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    Despite a steady stream of critiques of the newly revamped Sam the Record Man sign this week, it hasn't even been turned it on yet.

    Ryerson University, who is responsible for the sign, is set to flip the switch this evening and keep it lit through the holidays until January 3.

    The turntables were reinstalled last week on top of 277 Victoria Street at Yonge and Dundas Square, much to the delight of nearly everyone who remembered its warm, translucent glow being part of the downtown experience for so many years.

    But the fuzzy feeling of nostalgia quickly soured after people started complaining that the sign was too high and that it's new modelling rendered it transparent when looked at from far away. 

    Perhaps a jolt of neon will help to restore those happy feelings all over again? Fingers crossed. 

    The sign will be temporarily turned off after the holidays in anticipation of an official lightning ceremony, which is scheduled for the week of January 8. Stayed tuned for more details about the re-lighting celebration.


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    Bye bye basement apartments – you're in the big leagues when you have rental budget of $2,500 a month in Toronto. If you don't get swept up in the promise of glamorous amenities, that money can take you pretty far in terms of both space and location (yes, at the same time!)

    Here's what a $2,500 apartment looks like in Toronto right now.

    $2,500 for views on Blue Jays Way  

    Toronto apartmentsLavish amenities, sweeping views and a prime location in Toronto's entertainment district are the biggest perks here. Otherwise, it's just a very tiny, basic one-bedroom condo unit – but one in which you can watch celebrities from the comfort of your own balcony during TIFF.

     $2,500 for a three-storey loft in Roncesvalles
    apartments in Toronto

    The price might seem steep for a one bedroom plus den, but this soaring, 902-square-foot loft on Roncy could comfortably fit a couple. It's got a large master suite with a walk-in closet, a balcony facing a vibrant neighbourhood, geothermal heating and a gas fireplace. 

    $2,450 above the Junction Triangle Food Basics

    Toronto ApartmentsThis brand new, two-bedroom loft is in the same converted warehouse as one of Toronto's most controversial grocery stores. There's plenty to love about it, including proximity to transit, a rooftop garden, and the fact that nobody will be living above or below you.

    $2,500 for a Fashion House pad

    Fashion House TorontoThere are people out there who might pay rent on this impressive condo unit for the King West parking spot alone. I'd do it for the white marble counters and rooftop pool. The trendy Fashion House building is known for its long wait lists, so this is a pretty rare opportunity.

    $2,500 for skylights near Dufferin Mall

    Toronto apartmentsThis two-bedroom apartment in Little Portugal has more character than most condo units you'll find downtown. It doesn't have on-site laundry, which sucks, but it does boast cool arched doorways, a deck facing College Street and three massive skylights for tons of natural light.


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    Toronto has been ranked one of the most desirable cities in the world for very rich people, according to global wealth analysts.

    If you didn't already know, there are 1,760 people living in the city right now with a net worth of more than $30 million

    Another 261 very rich people (or "ultra high net worth" people, as they're called) own vacation properties here. I'm pretty sure Mark Wahlberg is one of them.

    Toronto clearly has its fair share of wealthy citizens. I mean, how else do all the luxury stores along Bloor Street survive? You know the stores I'm talking about. The ones that sell $3,500 scarves and such.

    Business Insider recently compiled a list of the 17 most desirable cities for rich people to live in, based on data provided by the financial research firm Wealth-X.

    New York was number one with 14,574 ultra high net worth property owners, followed by London, Los Angeles, Hong Kong and Singapore.

    Toronto came in 15th on Business Insider's list, beating only Milan and Munich out of the 17 contenders. 

    Still, ranking 15th out of every country in the world is pretty dang good for the wealthy among us. Rich people must enjoy the thrill of buying property in Toronto, where the real estate market is as hot and cold as the tempermental weather outside.


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    There are more options for cold weather camping within a reasonable drive of Toronto than you might think, but when it comes to the ultimate winter adventure destination, nothing tops Arrowhead Park.

    It best known, of course, for its hyper-popular and social media-friendly skating trail through the woods, but it's the rest of the package that solidifies this park's place as a true winter playground. 

    A post shared by Pam (@morganhouseart) on

    Over and above the skating trail, visitors here can explore over 33km of groomed cross country ski trails, an array of shorter snowshoe routes, a giant tubing hill, and a skating rink (for those who like more open space).

    arrowhead park

    Looking down the tubing hill at Arrowhead Park. Photo via Ontario Parks.

    The tubing hill in particular is one of the most underrated features of the park, as you get to careen down a hill in the middle of the forest, which is as thrilling as it sounds. 

    The sheer range of activities is too much to handle in just one day, which is where the rustic winter cabins come in. Yurts are great and all, but nothing beats spending a snowy night in a secluded wood cabin. These accommodations aren't luxurious, but they sure are cozy.

