Travel Guide: Harbourfront, Toronto

See what’s new and next in Toronto’s lakeside neighbourhood.

Toronto’s Harbourfront is getting a futuristic makeover. Sidewalk Labs, a subsidiary of Alphabet, Google’s parent company, will soon transform a five-hectare slice of industrial land into the futuristic Quayside, featuring self-driving “taxibots.” The area will also welcome a new light-rail line and cool condo developments from Danish architects 3XN. The Jetsons-like vibe is sure to complement the already thriving cultural hub.

Harbourfront Centre

Harbourfront Centre (Photo: Tom Bilenkey)

The arts

Former Sydney Biennale CEO Marah Braye has helmed the Harbourfront Centre since 2014, overseeing a $30-million-plus annual budget and transforming it into a dominant cultural force. Bookworms will want to start at October’s International Festival of Authors, which has welcomed 9,000-plus writers, including Isabel Allende, Pico Iyer and next-gen CanLit luminaries like Sheila Heti and Vincent Lam. This July will see the centre’s inaugural, multi-disciplinary Brave Festival, which is themed around risk and failure – look out for a talk led by legendary director John Waters. Year-round there’s contemporary dance at the Fleck Dance Theatre and bold pieces from the centre’s artist residency program, HATCH. Also be sure to check out the centre’s Bill Boyle Artport, a trucking garage transformed into an exhibition space.

Color Me Badd exhibition at The Power Plant

A work from Julia Dault’s Color Me Badd exhibition at The Power Plant. (Photo: Toni Hafkenscheid)

The scene

The Power Plant isn’t just a bright spot in Toronto’s cultural scene, it is Canada’s leading gallery devoted to contemporary art and a crucial venue for innovation. Head there for the International Lecture Series (featuring artist talks and workshops, like Making a DIY Camera Obscura), the Sunday Scene speaker series (2018’s line-up includes poet Lee Maracle and journalist Kamal Al-Solaylee), as well as performances, films and rotating gallery exhibits. Or seek out an invite for the annual Power Ball party, which welcomes 1,500 guests to an immersive experience – last year’s “Stereo Vision” theme drew on alternate realities, while 2015’s “Appetite for Excess” focused on edible art.

The shops

The shops

For a truly one-of-a-kind souvenir, the Centre Shop features original work from their artists-in-residence, including slipcast porcelain pieces from ChengOu Yu, as well as gifts like Canadian-made stationery and accessories from Couple d’Idées (pictured). For those looking to embrace their inner harbour master, the Dock Shoppe offers gifts ranging from practical Martinique time and tide clocks to quirky Weems & Plath stormglass sets (a similar instrument was used to predict weather during the HMS Beagle’s famous second voyage). Nearby, Nautical Mind is a store dedicated entirely to sailing books, charts and cruising guides.

Joe Bird

The menu

Between the steakhouses and seafood spots, Boxcar Social offers carefully curated cups of joe from Canadian roasters like Calgary’s Phil & Sebastian and Nova Scotia’s Anchored Coffee, as well as an impressive list of Niagara wines, Quebec beers and snacks to sate a healthy appetite (think avocado toast and patatas bravas). Hit the Harbourfront in August for the Summer Craft Beer Festival, an event from Steam Whistle brewery showcasing 40 kinds of Ontario beer and cider. To cool off, head to Joe Bird and The Fix Ice Cream Bar. The recently-opened spot is drawing crowds with epic creations like hoisin tamarind chicken (pictured), s’mores sundaes and churro ice-cream sandwiches.

The List: Spring 2018
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The List: Spring 2018

From dining to style, Canadian culture stays ahead of the curve.