What to see, eat and do in Toronto

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Canada’s largest city and North America’s fourth-largest metropolis, Toronto welcomed more than 27.5 million visitors a year before the pandemic, making it Canada’s top tourist destination, according to DestinationTorontothe city’s tourism marketing arm.

As travel resumes, Canadian tourists predominate, with traffic from the United States just beginning to return and foreign visitors still scarce, according to agency data. Summer is generally high season; this may be the last year to enjoy Toronto in warm weather before the city is overwhelmed again.

More than 5,100 restaurants have closed across the province of Ontario during the pandemic, according to Restaurants Canada, a national trade organization. But the food scene in this omnivorous city has come back to life. In May, michelin chose Toronto as the first Canadian city to have its own guide.

“The dynamism and diversity are still intact”, said Scott Beck, President and CEO of Destination Toronto. “Everything that makes our culinary scene so unique in North America is still there. The diversity of arts and culture is still there.

And yes, cannabis stores have mushroomed during the pandemic, but “they’re a non-event,” Beck said. “Cannabis is legal across the country. Toronto is not Amsterdam.

The liveliest restaurants usually open on the bohemian outskirts of Toronto. But attractive restaurants have now sprouted up in the city center. “Weekend warrior demand for social dining and entertainment is coming back in a real way,” said Hanif Harji, general manager of Scale Hospitality, which operates 14 restaurants. “There is buzz in the streets again.”

At Mr. Harji’s chica bar, open since April, hides behind an unmarked door next to a condo tower on King Street West. On a recent Thursday evening, the high-ceilinged room vibrated with what felt like pre-Covid energy. Chef Ted Corrado refines traditional tapas with Canadian sourcing; think BC spot prawn ceviche or Canadian beef chimichurris with Ontario ramps (tapas range from C$9-24, or about $7-18). In August, Mr. Harji will open Miss Likklemore’s, a Caribbean spot in King West Village. In the fall, Scale and Montreal chef Antonio Park will open AP, a fine-dining restaurant atop the Eataly outpost in Yorkville.

Also in Yorkville, Chef Rob Rossi’s Ligurian menu at Osteria Giulia attracts well-dressed locals who feast on traditional flatbreads, salumi and pasta (dishes from C$32-75). Open since October, it remains the hottest table in the neighborhood. At the street corner, Adrach employs a team of chefs who each specialize in a style of regional Indian cuisine; the unconventional menu includes smoked salmon with pommery mustard (starters C$29-60).

Toronto offers endless options for all kinds of Asian dishes. A new spot being talked about is Ca Phe Rang, opened south of Chinatown by veterans of French bistro Le Select. A deceptively simple menu offers extravagant, seasoned surprises like halloumi banh mi, escabeche shiitake spring rolls, and homemade praline-peanut dip (starters C$15-20).

At the north end of Yorkville, Mimi chinese travel back to the future in a neon-lit room of red velvet banquettes occupied by waiters in bow ties. The menu spans China’s southern provinces, from raw Guangdong-inspired king mackerel to charred cabbage in Shaanxi. It opened in October, and remains a difficult ticket (entries from 26 to 88 Canadian dollars).

Smorgasburg, the Brooklyn-born outdoor food market, will launch its first international edition on Toronto’s Queen’s Quay waterfront on July 23; it runs for eight Saturdays, featuring local vendors. In the western annex district, the new super fresh The night market features “Asian-run and owned” food and drink vendors in a 4,000-square-foot venue “in the style of an Asian alleyway,” according to organizers.

With skyrocketing commercial rents, condos sprouting up everywhere, and precious space, nightlife has yet to catch up with the restaurant business. “We get a lot of restaurants, which is great. The challenge is finding a place to dance,” said Michael Nyarkoh, Community Marketing Manager for the new Ace Hotel Toronto.

Closed for renovation three years ago, 127 years Massey Room reopened in November with red velvet seating, beautifully restored stained glass, full accessibility and a crystal clear sound system. His return had a special meaning for this music-crazed city. “Massey Hall was built a year after Carnegie Hall, and a Toronto band’s dream is to play there,” said Kevin Drew, one of the Toronto band’s founders. Shattered social scene, who gave their first concert at Massey Hall in April. The $146 million restoration “did an incredible job of keeping the ghosts and the heat alive,” he said. Canadian music royalty from Oscar Peterson to Rush have performed in the venue, whose packed 2022 roster includes soul legend Mavis Staples and alt-country star Orville Peck.