    A post shared by Manisha Madhavan (@mmfoto) on

    Arrowhead boasts 10 cabins, which are available to rent from December 8 to March 26. These units get booked up fast, so interested parties need to reserve well in advance. Each cabin sleeps five, and goes for $125 a night.

    With so much attention on the skating trail over the last few years, the park has become increasingly busy on winter weekends. One of the advantages of staying overnight is that you don't have to fight the crowds to enter the property and park your car.

    arrowhead park

    The scenic winter landscape at Arrowhead Park. Photo by Florin Chelaru.

    Winter camping has its hardships — like no running water, for instance. But the idea is to spend enough time in the snow that you're grateful for the roof and warmth that you do have. Plus, the province doesn't really get any more beautiful than this. 


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    As the price of Bitcoin continues to skyrocket many are starting to notice and are wondering how they too can get in on the latest investment sensation.

    The simplest answer is you can either go online to a Bitcoin exchange like Coinsquare or buy directly at one of the many Bitcoin ATMs around Toronto.

    One such local startup that offers both online and ATM options is Coinberry. They currently have two ATMs in the city, one at Riverdale Trading Company in Riverside and the other next to Cold Tea in Kensington Market.

    These are unusual locations for ATMs to be sure, a result of what a company spokesperson says is where they had friends who were willing to accommodate them.

    Buying Bitcoin from ATMs is simpler than online but also more expensive because there is a built in transaction fee - similar to an ATM fee is you're not using your own bank. 

    You simply deposit cash in order to make the transaction, after which you have the option to store Bitcoin in your own hardware wallet or have it stored by Coinberry itself.

    At the Blockchain Impact conference that took place in Toronto on Friday, most Bitcoin evangelists agreed that storing Bitcoin in a hardware wallet like Exodus or Trezor was the best approach.

    In the past year alone, there have been a number of reported cases where Bitcoin exchanges have been hacked or compromised. There's no regulation and no insurance against theft or loss so if you choose to store your Bitcoin at an exchange and they get hacked you're out of luck.

    Suzanne Ennis of Canadian-based Coinsquare tried to re-assure the Blockchain Impact crowd that storing Bitcoin with them was safe because 95% of their coins are in cold storage, meaning they're kept offline as a security precaution against hackers.

    But other experts cautioned that even this isn't failsafe as rogue employees could breach internal security measures.

    Regardless of the buying and storing method you choose, conventional wisdom seems to be buyer beware.

    "If you don't know what you're doing you could lose all your money by sending it somewhere you're not supposed to," cautioned one expert. "Don't invest too much."


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    The oldest restaurants in Toronto are harder to determine than you might think. With no central database, you have to rely on the restaurant's own declarations as to their opening dates. It's also important to have some sort of criteria in place.

    Bars and hotels have been excluded here as separate categories. While continuous operation isn't a requirement for inclusion, an agreed upon opening date is crucial (which is why both Gale's Snack Bar and Peter Pan Bistro are left off despite being possible candidates).  

    With those stipulations, here are the oldest restaurants in Toronto.

    united bakers toronto

    The 338 Spadina location of United Bakers in the 1920s. Photo courtesy of the restaurant.

    United Bakers Dairy - 1912

    You wouldn't necessarily know it to walk into the current location on Lawrence Avenue, but United Bakers has roots back to 1912, first on Agnes St. in the Ward and later at 338 Spadina when Kensington Market and the surround area was a hub of Jewish life in Toronto. 

    old mill toronto

    Construction wrapping up at the Old Mill in 1914. Photo via the Toronto Archives.

    The Old Mill - 1914

    I've left hotels off this list as they deserve their own category, but the Old Mill is an important exception because it originated as a restaurant and tea room over a century ago. At first it was only open in the summer months, but eventually it would become a year-round establishment.

    seantor toronto

    The mural at the side of the Senator dates back to 1987, but the interior is a time warp to 1948.

    The Senator - 1929

    Hiding out just steps from the clamour and bright lights of Yonge-Dundas Square, the venerable old Senator opened as Busy Bee Lunch in 1929. The diner was renamed The Senator in 1948 and given a makeover. Its interior remains the same today. 

    tulip steakhouse toronto

    The Queen St. location might not be original, but the Tulip has old school appeal to spare. Photo by Martyn.

    The Tulip - 1929

    Unlike the Senator, the Tulip has changed locations during its 88 year run. It was originally located on the Danforth (1929-1969) before migrating to Queen St. East. It has, however, always served steakhouse favourites. The current location maintains the old school charm. 

    duckworth fish chips toronto

    Looking arcross Danforth Ave. and Duckworth's in 1937. Photo via the Toronto Archives.

