Toronto, I Love You Blog

Bad Dog Theatre, I Love You

by Stephanie Malek

Today is the last blog post, as it is also the last show of Toronto, I Love You. Now, I'm hoping you didn't read this title and immediately write-off this blog post as being self-serving on behalf of Bad Dog. Yes, I am writing this blog on the Bad Dog website. Yes, I do a lot of work for Bad Dog. Do you know why I do so much for Bad Dog? Because it is my absolute favourite place in Toronto, and if you will permit, I would like to tell you why. 

In 2012, I had just started taking improv classes for the first time. I knew next to nothing about it and was just starting my clap-focuses. I had been going to wheel of improv at Comedy Bar after class and a class-mate had noticed there was a new show called Throne of Games by some company called Bad Dog. My Thursday post may have given you some insight,  but I am a huge nerd and I love Game of Thrones so I was very curious. 

The night came and we rounded up some class-mates and took our seats. The lights went down and suddenly, from the back of the theatre, a lone male voice (Kris Siddiqi) started singing the theme "bum-bum-buh-buh-bum-bum-buh-buh-bum-bum" and started walking towards the stage with a GIANT sword, followed by the rest of the cast chanting an improvised, lyriced version of the theme song - "Some shit's about to go down in Westeros ...". My whole body was COVERED in goose bumps and for the next 50 minutes I was completely awe-struck. I had no idea improv could be like this. 

 Oh, little Steph - you had no idea what lay ahead of you when this photo was taken!

Oh, little Steph - you had no idea what lay ahead of you when this photo was taken!

It was one of the first times I got to see my teachers perform too. Paloma Nunez (in the GLORIOUS blonde wig) was my first improv teacher ever, and it was so neat to see some of the things she taught me being applied on stage! It was also when I developed my first improv crush - Sarah Hillier. Watching Sarah play Arya Stark is still one of my favourite improv performances of all times. I don't even remember what she did specifically, I just remember that every single time she stepped on the stage I became excited because I knew I was going to just lose my shit. I also will never forget Alice Moran doing the most amazing medieval style retelling of Baby Got Back. 

 Alice Moran as Sansa, Sarah Hillier as Arya, and Kris Siddiqi as Ned ... poor poor Ned.

Alice Moran as Sansa, Sarah Hillier as Arya, and Kris Siddiqi as Ned ... poor poor Ned.

As this show was wrapping up (which was DEVASTATING), D&D Live started (which was also SO GREAT) and Bad Dog was about to launch their first Epic Narrative Studio Series class - a class designed to help students learn to tell long stories on stage, like Throne and D&D. If I could do even a tiny bit of what was being done on that stage, I wanted in. So began my time with the Bad Dog Academy. 

My first Bad Dog teacher was Rob Norman, teaching us how to do a quest. Then Colin Munch teaching us how to theatricalize (not a word) and enhance our improv. Then Etan Muskat and James Gangl for beatprov. Then Jess Bryson to help us pull it all together. WHAT A FREAKING AMAZING ROSTER OF TEACHERS. To this day, they are all performers I respect so much and love watching on stage as masters of their craft. I was learning from these people then watching them reinforce what they were telling me, night after night.

 Quentin made these amazing cards for our grad show from NSS! 

Quentin made these amazing cards for our grad show from NSS! 

When I started the program, I was in a very bad personal place and was dealing with a lot of emotional baggage but having something to focus on and care about and be passionate about literally changed my life. I basically moved into Comedy Bar around October/November and never looked back. 

