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View from the Top
The bird's-eye view from the CN Tower (301 Front St West; 416-868-6937; from C$22) -- the world's tallest building -- gives an excellent overview of Toronto and will help you get your bearings.
With more than 200 professional theatre and dance companies, 90 theatre venues and 10,000 performances a year, Toronto is the third largest theatre center in the English-speaking world. Mainstream shows and musicals are in the Entertainment District.
To see where such sketch comedians as Gilda Radner, Dan Aykroyd, John Candy and Martin Short started, visit Second City (51 Mercer St; 416-343-0011 or 800-263-4485), the successful Toronto spin-off of the Chicago troupe.
Further west the Annex neighborhood and Bathurst strip offer alternative and avant-garde theaters and in the Gay Village Buddies in Bad Times Theatre (12 Alexander St; 416-975-8555) showcases Canadian gay and lesbian theatre. In the same building Tallulah's Cabaret hosts live music, comedians, cabarets, performance artists, DJs and dancing.
With average theater prices ranging from C$15-65, theater is quite reasonable in Toronto. Even big musicals charge C$50-110. Further bargains can be had on Sunday when some venues offer "PWYC" (pay what you can). T.O. TIX (at the corner of Yonge and Dundas; 416-536-6468 ext. 40) offers discounted tickets (advance and day-of), Tuesdays to Saturdays, in person and through its Web site.
Galleries and Museums
Visit the Art Gallery of Ontario (317 Dundas St West; 416-979-6648; C$15) to see 1,000 years of art, including lots of Henry Moore. You'll also find the work of the most famous Canadian painters, the Group of Seven -- early 20th century rebels who questioned the superiority of European Art and explored the wilderness of their own backyard, to glorious results. More of their work can be seen at The McMichael Canadian Art Collection (10365 Islington Ave, Kleinburg, ON; 905-893-1121 or 888/213-1121; C$15) located 30 km north of Toronto. This impressive collection of Canadian Art, including Inuit, modern and contemporary, is housed in the former home of the McMichaels on 100 acres of conservation land. Hiking and mountain biking trails make this a nice day (just barely) out-of-town.
The Royal Ontario Museum (100 Queen's Park; 416-586-8000; C$20), home to international art, natural history and Canadian culture exhibitions, is currently undergoing a C$270 million expansion designed by Daniel Libeskind. The new Michael Lee-Chin Crystal addition is an unusual angular building jutting over traffic, topped by an exciting restaurant (see C5 in EAT).
Another kind of artifact can be found at the Bata Shoe Museum (327 Bloor Street West; 416-979-7799; C$12). This shoebox-inspired building houses over 10,000 shoes, ranging from those of Drew Barrymore, David Bowie and Marilyn Monroe, to Pope Benedict XV's lovely crushed velvet and gold numbers, to the fascinating black lacquered shoes of the Buddhist priests of the Meiji Shrine.
Hockey fans will want to see the Hockey Hall of Fame (30 Yonge St; 416-360-7765; C$15) or go to a game at the Air Canada Centre (40 Bay St; 416-815-5500; www.theaircanadacentre.com; C$45-220). In spring, summer, or fall visit the Skydome (One Blue Jays Way; 416-341-1234 or 888/OK-GO-JAY; www.skydome.com; C$9-205) and see the Blue Jays play. Anyone interested in gay curling can contact The Riverdale Curling League (416-925-9872 ext. 2202; www.gaycurl.ca).
To get a thorough overview of Toronto's history, sign up for a Bruce Bell walking tour (647-393-8687; C$25). This gay tour operator successfully blends information and entertainment value.
Make the most of a beautiful summer day with a trip to theToronto Islands, home of the gay friendly Hanlan's Point clothing-optional beach, bike paths, and a small amusement park. It's a good place to hang out in a heat wave, with temperatures a few degrees cooler than downtown. The C$6 round-trip ferry ride provides the best view of the city's waterfront skyline.