    Duckworth's Fish and Chips - 1930

    Opened by the eponymous Edith and Jack Duckworth at 2638 Danforth Ave. in 1930, Duckworth's has been serving up Britain's most beloved dish for over 85 years. The company is now run by its founder's grandchildren, has also produced two spin-offs.

    toronto reliable halibut

    The old sign at Reliable Halibut and Chips. Photo by Patrick Cummins.

    Reliable Halibut and Chips - 1930

    As its name suggests, Reliable has been consistently serving halibut and chips to the denizens of Leslieville for more than 80 years. The owners and signs have changed, but Reliable has never budged from its corner location on Queen between Logan and Carlaw. 

    lakeview restaurant

    Looking east across the old Lakeview sign in the 1970s. Photo via the Toronto Archives.

    Lakeview Restaurant - 1932

    Cleaned up and overhauled in 2008 after a brief closure and change of owner, the Lakeview Restaurant is, once again, a neighbourhood institution. Some time before the 2008 refit the gorgeous old neon sign that used to hang over Dundas St. was lost.

    frans diner toronto

    Fran's Yonge and Eglinton location in 1956. Photo via the Toronto Archives.

    Fran's - 1940

    The first Fran's open in 1940 at Yonge and St. Clair. It was just a 10-stool diner back then, but it offered an item that'd become a fixture on greasy spoon menus everywhere: the banquet burger. Over the years the restaurant has expanded and contracted its number of locations, but it still boasts three diners in the city.

    avenue diner toronto

    Diners don't get much more authentic than the Avenue. Photo by Vivi Loob.

    Avenue Diner - 1944

    This classic diner at the northwest corner of Ave and Dav oozes old school charm that can be traced back to 1944. The menu hasn't changed much since then, though the collection of celebrity photos that adorn the walls has steadily grown since the doors opened so long ago. 

    bus terminal diner

    Recent renovations at the Bus Terminal Diner have preserved the retro charm. Photo by Jesse Milns.

    Bus Terminal Diner - 1948

    It looked like this diner might suffer the fate that so many others have in recent years, but longtime patron Tim Dutaud and business partner Kevin Wallace saved the east side institution. The interior has been spruced up, but the decor and menu still scream post-war Toronto.


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    The top architects in Toronto play a wildly important role in shaping the city. While many of these firms are also engaged in international work, so many of the condos, educational buildings, and even residences that surround us were designed by local outfits. And some, of course, are much better at delivering inspiring designs than others. 

    Here are my picks for the top 15 architects in Toronto.

    KPMB

    The world-renowned firm has three Order of Canada-honoured principals (Bruce Kuwabara, Shirley Blumberg and Marianne McKenna). Prominent projects include the TIFF Lighbox, the National Ballet School, the Gardiner Museum, U of T's Rotman School of Management, and the retrofitting of the Stock Exchange into the Design Exchange.

    one bloor east toronto

    Looking up at One Bloor East's curved lines. Photo by Derek Flack.

    Hariri Pontarini

    The firm's profile has skyrocketed locally in recent years, from One Bloor East to the Massey Tower to Pinnacle One Yonge (to name only a few). Their greatest triumph, however, may be the Baha'i Center of South America, a translucent stone-covered structure reminiscent of a flower ready to open.

    Shim Sutcliffe

    Shim Sutcliffe is well-known for their residential work — most notably the internationally acclaimed Integral House— but architecture-hounds can visit U of T's Massey College, where the firm's touch is everywhere, particularly in the Robertson Davies Library and the arched ceilings of St. Catherine's Chapel.

    vaughan civic library

    The spectacular Vaughan Civic Centre Resource Library by ZAS Architects. Photo courtesy of the firm.

    ZAS Architects

    This firm is responsible for one of the most beautiful buildings to grace the city in the last few years: the Bergeron Centre at York University. ZAS is also a major player in the River City Condos project (one of our best) as well the stunning Vaughan Civic Centre Resource Library.

    Bortolotto

    This firm does it all, including educational design (OCAD's digital media research centre and the third floor of U of T's OISE), residences (eg. overhauls of houses on Borden Street), and revitalization of existing sites, including Fort York and the Merchandise Building condos.

    x condos toronto

    X Condos are an homage to Mies van der Rohe from architectsAlliance principal Peter Clewes. Photo by Alan Leclaire.

    architectsAlliance

    There's a brooding, mysterious vibe to many of architectsAlliance's projects; chief among these is the dark-glass-clad X Condominiums project at Charles and Jarvis, designed as an homage to TD Centre designer Ludwig Mies Van Der Rohe. Also noteworthy: the Tip Top Lofts, the ThompsonHotel, the Four Seasons, and ICE Condos.

