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Harbourfront Centre

15 Things To Do in Toronto This December

This festive month is filled with a mixture of holiday merriment and family-friendly activities.

New Year’s Eve at Nathan Phillips Square. Photo courtesy of the City of Toronto.

12 Trees: Let There Be Light at The Gardiner Museum
To Jan. 7
A tradition since 1990, this year’s edition is co-curated by author and visual artist Douglas Coupland and focuses on light as a symbol of hope. Evan Biddell, Vivian Wong, Julia White, Alex McLeod, Connor Crawford, Christine Dewancker and Katherine Strang are among the contributing artists who have designed themed trees. This year’s creations include an animated winter dreamscape and a disco-ball tree.
Gardiner Museum, 111 Queen’s Park

Home Alone in Concert
Dec. 1-2
The Toronto Symphony Orchestra, joined by the Etobicoke School of the Arts Junior Chorus, performs John Williams score from the 1990 smash hit during a live screening of the movie. The hit comedic film sees Macaulay Culkin as Kevin McCallister take on two bumbling burglars by himself (played by Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern) when his family accidentally leaves for a trip without him.
Roy Thomson Hall, 60 Simcoe St.

St. Michael’s Choir School Annual Christmas Concert
Dec. 2-3
The angelic voices of the St. Michael’s Choir School, which celebrates its 80th anniversary this year, perform both secular and sacred carols to herald the Christmas season, including “O Come All Ye Faithful,” “Hallelujah,” and Handel’s “Messiah Part I.”
Massey Hall, 178 Victoria St.

150 Years of Canadian Christmas at Casa Loma
Dec. 2-Jan. 7
The city’s palatial castle celebrates the season with a 40-foot tree designed by Canadian icon Jeanne Beker, along with eight other trees throughout the estate. Live entertainment features illusionist Professor Wick and ice skating performers Glisse on Ice. Kids can seek out Santa Claus at his castle workshop, decorate edible treats, and partake in arts and crafts.
1 Austin Terr.

A Christmas Carol. Photo by Photo by Cylla von Tiedemann.

A Christmas Carol
Dec. 7-24
Bah-humbug! Miserly Ebenezer Scrooge discovers his heart and the holiday spirit after visits from the ghosts of Christmas past, present and future in this adaptation of the Charles Dickens classic presented by Soulpepper Theatre Company.
Young Centre for the Performing Arts, 50 Tank House Lane

Peter Pan
Dec. 8-31
Escape to Neverland with J.M. Barrie’s iconic character, Peter Pan. The boy who never grows up encounters an assortment of colourful characters including pirates, fairies, crocodiles, and even ordinary children like the Darling siblings. This musical rendition by Soulpepper Theatre Company is sure to capture the imagination of the entire family.
Young Centre for the Performing Arts, 50 Tank House Lane

The Nutcracker
Dec. 9-30
A true holiday classic featuring the Sugar Plum Fairy, dancing bears, and cannon dolls, is masterfully choreographed by James Kudelka and set to music by Tchaikovsky. The National Ballet of Canada transforms E.T.A. Hoffman’s traditional tale with enchanting dance numbers, elaborate costumes, and lavish sets.
Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts, 145 Queen St. W.

The Lorax. Photo by Manuel Harlan.

Dr. Seuss’s The Lorax
Dec. 9-Jan. 21
The North American premiere of this Dr. Seuss fable about protecting the environment gets the stage treatment. Direct from London and adapted by David Greig, Dr. Seuss’s colourful world is reflected with bold sets and costumes, puppets, and an original score by Charlie Fink.
Royal Alexandra Theatre, 260 King St. W.

The Illusionists
Dec. 12-Jan. 7
Marvel as seven world-class magicians perform dazzling displays of wizardy and more right before your eyes. Back by popular demand—last year’s shows sold out—new performers are part of this year’s line up, including Darcy Oake, a.k.a. The Grand Illusionist, who performs death-defying acts, while Raymond Crowe, a.k.a. The Unusualist, is a mime and ventriloquist, and An Ha Lim, a.k.a. The Manipulator, mesmerizes audiences with card tricks.
Princess of Wales Theatre, 300 King St. W.

Dance Me/Music of Leonard Cohen
Dec. 15
This Toronto premiere by Ballets Jazz Montréal (BJM) pays tribute to beloved Canadian singer, songwriter, and poet Leonard Cohen. This contemporary dance company, known for its expressive style and accessibility, selects music from the span of Cohen’s lengthy career.
Sony Centre for the Performing Arts, 1 Front St. E.