Early in 2013 I approached Julie (then Dumais,  now Osborne) trying to see how I could help out. I'd been getting so much joy out of Bad Dog and wanted to be more involved. Julie is an amazing supporter of improv, and of anyone wanting to get more involved, She tries so hard to match people up with things they would be passionate about and also be able to help with. I knew nothing about the company and she suggested, based on my love of nerdery, that I hook up with Etan Muskat and Alice Moran (who had produced Throne of Games!) to assist in producing Bad Dog's new Star Trek show, Final Frontier. Now, despite my love of nerdy stuff and coming from a family of Trekkies, I didn't know much about Star Trek but I wasn't going to let that stop me! I met with Etan and Alice over coffee and the show was being born! As we got closer to the date, Alice got an amazing show and was travelling and so was doing a lot of producing remotely, which meant I had to really step up. I WAS SO SCARED OF SCREWING UP, but no one would let me. Julie and Alice and Etan patiently replied to my frantic emails, and helped guide me towards opening night. Right before our first show, I took an afternoon off work to attend the last rehearsal with Etan, Jess, Liz Johnston, Alastair Forbes, and Craig Anderson (I still pinch myself that I got to be involved with this ridiculously talented cast) and someone suggested we have the voice of the ship as part of the show. In a weirdo moment of bravery, I offered and suddenly I went from being behind the scenes producer to also being on-stage. Now, I was still an absolute improv baby. Bless Etan for believing in me enough to let me on the stage, because for the entire first run of the show I spent so much time just trying not to barf or screw up or die.

 Our very first show - you can't tell but I'm almost having a panic attack here!

Our very first show - you can't tell but I'm almost having a panic attack here!

Also around the time of Final Frontier kicking off, I met this neat improviser while hanging out at Bad Dog/Comedy Bar named Sean Tabares. He had been in the remount of Throne of Games, was in the Bad Dog Repertory Players, and was in the newest season of D&D Live. One night at Baltic Avenue we got to talking after one of his D&D shows about improv and its relation to different D&D classes (NEEERRRRDDDSSSSSS). We kept talking and developed a friendship and eventually decided to start dating each other (that in itself is a funny story and also partly a car2go campaign). He also appeared in an episode of Final Frontier (my best friend first met him while he was wearing a sparkly shirt and nylons on his legs and head). If it weren't for Bad Dog, we probably never would have started talking and wouldn't be living together about two years later!

 The Video Game Show - with our special finale guest David Hayter!

The Video Game Show - with our special finale guest David Hayter!

 Student welcome night featuring the official snack of Bad Dog - chips!

Student welcome night featuring the official snack of Bad Dog - chips!

This is where things kind of become this amazing blur of improv shows and joining the Bad Dog softball team and falling in love and living at Comedy Bar and making all these incredible friends. Final Frontier was a success and we completed our run and I was off to my next project, and then the next project, and next thing I knew I was producing a bunch of shows as well as the Bad Dog Academy Tuesdays, Bad Dog's student night!  Bad Dog also started their resident house team for their Micetro show - The Rat Pack. I wanted nothing more than to be part of this group. I longed to be able to step up not just on the back end, but on the stage two. Gavin Williams and Julie decided to give this lil' ol' weirdo a chance and put me in! Now I was performing regularly under the Bad Dog flag!

 Look at this handsome group! 

Look at this handsome group! 

 Bad Dog Softball Team, I could write a whole post just about how much I love you.

Bad Dog Softball Team, I could write a whole post just about how much I love you.

I felt like I belonged somewhere and I was doing what a year before I didn't even know I wanted to do. The entire community was so open and welcoming and allowed me the amazing pleasure of being taught by them, performing with them, hanging out with them, and becoming one of them! I met some of my closest friends during this time too, including many people I would partner with in future performances! I continued to perform and produce with the company, Final Frontier came back for another run and then in the summer of 2014 the BEST THING HAPPENED. Bad Dog was getting it's own theatre!!!!!!!! Things got INSANE at the theatre and I don't know if you are aware but Bad Dog runs on a part-time/volunteer basis so you can just imagine how stressful it was leading up to the move, though anyone not in the throws of it would never have known! The theatre opened, Launch Week was a HUGE success, and the Bad Dog Comedy Theatre was officially open to the public. 

Since then, the company has been trying to get the word out about its new home, and it's working. Shows are selling out, an awesome online campaign helped fund a soon-to-arrive new sign to help people find us, and it really feels like a cozy little home.

 Liz Johnston and Julie Osborne

Liz Johnston and Julie Osborne

 Lisa Amerongen and Jess Bryson

Lisa Amerongen and Jess Bryson

Now, look at the two photos above. Everything you see at Bad Dog, everything you read about Bad Dog, every class you have taken and every thing you know about the company as it stands right now is directly because of one, or two, or three, or all of them. I don't say this to downplay the work of previous Artistic Directors and performers and staff, but I say it because I think everyone should know.

