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Toronto: it's not as bad as you think



To hear Vancouver's morning DJs tell it, Toronto is a bad place full of bad, stupid people who think they're better than everyone else. That's right; the city I grew up in, where friends and family lead pretty good and interesting lives, has become a punchline for misogynist asshats with microphones, who's only purpose in life seems to be to make people grumpier on their morning commutes.

Bitter? You bet. I've lived in B.C. for 12 years now after coming to the realization that I'm a mountain guy at heart, but the truth is that I'll never really leave Toronto. Too many people are there that I miss, and I have too many reasons to go back year after year.

And while I'll acknowledge that it's on the flat side (I prefer to think of it as "rolling"), it's really not such a bad place to visit. In fact, I encourage all British Columbians who believe they were born in the only worthwhile place in Canada to travel east sometime. You need to go to the Maritimes. You must visit Quebec and the awesome cities of Quebec and Montreal. And, without a doubt, you have to face up to the urban leviathan that is Toronto, even if the idea of so many snooty people packed into one place makes you slightly nauseous - if only so you can say you came by your hatred of Toronto honestly, instead of basing your opinions on hearsay from the Dirty Dan and Marty McFartpants Morning Drive radio show.

If you do heed this advice and decide to take on the beast that is Hogtown someday, you really have to do more than visit the Eaton Centre to get a sense of the place (although you should definitely go there and get a milkshake at Mr. Greenjeans while you're there).

Toronto - partly through sheer numbers, and partly because it was built that way - is the arts, culture and music centre of Canada, and you really have to experience it to understand why so many people love to live there despite the 401 traffic and the fact that none of their sports teams ever seem to win anything.

On the arts front you can visit the Art Gallery of Ontario, the McMichael Gallery (little bit of a drive) or any one of dozens of other art galleries that can be found in and around the city. Or just go for a walk, because in Toronto the art is as much on the streets as it is strung up on walls.

For high culture, there's the Canadian Opera Company, the National Ballet of Canada, the Royal Ontario Museum - which has dinosaur bones out the ying-ying- and live theatre that's second only to Broadway. At any time of year you can find performances going on at venues like Massey Hall, Roy Thomson Hall, the new Four Seasons Centre, Princess of Wales Theatre, Royal Alexandra Theatre, Scotiabank Theatre... the list is long. If you're on a budget, Dream in High Park - one of two big Shakespeare festivals in the region, including the Stratford Festival just outside of Toronto - is by donation.