Oh Canada Day!

by Doug O’Neill

June 2014


From Treetop-Trekking to Tasty Tikka: Happy Birthday Canada!

I remember when we first started using the term ‘melting pot’ to describe the amazing mix of ethnicities and cultural traditions that make up Toronto. As time goes on, however, I find I prefer the term ‘smorgasbord,’ a veritable buffet of great cultural activities and traditions to choose from according to your taste – on any day of the year.

Take Brampton,for instance. This burgeoning city that hugs the western border of Greater Toronto boasts a population of 595,000 who represent no less than 209 distinct ethnic backgrounds. So, of course, it comes as no surprise that Canada Day festivities in Brampton (July 1, 12 noon to 10 pm) mean you head on down to Donald M. Gordon Chinguacousy Park (9050 Bramalea Road) for a full day of fun including Tigerfest wrestling, traditional paddle boats, mini-putt, and a petting zoo along with onstage entertainment from the Montreal-based rock band Simple Plan (whose hits “I’d Do Anything” and “Perfect” have helped them rack up 7.5 million in album sales).

The multicultural magic kicks in big-time when it comes to your Canada Day feast. You can skip the fried chicken, mayo-potato salad and apple pie. How about a Punjabi Pizza? Gather up your family and make a bee-line for Brampton’s Popular Pizza. Or how about wrapping up your Canada Day fun with extra portions of vermicelli and pho? My favourite haunt in Brampton for Vietnamese food is Pho Bo Saigon.

If you and and the kids yearn for something a little more active on Canada Day, swing by Treetop Trekking at Heart Lake Conservation Area. It’s kid-friendly and an afternoon of zipping through the treetops will make for some unforgettable Instagram moments.

You’ll find the same diversity of Canada Day celebrations in nearby Mississauga, also on the outskirts of the City of Toronto. As Canada’s sixth-largest city, it has become more diverse with each influx of new Canadians. When I lived in Mississauga in the 1980s, it was half the size as it is now and didn’t seem to know itself. I struggled to find the ‘heart’ of the place – but not anymore.

Just recently I popped out to Mississauga for the colourful Buddha’s Birthday Celebration which featured Dragon and Lion dance troops, chanting and the traditional bathing of baby Buddha.

Expect the same cultural richness when Mississauga throws its Canada Day party July 1st from 4 to 10:30 pm at Mississauga Celebration Square (300 City Centre Dr.), hosted by local TV personalities Leslie Roberts and Liza Fromer. Headlining the roster of circus performers, high stilt walkers, samba dancers and drummers are heartthrob Tyler Shaw, Juno Award for R&B/Soul Recording of the Year JRDN from Halifax, and Canadian pop singer Alyssa Reid.

Now, for your post-Canada Day Party nosh in Mississauga, consider feasting on Afghani food at Watan Kabob or change it up a little with a taste of Pakistani cuisine – though I’m hard-pressed to pick just one suggestion. I’ve chowed down at Lazeez Schwarma & Mediterranean Grill and at Café de Khan which has two locations in Mississauga.

Diversity rules (big time!) downtown Toronto this Canada Day weekend, especially as the nation’s birthday coincides with WorldPride Toronto 2014. Harbourfront hosts Canada Day Extravaganza from June 27 to July 1 with international music, dance, art, and a must-see fireworks display on June 30.

At the heart of all cultures (and great Canada Day festivals, of course), is the food. For Asian food, check out Chinatown near Spadina and Dundas. For Greek, look no further than Danforth and Broadview (it’s a short subway ride from downtown). For Italian, hop the streetcar to Little Italy along College Street. And if you’re hanking for Korean food, my good-to-hood these days is the stretch of Bloor Street West around Dufferin.

And don’t forget the eateries in our Toronto hotels. Up until a decade or so ago, the hotel grub was fairly predictable. Now, some of the city’s best chefs and scores of top cooks from around the world serve up the finest food in major hotels.

Happy Canada Day!

About the Author

Doug O’Neill is the Executive Editor and Travel Blogger for Canadian Living Magazine. On the side, Doug writes about his city of Toronto for a variety of publications and web sites which enables him to spend his free time sussing out the best spots through this city. Doug’s advice for newcomers or folks passing through Toronto is the same credo he uses when he travels the world: “Pick a neighbourhood, hop public transit, and just wonder. Mimic the locals. Follow your nose. And don’t forget urban green spaces. Toronto has some of the best. Meander a ravine, meander a mall. It’s all good.” Doug is a member of the Travel Media Association of Canada and a member of the Canadian Chapter of the Society of American Travel Writers.

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