175 Reasons to Love Toronto

TorontoIn 1984, I played for a tee-ball team called the Sesquis. Swansea's Rennie Park created the team for that one summer only to commemorate Toronto's 150th birthday, or sesquicentennial if you will.

It was March 6, 1834 that York was incorporated as the City of Toronto. That's 175 years ago tomorrow. They call this the demisemiseptcentennial, but I don't know if Swansea will field a team this summer called the demisemisepts or not.

I do know The Toronto Star has published 175 reasons to love Toronto. Here's their list:

1. It is the centre of the (Canadian) universe.

2. Jane Jacobs called it home.

3. Our first mayor led a rebellion.

4. We can finally buy a decent burrito.

5. We can hang up our laundry without stirring up gossip.

6. We have independent bookstores in every neighbourhood – and new ones are still opening.

7. Our sports teams wear blue and purple, and we look damn good in blue and purple.

8. We have a Little Malta.

9. And a Little Azores.

10. There are so many Chinatowns, we've lost count.

11. There's a festival for every neighbourhood and ethnic group in the city – and about a dozen crammed into every summer weekend.

12. A million people can crowd the streets during one of these festivals and nobody gets mugged.

13. Gays and lesbians can marry here.

14. There's a perfect, tiny old church in the courtyard of the Eaton Centre.

15. And a prayer labyrinth.

16. North America's most stable banks are based here.

17. The elegant footbridge at the mouth of the Humber that has inspired thousands of photographs.

18. The surreal spectacle of Church Street on Halloween.

19. Long before wi-fi, we could predict the weather by looking at the beacon atop the Canada Life building.

20. Violent crime is actually going down.

21. The downtown population is actually going up.

22. Admit it: A couple of the seemingly thousands of new condo dwellings are actually rather nice.

23. One of the city's best golf courses runs underneath its busiest highway.

24. We can watch (and cringe at) young daredevils at Cummer Skateboard Park.

25. The newspaper reading room at the Toronto Reference Library.

26. We have a restaurant devoted to poutine.

27. Those streetcar drivers who assert themselves over the automated voice system with their own personal shout-outs for various intersections and attractions along their routes.

