Gourmet food, an A-list international film festival and the opportunity to dangle from one of the world’s tallest buildings confirm Toronto’s status as the entertainment capital of Canada. Celia Paul recommends where to go and what to see.
The wind is whistling around me, snatching away the words I’m muttering again and again under my breath: “Don’t look down. Just don’t look down.”
I look down. A small plane is coming in to land across the still body of blue water below me.
I am standing, clutching at the harness I’m secured by, on a metal grille atop the restaurant of the CN Tower, formerly the world’s highest building. I’ve been offered the chance to experience Toronto’s newest and most adrenaline-pumping tourist experience, EdgeWalk, which gives visitors a whole new perspective of Canada’s largest city - by effectively dangling over it.
Toronto can sometimes feel like the neglected, sensible older sibling of outdoorsy Vancouver or French-influenced Montreal. But the fifth largest city in North America has enough to please a wide variety of people.
From my vantage point high above the city, I can see many of the city’s most famous sights. To the south, ferries chug gently across Lake Ontario to Centre Island, a haven of rural tranquillity just minutes away from the hustle and bustle of downtown Toronto.
To the north, the vivid cobalt blue of the Art Gallery of Ontario stands out from the greys and browns of the surrounding buildings. Designed by Toronto native Frank Gehry and opened in 2008, the gallery houses more than 80,000 works including a modern and contemporary art collection featuring pieces by Rothko, Miro, Matisse and Modigliani.
Toronto is a city of distinct neighbourhoods, each with its own atmosphere and sense of community. I spend a leisurely afternoon wandering around the boutiques, cafes and galleries of West Queen West, where walls adorned with graffiti coexist happily with upscale clothes shops and boutique hotels.
A rejuvenating stint sitting outside the Dark Horse espresso bar provides ample opportunity for people-watching as hipsters, punks, leather-clad bikers and young families amble past. It also provides an excellent latte.
Food is a big deal in Toronto. Down by the waterfront lies the thriving St Lawrence market, dating back to the 19th century, packed with stalls selling fresh produce, pickles, jams, seafood and Canadian specialities.
And while it’s easy to find all kinds of cuisine, as befits the world’s most ethnically diverse city, the food scene seems to come into its own when dealing with local Canadian produce. With a slight shift in recent years away from fine dining and towards informal, seasonal eating, the city is packed with top-notch restaurants where the food is the star.
Not that food is uppermost in my mind as I cling to my harness thousands of feet up in the air. But by the time I hit the ground again, a grin is plastered across my face. It turns out that Toronto doesn’t just provide a little something for culture-lovers, epicures and thrill-seekers; it has the power to turn any of us - even me - into all of them.