Useful Notes: Toronto

Downtown Toronto (with CN tower and Sky Dome Rogers Centre... er, Sky Dome)

"Toronto has two seasons: winter and construction."
Torontonian jokenote 

Toronto is the largest city in Canada and the capital of the province of Ontario. It is not, however, the federal capital - that's Ottawa (which is also in Ontario). Non-Canadians don't always remember this.

In addition to its many charms, Toronto is also one of the great stand-in cities of movie and television fame as filming in Canada is quite a bit cheaper than in the US.note  The City with No Name is often Toronto. Several times, they've forgotten to remove Toronto landmarks in the movies, leaving people familiar with the city watching what's obviously Toronto when it's supposed to be set in the United States. In Canada, it's often (derisively) nicknamed "the centre of the universe", partially because it's the first city anyone outside of Canada will think of. Oh, and everybody in Canada who lives outside of the Greater Toronto Area hates Toronto - and sometimes the people who live inside it. This is largely because of a perception, true or false, that Torontonians are oblivious to the country outside of their city.note 

One can easily detect outsiders in Toronto by hearing them pronounce it "Tow-Rawn-Tow". City natives, or those from closely neighbouring regions who talk with city natives constantly, typically drop the last T, and sometimes the first O, so it's "Toronno", "T'ronno", or even "Ch'ronno" (with the first consonant being the "ch" in "chair") note . Nicknames include T.O. (an acronym of Toronto, Ontario), the T-dot (a shortening of the former), Hogtown or The Big Smoke (names arising from historic industries associated at different times with the town), and "Toronto the Good". Peter Ustinov famously described it as "New York run by the Swiss", though the appellation isn't quite as accurate as it once was.

Toronto is actually a "mega-city"; in 1998 the downtown core of Old Toronto and its neighbouring municipalities, all of which were their own cities at the time, were amalgamated into one single City of Toronto. This has generally been regarded as a serious dick move by the offending Tory provincial government, as it has led to all kinds of confusion and annoyance. For convenience's sake, the post office will accept both the City of Toronto and the name of the former municipality as mailing addresses in areas subjected to amalgamation; claiming you live in Etobicoke on government documents is perfectly licit, meaning exactly the same thing as claiming you live in the City of Torontonote . This explains why one still finds, for instance, "North York Hydro" written on manhole covers in streets north of the core.

Not all of Toronto's suburbs are part of the mega-city; cities like Vaughan (pronounced Vaun), Richmond Hill, Mississauga and Brampton are sizable cities in their own right. The whole giant monster is known as the Greater Toronto Area (GTA for short note ). In general the core is known as the 416 area and the surrounding GTA as the 905 (these being the original phone area codes in the two segments - more have been added as both regions ran out of phone numbers). The term "Golden Horseshoe" is also used for a larger area surrounding Toronto, containing the GTA and nearby towns and cities wrapped around the north-western shore of Lake Ontario. Particularly expansive definitions of the Golden Horseshoe include most of Southern Ontario as well as Buffalo, New York. The question about which cities or suburbs are part of Toronto or not has led to some confusion and general mockery among Canadians. The consensus has become the farther away one is from Toronto, the larger the city becomes. For example, while in southern Ontario, a citizen of Mississauga is not from Toronto and will be insulted if you declare them as such. However that same Mississaugan will claim to be from Toronto while traveling overseas (or more than two provinces away) just to avoid the insane annoyance of having to explain in detail that they don't actually live in the city, but rather in another contiguous city.note  And, as mentioned, if you happen to live in the amalgamated megacity, some of your neighbours may well be willing to fight you to the death over whether you're both residents of Toronto or not.

In The Seventies, just as the rest of the Great Lakes region was beginning its long, slow decline, the city received a huge boost from the provincial government... of Québec, whose newly passed language laws and talk of separatism led to a flood of formerly Montréal-based Anglophones and businesses leaving for Toronto. This was further increased in the latter half of the decade by changes to the Immigration Act, which led to a rise in immigration that continued well into The Eighties and The Nineties. Much of the architecture that defines the city to this day, notably the CN Tower and the SkyDome, was constructed around this time.