28. Going down the giant escalator at the Paramount – er, Scotiabank Theatre.

29. Working up a sweat on the old wooden indoor running track at Hart House, followed by lunch at the Gallery Grill.

30. Dining on pho at 2 in the morning.

31. The inspirational messages on the Inglis billboard keep Gardiner Expressway commuters uplifted.

32. Touring local history (and stopping for a game of chess) at Mount Pleasant Cemetery.

33. The private viewing booths at the NFB's Mediatheque.

34. That guy – you know the one – who insists on wearing shorts in the dead of winter.

35. We proudly display our favourite of Spacing magazine's iconic buttons of TTC subway stations.

36. We dutifully separate our garbage into black, blue and green.

37. Learning to love theatre classics, thanks to Soulpepper.

38. Michael Snow's Canada geese sculpture in the Eaton Centre.

39. If you're bored by what you're watching at the Winter Garden Theatre, you can admire the faux greenery.

40. The artistic Utopia of the gorgeously restored 401 Richmond and the Wychwood Art Barns.

41. We've got more cyclists per capita than Vancouver.

42. The SkyDome (okay, Rogers Centre) when the roof is in the process of being opened or closed.

43. Basking in the sun at the Canada Master tennis tournament (okay, the Rogers Cup).

44. From the Humber Bay butterfly habitat, the city looks almost beautiful.

45. The dim sum is as good as the tapas. (And the antipasti are as good as the panchan. And ...)

46. We've got a sugar museum. And a shoe museum.

47. When you look up you can see hawks circling.

48. The double-decker Go trains flashing by cars gridlocked on the Gardiner.

49. We are a hockey city, baseball city, basketball city and now a soccer city.

50. We are sometimes also a cricket city.

51. Eating your way across the globe at St. Lawrence Market on a Saturday.

52. The Dakota Tavern, the west end's roots-music rec room.

53. Watching leaves turn at the Toronto Botanical Garden in the fall.

54. Stopping in your tracks as a bigger-than-you-remembered Porter plane descends over the harbour.

55. The flume log ride at Ontario Place.

56. Without us, where would they film movies set in American cities?

57. Honest Ed's shrine to kitsch even lets Toronto fill in for Vegas from time to time.

58. We never have to stop traffic for a Stanley Cup parade.

59. A family of beavers made a home for themselves at the Music Garden.

60. Yonge-Dundas Square was supposed to be Toronto's answer to Times Square. It's really no comparison, but don't you want to give the city a big condescending hug just for trying?

61. Colin Partridge's vivid tree carvings in High Park.

62. Getting to the Toronto City Centre Airport necessitates a ride on the world's shortest ferry route.

63. Bumping into a towel-clad celeb at Stillwater Spa.

64. Marvelling at the machines that churn out sweet walnut cakes in Little Korea.

65. Chilled-out revellers and circus performers at free summertime Promise parties put Cherry Beach on the map.

66. You can pay $5 for a cup of coffee at a growing number of specialty cafes – or still get your double-double for 90 cents.

67. For 10 star-struck days in September, Toronto is justified calling itself Hollywood North.

68. The raging fandom on display – for lacrosse! – at Toronto Rock games is inspiring.

69. Spotting a big, beautiful white-tailed deer nibbling greenery at G. Ross Lord Park.

70. Watching a big ugly amphibious Hippo bus taking a swim in the harbour.

71. The legendary white squirrel.

72. We've now got a deli and bagels that make trips to Montreal almost unnecessary.

73. The smiles on everyone's faces during the first warm spell of the year.

74. A hive of indie rock, from Apostle of Hustle to Woodhands.

Hip hop too: Kardi, K-os and K'Naan call it home.

76. Scouting for migrating birds at the Leslie Street Spit – but look out for the snakes.

77. Nuit Blanche, for letting us see the city with fresh eyes.

78. The gorilla compound at the Toronto Zoo.

79. The intimate zoos at High Park, Riverdale Park and Centre Island.

80. A huge festival that treats authors like real celebrities.

81. Exploring the cottagey, car-free Ward Island neighbourhood and wondering why we don't all live there.

82. The united nations of Baldwin Street.

83. Tai chi at Christie Pits.

84. The sad, poignant sculptures at Ireland Park.

85. Being able to overhear – and see – top-shelf jazz from a comfortable perch outside the Nathan Phillips mainstage tent during the jazz festival when you can't afford a ticket.

86. Getting back to nature, almost, in a meandering ravine.

87. Housing is getting more affordable by the month.

88. The view of the city as you drive south on the DVP.

89. Riding your bike along the DVP and Gardiner during the annual Ride for Heart.

90. Lively literati – from Michael Ondaatje to Bryan Lee O'Malley – helped make this a city of the imagination.

91. Enza, supermodel.

92. The glass staircase in the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts.

93. The glass floor at the CN Tower.

94. The perfect blend of old and new in the Brookfield Place atrium.

95. Top-notch, small-scale comedy at Bad Dog, Comedy Bar, Second City – and a dozen other barroom stages.

96. Basking in verdant luxury in the backyards of the wealthy along the Belt Line trail.

97. Shirtless Zanta doing pushups in the cold.

98. Extensive back-alley graffiti, some of which is better than the stuff hanging in galleries.

99. Gehry, Libeskind, Alsopp: Thank you, thank you, thank you, for giving us architecture worthy of debate.

100. Spotting the almost mystical garbage train on the TTC late at night.

101. Fig and molasses, chestnut and birch syrup ... and other exotic flavours from Kensington Market Organic Ice Cream.

102. The care that goes into irrepressibly quirky allotment gardens.

103. Winter? What winter? Eating, shopping and working in the PATH.

104. Rightfully beloved Massey Hall has welcomed too many big names to count.

105. Distillery delicacies: Mayan hot chocolate at Soma, organic beer at Mill Street Brewery, exotic fromage from A Taste of Quebec and a meat pie from Brick Street Bakery, enjoyed in the city's most cinematic setting.