I am constantly in awe of the hard work, the passion, the vision, the drive, and the love these incredible women share with the company, the academy, the performers, and the volunteers. I am continually proud to be associated with this company and with these women and the beautiful thing they created and work tirelessly on. They took this little company that didn't have it's own home, this little Academy that started off as 3 foundation classes, this group of incredible performers, and they turned it into a company with it's own theatre, a booming Academy that can boast 5 full adult studio programs, 3 foundational classes, a youth program, a new French program, and ongoing studio presents workshops, a solid group of world-class improvisers, tons of sold out houses, critically acclaimed Fringe shows, and a name that is recognized around the world for it's top-notch unscripted comedy. Julie was even selected as one of the heroes of 2014 for all the incredible work she's done for this community.

The astounding shows put on my this company have raised the bar for me of what improv can and should be. It doesn't need to be all blow lines and audience-winks (though that can be super fun too). It can become this beautiful, intricate, magical art form that can make you laugh and cry and ultimately can have you leaving the theatre feeling changed. That is what Bad Dog does to me (100% honestly - if you were at Toronto, I Love You on Wednesday you could have seen me straight up cry during the show!)

Liz Johnston, Jess Bryson, Lisa Amerongen, and Julie Osborne - thank you for making Bad Dog Theatre Company and Bad Dog Comedy Theatre into this incredible place that is honestly my absolute favourite thing in Toronto. 

Thank you so much everyone for reading this blog. I had so much fun writing it and sharing my love of the city with you! Feel free to reach out to me on twitter and lets keep talking about all the awesome things Toronto has to offer! I hope to see you all at the theatre soon! <3

 I just really wanted to use this photo because I love it so much! Hi Jorge Mijangos!

I just really wanted to use this photo because I love it so much! Hi Jorge Mijangos!

Bloomers, I Love You

by Stephanie Malek

This story starts last summer. I was at a friend's cottage for the weekend, swimming  and having fun and basically being in heaven. A friend from England had just arrived with some friends he was travelling with and I was super stoked. I am not sure if you can tell, but I'm very excitable and also don't always pay attention to everything so I went running to greet the group. While running over, I straight up smashed my foot into a tree root and jammed the ever-loving heck out of it. As the day went on, my foot got bigger and bluer and by the next morning, I couldn't walk. Like, straight up couldn't even hobble myself to the car - my boyfriend had to carry me by piggy back. We borrow some crutches from a friend when we got back to the city and I pain-killer'd up, but then got to thinking that I should probably warn my downstairs neighbours that I'm going to be the most annoying ever, clobbering around on these stupid crutches and being the noisiest. I wrote a note explaining my situation and apologizing for the noise and told them to come let me know if I'm too loud/annoying/etc.

A few days pass and I'm hobbling but off the crutches. I'm on my way home from work and I see a box on my doorstep (like, inside the building, not outside). I get inside and it's this incredible box of treats with a note attached:

 RIGHT? The sweetest (in all sense of the word).&nbsp;

RIGHT? The sweetest (in all sense of the word). 

So, like anyone does when they receive such a lovely gift, I posted about it on Facebook because I wanted to share the lovely kindness my downstairs neighbours showed me! Then this happened: 

AMAZING! Bloomer's is a new (just celebrated 6 months since opening!) bakery and restaurant! They had just opened up under Bad Dog's new home (technically one door over but STILL). I felt like a creeper for ... well ... creeping to find out it was them so the next time I was at Bad Dog I stopped into their new store. 

 Lovingly stolen from Bloomer's facebook page!

Lovingly stolen from Bloomer's facebook page!

I went in and introduced myself officially to Kelly and Alex as their hobbly upstairs neighbour (now, kinda, in two places) and thanked them for their kindness and generosity. As they were now downstairs from my second home, I started going in before class almost weekly and telling everyone who would listen about their incredible treats. 

I have so many dietary restrictions, I usually can't grab food easily, but all their food is vegan, and a lot of it is soy free, gluten free, etc. I can always rely on Bloomer's for a delicious pre-class treat, or a scrumptious lunch, and now they are expanding to doing dinner and drinks! 

