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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, March 4, 2011 - Volume 39 Issue 09
Toronto: Rich in history, culture, and food
Arts & Entertainment
ALL STORIES
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Toronto: Rich in history, culture, and food

by Eric Andrews-Katz - SGN Contributing Writer

Toronto is the 5th largest city in North America, and yet it is a city most people don't know anything about. Littered with activities ranging from museums, great restaurants, sports, and the CN Tower - their equivalent to the Space Needle - Toronto is a place everyone should visit. Nestled on the coast of Lake Ontario and with Buffalo just across the water, the capital of Ontario is a vibrant city with a rich history waiting to be explored.

Getting to the East Coast of Canada is an easy flight. Air Canada flies directly from Seattle and offers many flights from Vancouver, as well. The airline makes the flight comfortable with friendly service and more roominess than most American airlines when flying coach. With only a direct 4.5-hour flight, the Toronto airport is one of the easiest airports to get around in. Getting downtown to your hotel, however, may be a bit of a trick if you're not taking a cab directly. There is a shuttle offered, but it can take over an hour to get to your particular hotel - and even then, it may not drop you off without another block or two walk.

Choices of hotels are abundant. The Courtyard Marriot (www.marriott.com/hotels/hotel-rooms/yyzcy-courtyard-toronto-downtown/) - located perfectly downtown and on the lip of what is called 'The Gay Village' - is an excellent choice for a comfortable stay. Spacious rooms, comfortable beds, and even free laundry facilities are just a few amenities offered to their guests. The staff was friendly and the concierge(s) were generous and accurate with suggestions for food, activities, and directions.

Toronto is rich in many cultural backgrounds, and therefore has become a food-lover's paradise. Restaurants abound with every type of ethnic culinary delight possible. For a neighborhood feel, try Hair of the Dog Neighborhood Pub (www.hairofthedogonchurch.ca). Very relaxing with indoor/outdoor seating options, the atmosphere is pleasant and welcoming. Drink specials and the menu food choices are varied, with a good balance offered. Although the pasta was a touch undercooked for my personal taste, the sauce and blend of spice were excellently done.

If a see-and-be-seen scene is your choice, then you can do no better than dining at Byzantium (www.BYZ.ca). Setting the mood is instant and comfortable without any fuss or pompousness. This restaurant was unanimously recommended by everyone we asked, and for a good reason. An award-winning martini bar and unique menu items are only two reasons to visit the establishment; the quality of both would be two more. Even the food presentation was impressive without being pretentious and our seating hostess was none other than Alasia, the current Miss Cultural Drag Bahamas. Menu items ranged from Romaine heart salads (beautifully done) to steak fillet of ostrich (delicious), but don't worry if that doesn't appeal, as the menu rotates often.

Despite its large size, Toronto is an easy city to navigate. A subway system easily gets a person across the sprawling city, and buses run for those wanting to stay aboveground. The best way to explore any city is by foot, and you can't go wrong with a walking tour. Bruce Bell (www.brucebelltours.ca) offers just such a thing. Very charming and easygoing, Bruce is extremely proud and knowledgeable about his city and seems to get a genuine pleasure at sharing the information. With groups or individuals, his tour explores the city on foot with information about the history and exploration of two popular outdoor markets.

Toronto offers all the attractions that are associated with any major city. Opera and theater are abundant, and Toronto - like Seattle - often gets world premieres of musicals headed for Broadway. Museums range from natural history to modern art and contain impressive collections, and there is even a museum dedicated to the history of hockey.

And then there is the CN Tower. The Tower was built from 1973-'76 and stands at 1,815 feet. With dazzling views from its glass walls, it also has a section of glass floor with incredible dizzying views for those without vertigo. The price to enter can be high for many people, but on a clear day, 'forever' will be only the first of many incredible views.

Toronto is not only a beautiful city; its politics are liberal and are very welcoming to the Gay community. Bars and clubs of all sorts are found scattered throughout the city, not just in the Gay Village. While larger dance clubs are more known (thanks to Queer as Folk being filmed there), smaller bars and pubs are a great place to mix, mingle, and relax. Pegasus on Church Street (www.pegasusonchurch.com) is the kind of bar where a person of any gender or orientation can feel comfortable and enjoy a good drink. Music videos are played on several screens, and both pool tables and dartboards are accessible. It's a great place to enjoy a cocktail either on the way home from or on the way out to an evening on the town.

Pride in late June draws a large crowd with many GLBT activities, but the city is welcoming all year round. With legalized marriage equality, the laws are written so that even using the word 'fag' with malicious intent is an illegal action equivalent to any other racial or ethnic slur. Fox News is banned for being so inaccurate, and is only seen by those who subscribe to a cable or satellite network.

No matter what your tastes are, Toronto has something to offer, and has the friendliness of a city half its size. With its liberal policies and welcoming attitude, its plethora of activities, and just a natural comfort and beauty, it's easy to see why 500 people move to this city every day.

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