Toronto is an exceptionally multicultural city: 47% of its population consists of "visible minorities"; soon, "white" will be a "visible minority" by census, and already is within North York, the largest, second most populous, and most multicultural zone in the megacity. Furthermore, Toronto's multiculturalism is exceptionally non-nominal, as the city has the highest proportion of recent immigrants of any of the world's major cities; Toronto is thus thought of as quite immigrant friendly and harbours many distinct cultural communities from diverse regions of the globenote . As such, the city is known for all sorts of cultural festivals such as the Caribbean Carnival (Caribbean music and cultural festival; formerly called Caribana and A Taste of the Danforth (Greek food street festival). Toronto hosts the world's largest Gay Pride Parade (the last of three parades, after the Trans March and Dyke March) which closes off a week-long annual celebration known as Toronto Pride Week that is widely attended by both locals and tourists. The city hosted World Pride 2014, the first non-European city to do so, which included human rights conferences with delegates from countries around the world. The annual Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) is a high profile event, considered second only to Cannes, that has become a site for major film premieres (including The King's Speech, Argo, and Silver Linings Playbook).

The popular saying is that Toronto has only two seasons: winter and construction. It's not always completely true, but spring and fall do seem to be pretty short, and sometimes snowstorms are separated from sweltering, smog-filled furnaces by as little as a month. (And yes, there are very hot days during the summer; it's not all Eskimos and igloos. Come to Toronto in July and August dressed in long sleeves and you will most likely suffer from heat stroke.) As for the construction, because of all the snowfall Toronto has to concentrate all its road work in the summer months, add the fact that Toronto's highways are some of the busiest in the world (the main crosstown route, Highway 401, is by most measures the busiest highway in the world, with all eighteen lanes jammed for miles at rush hour, and most other times of day as well), so that when construction starts forcing lane closures, things get gnarled very quickly. Luckily there are fewer people in the city during the summer, as many go off to "cottage country" or elsewhere for vacations.

The snow thing is a bit of a sore point. Back in 1999, a particularly huge snowfall had Mayor Mel Lastman so worried, he called in the army to help to clear it away. This became a goldmine of mirth for other places in Canada like Montreal, which gets an average of almost twice as much snow as Toronto does and gets ice storms as wellnote .