 The lovely owners (Kelly and Alex) as they took ownership!&nbsp;

The lovely owners (Kelly and Alex) as they took ownership! 

 What a cozy, lovely place!

What a cozy, lovely place!

Bloomer's, as I understand, is a staple at food fests around the city, and I can see why. Here are some of my personal favourites:

  • Carrot cake loaf: as someone who is lactose intolerant, I never get to enjoy this dessert but NOT ANY MORE because everything at Bloomer's is dairy-free so I never have to worry about a hurt tummy. It's moist and sweet, and easily sharable with another person except no I won't share with you.
  • Bagels: soft, squishy, a little crisp on the outside - everything you could want a bagel to be except it's VEGAN. Honestly its hard for me to believe this stuff is all vegan bsaed on taste and presentation but it is and Bloomer's is redefining vegan desserts for me.
  • Bowls: last Saturday I had to grab a quick dinner between class and work and my stomach has been all hella upset, but Bloomer's bowls always hit the spot. It was a Mediterranean-themed bowl with tahini and olives and kale and so many delicious flavours that I wish I could eat every meal.
  •  Donut holes: I first had these in the delicious box of treats upon my doorstep. Now, I am a real sucker for coconut and these donut holes are just squishy enough, and just sweet enough, and just the right size and just perfect. Amazing with a cup of coffee or tea or just anything in your life.

If you're coming to Bad Dog, a fan of vegan treats, or just looking for a nice place to grab a bite (savoury or sweet), drop by and see Kelly and Alex (and then come upstairs and tell me about how delicious your food was!). You won't regret it (other than your new addiction to vegan delights!)

Only 2 shows left of Toronto, I Love You! Don't miss out on this amazing love letter to the city told so much more eloquently than my blog ramblings through beautiful stories, amazing theatrical improv, and heart-warming/breaking relationships in the best places in the city!

Sorauren Pumpkin Parade, I Love You

by Stephanie Malek

I mentioned it in my previous post on Fall in Toronto, but I love Fall and especially Halloween. Living in the High Park/Roncesvalles area, Halloween is not just a night - it's an EVENT. People go all out with some of the most amazing and creative displays, ranging from radioactive band playing on the porch of a house, to a house being full-on transformed into a giant menacing face! Suffice it to say, HP/Ronces looooooove Halloween too!

One of the best parts of Halloween in this neighbourhood is the Sorauren Pumpkin Parade. The day after Halloween, everyone brings their no-longer-required Jack O'Lanterns to Sorauren Park for one last hurrah - the pumpkin parade!

pumpkins 1.jpg

The first time I heard of it I legitimately thought it was a literal parade of pumpkins (I still kinda wish it was, but you can't have everything) but what it is is equally magical - several walking paths lined with lit pumpkins of all shapes and sizes! Sure, you've got your average pumpkin carvings, but you also are treated to so many new and wonderful takes on pumpkins that you can't help but want to slowly meander through the park for way long than you expected to! 

 Rows on rows on rows!&nbsp;

Rows on rows on rows! 

Some of my favourites from the last two years include: big pumpkin chomping on little pumpkin (there were lots of these and each one is delightful!), little pumpkin in big pumpkin jail, any Game of Thrones/Ghostbusters/Jack Skellington pumpkins, and le piece de resistance:

 Probably my favourite pumpkin display EVER!&nbsp;

Probably my favourite pumpkin display EVER! 

This lovely display is courtesy of my neighbours who have the best pumpkin display of all time. I don't know how they do it but it's the most damn delightful display and it always finds it's way to the pumpkin parade (so I get to see it leading up to Halloween and then one last hurrah). 

Make sure it's dark, make sure you dress warm, but MAKE SURE YOU GO! 

Toronto Arcades, I Love You

by Stephanie Malek

Back when I was growing up in the city, Yonge Street was full of arcades. There were at least 3 or 4 arcades around Yonge and Dundas and I remember going with my dad and getting handfuls of quarters and playing video games that I never could have imagined having at home.

Even in High School, when my internet friends (yes, I had lots of internet friends in 1997) would come into town, we'd pour our money into Funland's DDR machine and see who could get the top score on Butterfly or Captain Jack (just listening to those tracks brought back SO MANY MEMORIES). 