    Moriyama & Teshima

    Founded in 1958, MT's longest-lasting legacy on the Toronto landscape may be the Reference Library, but recent projects include Ryerson's engineering centre and U of T's School of Continuing Studies. Some of this firm's most-lauded projects are outside Toronto, including Ottawa's Canadian War Museum.

    superkul architects

    Kensington Market's Gradient House is one of Superkul's exemplary residential projects in Toronto along with 40R Laneway House. Photo courtesy of the firm.

    Superkul

    The cheekily-named Superkul handle everything from single-family homes to commercial and institutional buildings. Most fascinating are their sustainable projects, including +HOUSE. Their ingenious 40R_Laneway house (located at 40R Shaftesbury in Summerhill) also became a local design-watcher favourite.

    RDH Architects

    RDH specializes in corporate and institutional buildings. Their best known work might be the overhaul of the Bloor/Gladstone library, which saw the space in the original heritage building nearly double. Other local projects include Ryerson's Continuing Education building and a trio of modern libraries in Mississauga.

    60 richmond toronto

    60 Richmond is one of the most significant community housing projects in Toronto's history. Photo via Teeple Architects.

    Teeple Architects

    The firm's range of residential, institutional and commercial projects includes prize-winning libraries and university halls (they had a hand in designing U of T's lauded Graduate House). Perhaps the most lauded Toronto project, however, is 60 Richmond St. East, which has received numerous awards and accolades.

    Ian MacDonald Architect

    MacDonald is renowned known for his focus on the relationship between a building and the surrounding landscape. Perhaps for this reason, he's best known for residences, including a legendarily at-one-with-nature structure in Caledon. Outside of private homes, you can see his handiwork at U of T's Sidney Smith Hall.

    partisans architects

    The stunning interior at Bar Raval is just one of the projects PARTISANS has its name behind. Photo courtesy of the firm.

    PARTISANS

    While it might be more accurate to characterize Partisans as a design rather than a pure architectural firm, there's no denying that it's one of the most exciting outfits in Toronto. From playing a leading role in the Union Station renovations to the revitalization on Ontario Place, the footprint of this hyper-creative company is growing. 

    Diamond Schmitt

    Diamond Schmitt's prestigious portfolio reflects the firm's age (founded in 1975) and size (some 140 people). Their Four Seasons Centre may be top of the list for Torontonians; other recent projects include the Ryerson School of Image Arts and the LEED Platinum-certified Centre For Green Cities at the Evergreen Brick Works. 

    seventy5 portland

    Seventy5 Portland is a model for midsize condo design. Photo courtesy of CORE Architects.

    CORE Architects

    This firm as set the standard for midsize condo design in Toronto with projects like Seventy5 Portland and 500 Wellington, but there are much bigger projects in store like M City and and 70-72 Carlton, which features a curvilinear tower.

    Paul Raff Studio

    Paul Raff Studio may be best known in Toronto for the Cascade House, which features a front window feature evocative of a waterfall. It's certainly one of the city's most intriguing residences. But Raff has made his mark worldwide, including resorts and multi-unit buildings in Thailand and Argentina.


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    Outdoor skating rinks in Toronto are the perfect opportunity to embrace winter and get outside. While the colder months can frequently bring out the desire to hibernate, we're lucky to live in a city that has a generous amount of outdoor rinks with a variety of scenery and activities to nudge us out of our warm houses.

    Here are my picks for the top outdoor skating rinks in Toronto by neighbourhood.

    Bayview & Leaside

    The rink at the Hodgson Public School grounds was rebuilt in 2014, and with that came a bright new change room overlooking the double ice surface. There's a well equipped rink for shinny and one for pleasure skating.

    Beaches

    With less generous hours than other Toronto rinks, Kew Gardens has a list of amenities to make up for it. They have specific shinny schedules available for men, women and family. Pleasure skating is also available.

    Bloorcourt

    Feel like a game of shinny followed by a less competitive, leisurely skate? You can do both at Dufferin Grove Park, with two side by side rinks appealing to both sides of the skating spectrum. 

    Bloor West Village

    Rennie Park has a hockey rink and a skating trail. The skating trail is built around a tree, with no fences allowing for late night adventures. The hockey rink has proper boards, a scoreboard and sound system. There's also a large change room and observation room.

    Corktown

    Regent Park is equipped with washrooms, cubbies, benches and matting. The rink, located at Shuter and Sumach, has a decent schedule for shinny, with lights and fencing for improved playing. 

    Corso Italia

    The Giovanni Caboto rink has two ice pads available, offering a good schedule for shinny and public skating.

    Danforth

    The rink at Withrow Park is a busy spot with a robust shinny schedule. While the change rooms are on the small side, the atmosphere is relaxed and has great leisure skating as well.

    Dovercourt Village

    The Wallace Emerson Park rink is bright and friendly, with schedules with for public skating and shinny for adults and youth. The pleasure skating side isn't fenced in, so it's great for late night skates.

