Tuesday, 24 May 2011


First off even though I spent two months here back in 2006-and this place has a close place in my heart-I am not biased. The city of Toronto-like it's country-Canada is one of the worlds greatest and most cultural, dynamic and underrated places in the world. To visit or live, this city in Ontario is amongst the cleanest, safest and most welcoming cities and tourist destinations. Sure it probably falls down most peoples 'places to go' list behind many of it's American neighbours destinations and more but it really, really shouldn't. Here's why...

Sure out of all the worlds most famous countries and cities New York, London, Tokyo and Sydney remain at the forefront but Toronto stands right next to them. From sky-scraping structures to down-to-earth locals and with calm streets but still a real city feel this town has just the right, perfect mix. If you land at Pearson or right downtown once you hit the T-Dot your greeted with one of the worlds best architectural designs. The 'CN Tower' is formerly the worlds largest free-standing structures but is still one of the worlds biggest attractions. It's the first thing you'll see coming in on the highway and the one thing that will help you see the whole city (other then the cities famous 'red line' which is your best way to get round). From glass floors to all the bells and whistles you'd expect from a tourist attraction of its kind including perfect photo opportunities and fantastic facts this has it all. Even if you climbed most of the worlds most famous, tallest skyscrapers you still won't see a view as incredible or as beautiful as this, especially when the sun goes down. You can even literally climb it now too, with bungee rope on the new death-defying and scary 'Edge Walk'. In a word...(if you don't have yours taken away with your breath)...WOW!

From the 'CN Tower' you can see the whole city and every little incredible, intricate bit that makes it up. Still two landmarks that really stand out are the 'Rogers Centre' (formerly the Skydome) and the 'Air Canada Centre' (which at this rate may soon become another Rodgers centre. These impressive, innovative buildings (the 'Rogers Centre'-which looks like a space observatory-has a roof that opens on game day) house some of Toronto's most popular and sought-after sports franchises. The 'Rogers Centre' is home to the worldwide popular Blue Jays baseball franchise. While flying with the 'Air Canada Centre' is the legendary Maple Leaf, hockey franchise (you must check out the 'Hockey Hall Of Fame' too, of course Canadians do this sport better then anybody) and basketball's Raptors (the only NBA franchise in Canada). All will guarantee an incredible night and also act as incredible concert and event venues and there's a long range diverse ones occurring in this happening city. Speaking on diversity there is also a versatile range of concert venues, halls and theatres around the city for all ages from the prestigious 'Royal Thomson Hall' and 'Royal Alexandra Theatre' to the cool 'Kool Haus'.

Still if this isn't your ticket you could always check out these events and many more at a local sports bar or restaurant. There's an abundance of great places to do this but a personal favourite is the 'Loose Moose' Bar and grill. With walls lined with every sport going and welcoming and friendly staff on hand this is the place to take in a game or nine with a brew and your closest, and the 'Loose Moose' fries are to die for. Speaking of food there are so many incredible and appealing places to chow through from home to Japanese cuisine and everything in between. I even went to one place where my side of coleslaw was like a bowl of cereal...and I'm not complaining, beat that Americans. Still one of the best bars/restaurants to visit is 'Jack Astors' (check out which letter's aren't illuminated on the sign too). Warm, friendly, inviting and distinctively Canadian, from a drink with the game to a meal for two, everyone is catered for. The waiters/waitress also write their names with crayon on your table. Don't worry-you know Canadians don't graffiti-the table cloth is paper. So once the staffs introductions are over you can scribble to the child in your young hearts content.

Then again if you want more from your evening out then why not hit one of the T-Dot's most happening nightspots for a bit of clubbing. 'Lot 332' on Queen Street West is a great party place and hey if it's good enough for Diddy-who's held it down here-you know it'll make for one hell of a night out. The 'CiRCA', 'Mod Club' and 'Mink Nightclub' are also among the best searches for a good trip round town. Or for a quieter night you could pub crawl around some of the finest, diverse bars any town could offer littered around the city. Nothing is more cool, calm, laid-back and relaxed however then the inspiring Irish bar 'P.J. O'Brien' on Kings Street. There's always a royal mix where King's and Queen's align. or why not drink in your passion for wine in the historic Distillery district?