 Toronto of my youth (Yonge &amp; Dundas) - image lovingly borrowed from blogTO

Toronto of my youth (Yonge & Dundas) - image lovingly borrowed from blogTO

There was even a giant Playdium at Richmond and John, right by the Scotiabank theatre - that's how popular arcades were. 

As videogames became more home-based, the downtown arcades disappeared and those of us itching to play some classic games are left hoping for the random Street Fighter machine at a bar. 

For several years, Toronto was dry of good gaming places until people like me started owning places and having cars! Bars like Get Well now have a decent offering of games, and for those of us with cars, Dave & Busters is an arcade geek's paradise. 

My boyfriend and I were trying to plan a date one night and realized that we had never been to Dave & Busters. I'd been to the one in Niagara Falls and had a great time (I'm a gambler and winning tickets is an ADDICTION), so it seemed like a super fun date night. The first time we went, I got sick on weird random Russian candy, but we had our credits and a cool new addiction to Fruit Ninja so we returned a couple weeks later in mid-November.

Hot date with a cool dude!

As you can see, we're very serious about our Fruit Ninja (and apparently not so serious about learning how to record audio and video at the same time). We saved our tickets as Sean was really into the idea of us saving up and getting D&B hats to wear for future trips.

The holidays came and went and during the taint of the season (between Christmas and New Years), I was SO BORED. After querying Facebook, some friends decided to plan an impromptu outing BACK TO DAVE & BUSTERS! 

 FIELD TRIP!!! Photo courtesy of Nug Nahrgang and taken by our really sweet server!

FIELD TRIP!!!
Photo courtesy of Nug Nahrgang and taken by our really sweet server!

Now, I for sure can't speak for everyone but this place was just as fun with a group! We each found games we wanted to play, and had a really decent meal with it! 

 Yes, we now have matching hats which we will wear on our next D&amp;B date.

Yes, we now have matching hats which we will wear on our next D&B date.

Toronto also has a pretty neat indie game development community, which meets regularly and occasionally opens up its doors with a pop up arcade! No date set for 2015, but I was definitely kicking myself for not buying one of the limited tickets available for the 2014 date! 

Edit 01/26: I was reminded by my awesome, hat-matching boyfriend that there was also an amazing pop-up pinball exhibit not that long ago in First Canadian Place where we got to play so many old machines FOR FREE. Man, Toronto, you are so cool. 

Where do you like to play games? 

Toronto Waterfront, I Love You

Toronto's waterfront has a bad rap. It's talked about often in Toronto Council, and residents are often angry that it pales in comparison to the waterfronts of other great cities. It's separated from the city by the crumbling Gardiner Expressway, and doesn't have a lot of activities for tourists. 

That being said - I think it's just beautiful! I've always been attracted to water and I find it very calming so whenever I feel stressed out, the waterfront is my first stop!

 Bay and Queen's Quay - look at that stunning view. March 2012

Bay and Queen's Quay - look at that stunning view. March 2012

One of the things I love about our waterfront is the view of the Toronto Island (you can read more about how much I love that place here). If you walk just 10 minutes south of the Financial District (which I did on many many lunch hours oh god I hate that area), you are presented with this beautiful view and can forget that you work a crappy desk job surrounded by nothing but concrete! 

 Sunset by Ontario Place while biking home.

Sunset by Ontario Place while biking home.

I also am an avid cyclist (except right now cause it's cold and I'm a weiner). When I worked in the Financial District, I often wanted to unwind after work, and biking in Toronto is anything but relaxing UNLESS you can bike the Martin Goodman trail home. Luckily I live near High Park and this trail is perfect for me! During the spring months, this was often the sight I was greeted with on my way home. Sometimes I would even stop and sit on a bench for a bit to soak it all in! 

 Humber Bay Arch Bridge - aka the Turtle Bridge. You have to go to see why.

Humber Bay Arch Bridge - aka the Turtle Bridge. You have to go to see why.