    Dundas West

    The rink on Bathurst just south of Dundas in Alexandra Park boasts two surfaces, one for pleasure skating and one for shinny. The hockey rink, which is a skate park in the summer, is just as busy in the winter with well populated games of shinny with players of all levels. 

    Etobicoke

    The skating trail at Colonel Samuel Smith Park is busy, but it's worth it. It is located next to the historical Power Plant building and there are large change rooms to store your things. The figure 8 trail offers a change of pace compared to many Toronto rinks.

    Financial District

    Given Nathan Phillips Square's proximity to the Eaton's Centre and other tourist attractions, it's natural this rink runs on the busier side. However, it's one of the best equipped in the city, with change rooms, snack booths, skate rentals and food trucks.

    A post shared by Rebecca Craig (@bec_444) on

    Habourfront

    While the Natrel Rink can be a bit more touristy than the rest, its location and amenities make for an enjoyable skate. With the CN Tower facing North and brisk Lake Ontario facing South, there's plenty of photo ops and scenery to gaze at as you loop around.

    Junction Triangle

    Campbell Avenue Playground offers the neighbourhood feel many of us have grown to love in Toronto's community rinks. There's a snack bar available featuring traditional snacks and hot beverages to warm up after your skate. The change rooms are spacious.

    Koreatown

    If you're looking for a game of shinny while enjoying a view of the city skyline, head to Christie Pits. Located near the northwest corner of the park, there's a well maintained hockey rink with pleasure skating, shinny and generous hours, all while overlooking the park.

    Leslieville

    The rink at Greenwood Park has a bright, welcoming warming room allowing non-skaters to still hang out and watch. Most notably, the rink has a covered roof over the hockey pad allowing for less snow build up and better conditions overall. 

    Markham

    Markham Civic Centre boasts one of the largest outdoor skating rinks in the GTA, and is a gorgeous rink for pleasure skating. While shinny isn't available here, it's a great rink to go for a skate outside of the Markham Civic Centre.

    North York

    Mel Lastman Square is the place to go for a quiet uptown skate (except during official events when it gets busy), and is conveniently walking distance from North York Centre subway station.

    A post shared by coreybrendan (@coreybrendan) on

    Ontario Place

    From December 8 to March 18, Toronto will be treated to a free winter festival right on the lake. Dubbed Winter at Ontario Place, the festival will include a synthetic skating rink on the grounds of the old amusement park.

    Rosedale

    Ramsden Park has two outdoor rinks allowing for the perfect schedule with ample shinny and open skating. It also offers a larger indoor space for staff and guests.

    Scarborough

    Nestled in the courtyard between the Scarborough Town Centre and Scarborough Civic Centre, Albert Campbell Square is another excellent rink to get outside and practise your skating. 

    St. Clair West

    The rink at Cedarvale Park has a large warming area and well maintained ice surface to allow for a pleasurable shinny experience. 

    West Queen West

    While Trinity Bellwoods Park is a wildly popular spot in the summer, this rink is relatively quiet, offering the perfect atmosphere to go for a skate or play some shinny without the crowds.

    Yonge & Dundas

    Ryerson Community Park is the closest you'll get to pond skating in Toronto. It's a common spot for late night shinny players, as there are no fences for it to ever really be closed off.

    Yonge & Eglinton

    Two outdoor rinks can be found at the North Toronto Memorial CRC (Eglinton Park), and have a generous options for pleasure skating and shinny. The rink is well equipped with lockers and change rooms.

    Yonge & Lawrence

    Otter Creek may have a well-used warming area and change room area, but the rink itself is a great surface with a variety of skating opportunities scheduled. High schoolers from Lawrence Park keep the shinny games on the competitive side.


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    The Line 1 and 2 platforms of Spadina Station should really be two separate stops given the physical distance between them. That was the TTC's original plan, but for a variety of reasons, the decision was ultimately made to fashion Spadina as a sprawling interchange.

    The long walk between the two platforms was once made easier by a lengthy moving sidewalk that simultaneously delighted and enraged subway users.

    It was one of the most interesting features of the subway system - and a hell of a lot of fun for kids - but it was also expensive to maintain, prone to break down, and ultimately went the way of the Dodo in 2004 when the TTC decided that it just wasn't worth the money to keep up.

    spdina station moving walkway

    The moving walkway at Spadina Station in all its glory. Photo be Ben Mark Holzberg / Library and Archives Canada.

    Many people remember the moving walkway as it was removed just over decade ago, but the story behind it is an intriguing one.

    When the Spadina Extension was built in 1978, the current north/south platforms were initially designed to be a separate stations altogether, one of which would go by the name of Lowther, after the street which runs immediately to the south of the Line 1 portion of the station.

