How to Experience Toronto Culture Without Leaving Your House

Grab a glass of wine, sit back and (try to) relax. Let’s take a virtual tour of Toronto culture — and its resilience — together.

Thanks to all the platforms and tools we have at our fingertips, you can still experience Toronto — even if not IRL.

Now, in the wake of COVID-19 shutdowns, Toronto’s community is shifting its focus to the digital space more than ever. Every day there seems to be new ways to experience the arts, talent and attractions in the city from the solitude of your living room.

Here are 15 ways to build a virtual trip through Canada’s cultural capital.

1. Go on a sightseeing tour of Toronto — from above or on the ground.

Hit full screen and away you go. Take a panoramic “helicopter tour” of the city. “Walk” around the base of the CN Tower, then check out the view from the top (even better: peek their live cam view). Explore the stunning exterior of the ROM.

Virtual ROM Tour

Or choose a spot in the city — trendy Ossington Street or bohemian Kensington Market — and go for a wander via Google Street View. (Take some inspo from The Agoraphobic Traveller, who travelled the world without ever leaving her house.) Your “travels” are only a search bar away.

Virtual tour of Kensington Market in Toronto

2. Tune into a “live” concert.

Toronto’s usually thriving live music scene has been put on pause but many of the city’s musicians have taken to serenading audiences from home. Check out CBC's weekly rundown for a comprehensive list of what’s coming up, both from Toronto and across the country.

URGNT’s mission is to have the city’s incredible (now empty) venues play host to our even more incredible musicians. The “ad hoc crowd-funded livestream series” will stream shows out to social-distancing audiences: 19 concerts from 19 different venues. A gofundme is active now so that musicians — and the other many roles that support the industry — can be compensated.

 

3. Catch an international art, theatre and music festival.

When Toronto-based Nick Green had one of his performances cancelled due to COVID-19 closures, he got to work creating the Social Distancing Festival: a hub of live-streamed performance art organized in a calendar by day and time. The site curates and showcases international artists whose work has been disrupted by the pandemic.

 

4. Go clubbing at a LGBTQ+ party.

A queer dance party every night of the week? Heck. Yes. Tune into Torontonian-founded Club Quarantine via Zoom at 9 pm to dance to the beats of Toronto and international DJs. Check out the etiquette before heading to the club.

 

5. Tour Toronto’s renowned museums.

There’s free, unlimited entry 24/7 when you tour online! Google Arts & Culture offers a 360° walk-through for a sample of the Royal Ontario Museum’s exhibits.

ROM Virtual Tour

Peruse the collections at the Gardiner Museum. Learn about the first men in heels with Bata Shoe Museum. Visit Aga Khan’s site dedicated to #MuseumWithoutWalls, complete with curator talks, virtual gallery tours, activities for the kids and more. The Art Gallery of Ontario has introduced a collection of virtual experiences where you can explore artworks, watch artist talks and learn DIY techniques.

 

6. Glimpse into the living rooms of Toronto’s performance artists.

TO Live, a network of three iconic local theatres and a spectrum of talent, has launched Living Rooms. The initiative — “a dazzling digital extension of [their] theatre stages” — will feature performances from different local artists every day, broadcasting from the comfort of their homes. It’s a beautiful, intimate way to discover the talent in the city.

 

7. Get some wild dinner inspiration from a Toronto Raptor.

Basketball may be on hold for now, but you can always tune into How Hungry Are You?, Raptor Serge Ibaka’s (aka Mafuzzy Chef) YouTube series for an unconventional fix. The NBA star hosts players and other celebrities in each episode and feeds them some very unusual dishes that he’s cooked up, including snake and alligator claw. It’s more talking than cooking but very entertaining all the same.

Also, check out his Instagram for a peek into his now-quarantined-in-Toronto life.

 

8. Spend quality with the kids, courtesy of Toronto’s attractions.

If you’re looking for creative ways to keep the young ones (and yourself) from going a little stir crazy while at home, Toronto’s museums, amusement parks and other attractions have pulled out all the virtual stops to keep the family entertained — virtual roller coaster rides and shark cams included.

Check out all there is for them to do from home.

 

9. Watch some very binge-able shows set in Toronto.

If you haven’t seen set-in-Toronto Workin’ Moms or The Baroness Von Show yet, what are you waiting for? There’s also Degrassi the Next Generation featuring a very young Drake, Orphan Black and more. Peek sights around the city in these series — whether they’re supposed to be Toronto scenes or not (ahem, Suits).

Here’s what to watch and where to watch them.

 

10. Settle into to a filmed-in-Toronto movie marathon.

The Shape of Water, Chicago (yes, Chicago) and Suicide Squad are only a few of the blockbuster hits filmed in the city (even if they aren’t necessarily set here). Get your Toronto fix by spotting some of the city’s most iconic places in these movies.

 

11. Curl up with a book based in Toronto.

While Toronto may play stand-in for American cities on TV and the big screen, it takes a starring role in literature. There’s no better time to dive into the compelling coming-of-age novel Cat’s Eye by renowned Canadian author Margaret Atwood. Or immerse yourself in the beautiful, national best-selling story of a lesbian avant-guard artist living in Toronto in What We All Long For.

woman reading a book  

12. Sit down to some quality Canadian theatre.

The award-winning Expect Theatre in the Distillery District is committed to producing cutting-edge films, live performances, podcasts and educational programs exploring contemporary Canadian life. Their podcast, PlayME from CBC Podcasts, takes theatre scripts from top Canadian productions and transforms them into audio plays.

Toronto PlayME Podcast in Recording Studio
PlayMe Podcast in the recording studio
 

13. Score front row seats to the orchestra.

Watch and listen to 29 members of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra (TSO) perform from their individual homes. Jeffrey Beecher, Principle Double Bass at TSO, put together this mesmerizing video, an arduous editing job to say the least. But the show must go on!

 

14. Participate in immersive theatre – over the phone.

In these times of social distancing, Against the March – an immersive theatre experience group – has introduced The Ministry of Mundane Mysteries, a personalized, weeklong subscription to a customized narrative in the form of daily phone calls. Break up your daily routine with “your very own micro mystery using the investigative power of good conversation”. Intriguing.

Toronto Immersive Theatre Group Outside the March

Also on the immersive over-the-phone innovative theatre scene, Convergence Theatre has launched Convergence Against Corona!, made up of two parts. The first commissions artists to create works of art based on anonymous “COVID Confessions.” The second part, The Corona Variations, consists of six five-minute phone calls, or “phone plays,” starting Tuesday, April 14 to Sunday, April 19. Check out their website to make a donation or purchase tickets.

15. TIFF from home.

Bust out your personal red carpet, Toronto International Film Fest (TIFF) is coming to you. TIFF Stay-at-Home Cinema showcases a collection of curated films via Crave so that we can all watch together. Join a live pre-show chat via social media (@TIIF_NET) with special guests, and continue to share your thoughts and join conversations as we all watch the screenings together.

 

See it. Snap it. Share it. In every neighbourhood, around every corner, through every door there's something that begs to be discovered in Toronto.

#OPENYOURCURIOSITY

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