106. The surprisingly vibrant beach volleyball scene at Ashbridge's Bay.

107. Helping a student by riding a rickshaw.

108. Listening to live music at the restored deco classic Carlu.

109. Eating brunch three times a day, every day, in Leslieville.

110. SARS made us stronger – and the resulting benefit concert found a use for the empty expanse of Downsview Park.

111. Ron Baird's landmark kinetic steel sculpture on Dufferin St. south of Steeles Ave.

112. The smell of baked goods at Bathurst and Eglinton subway stations.

113. The giant glowing pill-shaped classroom in the Leslie Dan Faculty of Pharmacy at U of T.

114. There's a downtown driving range that doubles as a drive-in theatre.

115. The CN Tower withstands some 50 lightning strikes a year.

116. We saw a guy take his Christmas tree home on the subway.

117. The Dufferin Grove organic farmers market is open every Thursday from 3 to 7 p.m. year round.

118. Going for mojitos at Julie's.

119. Then listening to live Cuban music at Lula Lounge.

120. Hopping from one you-call-that-art? gallery to another on Queen West for Thursday-night opening receptions.

121. Coming across a part of the city transformed for a movie shoot.

122. The impossibly ornate, painstakingly constructed Hindu temple that seems totally out of place alongside the 427.

123. Sipping from a green coconut and wishing Toronto had palm trees during Caribana.

124. Lining up for Hakka food in Scarborough.

125. Dancing to a band from a faraway land in the open air at Harbourfront.

126. Reading a book on the bizarre slab of granite on Yorkville Ave.

127. Feeling like you're the first to discover fresh pupusas on Augusta Ave.

128. Jackie Richardson, a one-woman musical treasure.

129. Dusk Dances and Shakespeare in the Park: keeping green space interesting.

130. Pillow fights, Zombie Walks, subway parties, Manhunt and Capture the Flag: keeping it weird.

131. Spectacular patios – the Madison, Quigley's and the Rectory, to name just three – filling up at the first sign of good weather.

132. The "secret" patios hiding at the back of dozens of restaurants.

133. Grazing among the cow statues in the TD Centre plaza.

134. Watching glass blowers performing their molten arts at York Quay Centre.

135. Lying on the grass for a concert at Molson Amphitheatre.

136. Determining your favourite pa'an-wallah – by sampling them all – on Gerrard Street.

137. Collecting your winnings – even if you're at a loss overall – at Woodbine Racetrack.

138. The fact that decades after Mies van der Rohe designed them, the TD towers look brand new.

139. The myriad and lovely stained glass windows on Annex-area homes.

140. Singing karaoke with the Gladstone Cowboy.

141. Doors Open proves that yes, we do give a damn about architecture.

142. And there's more to like here than just the Flatiron Building.

143. Neil Young and Glenn Gould were both born here.

144. The Rolling Stones surprise us with a secret concert once in a while.

145. Off-leash areas of parks, where dog owners sit on picnic tables and mingle while their furry charges roam free.

146. The harbour lit up with sails at sunset on a windy summer's eve.

147. Watching an extended streetcar accordion its way around a curve.

148. Winter DJ skating parties.

149. The overhead OMNIMAX screen and comfy chairs you can lay back on at the Ontario Science Centre.

150. Trying not to puke while riding the Zipper at the CNE.

151. Surviving the vomit comet.

152. The awe-inspiring R.C. Harris fortress of water filtration.

153. York University's ravine-shrouded Glendon campus.

154. The best movies you've never heard of at Cinematheque Ontario.

155. The best movies you missed the first time around – for a better price – at neighbourhood rep houses.

156. Ogling the old-money opulence of Rosedale.

157. And the nouveau opulence of the Bridle Path.

158. The sights and smells of the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair.

159. Summertime drum circles at Trinity Bellwoods Park.

160. We have had two World Series championships when cities that have had franchises longer – that means you, Houston and San Diego – haven't had any.