So you don't work in the Financial District (lucky you!) and you don't commute by bike but you like going on leisurely weekend jaunts! LUCKY YOU! The Martin Goodman Trail extends out to Etobicoke. From there you can take a path up the Humber River, or continue on out to the Humber Bay West Park (more on that in a moment). Either way you get to go over this great bridge. It's beautiful during the day, the view is beautiful by night, and there is a fun reason I call it the Turtle Bridge (I actually had to look up the real name because I've only called it Turtle Bridge).

 Am I in Hamilton? Am I in Buffalo? NO! I'M IN TORONTO!

Am I in Hamilton? Am I in Buffalo? NO! I'M IN TORONTO!

If you chose to keep going west instead of going up the Humber River trail, you will see a lot of condos (bleh) but you will come across a park with a butterfly pond (COOL!!!) and a bridge leading you into Humber Bay West park. I really love exploring places so one day I decided to just bike into this park on my own and start taking the trails. There are several of them, but they lead out to the amazing view above! CHECK OUT THAT SEXY CITY! It's also got a little beach on it that you can hang out on (though I haven't spent any time there). There are a few benches facing the water so you can just relax, bring your sweetheart, and have a real romantic time, or just take some pictures to make everyone think you went on a trip without having to leave the city.

 Here are where the above photos were taken, if you ever want to check them out!

Here are where the above photos were taken, if you ever want to check them out!

ALSO - TORONTO, I LOVE YOU OPENED YESTERDAY! Hooray! See you at Bad Dog!

Toronto Zoo, I Love You

by Stephanie Malek

As a kid in Toronto, there were a few set destinations for class trips - the Science Centre, the Toronto Islands, the CN Tower, and the Toronto Zoo. You would be asked to pick an animal and do a project about that animal (usually just consisting of some photos of that animal on a bristol board). I can only imagine what we must have been like for those poor, patient animals. 

 I'm the one who looks way too excited to be there!

I'm the one who looks way too excited to be there!

The zoo, like many Toronto attractions, really hasn't changed very much since then. Sure, they've added a cool water park (which I have often walked through fully clothed on a hot summer day), a panda exhibit (though I do miss String Ray bay!), and it's missing it's beautiful monorail, but it's every bit as fun as it used to be.

 The old monorail - image lovingly borrowed from blogTO.

The old monorail - image lovingly borrowed from blogTO.

 Touching Sting Rays - it's like petting puppies only slimier!

Touching Sting Rays - it's like petting puppies only slimier!

 Look at this cool lil family!

Look at this cool lil family!

It's become a tradition in my family to go to the zoo for father's day and have a nice family outing. Usually it ends up with me and my dad making each other laugh and lately includes my brother thinking we're idiots. It's brought us so much joy that I even decided to "adopt" a penguin for my dad so that, when we visited the next father's day, he could see his name on the board of zoo parents. It was a fun way to be able to support the zoo outside of attendance and help keep it going!

 Meet my sibling - African Penguin!

Meet my sibling - African Penguin!

Hot tip: If it's insane at the zoo when you are there, sneak down to the Canada area. It's down a HUGE hill so no one goes there, and sometimes you can catch the grizzly bears trying to court each other! 

Hot tip #2: If you go see the Capybaras, there are also parrots in there that talk. They will say hi to you, and you will laugh and no one will believe you but you will know that they said hi to you, right Michelle?

 Oh these little guys are just the best! Always playing!&nbsp;

Oh these little guys are just the best! Always playing! 

Hot tip #3: Get the zoomobile pass because you will get tired, or it will get hot, and everyone needs to hear cheesy animal puns. Plus it's always neat to get a guided tour!

Hot tip #4: Pigmy hippo (clearly one of my favourite things!)

 I'm touching it's butt! Tee hee!

I'm touching it's butt! Tee hee!

Have a favourite memory from the zoo? Do you remember the red pandas too, or when you could walk through kangaroos? Leave me a comment!

Toronto Islands, I Love You

by Stephanie Malek

Even when you love a place, sometimes you just need a change of pace and scenery. You need to escape the hustle and bustle of the city and hide by the water, surrounded by trees and frisbee-golfers. Toronto is very lucky in that we have the unique ability to feel far away by simply taking a ferry for 20 minutes to the Toronto Islands.

