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What to Do Toronto

See Massive Mammoths at the Ontario Science Centre

MIDTOWN TORONTO’S INTERACTIVE, EDUCATIONAL ATTRACTION FEATURES SOME OF THE LARGEST MAMMALS TO EVER ROAM THE EARTH

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JANUARY 22 TO APRIL 25  The Ontario Science Centre transports visitors back nearly two million years, to a time when colossal mammals like dire wolves, woolly mammoths, and saber-toothed cats roamed the earth. Mammoths and Mastodons: Titans of the Ice Age, an interactive exhibit from Chicago’s Field Museum, explores the Pleistocene epoch with skeletons, casts, teeth and tusks of short-faced bears and camels, as well as the well-preserved baby Lyuba, a female woolly mammoth calf. See displays of Paleolithic cave art, ivory figurines, and compare your weight against the daily consumption of a Columbian mammoth. Learn about the evolution and extinction of these animals, and how their living cousins, elephants, help scientists to understand their existence.  —Linda Luong Luck

• Ontario Science Centre, 770 Don Mills Rd., 416-696-1000; ontariosciencecentre.com
Map and reviews

6 Effortlessly Romantic Things to Do in Toronto

IT’S EASY TO CREATE EVERLASTING MEMORIES WITH YOUR SWEETHEART WITH THESE NO-FUSS ROMANTIC THINGS TO DO IN TORONTO

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Afternoon tea at Deq, a visit to the AGO, and skating at Nathan Phillips Square—just a few of Toronto’s effortlessly romantic things to do

Forget the chilly temperatures outside. Instead, embrace winter and its seasonal delights. And embrace each other, too by exploring a new destination—or revisiting a longtime favourite—and indulging in a few easy-to-do, good-for-two activities.

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Nathan Phillips Square Skating is a Toronto Tradition

STRAP ON SOME SKATES AND TAKE A SPIN ON THE PUBLIC ICE RINK AT NATHAN PHILLIPS SQUARE

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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

Conquer Pursuit OCR’s Obstacle Course for Adults

TORONTO’S NEW OBSTACLE COURSE, PURSUIT OCR, BRINGS PLAYGROUND FUN (AND FITNESS) INDOORS

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Just one of Pursuit OCR’s many physical challenges (photo: Rhett Morita)

Here’s some great news for those of us seeking novel ways to stick to our new year’s fitness resolutions. Toronto is now home to the country’s first fully indoor obstacle course, which means that hanging from monkey bars or swinging from a rope isn’t just for recess time anymore. Pursuit OCR—the acronym stands for obstacle course racer—is a 10,000-square-foot facility with 19 different challenges in a 160-yard-long course for all skill levels. Facilitators, whose backgrounds range from acrobatics to gymnastics, can help guide participants through a ball crawl, ball pit, lateral climbing wall, cargo net climbs, rings and hurdles. Every Sunday from 7 a.m. to noon, families can hit the obstacle course for the Play Your Best kids series. Also on the premises is the city’s first cryosauna, which sees individuals encased in a chamber that’s -110 to -150 degrees Celsius for 2.5 minutes to decrease inflammation and lactic acid build-up.  —Linda Luong

• Pursuit OCR, 444 Bathurst St., 647-467-8444; pursuitocr.com
Map and reviews

10 Undeniably Awesome Reasons to Visit Toronto in 2016

AN ARTS FESTIVAL’S ANNIVERSARY, AN INFLUX OF PRO SPORTS STARS AND THE OPENING OF TWO LUXURY RETAILERS ARE AMONG THE MANY EXCELLENT REASONS TO VISIT TORONTO IN 2016

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Jet (or drive, or take the train) into Toronto in 2016. There are a great many reasons we’re excited for the year ahead (photo: Phillip Grondin)

This past year was one of the most exciting Toronto has seen in a long time. The Pan Am and Parapan Am Games brought thousands of international athletes to the city for a summer of widely praised competition. The Aga Khan Museum gave us a beautiful, compelling look at one of the world’s most vibrant cultures. The revitalization of the downtown waterfront finally came to (admittedly, somewhat confusing at first) fruition. And, of course, the Blue Jays’ playoff run helped renew our sense of civic pride and gave the rest of Canada a reason to love Toronto once more.

It’ll be hard to top all that as we head into a new year, but there’s still much afoot to justify our high expectations. From hotly anticipated performances to major retail openings to a few useful urban improvements, these are some of the best reasons to visit Toronto in 2016.

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Things to Do in Toronto: Shows & Events in December 2015

THERE ARE ALWAYS SO MANY THINGS TO DO IN TORONTO. GET OUT AND ENJOY SOME OF THE MANY GREAT PERFORMANCES AND EVENTS TAKING PLACE THROUGHOUT THE CITY IN DECEMBER!

