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COMPARE Toronto HOTELS

Toronto is a cosmopolitan city with a wonderful network of parks, recreational, and cultural facilities. It is the largest city in Canada with a population of nearly 8 million. Toronto is the home of four professional sports teams and the third largest English-speaking theatre district in the world, behind New York and London. It is the world's most multicultural city as it is home to more than 80 ethnic communities from Africa, Asia, and Europe. Half of the population of Toronto was not born in Canada. A dominant force in the business and economy of the nation, it is also the cultural center of English-speaking Canada. The economy of Toronto is also one of the largest in the Western World, worth at $305 billion US.

In 1998, the cities of Toronto, Scarborough, North York, Etobicoke, and York and the Borough of East York amalgamated to form the current City of Toronto. This is also known as Metropolitan Toronto or "the 416" after its area code (although now there are some new area codes, the overwhelming number of area codes in the Toronto are still "416") and has a population of over 2.6 million people. More than half of these were born in some country other than Canada - a fact obvious to any visitor immediately, as the city has many vibrant bustling neighborhoods with street signs in several languages.

Toronto and its surrounding suburbs are collectively known as the Greater Toronto Area (GTA). Outlying suburbs are also known as "the 905" after their area code, although technically this code is also used in both Hamilton and the Niagara Region, stretching to the border in Niagara Falls. The entire area including Toronto is known as the "Golden Horseshoe" and has a population of over 8 million people.

Free weekly newspapers, distributed from boxes on street corners and in racks in stores and restaurants can be good sources of information on cinema, dining, music, theatre, and other events and local news:

  • Eye Weekly - Comes out on Thursdays.
  • Now Toronto - Comes out on Thursdays.

Depending on where you go in Toronto, you will be able to find locally printed newspapers in a variety of languages. For example, in Chinatown you'll find Chinese newspapers. In "Little Italy" you'll find Italian newspapers. You'll also find newspapers in Spanish, Portuguese, Arabic, Tagalog, Greek ...

A popular urban myth has it that the United Nations rated Toronto as "the most multicultural city in the world". While the UN and its agencies are not in the habit of rating cities, it remains a fact that Canada is a nation of immigrants, and Toronto demonstrates this abundantly. A UN agency lists Toronto as second only to Miami as the city with the most foreign born residents, but Toronto's residents represent far more cultural and language groups, which is arguably a better measure of multi-culturalism. Most immigrants either pass through Toronto on their way to other parts of the country, or they stay in Toronto permanently. This contributes to the overall cultural mosaic that is Toronto today. Within Toronto, most ethnic groups will work their way into the fabric of Canadian society but some still retain their distinct ways such as language, dress (for special occasions), customs, and food.

As a result of this cultural mosaic, Toronto is home to many ethnic festivals throughout the year. Toronto also boasts several radio stations which broadcast in various languages as well as at least two multicultural television channels. The City of Toronto officially deals in 16 different languages while the Toronto Transit Commission (public transit) has a helpline that deals in 70 languages. Even large department stores such as The Bay in downtown Toronto proudly advertise service in 9 languages. The lingua franca of Toronto however, remains English.

Districts

Toronto is known as a city of neighborhoods. Districts, often centered on a main street (Queen, College, Bloor etc), are packed tightly together, with each having something different to offer the visitor. The relative compactness of these neighborhoods makes exploring on foot easy and pleasant, especially in the warmer months.

  • Central Toronto - Includes the busy downtown financial district as well as dining and shopping districts along Yonge and Bloor streets.
  • East Toronto – A multicultural part of the city, with ethnic districts such as Little India, Greektown as well as former and current industrial zones, including the portlands.
  • Northwest Toronto – Home to the city’s fashion and theater districts, a wide range of shopping opportunities, and a taste of Chinese, Korean, Italian, and Portuguese communities.
  • West Toronto – Largely a middle-class residential zone, but with some great parks and a few interesting areas such as the Little Poland neighborhood.
  • North Toronto - This area covers the enormous swathe of land north of downtown Toronto. The region includes Toronto's wealthiest neighbourhoods as well as Toronto's poorest. It also has several extremely vibrant neighbourhoods, mostly centred along Yonge St and Eglinton and St Clair Avenues. Due to the location of the subway, the stretch along Yonge Street also has several high density office-shopping-residential districts including several of the tallest buildings outside of downtown.
  • Toronto Islands - A chain of islands in Toronto harbor and home to a small residential community, an airport, a small amusement park, kilometers of bike trails, spectacular city views, picnic grounds and even a clothing-optional beach. The short and inexpensive ferry ride alone is worth the trip, but one can easily spend a relaxing day or two here. Torontonians love to come here to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city. It is car-free.