    In the end, the TTC had a change of heart and decided to build a 150 metre long walkway to link the two stations under the the same designation.

    spadina station ttc

    The Line 1 portion of Spadina Station was almost its own stop called Lowther. Photo by Alex Luyckx.

    There are a couple of reasons why they did this. Aside from the obvious savings on staffing costs (the north portion of Spadina Station does not feature a fare collector), Transit Toronto explains that concerns about the financial viability of the University Line might have played a role.

    "From 1969 to 1978, the University subway was closed Mondays to Saturdays at 9:45 p.m. and all day Sundays and holidays.

    "If this arrangement had to continue, Spadina Station would have to be used as the southern terminal station of the Spadina line (although it would have been far more convenient for passengers to transfer to the Bloor-Danforth subway at St. George).

    "This is why a crossover was installed just to the north of the station and "Spadina" installed on the subway rollsigns. Thus by naming the station 'Spadina' people would be able to connect the station in their minds with the Bloor-Danforth subway far more readily than a 'Lowther' terminal."

    spadina station walkway

    They never did find tile to match the original platform here. Photo by Nicoli OZ Mathews.

    Obviously ridership on the University Line increased to the point that there were no more early closures (it's almost funny to think that was ever necessary), and the moving walkway was a boon for folks using the Spadina Bus who wanted to head north upon arrival at the station.

    As many as 11,000 people were using the walkway per day in the years leading up to its eventual demise, but faced with exorbitant costs to refurbish and maintain the walkway, the TTC closed it down before removing it altogether.

    please hold handrail

    More than a few people have surely wondered about these instructions at Spadina Station. Photo by nevermindtheend.

    It's not difficult to spot where it once was, as the tiled laid down in its place doesn't match those that were originally installed in the tunnel. If you look closely, you can even see signs prompting riders to hold onto the handrail.

    The true tragedy in all of this is, of course, that there was nothing quite so fun as bombing down the moving walkway on a bike late at night when no one was around. It felt a like entering into the world of TRON.


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    Cross country skiing in and around Toronto is actually pretty easy to do after a solid snowfall. All one has to do is strap on the skis and go. But if you're looking to do the sport properly, in a natural setting, there's also no shortage of options both in and immediately outside the city.

    Here are my picks for the top spots to go cross country skiing in and around Toronto.

    The Toronto Islands

    Did you know that you can ski or snowshoe from Wards Island all the way to Centre Island? There are trails spread all across the Islands that draw back dedicated cross country skiers winter after winter, and for a good reason. It's huge, it's quiet, and it's a beautiful place to explore.

    High Park

    You don't have to leave the city for this one (after all, we are a city within a park, right?). Cross country skiing is permitted anywhere within High Park, but the trails aren't groomed and you'll have to bring your own equipment. Bonus:  admission is completely free.

    Albion Hills

    This conservation area in Caledon, located eight kilometres north of Bolton, has 26 kilometres of trails suited to all levels of expertise, along with various areas for snowshoeing, tobogganing and skating and a heated chalet and cafe. Equipment rentals are available, too.

    Dagmar Resort

    Located on the Oak Ridge's Moraine between Ajax and Whitby, this winter sports centre offers 25 kilometres of cross country trails, plus a series of progressively more challenging terrain parks, should you want to take things up a notch.  

    Mansfield Outdoor Centre

    Mansfield Outdoor Centre is about an hour or so north of Pearson. It has a network totalling 40 kilometres of trails, with different paths suited to different skill levels. The centre has a lodge with wood burning stoves by which to relax and cafeteria offering homemade snacks.

    Pickering Waterfront Trail

    Just a hop, skip and a jump east of Toronto, Pickering has a combined 12.2 km of prime, cross-country skiing territory running along the shores of Lake Ontario. The trail is divided into three named sections. It won't be groomed and you can't rent gear, but it will be free.

    Hardwood Ski and Bike

    This ski and bike resort is located about an hour north of Toronto in Oro, Ontario. It has over 40 kilometres of cross-country trails that run through hardwood and pine forests, as well as a webcam image of its trail that gets updated every five minutes. 

    Kortright Trail

    You'll find this more naturalistic, ungroomed trail at 9550 Pine Valley Drive in Vaughan. It's shorter than some of the others at just 5 kilometres, but admission is cheap. Please note, however, that ski and other equipment rentals are not available on site. Don't forget yours!

    Walker Woods and Glen Major Forest

    There are 74 kilometres of multi-use trails at Glen Major for you to explore to your heart's content. Through the summer, this is a hub for mountain bikers, but come winter the (ungroomed) trails are perfect for cross country skiers looking for a challenge.

    Terra Cotta Conservation Area

    This natural area in the Credit Valley has six kilometres of groomed trails perfect for beginner and intermediate skiers. There's also ski and boot rentals on offer for adults and children. 


