creativity. Three “zones”—the areas in and around City Hall and Yonge-Dundas Square, the Financial District, and Liberty Village—play host to 46 diverse, curated installations that not only offer artistic expression through such contemporary media as sound, video, light and performance, but also seek to incorporate site-specificity and, in some cases, viewer interaction as part of the creative experience.

Among the projects Where Toronto can’t wait to see:

  • Geoffrey Farmer’s The Blinking Eyes of Everything, which is said to induce hallucinatory visions through the use of stroboscopic “dream” machines;
  • Battle Royal, a performance piece by Shaun El C. Leonardo employing a steel cage, 20 blindfolded wrestlers and a “fight to the end”;
  • D. A. Therrien’s Beautiful Lights: Four Letter Word Machine, whereby four gigantic light sculptures flash “codes, DNA sequences and elemental words” from between City Hall’s two towers; and,
  • The financial-forces metaphor Wild Ride, organized by Shawna Dempsey and Lorri Millan—two midway rides set up in the middle of Bay Street physically manifest the ups and downs of the free market. Bonus points for hubristic synergy: the rides are staffed by recently downsized businesspeople.

This year’s Nuit Blanche promises to be more accessible than ever before, with the TTC providing all-night service along the downtown sections of the Bloor-Danforth and Yonge/University/Spadina subway lines. Road closures in key areas (such as a large portion of Bay Street, between Gerrard and Front streets) are also a boon to bipedal art lovers, and the fact that the individual projects have been placed closer together means that you can see much more during however many hours you choose to spend looking at this city in a whole new (night) light.

Luminato—The RedBall Stops at City Hall

The visual arts offerings at this year’s Luminato festival promise to be highly engaging—none more so than Kurt Perschke’s RedBall Project. Today, Where Toronto spotted the giant red orb adding a bit of whimsy to the oft-maligned pedestrian walkway at Nathan Phillips Square (100 Queen St. W.). On Sunday, the ball rolls just a block east to Toronto’s Old City Hall.

Photos by Craig Moy.