Ontario, Canada – June 1999

Toronto Vs. New York City

I just returned from a long weekend in New York City.

It was my first real trip in two years. Granted, I do make semi-regular

trips to lovely Pembroke, Ontario (to visit my girlfriend’s family)

but this was the first time I’d left the province. A needed fix

for my travel addiction.

While in New York, it struck me how much Toronto copies New

York. Toronto originally followed the mode set by London until

about the 1960′s, but has since been following New York’s lead.

I am not the first person to compare the two cities: Peter Ustinov

describes Toronto as “New York as run by the Swiss” or as the

New York Times put it Toronto is “New York without the

attitude”.

I am only comparing things I actually experienced. If my comparisons

seem arbitrary, they probably are…

Empire State Building vs. CN Tower – CN

Tower is not only bigger (the tallest structure in the world)

but also much more obviously phallic – right down to the bulbous

observation deck.

Flatiron Building vs. Flatiron Building – A tie. They

even look the same, except that New York’s is bigger.

Broadway vs. the Entertainment District – Now that Livent

(the Canadian Company that premiered hits such as Ragtime

and Showboat in Toronto) is history we don’t get anything

that hasn’t already opened on Broadway.

The Plaza Hotel vs. Royal York HotelRoyal

York may not be as famous, but it has that sense of colonial

“Yo Britannia!” history. A must for their High Tea.

Wall St. vs. Bay St. (Toronto’s financial district) –

Wall St. wins even though it is underwhelming, as it is too short

and too narrow, but it has the international power brokers that

Toronto lacks.

Central Park vs. High Park – Central Park is much more

picturesque and their Children’s Zoo is fun even for adults. High

Park does have the historical house Colbourne Lodge.

MTA (NYC) Subway vs. TTC Subway – Tie. While the MTA

has more routes and stations, connections can often be a 10 minute

walk away. Also, 6 security guards with megaphones to do crowd

control during rush hour is just too much. Toronto’s simplicity

allows for a braindead commute.

Upper West Side vs. Forest Hill – Toronto has a long

way to get the truly snooty neighbourhoods of New York. I live

in Forest Hill, so if they’d have me it isn’t nearly exclusive

enough. (Apparently, there’s a Forest Hills in NYC too.)

The MET(ropolitan Museum of Art) vs. the ROM (Toronto’s Royal

Ontario Museum)The Met is one of the best museums in

the world. Extra kudos for placing objects in context. You’ve

gotta love the Egyptian Temple.

The MOMA (Museum of Modern Art) vs. the AGO (Art Gallery of

Ontario) The AGO wins

only because the MOMA sucks so badly. They don’t deserve the collection

they have. It’s badly organized with ugly, tiny galleries with

nothing to stimulate the viewer or to educate them. This is all

stuff the AGO does nicely, despite their lacklustre collection.

Rockefeller Center vs. BCE Place /TD Centre/ Royal Bank Building.

- The latter wins not only due to the clearly superior underground

shopping concourse (the largest in the world with 1200 stores)

and the fact that the Royal Bank Building is coated with 2500

ounces of real gold.

Ellis Island vs. Toronto Island – Ellis Is. and the nearby

Statue of Liberty are American icons. However, just this summer,

Toronto opens its first nude public beach at Hanlan’s Point on

Toronto Is. (Canada’s Supreme Court declared a few years ago that

it was unconstitutional to prohibit women from going topless.

Now women can bare their breasts in Canada anytime they want.

Unfortunately, it is usually too cold here for anyone to want

to.)

Battery Park vs. Harbourfront- Harbourfront

has cool, free live entertainment all summer and a trendy mall.

Battery Park is the overcrowded tourist trap at the southern tip

of Manhattan. Thousands of tired, poor, huddled masses chaotically

wait there to embark on the free ferry ride to Staten Island to

see the Statue of Liberty (as we did) The crowds use the same

gate to get on and get off the ferry, thereby causing bedlam to

ensue. We noticed this same phenomenon on the subway, where you

can exit or enter through the same gate. The ferry ride to Toronto

Is. from Harbourfont involves lining up to get on and off through

separate gates. Our subways work along the same principle. The

American love of disorder and chaos was bewildering to us anal

retentive Canadians.

Shopping in Manhattan vs. Shopping in Toronto – While

wandering for hours trying to find a safe haven from monsoon rain,

we wound up in Rockefeller Center (see above). At this point,

we were struck by a stunning realization – there are no malls

in Manhattan. Malls are everywhere in Toronto (or Canada in general).

They are part of the fabric of our society, a place to socialize

and seek shelter from the elements. Where do people with no air

conditioning in New York hang out on an excruciatingly hot afternoon?

Bloomingdale’s vs. The BayThe

Bay (Queen & Yonge) kicks Bloomingdale’s butt! Since our

hotel was just around the corner, we went to Bloomingdale’s, expecting

to be amazed by the opulent décor and amazing displays. Instead,

the store was crowded and kind of grimy looking. By contrast,

The Bay looks elegant, with interesting displays and a wonderful

gourmet food store and authentic 50′s diner in the basement (with

cheap food).

Mayor Giuliani vs. Mayor Lastman – Lastman’s international

coverage as the Spice Girl obsessed politician and his “Nooobody

(can beat our low, low prices)” commercial for his Bad

Boy furniture store make him more of a “character” mayor.

New Yorkers vs. Torontonians.- New Yorkers, despite their

reputation, are friendlier and more helpful in a sarcastic sort

of way, with that jaded wit of theirs.

New Jersey vs. Missisauga (Suburb-like city to the west

of Toronto) Since Missisauga is hell on earth nothing could be

worse.

Atlantic City nearby vs. Casino Rama nearby (located in

Orillia, Ontario) Atlantic City is a cool place with a fascinating

history, the ocean, the boardwalk, and dozens of larger-than-life

theme casinos.(We went there 2 years ago and liked it slightly

better than Vegas). Casino Rama is a smoke-infested overpriced

hole in the middle of nowhere.

Manhattan’s sidewalks vs. Toronto’s sidewalks – Our first

view of New York was the Midtown neighbourhood outside the Port

Authority bus terminal. The area was litterred, run-down, and

had a horrible stench of decaying garbage. More swanky neighbourhoods

were less stinky, but overall, Toronto is much cleaner and better

smelling. We like to boast that American movie/tv crews filming

something in Toronto that is set in New York have to import garbage

onto the streets to give an authentic look.

Even though the scores are similar, all things considered, New

York kicks Toronto’s ass several times over! But Toronto is a

young, upstart city which really gets better every year and kicks

its share of ass. (Just not Buffalo’s – I hate loosing at hockey

to such a crappy city!)

Since it rained 2 of the 3 days we were in NYC, I didn’t get

many photos, but check out what I did get at my

website.

Ontario

is huge! I’ve been travelling in the province all my life and

there are still places I’ve never seen. Northern Ontario, for

instance, is really the wilds with access only by plane.


Whether it is the Great Lakes or some of the smaller streams and

rivers, one sixth of Ontario is covered by water (though most

of it is perpetually cold).

This adds up

to some excellent outdoors experiences.

Provincial parks are great for camping because

1) you’re not camping in someone’s backyard field

2) they often have great access to trails, canoeing, etc.

Avoid parks deemed “Recreational” or any park close to urban areas.

Otherwise, you will encounter music blaring at 7am, the bathroom

clogged with girls curling their eyelashes (my girlfriend witnessed

this) and lakes filled with more tourists than fish.

The best…

Provincial Parks

Kilarney, Grundy Lake, Killbear, Pointe Farms, Bon Echo, and Algonquin.

National

Parks

Point

Pelee and Bruce

Peninsula are great, though busy.


Southern Ontario is the most populous area of Canada. Most

of the cultural life of the province (even the country) is in

this region.

Toronto, the provincial

capital, is the forth largest city in North America considered

the world’s most multicultural city with over 100 different ethnic

groups.

JUNE is the best time for festivals and fun in Toronto:

du Maurier Jazz Festival (June 18-27).

Very popular,

if you can stand heat which only gets hotter when you’re crammed

next to a million others. Price varies.

Pride Week (June

21-27)

One of the biggest gay and lesbian pride celebrations

in North America. Close to one million people hit town for the

dances, parties, and marches. Don’t miss the June 27 parade if

only to see adults in unconventional Jolly Jumpers. It really

is a liberating event. Free.


Caravan (June 25-July 3)

Pavilions across the city

offer entertainment and food of international cultures. Cheesy

and spread out too far, but good place for drinking. $10.


Strawberry Social (June 20)

For some WASP culture,

the Spadina Historic House offers a traditional Victorian garden

party. I know it sounds gimpy, but we went last year and had fun.

They have yummy food, fun games, and live music. All for $2.

Visit Heritage

Toronto’s website for other historical events this summer.


Symphony of Fire (June 19- July 10)

Spectacular international

fireworks competition. The blasts are choreographed to music.

Amazing but lasts only a half hour. Official entry is $10-23,

but you can see the show from much of the lakeshore and a radio

station even broadcasts the music, so why pay anything?

Theatre in the Park (June 29 – Aug. 22)

Normally

they do Shakespeare every year in High Park. This year they are

doing a rock ‘n’ roll revue. I am dubious, but curious. $5.


Ontarians obsess over the weather,

come share our obsession and find out the climate of places like

Wawa and Moosonee.



About Me
I suffer from a fatal case of

wanderlust. After trying the real world for a few years, I decided

to return to school to study the Internet. I currently live in

Toronto, but I am from Guelph. I have also lived in Ottawa, Key

West, Florida, and Stuttgart, Germany.


Thanks to my fiancée, Jennifer, for helping me out with

this and putting up with me. Thanks also to fellow Boots’ members

for their advice.


Check out my past articles for some further tips,

such as dining, attractions, and continuing festivals.

Traveler Article


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