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Gibson House

Weekend Roundup, May 21 to 24

Toronto certainly knows how to commemorate a festive occasion. Your Victoria Day weekend will be a memorable one filled with festivals, music and, naturally, fireworks.

Friday: See Elmo and his Sesame Street friends (photo courtesy of VEE Corporation; TM/© 2010 Sesame Workshop)

Friday, May 21
Don’t miss country singer and songwriter Taylor Swift at the Air Canada Centre, as she belts out her hits. American Idol performer Kellie Pickler provides additional vocal firepower as a special guest.

Families are sure to be drawn to the Rogers Centre this weekend. Watch the Sesame Street gang in Elmo’s Green Thumb, a theatrical story in which everyone’s favourite red furball attempts to speed the growth of a sunflower with a spell that, consequently, shrinks him and his friends. Learn a thing or two about patience and our ecosystem and be entertained as the muppets dance, sing and set your sides in stitches.

Seek out art of philosophical meaning and technical precision at the Alison Smith Gallery, a chic gallery in the emerging Dundas West art district.

Saturday, May 22
Peer through the looking glass and behold the world of Alice in Wonderland at Black Creek Pioneer Village, where the beloved story comes to life for an entire weekend of Cheshire Cat crafts, a Mad Hatter’s tea party and much more.

His name was all over the newspapers and now they’ll be writing about his visit to Massey Hallcomedian and erstwhile talk show host Conan O’Brien will have you roaring with laughter alongside Andy Richter and the former Tonight Show band.

Don’t miss your last chance to experience the moral thriller Death and the Maiden at the St. Lawrence Centre for the Arts. Watch as this intriguing tale—about a woman who encounters a doctor who may have tortured her in the past—unfolds before your bewildered eyes.

Sunday: Enjoy the Cinesphere and other attractions at Ontario Place

Sunday, May 23
Explore architectural wonders and historic districts on a relaxing yet educational walking tour hosted by the Royal Ontario Museum. This afternoon’s ROM Walk sets off at 2 p.m. for an adventure detailing Sacred Stones and Steeples.

What would Victoria Day weekend be without fireworks? Mark the festive occasion at Ontario Place or Canada’s Wonderland with a day of rides and an evening showcase of bursting, streaming, shimmering lights.

Enjoy a decadent meal aboard the Jubilee Queen cruise ship. Float serenely among the Toronto Islands as sparkling stars—and, of course, those festive fireworks—illuminate the night sky.

Monday, May 24
Celebrate the queen’s birthday at Gibson House, the historic home of one of Willowdale’s founding families. Snack on a treat in the  kitchen, view old-fashioned toys in the parlour or engage in hands-on activities in the Discovery Gallery.

Behold gravity-defying stunts and incredible acrobatics at the Toronto International Circus Festival. World-class acrobats, fire-eaters, stilt walkers and balloon sculptors gather at Harbourfront Centre to amaze and entertain you.

Meander through the Distillery Historic District and feast your eyes on displays of Canadian crafts—including handmade jewellery, sweet-smelling soaps, wood furniture and photographic art—at the Distillery Spring Arts Show.

Holiday Happenings: New Year’s Eve Celebrations

New Year's at Nathan Phillips SquareWhether you’re looking to take in a stage show, indulge in a culinary celebration, or dance into the wee hours—we’ve got plenty of party ideas to help you ring in 2010.

Scottish Traditions
Step back in time on December 28 for an evening of Scottish food and music during Hogmanay (the Scots word for “new year”) celebrations at Mackenzie House . The decorated 19th-century row house will be illuminated with gaslight while traditional musical group Gin Lane performs popular tunes, including a musical rendition of Auld Lang Syne, the famed verse by Scottish poet Robbie Burns. 82 Bond St., 7 to 9 p.m. $20 per person; call 416-392-6915 to reserve.

On December 29, bring the family to Gibson House for a candlelit evening celebrating the Scottish New Year at the Hogmanay Party for Families. Visitors are greeted at the door by the legendary “First Footer” and are soon immersed in Hogmanay customs through hands-on crafts, stories and sing-alongs. On December 30, enjoy a scrumptious meal at a traditional Hogmanay dinner party.  Wine and dine by the fireside while watching a dramatic re-creation of a New Year from a bygone time. 5172 Yonge St. Hogmanay family party 7 to 9 p.m. Adults $20, children $12.50. Hogmanay Dinner 7:30 to 10 p.m. $50; call 416-395-7432 to pre-register for either event.