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Rodgers + Hammerstein’s Cinderella debuts this month at Toronto’s Ed Mirvish Theatre (photo: Carol Rosegg)

*Also check out our guide to Toronto’s Fall Performance Season, which details more of our favourite theatrical, orchestral, operatic and balletic performances taking place in Toronto through to the end of the year.

DECEMBER 1 Two recipients of the esteemed Polaris Music Prize, which annually honours a Canadian album regardless of its genre, sales or record label, come together for the latest installment of the Live at Massey Hall concert and film showcase. Composer and violinist Owen Pallett—who, as Final Fantasy, earned the first Polaris honours in 2006—and the 2014 winner, Inuit throat singer Tanya Tagaq, share the stage in celebration of the prestigious award’s 10th anniversary.

DECEMBER 1 Grammy Award–winning singer and songwriter Joseph Arthur brings his poetic lyricism to the Drake Hotel stage.

DECEMBER 1 TO JANUARY 10 A fairy godmother, a pumpkin that transforms into a horse-drawn carriage, a lost glass slipper and a prince in search of his princess. These are the quintessential elements of a beloved fairy tale that became a Broadway hit. Now, Mirvish Productions brings Rodgers + Hammerstein’s Cinderella to the Toronto stage. The Tony Award–winning show boasts sparkling sets and an ensemble cast that belts out such songs as “In My Little Corner” and “Impossible/It’s Possible” in this updated version of the romantic musical from the creators of The Sound of Music and South Pacific.

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The Cavalcade of Lights Puts Toronto in a Festive Spirit

EVERYTHING IS ILLUMINATED—COURTESY OF TORONTO’S CAVALCADE OF LIGHTS AND WINTERFEST ON THE WATERFRONT—AS THE HOLIDAY SEASON DRAWS NEAR

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The Cavalcade of Lights brightens downtown, while Winterfest on Toronto’s Waterfront brings seasonal joy to the lakeshore

Celebrate the start of the holiday season on November 28 as the annual Cavalcade of Lights illuminates City Hall and Toronto’s official Christmas tree. More than 300,000 LED bulbs adorn the massive white spruce, which shines nightly through to the end of the year. The free, family-friendly event at Nathan Phillips Square features a DJ skating party, live musical performances by the likes of Sloan and the Nathaniel Dett Chorale, and a spectacular fireworks display.

Toronto’s Waterfront is similarly festive: four sites, including the spiral tree at the Westin Harbour Castle Hotel, the fire hall, the Tall Ship at Amsterdam Bridge and the Toronto Music Garden, sparkle along the shores of Lake Ontario. Winterfest on Toronto’s Waterfront brings more merriment to the area from December 18 to 20, with an ugly Christmas sweater cocktail cruise on Friday night, as well as brunch cruises with Santa on Saturday and Sunday; see waterfrontbia.com for details.  —Linda Luong

• Cavalcade of Lights, Nathan Phillips Square, 100 Queen St. W.; toronto.ca
• Map and reviews

• Winterfest on Toronto’s Waterfront, along Queens Quay W.; waterfrontbia.com
Map and reviews

The One of a Kind Show is Back!

THE EVER-POPULAR ONE OF A KIND SHOW & SALE RETURNS TO TORONTO JUST IN TIME FOR THE GIFT-GIVING SEASON

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NOVEMBER 26 TO DECEMBER 6  Twice a year, Canadian artisans draw consumers seeking unique gifts for themselves as well as for family and friends to the Enercare Centre (formerly called the Direct Energy Centre) for the One of a Kind Show & Sale. Don some comfy walking shoes to peruse crafty wares from more than 800 vendors, whose expansive offerings include gourmet jams, ceramics, jewellery, clothing, photography, paintings, glassware and greeting cards. Among the highlights are handmade dolls and toys by Bubynao, butter tarts in a jar by Shut Ur Pie Hole, cooking and cocktail bitters by Really Horrible Enterprise, and children’s apparel made from reclaimed wool by Woodwater. On December 3, shoppers can enjoy extended retail hours until 11 p.m.  —Linda Luong

• One of a Kind Show & Sale, Enercare Centre, 100 Princes’ Blvd.; oneofakindshow.com
• Map and reviews

25 Holiday Things to Do in Toronto for $25 or Less

THESE TORONTO HOLIDAY ACTIVITIES, EVENTS AND PERFORMANCES WILL HELP YOU TO CELEBRATE THE SEASON WITHOUT BREAKING THE BANK

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The Distillery District’s Toronto Christmas Market is a great way to see one of the city’s top attractions while doing some holiday shopping, too

‘Tis the time of year for gift giving and get-togethers—which is great! But it can also be quite expensive. Fortunately, this city still offers ample entertainment for the budget-conscious among us. There’s no excuse not to revel in the spirit of the season, thanks to these 25 holiday things to do in Toronto for $25 or less.