161. Finding the perfectly musty tweed jacket in Kensington Market.

162. Watching a dance lesson through the expansive windows of the National Ballet School.

163. A taste of Dover at Bluffer's Park.

164. The historic outdoor pool at Sunnyside Park.

165. Helping the artisans make meals from scratch at Black Creek Pioneer Village.

166. Actual gold in the windows of the Royal Bank tower makes us almost nostalgic for days of excess.

167. Winterlicious and Summerlicious, when we can afford to dine amongst the expense-account set.

168. The city is finally realizing there's a waterfront.

169. The Mayor is your Twitter buddy.

170. Looking out from a rooftop lounge, you can see how much the city has changed in the last decade.

171. We're nicer than they say we are. We're just a little shy sometimes.

172. Big enough to be anonymous. Small enough to know your neighbours.

173. It's easy to leave.

174. It's just as easy to come back.

175. If we don't love it, who will?

I'd add a #176. It's the home of Toronto Mike.

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Comments (25 - click here to join in!)


Many of those are resons NOT to like Toronto.

March 5, 2009 @ 4:25 PM

Toronto Mike

Lemme guess, Argie. #13 upsets you, right?

I happen to like #13.

March 5, 2009 @ 4:31 PM


Good for you Mike!

You're a champion of the cause.

March 5, 2009 @ 4:37 PM

Toronto Mike

Argie, will you marry me?

March 5, 2009 @ 4:38 PM


I can't since you're not Catholic any longer.

Besides is this how you propose to someone?

March 5, 2009 @ 4:40 PM

Toronto Mike

Argie, I haven't given back my Catholic badge.

I've got the baptism, the first communion and the confirmation already under my belt.

I'm in the club, just say yes...

March 5, 2009 @ 4:46 PM


Actually #13 isn't so bad considering its not a marriage anyway.

Its a civil union which is fine.

March 5, 2009 @ 4:54 PM

Toronto Mike

It's a marriage, it's just not in your church.

March 5, 2009 @ 5:04 PM


That just mad me a little homesick for Toronto!


PS. Your welcome for Gerber

March 5, 2009 @ 6:53 PM


Nothing wrong with reason #13. The LGBT community have the right to be just as unhappy as the rest of us.

March 5, 2009 @ 7:34 PM


No mention of North America's oldest pro football team?

March 5, 2009 @ 8:51 PM


Some comments on the list

58 - If Argie saw that one, then I understand what he's saying

#60 - Dundas Square is a media square, and these are hardly unique to New York.

#111 - Ron Baird also designed those cool electric substation doors by Dupont station:


They really built some attractive subway stations in that era. I may only wish that a future downtown line will have such attention to detail, because it truly improves the experience.

#138 - Yeah, those sleek black towers by Mies are still stunning. "Less is more" indeed...

March 5, 2009 @ 11:56 PM

David Pylyp

I liked #44
The Humber Bay Shore Butterfly habitat and the views of downtown Toronto are incredible.

New interchanges at South Kingsway and the Queensway will make bicycle (south is downhill) traffic easier.


Dave Pylyp

March 6, 2009 @ 6:32 AM

Kåre Garnes

176: The Cabbage Town Mural

March 6, 2009 @ 8:50 AM


Yes! I read this and my heart was full. This is my home and I recognized it in every single number. I love TO.

March 6, 2009 @ 9:51 AM


How great is Zanta? Come back dude!

March 6, 2009 @ 9:54 AM


I think people who live in Toronto should refer to this when:

a) Figuring out what there is to do in Toronto, instead of lamenting that there's nothing interesting here.
b) Being asked by visitors to Toronto what there is to do.