Has recently been known for its former crack-smoking, buffoonish mayor: Rob Ford. After emphatically denying having ever used drugs, Ford admitted to trying it during one of his "drunken stupors". He continues to deny that he is an alcoholic, or a drug addict. Although he has become a international embarrassment, provincial laws do not allow city council to remove him from office unless he is sent to jail for 90 days; they did however, manage to strip him of most of his powers. In spite of having been reduced to a mayor in name only, he planned on running for re-election, before a tumour in his abdomen sidelined him. He switched with his brother Doug, who was running as incumbent for Rob's former position as councillor of Etobicoke. While his brother lost the mayoral race to the moderate candidate John Tory, Rob won back his seat handily, ensuring the continued presence of the Ford family in city politics.
Major Landmarks:
  • CN Tower (Canadian National Tower) note  - Formerly the tallest free-standing structure in the world for over twenty years. It lost that title to Dubai's Burj Khalifa in 2007, and was for a time the tallest free-standing tower in the world, until the completion of the Canton Tower in 2010. Considered to be the very symbol of the city, and one of the most distinctive pieces of architecture in Canada.
    • They forgot to airbrush it out in the original theatrical release of Resident Evil.
    • Used by CBC, CTV, Global and TV Ontario as a broadcast tower. You have its regionally-unrivaled height to thank if your antenna in Rochester or Boston picks up these channels.
  • City Hall - Two curved towers that would look right at home in any futuristic show like Star Trek
    • And, in fact, did appear as a "futuristic" building on Star Trek: The Next Generation at least once.
    • Also appeared as the Umbrella Corporation's headquarters in the second Resident Evil movie.
      • As a Torontonian, one of the joys of watching that movie is seeing City Hall blow up.
  • Royal York Hotel - Swankiest hotel in the city, and was the tallest building in the British Empire when it opened in 1929. Operated by Fairmont.
  • Air Canada Centre - The hockey arena for the Toronto Maple Leafs, a team so lucrative they haven't won the Stanley Cup since 1967 and they still always earn the most by far of any team in the NHL. The franchise is worth nearly double the next most valuable...every game is a sell-out and the waiting list for season tickets is tens of thousands long.
  • Rogers Centre (originally called the Skydome; most locals still refer to it as such) - home to Major League Baseball's Toronto Blue Jays and the Canadian Football League's Toronto Argonauts, and the first stadium to be built with a retractable dome. Also has a hotel built right into it—remember to close your blinds if you stay there.
    • If you want a room facing the stadium, you have to sign a form stating that you won't do anything lewd in front of the cameras.
  • Exhibition Place, a large combination fairground and parkland. Site of many tradeshows, conferences, and fairs - most famously the Canadian National Exhibition ("The Ex").
  • Casa Loma, a late-medieval style castle built by an eccentric millionaire more or less in the middle of the citynote . While it was originally an actual place of residence, the castle is now (by order of the owner's will) a public museum, complete with tours of the many rooms. And yes, it has secret passages. It was used for the interior of the Xavier School in the first X-Men movie.note 
  • The Ontario Science Centre, a huge science museum that helped kickstart the idea of interactive science exhibits that diverted wildly from the usual staid institutions.
  • The Royal Ontario Museum, a more traditional museum which recently was given an overhaul with the Michael Lee-Chin Crystal, an architectural monstrosity which sticks out over the sidewalk and is decried by a large population of museumgoers and city residents.
  • The Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO), which has just completed an overhaul of its own with a new design by Frank Gehry, and is one of the largest art museums in North America
  • Ontario Place, a large festival and exhibition area on the lakeshore, built on a series of artificial islands as part of a failed plan (one of many) to expand the city into Lake Ontario, (not unlike Tokyo Bay in a 1980s cyberpunk anime).
  • Eaton Centre, a big, pretty, tourist-filled mall.
  • Ontario Legislative Building, a beautiful century-old structure.
  • Harbourfront Centre.
  • The University of Toronto - tends to get used as a stand-in for Oxbridge or Ivy League colleges in movies (especially the St-George campus downtown, which combines modern architecture (or occasionally futuristic) with old, ivy-covered buildings). Of particular note is Robarts Library, a sinister looking note  structure that looks like it was made by the level designers from Doom.
  • Yonge Streetnote : The major street in downtown Toronto, formerly host to the historic Sam the Record Man store (which closed recently, the trademark neon record signs have been removed for refurbishing and will return attached to a Ryerson university student centre), and the surprisingly-visible-in-the-Hulk-Movie Zanzibar strip club, one of the biggest and brightest strip club signs you'll ever see. It runs North-South, and all thoroughfares crossing it are bisected into "West" and "East".
    • It was formerly recognised by Guinness as the longest street in the world, but it was an error due to conflation with the rest of Ontario Highway 11.
  • Honest Ed's: The most famous discount store in the city, founded by the late Ed Mirvish, marked by a massive, garish flashing light sign display. In spite of this, Ed was renowned as a patron of the arts such as helping established artist facilities in the neighbourhood of his store, and for his well-known turkey giveaways to the poor of the city before Thanksgivingnote  and Christmas. Furthermore, he was most famous across the country for being a theatre impresario, putting on the biggest stage productions in the country such as Mamma Mia! and The Lion King.
    • Following the sale of the land to a condo developer by Ed Mirvish's son, the store will be closing in December 2016.
  • The ironically (though not inaccurately) named Church Street, one of the most famous gayborhoods in North America.
    • The street name actually comes from three major church buildings all located on or just off the thoroughfare, all dating back to the 19th century and all beautiful examples of neo-Gothic style; in order going northwards, these are St. James' Anglican Cathedral, the Metropolitan United Church, and St. Michael's Catholic Cathedral. The section of Church Street most historically known as the "gayborhood" is actually several blocks further north, centered around the intersection of Church and Wellesley Street East.
  • The Metro Toronto Convention Centre. Home to the Fan Convention Fan Expo Canada, basically "San Diego Comic-Con North", which would be of particular interest to many of this site's Canadian users.

Media Set in Toronto: