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
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
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 Hotel – Royal
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
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
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
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 Bay – The
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 dÃƒÂ©cor 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
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
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
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.
Kilarney, Grundy Lake, Killbear, Pointe Farms, Bon Echo, and Algonquin.
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
Toronto, the provincial
capital, is the forth largest city in North America considered
the world’s most multicultural city with over 100 different ethnic
du Maurier Jazz Festival (June 18-27).
if you can stand heat which only gets hotter when you’re crammed
next to a million others. Price varies.
Pride Week (June
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.
Toronto’s website for other historical events this summer.
Symphony of Fire (June 19- July 10)
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)
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.
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.
such as dining, attractions, and continuing festivals.