The MSN Traveler

Culture Crawl Toronto

By MSN Local Edition Sep 12, 2012 2:03PM

By Julia Dimon


© OliverN5/FlickrWith the Toronto International Film Festival in full swing, the world’s cinematic eye is all about the T-dot. A vibrant city of unique neighborhoods and cultural diversity, Canada’s largest city is a thriving metropolis with trendy restaurants and a playful nightlife scene. But beyond hosting one of the world’s largest film festivals and it being generally awesome, Toronto is also my hometown. Born and raised under the shadow of the CN Tower, my neighborhood hangouts included Kensington Market, the Eaton Centre and Queen Street West, where I maintain has some of the best hot dog street vendors you’ll find anywhere around the world.


Warm and welcoming to more than just cinephiles and sausage connoisseurs, Toronto has plenty to offer the culture vulture tourist. On a recent return home to see the fam, I was reminded that Toronto is a center of a cutting-edge art, everything from her graffiti sprayed murals of counter-culture Queen West, to her high brow boutiques in the heart of trendy Yorkville.

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If you’re headed to Toronto and plan to take in some art, here are a few places you’ll want to check out on your culture crawl:

  • A natural first stop is the Art Gallery of Ontario, one of North America’s largest art museums with more than 80,000 works in its collection. The big fall exhibits include "Frida and Diego: Passion, Politics and Painting," as well as a solo exhibition by Canadian sculptor Evan Penny.  There is much to see at the AGO! For the schedule of upcoming galas, opening events, art talks and gallery tours check out


  • Go nocturnal at Nuit Blanche, a free, all night citywide art event that unfolds on the streets of Toronto.  There are over 150 projects from sound installations, to multi-media projections, performance art and even “social experiments.” A few years ago, I had the pleasure of participating in one such experiment -- a Nuit Blanche stranger hug-a-thon where an unidentified man with a brown paper bag over his head, gave warm loving hugs to all who were willing. Surprisingly, the simple act of hugging a stranger makes one feel giddy! This year’s seventh annual sunset-to-sunrise celebration of contemporary art takes place on September 29th, so mark your calendars and get ready to hug it out.
  • For a taste of the high-end Yorkville art scene, take advantage of the Hazelton Hotel’s unique new amenity – the art concierge. Guests of the Hazelton can book a 2-3 hour guided art tour with their erudite concierge Sam Mogelonsky. This unique experience is an insider’s look at some of the 40-odd art dealers and galleries located in the Yorkville area. Once the Canadian capital of the 1960’s hippie movement, Yorkville is now known for its restaurants, boutiques and traditional art collectors.
  • Check out the Distillery District, a cobblestone quarter of downtown Toronto with performing arts venues, galleries, studios, cafes and design shops. Once the home of the Gooderham and Worts Distillery, this complex has been converted from 19th century Victorian industrial warehouses to a charming neighborhood and window-shopper’s dream.
  • Sleep, drink and dream art at the Drake Hotel, a boutique hotel in the heart of the Queen Street West Art Scene. This hotel boasts exhibits from emerging Canadian artists, nightly indie music in their Underground performance venue, DJ sets and imaginative cocktails served at their rooftop bar called Sky Yard.
  • Don’t miss the 22-tonne, multimillion-dollar stainless-steel public sculpture called 'Rising,’ located outside the newly opened Shangri-La Hotel. Created by contemporary Chinese artist-du-jour Zhang Huan, this bold and beautiful metallic masterpiece is part dragon, part fluttering birds, part subjective interpretation, all impressive.


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