See

see Downtown district article for more possibilities & further information:

  • Royal Ontario Museum— One of the better museums in North America. Make sure you check out the dinosaurs and the Egyptian exhibits.
  • Art Gallery of Ontario — This is the largest art gallery in Canada. It has a great Canadian paintings exhibit and the world's largest collection of Henry Moore sculptures. The European paintings exhibit has a few excellent pieces and will have one of the world's most expensive paintings on view (Ruben's The Massacre of the Innocents) when it re-opens in November 2008.
  • Ontario Science Centre — Lots of hands on science exhibits, including a rainforest, a tornado machine, sound proof tunnel, balace testing machines, and more. It also contains Ontario's only Omnimax (full wrap around) movie theatre.
  • Bata Shoe Museum327 Bloor St. West, in downtown Toronto. Monday-Saturday 10AM-5PM, Sunday 12 noon-5PM. Adults $12, Seniors $10, Every Thursday evening between 5PM and 8PM, admission is Pay-what-you-can, with a suggested donation of $5 (March 2008).
  • Canadian National Exhibition (CNE) — Annual agricultural exhibition that is Canada's largest fair and the fifth largest in North America, with an average annual attendance of 1.3 million.
  • CN Tower — The tallest free standing structure in North America. You can ride a glass elevator to the top. The view is incredible and there is a glass floor, which for some is very scary to walk on. There is also a revolving restaurant which offers spectacular views as the sun sets over the city.
  • Casa Loma — Visit Canada's Majestic Castle, Casa Loma and step back in time to a period of European elegance and splendour. The former home of Canadian financier Sir Henry Pellatt, Canada's foremost castle is complete with decorated suites, secret passages, an 800-foot tunnel, towers, stables, and beautiful 5-acre estate gardens (open May through October). A self-guided digital audio tour in 8 languages (English, French, Japanese, German, Italian, Spanish, Mandarin and Korean) is available. Casa Loma is located at One Austin Terrace near the corner of Davenport Rd. and Spadina Ave. www.casaloma.org.
  • Gardiner Museum of Ceramic Art — Dedicated to ceramics in an exquisite contemporary building right across from the Royal Ontario Museum - from Ancient to Contemporary with an extraordinary European collection.
  • Hockey Hall of Fame — Dedicated to the history of ice hockey, it is both a museum and a hall of fame.
  • Black Creek Pioneer Village — Historic site in northern part of Toronto, just west of York University and southeast of the Jane and Steeles intersection. It overlooks Black Creek, a tributary of the Humber River. The village is a recreation of life in 19th-century Ontario and consists of over forty historic 19th century buildings, decorated in the style of the 1860s with period furnishings and actors portraying villagers. The village is populated with ducks, horses, sheep, and other livestock and is self-explored, although many of the individual sites will have a guide inside to explain details of the structure. Visiting in the fall, after the summer, is a great way to see the village, as weekdays will see the facility almost empty of other visitors.
  • Ontario Place — A great place to take the kids in summer with an Imax theater inside.
  • Toronto City Hall— Two buildings forming a semi-circle overlooking Nathan Phillips square, which has a very popular skating rink in the winter. Arcitecturally stunning, and next door to Old City Hall (currently the court house)which has a more classical architecture.
  • Toronto Zoo — A world-class facility, the Toronto Zoo is best accessed by car or GO Transit + TTC bus as a day-trip as it is located at the eastern reaches of the city. The zoo is divided into zones (such as Africa, South America, and North America) and features both indoor and outdoor displays. Open daily except for Christmas Day, and worth a visit in both the winter and summer months.

 

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