Toronto’s theater scene, one of the largest on the continent, is coming back to life after the pandemic shutdowns. For the first time since 2019, the Toronto Fringe Festival, which ends July 17, has brought back live performances. In large Broadway-style homes, glowing openings include Harry Potter and the Cursed Childwhich opened in May; Jesus Christ Superstar (opens August 10) and Sing in the rain (September 23). In February, hamilton Return. Tickets range from approximately 99 to 260 Canadian dollars.

On independent stages, intriguing work includes suburban drama “Detroit” on the East End coal mine theatuh (until August 7); the world premiere of Erin Shields’ Shakespeare prequel ‘Queen Goneril’ at soulpepper (opens August 25); and the Kafka-inspired “Cafard” at Tarragon (opens September 13). Tickets at these theaters range from 25 to 60 Canadian dollars.

After nearly two years of online exhibits and discontinued openings, Toronto museums are back with mighty lineups. In June, the Art Gallery of Ontario launched the major exhibition “Faith and Fortune: Art Across the Global Spanish Empire” (until October 10), with 200 works spanning four centuries and three continents. More intimate performances by Canadian artists Ken Lum and Ed Pien explore personal stories through images and text. A few blocks to the north, the Royal Ontario Museum opens the Harry Potter-related “Fantastic Beasts: The Wonder of Nature,” exploring what the museum calls “the intersection of natural history and pop culture” (until January 2, 2023).

A few blocks west, the Bata Shoe Museum launches “Future Now: Virtual Sneakers to Cutting-Edge Kicks,” featuring high-tech designs like Nike’s self-lacing MAGS and a Zaha Hadid/Rem Koolhaas collaboration (through October 2023). The fabulous Gardiner Museum, one of the only North American museums dedicated to ceramics, presents “Sharif Bey: Colonial Ruptures,” featuring African-inspired icons by the Syracuse-based artist (until August 28). And the four year old Museum of Modern Artin a former car factory in the West End, offers two breathtaking shows: “Land of Dream”, haunting portraits of New York-based Shirin Neshat, and “Summer”, the first solo exhibition of Felix Gonzalez-Torres, co-founder of the seminal queer collective, General Idea, who died in 1996 (both until July 31).

This is proving to be a banner year for hotel openings. Canada’s first Hotel As will open this summer on a quiet cul-de-sac between bustling Queen and King streets. Toronto-based architects Shim-Sutcliffe designed a curvy modernist facade whose soaring concrete interiors house Alder, a Mediterranean-influenced restaurant by famed Toronto chef Patrick Kriss (rates from C$349 a night).

With a huge Hudson’s Bay department store closing in March, the intersection of Yonge and Bloor streets felt dark. The mood should improve this month with the first W Hotel, on the northeast side. Formerly an austere Marriott, the 254-room W polishes its brutalist concrete building with vibrant colors and abundant greenery. On tap: a spacious street-level cafe, a 5,000-square-foot tapas and champagne bar, and a massive rooftop lounge seemingly inspired by Yves St. Laurent’s Marrakech villa (rates from $475 Canadians at night).

The 1 hotel brand, from former Starwood chairman Barry Sternlicht, debuted in Toronto last August at the west end of the entertainment district. Promising ‘sustainable luxury’ – and featuring 3,000 plants – the 112-room hotel was the only Canadian contender at Condé Nast Traveler’s 2022 Favorite list (rates from 530 Canadian dollars per night).

The 19 rooms of Queen Street West Drake Hotel isn’t entirely new — it opened in 1890 and was refreshed in 2004 — but its 42-room modern wing has just debuted in a sleek, compact building next door. It’s the kind of property with a full-time art curator, interiors saturated with color by the innovative design agency and live music in the basement. Its glass-enclosed restaurant offers a beautiful view of the sidewalk (rates start at 379 Canadian dollars per night).

On the site of the former Pilkington Glass Factory near the entertainment district, the Robert De Niro, backed by Nobu brand will open its first mixed-use development in 2023, with a hotel, 650 residences and a Nobu restaurant. Toronto architect Stephen Teeple compared the design of his perforated black building to a tuning fork.

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