When you go to High School in the big city, there isn't a lot of opportunity to disappear. Friends who grew up in the country tell stories of bonfires, and barn parties, and hiding out in the woods doing drugs. We had the Toronto Islands. With all the small, connected islands, there was always opportunity for us to disappear and hang out as a group, or go swimming in fountains, or play tag in the maze, or get caught streaking by a group of boy scouts and become a mini-legend among Toronto boy scouts for at least a few years (I wish I was joking about this).

As an adult, the islands still hold a huge amount of charm. Whether it's walking through the housing community on Ward's Island, getting naked (to your level of comfort) on Hanlan's Point Nude Beach (there are many non-nude beaches too and the water is swimmable on the far-side of the Island), or going on the Log Flume or Haunted Barrel Works in Centerville. The Island is a romantic getaway for a date, a family fun centre of activity, a beautiful place to watch fireworks, and just a lovely boat ride. 

For artists in the city, be sure to check out Artscape Gibraltar Point and their residencies - because who doesn't want to live on the Island for a bit to help inspire creativity. The centre is in the old Toronto Island School - where Toronto school kids would get shipped to the Island for a week to learn about nature, hear creepy ghost stories about the lighthouse (don't step on the thirteenth step!), and play predator-and-prey. Going back there for musical festivals always brought a twinge of nostalgia for me.
 

The city-scape from the Island can't be beat - watching the sun set from the beach on Hanlan's Point is one of the most beautiful things you can see in the city. You can also take your bike over on the ferry to be able to get the most out of your trip. 

Another favourite on the Island is the Far Away Farm in Centerville - it's free to the public and has a lot of different animals! There have been a lot of discussions about closing down the farm (which would be devastating to me) so make sure to enjoy it while you can!

Hot tip: Always bring your own food unless you really dig chicken fingers and pizza (PizzaPizza has a few kiosks on the island), or you want to pay a lot of money for a sandwich at the dining spots on Ward's Island. The Island has a million places to have a nice picnic! 

Hot top #2: Don't go during the festivals unless you have no choice, or are willing to spend some extra money on a water taxi - you don't get to enjoy the same charm of the place, and you'll have to wait hours to get there.


Do you have any favourite memories of the Toronto Islands? 

High Park, I Love You

by Stephanie Malek

I grew up in the east end of the city, but my grandparents lived on Sunnyside Avenue (Roncesvalles area). We would visit quite a bit but my favourite would be going to High Park. My Aunt and I would read plays on the picnic benches, my high school friends and I filmed a weird version of Alice in Wonderland on some of the more secluded paths, I would fool around with boyfriends tucked away from view among the trees, or throw impromptu Warriors-themed birthday parties on the stage in the middle of the park.

High Park's beauty isn't just in its nature-hidden-in-the-city, but also in it's variety. Some of the amazing gems hidden among the paths:

  • A small zoo - my dad likes to tell me the story about when the Buffalo escaped and ran down the streets of the neighbourhood looking for their freedom! 
  • A historic museum, Colborne Lodge, depicting Victorian life as well as hosting numerous events and workshops (I did a wreath-making workshop once with some friends and it was delightful!) 
high park.jpg
high park 2.JPG
  • An allotment garden where Toronto residents can rent a plot and plant to their heart's content.
  • The best dang off-leash dog area in the city -  if you ever need a cheer-up, just go to Doggy Hill
  • PWYC Shakespeare productions during Shakespeare in High Park put on by Canadian Stage
  • The coolest community-built adventure playground (after arson destroyed not one but two other playgrounds in the same spot, Mike Holmes lent a hand and funds to help create the current version of the Jamie Bell Playground)
  • A beautiful Japanese water garden in the heart of the park.
  • The stunning cherry blossoms (this will warrant it's own post at some point in the future, including the cool story of falling in love with my partner!)
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Those are just SOME of the things in this park. I am so enamoured with the park that I moved literally two doors down from one of the gates to the park so I could enjoy it as much as possible. 

If you've been, you've probably got numerous of your own stories and areas of the park that you love. If not, each season has its own magic in the park so make sure you check it out. 

What do you love about High Park? Any fun stories? What other places in Toronto do you love?