Get Cultured: Arts, Theatre & Events
Toronto is an eclectic and cosmopolitan city with a vibrant culture. If you’re into the arts, theatre or special events, there’s always something new to discover!
Ballet, Opera and Symphony
Options abound for symphonic music fans. Start with the line-up at Roy Thomson Hall, home to the renowned Toronto Symphony Orchestra. Fans of the Baroque (and beyond) are in for a rare treat when Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra and Chorus regales audiences with their authentic period performances.
The sleek Four Seasons Centre For The Performing Arts is where you can take in the grandeur of the Canadian Opera Company where such epic productions such as The Ring Cycle are mounted in full. Or marvel at the beauty and skill of the dancers of the National Ballet of Canada in full scale productions such as Cinderella or the more daring and dramatic Streetcar Named Desire.
Some of the most colourful and creative festivals happen in the spring and summer. The unofficial launch to festival season is Scotiabank CONTACT. The largest photography festival in the world takes place the whole month of May and exhibits can be seen all over the city in traditional galleries, out on the street and in unusual spaces.
There’s a different festival every weekend in the summer at Harbourfront Centre. Weekends are jammed packed with music, dance, art and food and a few unexpected goodies too.
Luminato Festival is a multidisciplinary, international arts festival encompassing a broad spectrum of creative expression. Theatre, dance, literature, visual arts and lectures all combine for a heady mix. Every year there is a different surprise.
Toronto’s largest theatre and performance festival, Fringe, features over 155 performances in some of the city’s most unexpected places.
The Toronto Caribbean Carnival (formerly known as “Caribana”) is a vibrant celebration of Caribbean culture culminating in a parade that is the largest event of its kind in North America.
Toronto International Buskerfest celebrates the best street performers from around the world for 4 days in Woodbine Park in the beautiful Beaches neighbourhood.
The all-night contemporary art event that is Nuit Blanche, takes over Toronto for one white night in early October. See installations, interactive exhibits and performance art in 3 different zones as thousands of people take to the streets.
With a film festival happening nearly every week, whatever genre or niche you’re into, there’s a festival for it. The biggest and glitziest one is the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF). Screening more than 300 films from around the world in venues across the city, it’s also the world’s largest public film festival. TIFF’s headquarters, the TIFF Bell Lightbox, hosts screenings and film-focused exhibitions year-round and has spawned a number of other film festivals in the city. One such is the popular documentary fest, Hot Docs, which is held at another major hub for film, the beautifully-restored Hot Docs Cinema.
Or get specific with any of the dozens of focused festivals throughout the year such as the imagineNATIVE Film & Media Arts Festival, Inside Out LGBT Film Festival, TIFF Kids or the Reel Asian International Film Festival.
Centered around King Street, Toronto’s theatre district features a mix of historic venues such as The Royal Alexandra Theatre and the newer Princess of Wales Theatre which was home to popular productions such as The Sound of Music, The Lion King, Les Miserables and many others.
Smaller niche theatres dot the city from the Young People’s Theatre, near the St. Lawrence Market, to the Soulpepper Theatre Company in the Distillery District, which presents hundreds of events each year including dramatic plays comedies, classics and cabaret.
The Canadian Stage offers audiences contemporary performances in theatre and dance. Discounts are offered to those aged under 30 or to groups of 10 people and up.
The Ed Mirvish Theatre (formerly the Canon Theatre) is a vaudeville-inspired theatre featuring productions such as La Cage Aux Folles and Beautiful – The Carole King Musical.
Built by the same architect as the Ed Mirvish Theatre, the historic Elgin and Winter Garden Theatres are the last surviving example of Edwardian-era stacked theatres in the world. Fully restored in 1989, the theatres now host a range of events including films during TIFF, concerts and Christmastime musical comedy. Tours are available on Thursdays and Saturdays and the leaf covered ceiling of the Winter Garden is a must-see.
Toronto offers a variety of museums ranging from the classical to the quirky. Canada’s largest museum of world cultures and natural history is The Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) which features range from a dinosaur exhibition to antiquities from Egypt.
In walking distance of the ROM you can discover the Gardiner Museum for international ceramics and the Bata Shoe Museum, with a collection of over 10,000 shoes. Other remarkable focused collections include those at the Aga Khan Museum, the Textile Museum and Fort York National Historic Site, which added a beautiful visitor’s centre in 2015.
See iconic works of Canadian art, modern works a massive collection of model ships. Or simply marvel at the architectural masterpiece of the Frank Gehry-designed addition to the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO).
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