DJ Skate Nights on the Natrel Rink
Dec. 16-Feb. 17
Head down to the waterfront for a scenic twirl on the rink at Harbourfront Centre. DJs spin tunes every Saturday night, with hot beverage and bites available from the rinkside restaurant, Boxcar Social.
Harbourfront Centre, 235 Queens Quay W.

Sing-Along Messiah
Dec. 17
Become part of the choir at this interactive show led by conductor “Herr Handel” as thousands of voices sing Handel’s beloved Hallelujah chorus. The Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra and Chamber Choir, along with featured soloists Joanne Lunn, James Laing, Rufus Müller, and Brett Polegato, take part in this family-friendly concert.
Massey Hall, 178 Victoria St.

Disney on Ice

Disney on Ice Presents Reach for the Stars
Dec. 22-Jan. 1
Beloved friends from the Disney Kingdom, including Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Donald Duck and Goofy, join a royal cast that includes Anna and Elsa (and their snowy sidekick, Olaf), Ariel, Rapunzel, and Belle for a musical skating spectacle. Sing along to such songs as “Be Our Guest,” “Let It Go,” and “Tale as Old as Time.”
Rogers Centre, 1 Blue Jays Way

Toronto Christmas Market
To Dec. 23
Inspired by traditional European Christmas markets—and named one of the world’s best by Fodor’s Travel—the magic of the season is on dazzling display at the pedestrian-friendly Distillery District. Good boys and girls can have a photo op with Santa, visit a life-sized gingerbread house, and take a spin on a carousel or a ferris wheel. Grown ups can head to one of several heated lounges and beer gardens throughout the venue and partake in craft beers, mulled wines, European cocktails, and hot toddies.
Distillery District, 55 Mill St.

New Year’s Eve at Nathan Phillips Square
Dec. 31
Bid farewell to 2017 and ring in the new year at the city’s central gathering spot, Nathan Phillips Square. Festivities begin at 8 p.m. (get there earlier to secure a good spot), featuring live performances, a DJ skating party, and an impressive fireworks display to cap off TO Canada with Love, a year-long celebration of Canada’s sesquicentennial.
Nathan Phillips Square, 100 Queen St. W.

The Power Plant’s Beat Nation Puts Aboriginal Identity on Display

The Power Plant Beat Nation Kent Monkman

Kent Monkman’s Dance to Miss Chief is but one of the works exploring urban First Nations culture at The Power Plant (photo: Kent Monkman/The Power Plant)

DECEMBER 15 TO MAY 5  Whether it’s tapped out with a hand drum or pulsing through a modern rap song, the enduring spirit of rhythm connects generations of Canadian indigenous culture. Beat Nation, the latest exhibition at The Power Plant explores this theme through everything from sculptures to video installations that link traditional Native values with the love many urban Aboriginal youth have for hip-hop culture. The result is an eclectic display that expresses how First Nations peoples across North America are adapting to prevailing trends while retaining their distinct identities.  —Anna Marszalek

>> The Power Plant, 231 Queens Quay W., 416-973-4949; thepowerplant.org
>> Map and reviews

Ice Skating in Toronto Offers Frosty Fun

Nathan Phillips Square Toronto

The Nathan Phillips Square skating rink is a popular spot for cold-weather revellers.

There may not be a lot to like about sub-zero temperatures, but one positive that Torontonians all agree on is that cold weather makes for some great outdoor skating. Long a favourite winter pastime for young and old alike, heading out for a spin around the ice is easy to do in this city, especially at two popular spots: Harbourfront Centre’s Natrel Rink offers lakeside views and special DJ skate nights, while at Nathan Phillips Square you can glide beside City Hall. Both rinks offer skate rentals so there’s no excuse not to hit the ice with the whole family.  —Ana Taveira

>> Natrel Rink at Harbourfront Centre, 235 Queens Quay W., 416-973-4866; harbourfrontcentre.com, map and reviews
>> Nathan Phillips Square, 100 Queen St. W; toronto.ca, map and reviews

Weekend Roundup: November 2 to 4

The Royal is high on horses

Friday, November 2
The Royal Agricultural Winter Fair rolls into town for its 90th year of show jumping, bull riding, giant vegetable displays and more—not to mention special performances by Olympic equestrians and a brand new cooking competition featuring top chefs from Toronto’s premier hotels. Put on your best farm gear and head down Exhibition Place for a taste of the agro-action.