Because there's a *lot* of subtle and not so subtle culture here :)

March 6, 2009 @ 9:59 AM


Toronto could be a great city but alas its not.

If they drastically improved the transit system, got rid of David Miller, cleaned up the streets, cracked down on gang crime and reduced property taxes, it would be a much better city to live in.

Thankfully I live elsewhere so I won't lose sleep over the problems of Toronto.

March 6, 2009 @ 9:59 AM

Andrew Kowalski

Low property taxes don't make for great cities. Greatness is costly. Transit workers and cops don't work for free.

I am very thankful I live in this great city that is Toronto. I thank God and my grandparents who immigrated here. Isn't it kind of idiotic for someone who doesn't even live here to make recommendations? I mean I've never seen violent crime in all my years living in Toronto, and the person above probably wouldn't either. He must live in such a boring and forgettable burg that he has nothing to do but read crime stories in the paper.

Maybe read a mystery novel next week.

March 6, 2009 @ 2:39 PM


Oh Andrew, your poor uninformed fool.

You go ahead and enjoy your smelly, crime laden city where you pay through your nose in taxes (after all someone as to pay for all those summer festivals and parades - I can guess which parade you like to attend). You sound like one of those lefties who get all giddy over the arrival of their Saturday Star. You must be pumped its Friday - only one more sleep until your paper arrives!! Woohoo!

Anyway I lived in Toronto for most of my life. I made many friends and had some good times. When i compare it to how it was 20 years ago to now, I feel bad for the city I once called my own.

March 6, 2009 @ 3:08 PM


Happy birthday, Toronto. :-)

March 6, 2009 @ 3:54 PM

James Edgar

Argie I pay about $2400 a year in taxes. My cousin in Columbus (just north of Oshawa) pays $5000+ we have houses about the same size . His lot is 2.5 times the size. I have the usual city services . he has none. Who's getting hosed? And even though I do live only a few K's from what is considered a bad area i've never in my life seen a crime. Nor have any of my nieghbours or myself experianced any issues of signifigance. So "crime laden city " is hardly an apt desciption.

Mabye the 177th great thing about Toronto is that you don't live here?

March 6, 2009 @ 4:14 PM


Jesus Christ - I partially agree with Argie again.

My world is falling apart.

March 6, 2009 @ 8:20 PM

Andrew Kowalski

Toronto's crime rates are falling, and given the fact that I walk in different parts of the city and feel comfortable.

He conveniently forgets that Toronto's record for homicides was set quite awhile ago (1991, about 20 years ago!). Does he remember how shitty pretty much all of Queen West was? Now it's diversified in income, and Parkdale isn't just for the mentally ill anymore. The area I grew up in today no longer sees the kind of illegal dumping it did 20 years ago, and the retail strip which was a bunch of abandoned storefronts 20 years ago is now vibrant with pedestrians commercial activity.

The smelly factories are gone as well. There are more festivals, and more tourists. We're restoring old buildings rather than knocking them down. The progress is tangible. Certain areas in the city have declined, while others have been revived. This is natural and happens in every city.

I often compare my taxes with friends and family living around Toronto and with my real estate in the US, and the rate is surprisingly comparable, except that I get more services and get to live in a more cosmopolitan place. Argie's some provincial WASP lamenting the good 'ol days. Like some reactionary, with tones of fascism in his homophobia, ambiguously insinuating that the tolerant, liberal society is someone negative.

March 7, 2009 @ 12:58 AM


Having walked most of the length and breadth of Toronto (in shorts - yes, I'm #34), I've always felt safe (mind you, in the "dead of winter" people probably just figure I'm crazy and leave me alone). And there's always something new around the next corner, too.
Perhaps that's what I love most about Toronto, the incredible diversity: of cultures, of food, of architecture, of people, of opportunity.

March 12, 2009 @ 4:00 PM

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