Toronto is known for being an artistic and cultural hub in Canada. According to the Toronto Arts Council, Toronto is home to 93% more artists than any other Canadian city. The same survey found that 70% of Torontonians regularly attend, volunteer, or donate to the city’s many artistic and cultural events.
The arts and culture industry, on average, contributes more than $1 billion annually to Toronto, which, according to TAC, is greater than the energy, agriculture, forestry, and mining sectors combined.
This is primarily due to the tourists seeking out the richness of the city’s cultural impact – four times more tourists come here for cultural events than for sporting events.
Culture can be found everywhere in the GTA, from pop-up art installations, festivals like the CONTACT Photography Festival, and a range of authentic international cuisine from some of the city’s many restaurants.
In today’s post, we will highlight just a few of the many things that make Toronto a fantastic place to find arts, entrainment, food, and culture.
Royal Ontario Museum
The Royal Ontario Museum, or the ROM, is the largest museum in Canada, featuring an impressively diverse collection of more than 6,000,000 items and 40 galleries. The museum has earned international acclaim for its contributions to world culture and history. Its impressive collection ranges from European and Canadian historical items. There is also a comprehensive collection of clothing, Art Deco, and fine art ranging from Africa to East Asia. If artifacts from the dawn of time are more your thing, the museum contains more than 150,000 specimens of fossils, ranging from minerals, meteorites, and, of course, dinosaurs themselves.
The Art Gallery of Ontario, or AGO, is a downtown Toronto Museum that boasts an inspiring 480,000 square feet of space, making it the second-largest museum in Toronto, right after the ROM. Over 120,000 works fill this space, with Canadian works dating back hundreds of years, to more modern works. There are also many international works, including African, Oceanic and European art.
In addition to paintings and sculptures, other works make their home at the AGO, including 70,000 photographs, 20,000 prints and drawings.
Bata Shoe Museum
For all the footwear fanatics out there, the Bata Shoe Museum of Toronto is for you! Located by UofT’s St. George campus, the 39,450 square foot museum is home to over 14,000 fabulous pieces of footwear, making it the most extensive collection of footwear in the world.
These shoes range from pairs dating back over 4500 years and host a number of travelling and temporary exhibitions in addition to their impressive permanent collection.
These items include Terry Fox’s running shoe, Queen Victoria’s ballroom slippers and an extensive collection of historical indigenous footwear.
Toronto is widely known worldwide for its wide range and high-scale festivals, whether they be for music, art, food, or heritage. Here are just a few of the vast number of festivals hosted in the city.
Pride Toronto is a large-scale celebration in June, celebrating the rich and diverse LGBTQ+ community in the GTA. Located in the Church and Wellesley Village, Pride Toronto spans 22 city blocks, closing off traffic to these streets, making it one of the largest organized pride festivals globally.
It is estimated that Pride sees roughly 500,000 to one million attendees through the week, 100,000 of which attend the Pride Parade, which concludes the celebration.
The parade, which is so extensive that it can last for hours, typically routes itself through Yonge Street, Gerrard Street and Bloor Street.
Toronto International Film Festival
TIFF is one of Toronto’s most celebrity-laden festivals. Since its beginnings in the mid-’70s, TIFF has become one of the most publicly attended film festivals globally, drawing in approximately 480,000 people per year.
Hosted within the Tiff Bell Lightbox, Variety magazine once noted that TIFF was second only to the Cannes film festival when It came to the market, pictures, and high profile celebrity attendees.
Every year, over the span of almost two weeks, hundreds of new films are shown during TIFF, filmed, and submitted from all over the world.
If you’ve heard about a film generating “Oscar buzz,” it’s probably been shown at TIFF. Notably, acclaimed films such as American Beauty, 127 Hours, Black Swan, and Ray have all premiered at TIFF.
Toronto Caribbean Carnival
The Toronto Caribbean Carnival has been billed as one of the largest street festivals in Canada and all North America. Annually, over 1.3 million people visit Toronto to attend the festival’s grand parade. The event annually contributes an average of over 400 million dollars to Ontario’s economy.
The festival celebrates Caribbean identity and culture through food, dance, music, and of course, the grand parade.
The Parade of Bands concludes the festival’s final weekend and consists of an extensive array of performers, dancers, costumes, music, and floats.
Nuit Blanche is an annual art festival that transforms everyday spaces into indoor and outdoor art installations throughout the city.
Lasting from sunset to sunrise, Nuit Blanche features over 1,400 art installations curated by thousands of artists that appear in places like Nathan Phillips Square or in the many city parks across the GTA.
In addition, Nuit Blanche typically allows for museums, galleries, and other places of artistic and cultural interest to open their doors and allow for free of charge entrance to see their extensive collections.
Toronto is one of the most ethnically diverse cities in North America. As such, it is home to a vast array of international cuisines. Whether the cuisine is found in cultural neighbourhoods such as Chinatown, Greektown, Little India, Little Italy, or even just individual shops on main streets, authentic cultural cuisine can be found almost anywhere.
Whether internationally authentic or home-grown and local, restaurants that range from casual chains to upscale dining make their homes here in Toronto.
While this technically falls under the festival category, having a section about food culture in Toronto would be remiss without mentioning Summerlicious and Winterlicious.
These two food festivals are held annually in Toronto. Winterlicious begins in February, while Summerlicious starts in July. During these times, Over a hundred restaurants all across the city hold limited-time prix fixe menus at often hugely discounted prices, allowing for diners to experience new restaurants and tastes they may not have ever considered before.
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