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Things to Do in Toronto: Shows & Events in November 2015

THERE ARE ALWAYS SO MANY THINGS TO DO IN TORONTO. GET OUT AND ENJOY SOME OF THE MANY GREAT PERFORMANCES AND EVENTS TAKING PLACE THROUGHOUT THE CITY IN NOVEMBER! 

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The Royal Agricultural Winter Fair returns to Toronto on November 6

NOVEMBER 3 & 5 Can’t feel your face? Perhaps you’re enjoying The Weeknd‘s woozy R&B tunes a little too much? The Toronto-born musician kicks off the month at the Air Canada Centre.

NOVEMBER 3 TO 22 The “in-between” lives and experiences of young Asian-Canadian men are unflinchingly depicted in Banana Boys, an acclaimed stage drama directed by Nina Lee Aquino and written by Leon Aureus (based on the novel by Terry Woo). First performed more than a decade ago, the play is being remounted at Factory Theatre as part of its “Naked Season,” which sees its productions stripped down to their most fundamental and striking elements.

NOVEMBER 6 We all know that human relationships can be proverbial minefields. Fortunately, the mines that inevitably go off can unearth gold—of the comedic variety. This year’s Just For Laughs Comedy Tour stop at Massey Hall features three stand-up comics, plus humorous host Gerry Dee, who’ll dig up some jokey gems about family, love, and the quirky ways in which we interact with each other.

NOVEMBER 6 Love Dusty Springfield? You’d do well not to pass on Natalie Prass. The Virginia-based singer-songwriter carries the banner for northern soul on her eponymous debut album, which she brings to the Horseshoe Tavern tonight.

NOVEMBER 6 TO 15 Rural charm comes to the city courtesy of the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair. For 10 days, the family-friendly event showcases the richness of farm life, with everything from livestock displays and sheep herding demonstrations to an array of contests featuring giant vegetables, butter tarts, butter sculptures and more. The Royal Horse Show sees skilled riders competing in high-stakes dressage and horse jumping events, including the Longines FEI World Cup Grand Prix, the Weston Canadian Open and the Royal Six Horse Hitch Championship.

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Haunted Toronto: Six Ghostly Sites in Hogtown

THE LEAD UP TO HALLOWEEN INEVITABLY BRINGS OUT BONE-CHILLING, SPINE-TINGLING, GOOSEBUMP-INCITING STORIES OF PARANORMAL ACTIVITY, SPOOKY SIGHTINGS AND HAUNTED TORONTO DESTINATIONS. FEELING THE URGE TO INDULGE YOUR INNER GHOSTBUSTER? HEAD TO OEN OF THESE SIX SCARY SPOTS IN THE CITY—IF YOU DARE.

Haunted Toronto Ghost Tours

Old City Hall is said to be haunted by the ghosts of two convicted criminals (photo: Eric Parker)

Depending on who you talk to, both Robert Turpin and Arthur Lucas are said to haunt one of two different locations in Toronto: Old City Hall and the Don Jail. Turpin and Lucas were the last two individuals in “Muddy York” to be sentenced to death for their crimes. As one story goes, the penalty of death by hanging was delivered in a courtroom at Old City Hall where the men now roam, sometimes tugging at judges’ robes. Alternatively, the men haunt the gallows of the Old Don Jail—where many inmates were treated poorly while the prison was in operation from 1964 to 1977, and in whose open courtyard hangings were carried out.

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Plan Your Escape from the Tower at Casa Loma

CASA LOMA, TORONTO’S MOST NOTABLE HISTORIC MANOR, CHALLENGES VISITORS TO “ESCAPE FROM THE TOWER” AS PART OF ITS LATEST ATTRACTION

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Costumed performers offer clues to completing Casa Loma’s “Escape from the Tower” challenge

Escape games are all the rage, and Casa Loma is tapping into the trend with its own break-out scenario. Making use of the palatial home’s unique history plus a team of actors portraying fictitious characters, Escape from the Tower challenges players to solve a series of puzzles involving geography, morse code, circuit building and more. A short video provides participants with the manor’s background as well as their mission. Winning the game means completing the tasks in an hour or less. Take a chance at cracking the mystery—and seeing parts of Casa Loma that have never before been open to the public—at three daily sessions: 5:30, 7:30 and 9:30 p.m.  —Linda Luong

• Casa Loma, 1 Austin Terrace, 647-725-1822; escapecasaloma.com
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