Nearly 30 years ago, English actor Peter Ustinov described Toronto as, “New York operated by the Swiss.” The idea that Toronto offers the cultural attractions of the Big Apple without the chaos — and the cost — is truer than ever. Due to decreasing oil prices, the Canadian dollar is now valued at a lower rate than it’s been in more than a decade. Yet Toronto’s art, hotel, music, and restaurant scenes are thriving. Here are the ways Toronto gives NYC a run for its money.
Recently named the most culturally diverse city in the world by BBC Radio, Toronto is home to people born in every corner of the earth. In fact, a little more half of the population (51 percent) was born outside of Canada. As a result, the city features incredible ethnic food, bustling outdoor and indoor markets (Kensington Market and St. Lawrence Market, respectively), eclectic entertainment, and vibrant street parades.
Whether you prefer the opera, ballet, comedy, film, live theater, or music, Toronto rivals New York as a world-class entertainment hub. In fact, a number of popular Broadway shows debuted in Toronto — most recently, the musical “Aladdin.” The comedy scene is also a draw: Heavy hitters like Dan Aykroyd, Eugene Levy, and Martin Short got their start at the Toronto outpost of the famed Chicago comedy club Second City.
Film buffs may want to visit the city in September during the celebrated Toronto International Film Festival. Often referred to as Hollywood North, Toronto has doubled as Manhattan in films like American Psycho, Police Academy, and even the Olsen Twins’ comedy New York Minute. The award-winning Canadian Opera Company, The National Ballet of Canada, and the Toronto Symphony Orchestra all contribute to the city’s reputation as a significant cultural capital.
In the summer, Toronto’s food scene is more alive than ever, as the restaurants and bars downtown open their patios to the streets. Whether you’re looking for an affordable, bone-sticking meal, like the food at like Le Paradis Brasserie-Bistro, or you’re pulling out all the stops for the picturesque view at Canoe on Wellington Street, the city’s more than 8,000 restaurants offer something for every occasion.
Toronto’s culinary scene is also dynamic, in large part, because of the more than 200 ethnicities and cultures represented there. Kensington Market, now a National Historic Site, is a great place to get a sampling — with a selection of Jamaican, Hungarian, South American, and South Asian bites available on the cheap. An influx of Chinese immigrants have arrived in Toronto over the last 20 to 30 years, leading to several growing Chinatowns throughout the city — ideal locales for a reasonably priced meal. Mother’s Dumplings, for instance, has some of the freshest and best dumplings around town for CA$1 apiece.