Stage Performances
Stand up and cheer for some of the most passionate operatic music ever written as Bravissimo! Opera’s Greatest Hits returns to Toronto for a spectacular New Year’s Eve concert at Roy Thomson Hall. Delight in dazzling performances of beloved arias, duets and more from Carmen, Madama Butterfly, La bohème and other classics from opera’s golden age. 60 Simcoe St. 7 p.m., $75 to $155; call 416-872-4255 or click here to buy.

Laugh, cry, and kiss the New Year goodbye as Yuk Yuk’s founder Mark Breslin presents the annual New Year’s Eve Comedy Extravaganza at Massey Hall. Hilarious host Gerry Dee is joined on stage by the city’s funniest stand up and improv artists. Special guest performers include Nikki Payne and “That Canadian Guy” Glen Foster. 178 Victoria St.
7:30 p.m. $39.50 to $59.50; call 416-872-4255 or visit here to purchase tickets.

The Toronto Operetta Theatre‘s New Year’s Eve Gala features dinner, dancing and a rousing performance of Countess Maritza, an operetta known the world over for its combination of Viennese elegance and Hungarian passion. This fundraising event, which has sold out for 12 years in a row, includes a pre-performance sit-down dinner and a late-night reception and dance party to benefit the St. Lawrence Centre for the Arts. 27 Front St. E.
5:30 p.m., $145 and up; call 416-366-7723 or click here to buy.

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Holiday Happenings: Heritage Traditions

Festive family fun abounds this month at the city’s heritage sites and historic museums. Step back in time and experience old-fashioned Toronto traditions that will delight both young and old. Events occur during daily museum hours except where noted.

Casa Loma

Casa Loma

Casa Loma
Experience holiday magic as classic storybook tales are brought to life at this enchanting hilltop castle. The attraction also offers a variety of registration-only special events: on December 13 and 20 families can feast on scrumptious pancakes at a breakfast with Santa Claus; or help your little elf decorate a miniature gingerbread house on December 5, 6, 12, 13, 19 and 20. And on December 22 and 30, get physical with a holiday-themed family archery lesson and learn the history and techniques behind this ancient sport.

1 Austin Terrace. Admission and special event prices vary; call 416-923-1171 for more information and to register.


Mackenzie House

Eschew the hustle and bustle of holiday shopping for the charm of a traditional Christmas in the 1859 row-house of Toronto’s first mayor, William Lyon Mackenzie. Sample mulled cider and warm biscuits in an authentic 19th-century kitchen while little ones write letters to Santa Claus the old-fashioned way—using a pen and ink pot, plus stationery made with a circa-1845 printing press. And on December 13 and 20, gather in Mackenzie House’s cozy family room for an afternoon storytelling session featuring Christmas tales from the Victorian era.

82 Bond St. Adults $5.71, children $3.33; call 416-392-6915 for details.


Todmorden Mills Museum

Discover the simple pleasures of a Regency-era Christmas at Todmorden Mills—the site’s early 19th-century homes are adorned for the season with a lovely array of evergreen garlands and festive decorations. You can even create your own tree ornaments using a traditional felting technique. Register for the Cast Iron Chef cooking series on December 5 and prepare tasty holiday treats on an open hearth. On December 12, creative visitors can use wires, pliers and natural materials to make custom holiday decor at the wreath-making workshop.

67 Pottery Rd. Adults $5.24, children $2, workshop prices vary; call 416-396-2819 for details and to reserve.

Black Creek Pioneer Village

Black Creek Pioneer Village

Black Creek Pioneer Village
Step back in time to a Victorian country Christmas and enjoy festive performances, hands-on activities and festive treats at this living history museum. On December 5, 12, and 19 the historic village is bathed in the flickering glow of candlelight and oil lamps for Christmas by Lamplight, an annual celebration with costumed carollers, games and storytellers. Then return December 6, 13, and 20 for a traditional Christmas dinner with all the trimmings served in the Village’s historic brewery restaurant.

1000 Murray Ross Pkwy. Admission prices vary; to purchase tickets for Christmas by Lamplight, call 416-736-1733, ext. 5331. For Sunday Christmas Dinner reservations, call 416-667-6295.


Colborne Lodge

Celebrate the holidays in winter-wonderland surroundings in a restored 1837 regency villa. Tour the picturesque home of High Park’s founders, John and Jemima Howard, while nibbling on delectable holiday snacks and toast the season with mulled cider warmed by an authentic wood stove. Sign up to make a festive seasonal wreath to take home on December 5, 6 and 10; on December 12, 13, 16, 17 and 19, craft custom adornments for your dinner table at the two-hour Christmas centrepiece workshop.

Colborne Lodge Drive. Adults $5.71, children $3.33, workshop prices vary; call 416-392-6916 for details.


Gibson House

Holiday traditions of yore come to life at this north Toronto family farmhouse built in 1851. The Georgian-style exterior is resplendent with seasonal finery; costumed staff lead capture the spirit with tours of this historic rural landmark. On December 19 and 20 the museum hosts Mincemeat, Pomanders and Paperchains—a weekend event with festive crafting for kids in the Discovery Gallery and traditional holiday fare from the open-hearth kitchen.

5172 Yonge St. Adults $5.48, children $2.62; call 416-395-7432 for more information.


Montgomery’s Inn

Enjoy plentiful seasonal entertainment throughout the month at this early-1800s Etobicoke landmark. Ring in the holidays on December 4 by singing 19th-century carols while sipping period-relevant drinks in the tavern at this historic inn. On December 4 and 5 the Humber River Shakespeare Company performs an original production of Dickens’s classic A Christmas Carol. Also on December 5, master baker Monika Paradis presents a delightfully decadent Gingerbread House workshop. And on December 12, cozy up by the fire and enjoy readings of The Ghost of Christmas Present and many more seasonal stories.

4709 Dundas St. W. Admission prices vary; call 416-394-8113 for registration information.

Weekend Roundup, October 9th to 12th

Happy Thanksgiving! But there’s much more to the long weekend than turkey.

Friday, October 9th
Examine real, whole bodies preserved in polymer in the Body Worlds & the Story of the Heart exhibit, which opens today at the Ontario Science Centre.

Savour the sizzling flavours of Chile at the King Edward hotel restaurant Victoria’s with a special prixe fixe menu to celebrate Chilean Gourmet Week.

Be dazzled as dancers twirl paper fans, musicians beat drums and other performing artists do their thing in a lavish, multicoloured spectacle of Chinese culture in the opening Shen Yung Performing Arts show.

Saturday, October 10th
Catch the antics of some quirky friends and relatives for the last time when they visit a couple reluctant to play host in Alumnae Theatre’s last performance of A Delicate Balance by Edward Albee (also the playwright of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?).

Grab a partner and jitterbug on over to Swing Toronto‘s Saturday Night Swing dance party.

Consider the fashion and function of wool floor coverings that were popular in the city from the 1850s to 1920s in the exhibit Wall-to-Wall: A History of Carpeting in Toronto at Spadina Museum.

Sunday, October 11th
As part of Sound Travels: Festival of Sound Art, pedal one of the Synthecycletron’s stationary bicycles located at the Toronto Islands to produce synthesizer melodies.

Be transfixed by some of the best images in photojournalism worldwide showcased at the World Press Photo exhibit at Brookfield Place.

Take the kids to HarbourKIDS: Respect at Harbourfront Centre so they can appreciate the ecosystem by engaging in activties like helping build a model of the Great Lakes and its inhabitants out of LEGO.

Monday, October 12th
Help prepare harvest foods and nibble on 19th-century-inspired treats to celebrate Thanksgiving at Gibson House.

Or, let someone else do the cooking at Peartree, where you can nosh on a full turkey dinner from the roasted butternut squash soup to the pumpkin pie.

If you want Thanksgiving take-out, pick up a reheatable three-course meal complete with Ontario-grown poultry and accompanying trimmings via the Royal York Hotel’s Turkey to Go service.