She may once have said that “polite conversation is rarely either,” but writer and humourist Fran Lebowitz is nonetheless game to sit down for a chat with CBC radio’s Jian Ghomeshi tonight at Massey Hall. With astute observations—about everything from politics to smoking to fame—and not-so-thinly veiled sarcasm on the discursive menu, an entertaining evening is all but guaranteed.

Lively colours and social commentary come together in the Art Gallery of Ontario‘s lauded exhibition Frida & Diego: Passion, Politics and Painting. Not only does the show feature stunning works of autobiographical record by Mexican masters (and husband and wife) Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera, it also boasts an interesting collection of photos taken of the couple during the 1920s and 30s.

The McMichael Canadian Art Collection showcases its favourite sons, Tom Thomson and the Group of Seven

Saturday, November 3
Enjoy an first-hand look at the country’s most famous collective of artists as the McMichael Canadian Art Collection today opens its latest, highly anticipated exhibition. Painting Canada: Tom Thomson and the Group of Seven has already proved a major success on tour in Europe; now it’s come home with more than 120 of the finest works to ever depict the Canadian hinterland.

Are you starting to get into the holiday spirit? Today, there’s no better way to kick-start the season than by partaking in Winter Magic’s Ice, Wine & Dine event. This one-night-only celebration along Elm Street not only offers $5 bites from a number of restaurants and professional sommelier–led wine tastings, it also highlights festive fun with carolers, ice carvings and other family-friendly entertainment.

Canadian synth-pop duo Crystal Castles tonight bring their intense lo-fi sound—including tracks from their new album, set for release on November 12—to the Kool Haus. If the haunting mood of the album’s first single “Plague” and reviews of singer Alice Glass’s performances are any indication, the show promises to be a treat for electronic music fans.

Local artists assemble at the Gladstone Hotel

Sunday, November 4
Get to know some of Toronto’s best independent contemporary artists for free as the Speak Easy Fall Art Fair takes over the historic Gladstone Hotel. On to November 7, this exhibition gives art lovers a chance to view and purchase works from some of the city’s most promising creators.

Halloween may be over, but you can still join in the Day of the Dead at Harbourfront Centre. Though skeletons abound, this is hardly a spooky event. Instead it’s a Mexican cultural celebration that honours the with colourful shrines, and traditional food, music and storytelling.

Orson Welles’ classic radio broadcast of War of the Worlds gets a tasteful makeover courtesy of the renowned Art of Time Ensemble and Harbourfront Centre. The stage adaptation—complete with live music and sound effects, of course—sets an uncanny mood for Canadian performers Nicholas Campbell, Sean Cullen and Marc Bendavid. Last year’s production completely sold out; don’t miss your second (and final) chance to catch this magnificent show.

See and Hear the Biggest Names in Contemporary Writing at the International Festival of Authors

By EVA VOINIGESCU

David Byrne and Cory Doctorow at a recent Harbourfront Centre literary event
(photo: Authors at Harbourfront Centre)

OCTOBER 18 TO 28 As readers, we turn to books to become inspired, to take a walk in someone else’s shoes, to experience new places and let our imaginations run wild. Each October, Harbourfront Centre gives us the opportunity to gain further insight into our favourite literary and non-fiction works—and meet their creators—as some of the world’s most celebrated contemporary writers gather for the International Festival of Authors.

This year, more than 180 participants are scheduled to appear in 70-plus events, including headline interviews with the likes of Michael Chabon and Junot Diaz (October 19), and Canadian essayist and novelist John Ralston Saul (October 21), as well as readings by the finalists for Canada’s most prestigious book awards: the Governor General’s Literary Award (October 22), the Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize (October 24) and the Scotiabank Giller Prize (October 27). Of course there are dozens of other happenings—from themed roundtable discussions to intimate readings to public book signings in the festival’s bookstore—that make the IFOA a locus for lovers of literature. Below, check out our picks of the fest’s best under-the-radar readings and more.

This year’s 33rd annual gathering also marks the first time that Festival Flex Passes are available, giving attendees the ability to purchase tickets to 10 events for only $120. (Single tickets are $18 and up.) As always, students can access most readings and discussions for free, subject to availability. Visit the festival’s website for further details.

Weekend Roundup: October 5 to 7

Friday: The Evergreen Brick Works gets an East Coast makeover for Alexander Keith’s birthday bash

Friday, October 5
East Coast King of Brews Alexander Keith’s celebrates 217 years in the beer business with a party at the Evergreen Brick Works. Your $10 tickets gets you free shuttle service, an exclusive performance by Matt Mays and a drink to pair with Toronto food vendors’ fare, specially created to go perfectly with a cool pint of Keith’s.