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    Volunteer opportunities in Toronto are the perfect way to give back and to spread a little holiday joy this season. Whether you're looking to make sure no one is left without a gift or want to ensure the less fortunate indulge in a festive meal, there's plenty of options to dontate your time and effort.

    Here's a roundup of volunteer opportunities during the holidays in Toronto this year.

    Daily Bread Food Bank

    This well known charitable organization continues its fight against hunger. During the holidays they offer numerous opportunities to get involved. Apply to be a part of one of their Holiday Drive Public Food Sorts

    The Salvation Army

    This holiday season, the East Toronto location is looking for volunteers to fill various roles. They're searching for toy and food room helpers, people to assist with toy room setup, servers for their breakfast with Santa, and Christmas food box packers. 

    Reena

    This  non-profit organization, which promotes dignity, individuality, independence, personal growth and community inclusion for people with developmental disabilities, is searching for ‘Rec Buddy’ volunteersfor their winter break program.

    Dixon Hall

    During the month of December, Dixon Hall is seeking volunteers for their Holiday Meals on Wheels program. They are in need of drivers and runners to provide the elderly hot and nutritious meals. 

    West Neighbourhood House

    During the December holidays they'll need additional volunteer support to deliver meals to people in need. They're looking for volunteers to drive or run meals during the last two weeks of December. 

    The Neighbourhood Group

    Every year, this organization has their December Friendly Holiday Gift Giving Program. The program makes sure none of their Home Support clients are forgotten about and each receive a gift. You can apply to help run deliveries of gifts all the way up until Christmas day.

    Trek for Teens

    Nothing says spreading holiday joy quite like a good 'ol fashioned Christmas carol. Volunteers can gather gather at Yonge-Dundas Square on December 16 for caroling and warm beverages in support of raising funds and awareness for homeless youth. Sign up via their website.

    Yonge Street Mission

    There's plenty of holiday volunteering options available here. You can apply to help with the toy market, holiday decorating, and much more. It's important to sign up early, as spots fill up rather quickly.

    Non-holiday related volunteer opportunities in Toronto

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    Motels are typically one or two-storey suburban structures announced with outlandish neon signs that belie the humbleness of the accommodations on offer.

    This basic rule certainly held true for the majority of Toronto's motels, which were once to be found in abundance in Etobicoke and Scarborough, the latter of which still boasts a dying strip of these roadside businesses.

    four seasons motor hotel

    Looking up Jarvis from Carlton in the early 1960s with the first Four Seasons on the right. Photo via the Toronto Archives.

    Back in the early 1960s, however, there was one significant exception. The Four Seasons Motor Hotel opened at Jarvis and Carlton streets in 1961 and served as the first property in what would become a luxury hotel chain with almost 100 properties worldwide.

    No ordinary motel, it was designed by architect Peter Dickinson at the behest of company founder Isadore Sharp.

    four seasons motor hotel

    The elegant entrance to the Four Seasons Motor Hotel. Image via the City of Toronto Archives.

    Dickinson borrowed from the hallmarks of motel design, envisioning a low rise structure that surrounded a central courtyard and pool.

    The ads of the day were true — it was Toronto's first downtown motor hotel, but the idea wasn't to provide cheap accommodation. On the contrary, this was to be an urban oasis, far more similar to a resort than your typical hotel of the time.

    "People who came from out of town, they didn't know Toronto," Sharp told the New York Times in 2009. "What they saw was a charming little hotel, like an oasis, with a swimming pool, a courtyard. You create your own environment. It's all in the way you market the product."

    Inn on the Park

    The concept proved popular from the outset, and Sharp and Dickinson quickly paired up to build something even more grand on an empty plot of land at Eglinton and Leslie streets in the form of the Inn on the Park.

    This property also had motel-like elements, but added two high rise hotel towers (the second one was built in 1971) to increase the total number of rooms to over 500.

    inn on the park toronto

    The poolside view at the Inn on the Park. Postcard via Chuckman's Nostalgia.

    This too was a smashing success in its early years, providing Toronto with a luxury resort that one could easily drive to for a restorative weekend or just to be seen lounging by the pool. By the time that second tower rose in 1971, however, Sharp had started dreaming even bigger.

    After the Inn on the Park, the company's focus turned global, opening its first international property in London back in 1970. Closer to home, Sharp's attention also turned toward more traditional hotel towers. A brief collaborative stint at the Sheraton Centre (1972-76) was followed by the acquisition of the then Hyatt Regency at 21 Avenue Rd. in 1978.

    Four Seasons Hotel Toronto

    Hyatt Regency advertisement via jbcurio on Flickr.

    For many, this hotel was the face of the Four Seasons in Toronto, playing host to the city's most famous guests when TIFF took place around the Yorkville area.

