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Tour Toronto

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The historic Flatiron building in downtown Toronto is a popular tourist destination
The Flatiron building at night in downtown Toronto

TORONTO TOUR: DAY 3

Now that you've seen the heart of the city, you might want to designate your last day to exploring Toronto's ethnic areas or a few special attractions that are further afield.

Italians have played an important role in Canadian history ever since Giovanni Caboto (John Cabot) explored and claimed Newfoundland for England in 1497. Between 1885 and 1924, and then after World War II, waves of Italians settled around College Street — Toronto's first "Little Italy." Today, this area is packed with trattorias, funky shops, hip restaurants and a lively bar scene. Sidewalks are jammed on weekends, especially in the summer when locals and visitors alike sip espresso on outdoor patios like Café Diplomatico (often used as a set by filmmakers).

Greektown on the Danforth combines creative spaces, clubs and cafés with stereotypical ethnic cuisine and shops. Walking down Danforth Avenue, you'll see street signs in English and Greek, as well as blue and white Greek flags lining the avenues, fruit and vegetable stands, butcher shops, Greek bakeries and pastry shops. The scent of traditional Greek food fills the air, especially in warmer months, when the restaurants' glass walls are opened up and shouts of "Opa!" reverberate. Join in the fun and lunch at one of the many spots for authentic Greek food.

Locals often go to the Harbourfront Centre in Toronto to ice skate or see an outdoor play
Harbourfront Centre

Toronto's waterfront boasts the Harbourfront Centre with its outdoor skating rink in winter and popular amphitheatre, which seats over 1,500 people with additional standing room for 3,000. Harbourfront was once a desolate chunk of industrial land but now is a hive of cultural activity that includes over 4,000 theatrical and musical events held every year. Nestled along the shore of Lake Ontario this stage has welcomed internationally renowned acts such as Mos Def, K'naan, Feist and Broken Social Scene, and has launched the careers of local performers. Pedestrian walkways along the shore of the lake make for an enjoyable stroll in good weather.

A short, scenic ferry ride commencing near the Westin Harbour Castle takes you to the Toronto Islands, originally settled in the 1830s and now home to Centreville amusement park.  It's also the site of Hanlan's Point (nude) Beach and lots of paths that offer views of Toronto from a different perspective. Ontario Place, on the lake, features amusement parks, water sports and the triodetic dome that houses the cinesphere, the world's first permanent IMAX theater.
A KidSpark exhibit at the Ontario Science Centre in Toronto
The Ontario Science Centre

Children will love the Ontario Science Centre or Black Creek Pioneer Village. The former, which pioneered the concept of interactive exhibitions, continues to provoke and stimulate with its exhibits. IMAX films and new spaces such as KidSpark are geared toward those eight and under. At Black Creek, step into Canada's past and explore an authentically recreated country village from 1860s Ontario.  Here you'll enjoy more than 40 restored homes, trade shops, public and farm buildings, interpreters and artisans in period dress, country dining, unique shopping and village-made crafts.

If you're into studs and leather, the Gay Village (centered around the intersection of Church and Wellesley) is packed with alternative shops as well as cafés and bars such as Woody's and Sailor. Showtime's series "Queer as Folk" was filmed in the Village, which is also host to Canada's largest annual gay and lesbian pride celebration (the third largest pride parade in the world). Rub the shiny spot on the controversial bronze monument to Alexander Wood, believed to be North America's only gay bronze historical monument.

Canada’s largest gay and lesbian pride celebration is held every year in The Gay Village in Toronto
The Gay Village

If you've followed all our suggestions for Day 3, you may well be fatigued — but reserve some energy for the evening. After New York and London, Toronto lays claim to the third largest theater center in the English-speaking world. Every night, dozens of acts — from big-time musicals to small, experimental plays — go live. The new Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts by Diamond and Schmitt Architects is Canada's first purpose-built opera house. Its outside is austere and elementally Canadian, while the inside boasts an airy foyer dominated by blond wood. Huge glass walls from the lobbies and reception rooms look onto the city. The auditorium's acoustics are fantastic — subtle and clear at intimate moments or voluble with huge waves of sound that soar to magnificent heights. If an opera is taking place, don't miss a performance.

Located at Reitman Square on the northwest corner of King and John Streets, TIFF Bell Lightbox occupies an entire city block in the heart of Toronto's media and entertainment district. What began as a ten-day film festival has grown to embrace programming 365 days a year. TIFF offers screenings, lectures, discussions, festivals and the chance to meet filmmakers from Canada and around the world. You can drink at the Blackberry Lounge, eat at Luma restaurant, shop and, most of all, enjoy the watching the works of great established Canadian and international filmmakers.

If you want to dine in the action-packed entertainment district, King Street West is now the go to place. Restaurants such as Rodney's Oyster Bar, Jacob's & Co. Steakhouse, Brassaii, Lee and Buca pack people in nightly for good food and fun.

For more information, visit the Toronto Convention and Visitors Association at www.seetorontonow.com, or call 800-499-2514.


MORE TORONTO INFORMATION

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The CN Tower


* Images courtesy of Toronto Convention & Visitors Association and the Ontario Science Centre

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(Updated: 08/13/11 SS)

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