Spekt! Bier! Lederhosen! Celebrate German tradition (and happy hour) with Toronto Oktoberfest at St. Lawrence Market. Live entertainment, including oom-pah bands and a Bavarian strongman, helps get you into the Deutsch spirit in a traditional beer hall environment.

The Wiggles are touring together for the last time as Greg, Jeff and Murray prepare to leave the famous foursome after 21 years performing favourites like “Hot Potato” and “Rock a Bye Your Bear.” Take the kids to say farewell tonight at the Ricoh Coliseum—and watch out for three new wiggles to join remaining member Anthony in the near future. (more…)

Hot Date: Writers and Company at Harbourfront Centre

David Byrne appears at Harbourfront Centre this month (photo by Catalina Kulczar)

SEPTEMBER 19 & 25 Toronto’s literary culture is second to none in this country, and Harbourfront Centre plays a big role in ensuring it stays that way. The waterside venue’s Authors at Harbourfront series returns this month for its 39th season of hosting local and international writers at intimate readings and discussions. On September 19, legendary Talking Heads musician and all around cultural icon David Byrne presents his book, How Music Works, an analysis of how music is shaped by time and place. On September 25, British novelist Zadie Smith appears in conversation with CBC radio host Eleanor Wachtel and reads from her acclaimed new novel, NW. 235 Queens Quay W., $25; call 416-973-4000 or visit here for further details.

You Are Here: Harbourfront

The downtown stretch of Toronto’s lakeshore is a hotbed for cultural events and in-water activities. (more…)

Weekend Roundup: August 3 to 5

Friday: the Nash Ensemble offers French classics as part of the Toronto Summer Music Festival

Friday, August 3
The Toronto Summer Music Festival continues to offer some of the best classical performances from around the world. Tonight, Britain’s Nash Ensemble takes the Walter Hall stage with a program of French fare by Debussy, Ravel and Franck.

See the earth from a different perspective at Thompson Landry Gallery, where Guy Laiberté, founder of Cirque du Soleil, presents Gaia, a new exhibition of photographs he took while on an 11-day voyage in outer space.

The Irie Music Festival returns for another year at Nathan Phillips Square with a showcase of reggae, salsa, soul and African music.  The weekend-long event’s opening night features soca sensation Fay-Ann Lyons, as well as an exhibition with the works of Caribbean artists. (more…)

Hot Dining: A Sizzling Party at Harbourfront Centre

JULY 20 TO 22 Prepare your taste buds for a culinary trip around the world at the 15th annual Hot and Spicy Food Festival. A celebration of peppers, paprika and everything else that gives our food
that little extra kick, the event offers a veritable smorgasbord of spicy fare, while local and international musicians and dancers turn up the cultural heat. Increase your appetite while cheering for your favourites during the Iron Chef competition, or swing by the Taco Takedown to find out whose tortillas reign supreme.

Weekend Roundup: July 13 to 15

Friday: See artist-designed tutus and much more at the Design Exchange (photo by Setareh Sarmadi and Marta Ryczko)

Friday, July 13
Get an insider’s look into the history of the the country’s most prominent dance company, as the Design Exhange presents 60 Years of Designing the Ballet. The exclusive exhibition tells the story of the National Ballet of Canada through set pieces, paintings, videos and archival wardrobes, including 60 iconic tutus for the troupe’s diamond anniversary.

The hallowed grounds of Fort York play host to a vaunted group of electronic musicians tonight as dubstep hero Skrillex brings his Full Flex Express tour to town. Accompanying the popular DJ/producer are a handful of cohorts including Montreal’s Grimes and Philly-based DJ Diplo.

The Soundclash Festival kicks off tonight at Harbourfront Centre, with dance and musical performances ongoing throughout the weekend. This evening you’re invited to feel the funky Afrobeat as Benin’s Orchestre Poly-Rhythmo de Cotonou takes the stage for its Canadian debut. (more…)

Hot Date: Shoreline Screenings at Harbourfront Centre

JULY 4 TO AUGUST 29 Satisfy your summer movie cravings as Harbourfront Centre presents its annual lineup of Free Flicks. Every Wednesday evening, audiences are treated to movie featuring “underdog” protagonists—like Muhammad Ali in the documentary When We Were Kings (July 18) and Ben Stiller’s loveably unsophisticated male model in Zoolander (July 11). So grab some refreshments, find a seat and enjoy some evening viewing along the shore of Lake Ontario. WestJet Stage, 9 p.m., free; call 416-973-4000 or click here for more information.