    The original Four Seasons, on the other hand, only lasted for about 15 years before Sharp sold it to another hotelier, while the Inn on the Park was taken over by the Holiday Inn chain in the early 1990s.

    Neither of these properties remain, though in some sense their legacy is contained in the modern Four Seasons that currently sits at 60 Yorkville Ave. The design elements couldn't be further apart, of course, but Sharp wanted to do something important with a new hotel in his hometown. 

    Four Seasons Hotel Toronto

    The entrance to Toronto's current day Four Seasons. Photo via Streetscape Canada.

    If there is one little connection between the first Four Seasons and its most recent counterpart in Toronto, it's to be found in the mist garden that sits adjacent to the main entrance.

    For the sentimental among us, it can't but recall that original courtyard which gave birth to one of the city's most successful companies.


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    New Italian restaurants across Toronto are delighting diners with their own house-made pasta, sugo, mozzarella, baked goods, and by firing pizzas in wood-burning ovens and cooking proteins on the grill, some the way Nonna would do it, some not so much.

    Here are my picks for the top new Italian restaurants in Toronto.

    Annabelle

    With three pasta specials, a burrata special, and more that change up daily, this quaint multi-level Davenport restaurant is really challenging themselves. Did I mention they’re making their own pasta in a range of shapes and styles that also change every day? Oh yeah, and everything’s cooked on just three burners. No big deal.

    Sugo

    The shiniest, stretchiest mozzarella and most delicious sugo are both made at this checkered-tablecloth joint in Bloordale. A range of classic Italian sandwiches like veal and assorted deli are given serious upgrades, and there are also awesome mozzarella sticks and stuffed peppers.

    La Palma

    This place is run by the team behind Campagnolo, so you know the Italian here is on point. On Dundas West, it’s open all day for coffee, baked goods, pizzas, cocktails, and their legendary thousand-layer lasagna. Bonus: the interior design is on fire.

    Cano

    Tucked away on a sleepy strip of St. Clair West where other Italian spots have long flourished, this new spot offers seafood pizza, fluffy gnudi, a range of martinis, and brunch.

    Sud Forno

    This new location of Terroni’s bakery offshoot is at Temperance and Yonge. A cafeteria-style space downstairs has pre-made pizzas, salads, baked goods, coffee and cocktails, and a dining room space upstairs features table service and larger dishes.


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    There are a ton of free event offerings in Toronto this week, what with the ROM opening its doors to the public for one day, Union Station hosting a handful of free concerts, and Hot Docs screening holiday classics to get everyone in the festive spirit.

    Events you might want to check out:

    Free Admission to the ROM (December 12 @ Royal Ontario Museum)
    To celebrate the reopening of its heritage Weston Entrance on Queen's Park, the ROM is opening its doors - quite literally - to all for one day of free general admission.
    Brenda MacIntyre (December 12 @ West Wing, Union Station)
    Juno Award winning singer, speaker, Indigenous drummer and wisdom-keeper Brenda MacIntyre brings her soulful singing and storytelling to Union.
    DJ Skate Nights (December 16-30 @ Harbourfront Centre)
    Toronto's outdoor winter party returns this week, kicking things off with a night dedicated to classic Latin sounds, featuring DJs Blancon and Drumspeak spinning while you skate.
    Free Screenings of Holiday Classics (December 16 @ Hot Docs Ted Rogers Cinema)
    Hot Docs is hosting a ton of free screenings of Holiday classics like Elf, Love Actually, and more, now up until Christmas. First on the docket is White Christmas this Saturday afternoon.
    Finch West Station Open House (December 16 @ 1900 Yonge Street)
    Sneak a peek at this unopened subway station before anyone else, and chat with construction staff and subway systems workers about any questions you have about the TTC. The new line opens the following day.
    Winter at Ontario Place (December 8 - March 18 @ Ontario Place)
    Having just opened this past weekend, seize the opportunity to explore Ontario Place's new winter light exhibition before the rest of Toronto catches on.
    Best of LGBT Short Film Fest (December 11 @ Carlton Cinemas)
    Catch the best LGB- themed short films from around the world for no money at all. 2017's lineup even includes the animated short and viral sensation, In A Heartbeat.

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    Toronto might be getting a lot of snow if the latest weather reports are to be believed. 

    According to a special weather statement issued by Environment Canada we'll likely be getting flurries tonight and more snow on Monday evening, followed by a chance of additional flurries later in the week.

    weather toronto

    This week's forecast according to Environment Canada.

    According to Environment Canada, Toronto could be hit with five to 10 centimetres within the next 24 hours. 

    Temperatures are also expected to dip with a low of -11C expected overnight. If today's weather was a harbinger to come, it's definitely time to stock up on winter boots and find places to stay warm.