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National Film Board of Canada

Staff Picks: 10 Best Bets for March Break

The Royal Ontario Museum is always a popular venue during March Break (photo by Michele Nastasi)

The kids’ annual spring holiday week is just around the corner. If you’re still wondering how to keep them occupied, well, wonder no more. There’s lots of family fun to be had right here in Toronto. Check out our 10 picks for cool—and often educational—activities after the jump! (more…)

You Are Here: Queen Street West

The downtown segment of what is arguably Toronto’s coolest street becomes an even cooler destination as winter arrives.
View You Are Here: Queen Street West in a larger map

Kids can learn about animation in the NFB's winter wonderland workshop

HOLIDAY MOVIEHOUSE Edging into the Entertainment District you’ll find the National Film Board’s Toronto Mediatheque, an education centre and library of Canadian flicks that can be watched for free at one of many digital viewing stations. Like what you see? Sign up for a Winter Wonderland workshop, where kids (ages 6 to 13) can create animated films of their own.

DESIGN DEN Just north of Queen West is the distinctive facade of the Umbra Concept Store, the design company’s only standalone location in the world. Not only does this retail space feature the firm’s entire line of modern, affordable home products, it also showcases designers at work. For the holidays, nearly 100 brand-new items are on offer—perfect for stocking stuffers.

Chef David Lee oversees the action at Nota Bene (photo by Nikki Leigh McKean)

BOUNTIFUL BITE Nota Bene stands out on a section of Queen Street otherwise stocked with bars and Indian buffets. The stylish yet casual restaurant provides the perfect atmosphere for both intimate dinners and larger, more boisterous celebrations. For a winter warm-up, be sure to try chef David Lee’s Yucatan hot and sour soup, or pasta with hearty rabbit ragu.

MUSICAL GEM Home to some of the city’s top operatic and dance productions—including the National Ballet’s The Nutcracker, opening December 11—the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts is a local landmark. From street level it strikes a staid stance, but inside it’s a marvel of design. Take a docent-led tour on most Saturdays to learn more about the building’s architecture and incredible acoustics.

Marvel at The Bay's detailed holiday window displays

WINDOW SHOPPING Massive department store The Bay has eight floors of fashion, furniture, fragrances and more—something for everyone on your holiday gift list. As Canada’s oldest corporation, this store is an iconic part of our national history. The flagship location continues a Toronto tradition, too: each year its Queen Street frontage features intricate window displays with seasonal scenes.

GATHERING PLACE City Hall’s two curving towers overlook Nathan Phillips Square, an outdoor hub for concerts and cultural events. The multipurpose site offers something to look forward to when temperatures drop, as its reflecting pool turns into a public skating rink. Even in winter the square is bustling—the annual Citytv New Year’s Eve bash is just one can’t-miss activity.

Luminato To-Do, Day Nine

Get out and enjoy fresh food, fun films and, yes, more music, courtesy of Luminato.

Celso Machado brings his guitar to Yorkville.

Celso Machado brings his guitar to Yorkville.

Saturday, June 13

Brazilian Guitar Marathon
Brazil is a long way from Toronto, but today it’ll feel a little closer. Starting at 1 p.m. some of the South American nation’s finest guitarists will be performing in the Village of Yorkville park. You’ll hear music by Grammy Award winners Sérgio and Odair Assad, who many consider to be the best classical guitar duo in the world; Celso Machado, who’s known for his guitar stylings as well as his ability to produce bird sounds using wind and percussion instruments; and Yamandú Costa the seven-string sensation makes his Toronto debut. The musical marathon ends with a grand finale medley featuring all the performers.
Village of Yorkville Park (Bellair and Cumberland streets), 1 to 6 p.m., free.

President’s Choice 1,000 Tastes of Toronto
We’d all like to get the most out of the city we’re visiting whether it’s in terms of the culture we take in, the historic sites we visit, or the local delicacies we taste, but you can only fit so much into a holiday. Well if you happen to be visiting Toronto this weekend you’re in for a treat. Head to the lakeshore for scrumptious local and international treats. All weekend, top chefs from across the city set up shop along Queens Quay West to offer their own unique takes on street food. At a similar event at last year’s Luminato, foodies were treated to fresh Oysters, braised hangar-steak sandwiches and baked perogies. We can’t wait to see what the chefs will come up with this time around!
Queen’s Quay West, between HTO Park and Harbourfront Centre, noon to 9 p.m, free entry, $5 for each food item.

Animated Films Based on Children’s Books
The National Film Board presents a selection of award-winning animated films based on acclaimed children’s books. Shorts include Blackberry Subway Jam by Robert Munsch and I Want a Dog by Dayal Kaur Khalsa—the title song of the latter is sung by indie songstress Neko Case. Each film, five in total, has a running time of 8 to 10 minutes, so it won’t be hard to keep your kids entertained and in their seats.
National Film Board Mediatheque (150 John St.), 1 to 3 p.m., free.

Luminato To-Do, Day Four

A couple of gothic-themed events and a show about Lenny Breau get you primed
for the week ahead.

An illustration from Neil Gaiman's <i>The Graveyard Book</i>

An illustration from Neil Gaiman's The Graveyard Book.


An Evening with Neil Gaiman
What a coup for Luminato! Master of the macabre Neil Gaiman—author of Coraline, Anansi Boys, and The Sandman graphic novel series—chose the festival to mark his first visit to Toronto in three years. Gaiman reads from his latest award-winning children’s novel, The Graveyard Book, and participates in an on-stage question-and-answer session. Fans can fawn over their British lit hero at the book signing to follow.
St. Lawrence Centre for the Arts, Jane Mallett Theatre (27 Front St. E.), 7 p.m., $15.

Poe Cabaret: A Dream Within a Dream
If you prefer your spooks to be more spine tingling than out-and-out scary, then being a guest for the Poe Cabaret. The varied evening of Edgar Allan Poe–inspired entertainment begins with the Canadian premiere of Mark Campbell and Lance Horne’s opera The Tell Tale Heart. Then CBC radio host Tom Allen will read “The Raven,” accompanied by Alexina Louis’ score. Your gothic treat is completed by French composer André Caplet’s take on The Masque of the Red Death.
Buddies in Bad Times Theatre (12 Alexander St.), 9 p.m., $45.

The Genius of Lenny Breau
Lenny Breau did a lot of things during his short life. He was Randy Bachman’s first guitar teacher, a session guitarist for CBC radio and television, and the star of his very own television program, The Lenny Breau Show, all before he turned 25. Yes, it’s safe to say Lenny Breau was prolific. Unfortunately, his life off-the-record was tumultuous; it ended mysteriously in 1984. Tonight the National Film Board hosts a free screening of a feature-length documentary about the virtuoso’s life.
National Film Board Mediatheque (150 John St.), 7 p.m., free.