Still if you want an even quieter night then that why not catch a film at one of the many impressive large or intimate cinemas? Most making for real nice venues for date night with plenty of cool bars and places to walk nearby. Why so many great cinemas? Well speaking of movies every September marks the 'Toronto Film Festival'; a true star, studded spectacle and second only in the movie industry to the untouchable Cannes festival. With plenty of film stars to spot and chances to even see future films on screen (if you book early enough) this is a great way to spend a couple of days. You could catch Johnny Depp, the latest and even the most obscure showings, or even the strangest things-like when Colin Farrell ran away from the paparazzi to buy a homeless man he knew camping gear and time in a hotel (what a guy).

Still if your star-struck serious about celebrities and not in town September then get yourself down to the 'Much Music' building, where Canada's answer to MTV opens it's glass window to fans who couldn't get a ticket for the show and allows autographs and photos for fans from the celebrities that are being interviewed on the program. Everyone, who's anyone ranging from Gwen Stefani to Toronto Raptors basketball player Jose Calderon have drawn in the fans over the years. It's a much, must see.

Then again the best things to see in a city are it's own individual, intricate sights and from the beautiful buildings of old Toronto to the new, space-aged futuristic City Hall (complete with ice-rink) the Dot has it all. With inventive, incredible modern architecture canvasing the city constantly (like the 'Art Gallery of Ontario' and the 'Royal Ontario Museum') and sky scrapers that look grand enough to match New York and most of Asia, DO NOT leave your camera at home. Also make sure you make a royal appointment to see the classic Casa Loma, out of town and this modern day world. Speaking of out of town; one of the world's eight wonders Niagara Falls is just a short trip away. What more could you possibly want?

Natural beauty is the greatest however and between all the bricks and mortar and iron and glass Toronto has plenty of nature in abundance, just check out the almost Caribbean-in parts looking Scarborough Bluffs. For your best view why not take a leaf from Otis Redding's songbook and sit on the dock of the bay and take in the beautiful Lake Ontario in all it's clear and pure clarity? Or why not cross it and take a boat on an unforgettable trip across that offers the best view of the city day or night? On the other side of your short journey is the Toronto Islands; a beautiful landscape of many attractions and communities. Making for a great park in the Winter and great venues for concerts, festivals and mini-theme parks in the hotter, scorching Summer season.

Then again if you prefer looking for a great bargain or outfit then Toronto has the shopping market to rival New York, London, Seoul or Tokyo. From all the big chains to the small influential, independent business this city bags it all. The shopping is so advanced here that it moves underground in those icicle, bitter cold Winters. With a subway of shops, the excellent Eaton Centre and the Times Square/Piccadilly Circus esque Yonge Street district above ground this city has it all covered. Music really seems to be the beat of the street however setting the tone for the town with all sorts of shops. It's just a shame the legendary, record looking 'Sam's Records' is now defunct and demolished, you could have found any CD you wanted in that perfect place.

After all this I bet your ready to drop right? So how about laying your hat somewhere in this place that feels like home. From the up most, high hotels like the fabulous 'Fairmont' building to the budget, backpacking Hostels like the colourful 'Global Village' to the cabin class of the 'Canadiana' and many more. Before you sleep, make sure you say goodnight and a little more to your fellow travellers and the locals because that's one of the greatest things about this familiar and friendly city; the perfect people. Seriously, share your favourite memories with some memorable new friends. So if your stuck for a new place to visit this year I guarantee this developing and established city will never get old. The home of many Hollywood movies (even if you can't tell) and everyone from the late comedy great John Candy and today's top rapper Drake is ready for you. The most peaceful and unsung city in the world, go see why I fight to sing it's praises. TIM DAVID HARVEY.