Quiz a visitor or a new resident in TO, on the first place they have been to in the city and you will invariably find the answer is ‘Yonge-Dundas Square’. (Of course, some crazies go elsewhere! 🙂 ) Following the majority, it was also my first destination downtown. The most happening place in town that sure stands up to its name! I don’t even remember the number of events I have attended there. Most cultural and music events either start or end there; Nuit Blanche and Pride Parade to name a few among the many.
I was surprised to find that the Yonge-Dundas Square came into being only in 2002. Planned in 1997, it was designed by Brown + Storey Architects, and constructed as part of the Yonge Street Regeneration Project, managed by the Toronto City Council and the city residents, making it a one-of-a-kind public-private partnership. It was developed at the intersection of Yonge Street and Dundas Street East in downtown Toronto.
On the lines of New York’s Time Square, this public square is also decked with colorful LCD and LED screens and panels, digital displays and advertisements and neon signs. The true charm of this eye-catching scene comes alive only at night. The square has granite flooring and a stage made out of stone meant for concerts and adequate seating with overhead canopies.
Surrounded by famous and known buildings, facing east is the Toronto Eaton Centre, a fancy and expensive shopping mall, which is a major attraction for mall tourists (who outnumber the regular tourists these days!)
Facing north of the square is 10 Dundas Street East, a structure that houses a multiplex and many grill restaurants. Of particular note is Jack Astor’s lovely patio restaurant that overlooks Dundas Square. Providing a lovely view and blending tasty food with excellent customer service, it sure offers an awesome ambience. As the most popular restaurant in the area, they are usually busy. I always look forward to going there.
Recently, the world cup euphoria took me to Shark Club, a sports bar in the same building and all I remember is that I left the place happy. Well, blame the match for the single-minded focus!
South of the square is the building that has Hard Rock Café which I wanna visit sometime soon. Mainly to add one more to the collection of Hard Rock tees that I have stashed away from around the world! Then there are other commercial buildings around like a studio, Atrium on Bay, and the City TV building.
Yonge-Dundas Square is the place where the PATH system begins. A long, underground labyrinth of shops, food courts, and restaurants that will lead you to Lakeshore Boulevard in case you did not already lose your way. The PATH sustains offices all across this area, spanning 29 kilometres. Another unique feature at Yonge-Dundas is the pedestrian scramble, an intersection where pedestrians can cross the road in all directions even diagonally. The traffic lights guide you on when to cross.
Now that’s a short preview of what you can expect when you are ambling along this popular landmark next time.
15 Jul 2014
June 29, 2014. Never expected the day to turn into such a big party. It was an experience of a lifetime. A celebration of life, love, and liberty as I have never seen before. Yes, I am talking of the final pride march, the concluding event at the ten-day Worldpride festival that took place in the last week of June in Toronto. As an ally and supporter, standing by the railings, cheering on, I felt truly proud. It was a spectacle of openness, doing what you like, and not caring a damn. Strong emphasis on the last point.
This was the event I have been waiting for since I heard of its popularity from my friends who had attended the pride parade the previous years. But the parade this year exceeded even their expectations. Way grander and bigger with a huge audience. And not just the marchers but the spectators were also an interesting crowd. I was walking around in open-mouthed wonder most of the time.
It was sheer excitement to see people, most exotically dressed in all imaginable costumes, performing for us. The drag queens looked drop-dead gorgeous. There was representation from human rights groups, affiliated with the Worldpride ideologies, as well as major Canadian for-profit organizations. I must admit though, the corporates do not make good entertainment material. It was slightly boring to watch them. Not so much the other groups who put in some thought into their costumes and exhibits in order to provide the most appealing display of their group’s mission and values.
The LGBT communities from different universities and sports clubs also put up a great show. It was interesting to note the firm statement put forth by communities originating in restrictive cultures like the (gaysi) The Gayi Desi and the Ismaili Queers. It was the spirit of solidarity that bound us all. Our cultural backgrounds, faiths, opinions, and orientation mattered no more. What mattered was that we were all there personifying unity in diversity and most importantly, having fun.
The authorities including the politicians and the police were there in tow providing their support. An estimated 12,000 people marched in the parade while more than a million supporters (I think!) grooved to the music played on the vans and vehicles carrying the floats and the people. The parade spanned across downtown Toronto, culminating at Yonge-Dundas Square, the most popular entertainment spot, for a musical evening of some great rock and pop music. This has been the best event I have attended in Toronto till date.
01 Jul 2014
It was nice and sunny. The weather showed a maximum of 25 degree celsius for the day. The breeze floating about helped cool off the temperatures a bit. It was supposed to turn cloudy later in the day. With one eye open, I squinted towards the sky, still drowsy with sleep. Sprawled on the lush green grass, I was enjoying my afternoon siesta. The canopy of trees swaying gently above lulled my senses. At that point of time, the only thought that entered my mind was ‘Margarita! What would I not do for a margarita?!!’ 🙂
Sitting up, I viewed the large Grenadier Pond that had ducks and beautiful swans swimming by. It was truly a sight to behold! Behind me were people playing frisbee and badminton, walking, chatting, above all, relaxing in this serene atmosphere, far from the hustle and bustle of the city and yet so near. I was at High Park, a four hundred acres wooded area in downtown Toronto. The park gets its name from the previous owner, John George Howard, in 1873, who constructed his residence, the Colborne Lodge, there. Since the house was located on the highest point in that area, it came to be known as High Park along with the surrounding areas.
Developed as a natural park, it offers recreational facilities to Torontonians. Situated on a hilly terrain with steep inclines and valleys, there are also paved walking trails and tracks for those on a leisurely spree. For me, the walking tours are a major attraction of the park, organized on Sundays. The Colborne Lodge and the High Park Zoo are other things one could check out. So are the well-kept gardens that are embellishments to the raw wilderness around.
The High Park Zoo is a stretch of road with sections, enclosed by wired fences, providing habitats for many interesting animals like llamas, bisons, barbary sheeps, mouflon sheeps, reindeers, yaks, etc. The signboards hung outside the fences are humorously documented with information on the animals.
Ready for some nourishment, I glanced at my friends enquiringly. They were also up for a bite. We slowly started walking towards the parking lot. On the way, the High Park train, an open carriage for people wanting to tour the park on wheels, passed us. I mused over how much of the wonderment of the park they were able to take in as I felt that it was done best on foot. A break at the food trucks helped us hold our hunger for the time being and satisfied our childish cravings for popsicles, hotdogs, and cone ice creams.
I have heard that the blooming cherry blossoms in the spring are a spectacle worth seeing at High Park. In fact, the nature centre has a cherry blossom watch which tracks the date of peak bloom so people can plan their trip accordingly. Guess I need to get those pictures next!
24 Jun 2014