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A Treatise of Schemes and Tropes.png This a Useful Notes page. A Treatise of Schemes and Tropes.png

Downtown Toronto (with CN Tower and Sky Dome Rogers Centre... er, Sky Dome)


"Toronto has two seasons: winter and construction."

—Torontonian joke[1]

Toronto is the largest city in Canada by population (2.7 million people lived in the city itself and 5.9 people lived in the metropolitan area as of the 2016 census) and the capital of the province of Ontario. It is not, however, the federal capital - that's Ottawa (which is also in Ontario). Non-Canadians don't always remember this.

In addition to its many charms, the Greater Toronto Area (nobody who lives there thinks of games first when they hear "GTA") is also one of the great stand-in cities of movie and television fame as filming in Canada is quite a bit cheaper than in the US.[2] The City with No Name is often Toronto. Several times, they've forgotten to remove Toronto landmarks in the movies, leaving Canadians watching what's obviously Toronto when it's supposed to be set in the United States. In Canada, it's often (derisively) nicknamed "the centre of the universe", partially because it's the first city anyone outside of Canada will think of. Oh, and everybody in Canada who lives outside of the Greater Toronto Area hates Toronto - and sometimes the people who live inside it. This is largely because of a perception, true or false, that Torontonians are oblivious to the country outside of their city.[3]

One can easily detect outsiders in Toronto by hearing them pronounce it "Tow-Rawn-Tow". City natives, or those from closely neighbouring regions who talk with city natives constantly, typically drop the last T, and sometimes the first O, so it's "Toronno", "T'ronno", or even "Ch'ronno" (with the first consonant being the "ch" in "chair").[4] Nicknames include T.O. (an acronym of Toronto, Ontario), the T-dot (a shortening of the former), Hogtown or The Big Smoke (names arising from historic industries associated at different times with the town), and "Toronto the Good". Peter Ustinov famously described it as "New York run by the Swiss", though the appellation isn't quite as accurate as it once was.

Toronto is actually a "mega-city"; in 1998 the downtown core of Old Toronto and its neighbouring municipalities, all of which were their own cities at the time, were amalgamated into one single City of Toronto. This has generally been regarded as a serious dick move by the offending Tory provincial government, and led to all kinds of confusion and annoyance. For convenience's sake, the post office still treats residents of the City of Toronto as residing in the no-longer-extant former cities they would have been inhabitants of before amalgamation, and claiming you live in Etobicoke on government documents is perfectly licit, meaning exactly the same thing as claiming you live in the City of Toronto.[5] This explains why one still finds, for instance, "North York Hydro" written on manhole covers in streets north of the core.

Not all of Toronto's suburbs are part of the mega-city; cities like Vaughan, Richmond Hill, Mississauga and Brampton are sizable cities in their own right. The whole giant monster is known as the Greater Toronto Area (GTA for short). In general the core is known as the 416 area and the surrounding GTA as the 905 (these being the dominant phone area codes in the two segments). The term "Golden Horseshoe" is also used for a larger area surrounding Toronto, containing the GTA and nearby towns and cities wrapped around the north-western shore of Lake Ontario. Particularly expansive definitions of the Golden Horseshoe include most of Southern Ontario as well as Buffalo, New York. The question about which cities or suburbs are part of Toronto or not has led to some confusion and general mockery among Canadians. The consensus has become the farther away one is from Toronto, the larger the city becomes. For example, while in southern Ontario, a citizen of Mississauga is not from Toronto and will be insulted if you declare them as such. However that same Mississaugan will claim to be from Toronto while traveling overseas (or more than two provinces away) just to keep things simpler. And, as mentioned, if you happen to live in the amalgamated megacity, some of your neighbours may well be willing to fight you to the death over whether you're both residents of Toronto or not.

In The Seventies, just as the rest of the Great Lakes region was beginning its long, slow decline, the city received a huge boost from the provincial government - of Quebec, whose newly-passed language laws and talk of separatism led to a flood of formerly Montreal-based Anglophones and businesses leaving for Toronto, including most of the Canadian banking industry.

Toronto is an exceptionally multicultural city: 47% of its population consists of "visible minorities"; soon, "white" will be a "visible minority" by census, and already is within North York, the largest, second most populous, and most multicultural zone in the megacity. Furthermore, Toronto's multiculturalism is exceptionally non-nominal, as the city has the highest proportion of recent immigrants of any of the world's major cities; Toronto is thus thought of as quite immigrant friendly and harbours many distinct cultural communities from diverse regions of the globe.[6] As such, the city is known for all sorts of cultural festivals such as Caribana, A Taste of the Danforth (Greek food) and the world's largest Gay Pride Parade, which is the last of three such parades, including the Trans March and Dyke March, which close off a week long celebration known as Pride Week annually. The city will be host to the World Pride festival in 2014. It even has its own film festival, TIFF (the Toronto International Film Festival), an event that is second only to Cannes.

The popular saying is that Toronto has only two seasons: winter and construction. It's not always completely true,[7] but spring and fall do seem to be pretty short, and sometimes snowstorms are separated from sweltering, smog-filled furnaces by as little as a month. (And yes, there are very hot days during the summer; it's not all Eskimos Inuit and igloos. Come to Toronto in July and August dressed in long sleeves and you will most likely suffer from heat stroke.) As for the construction, because of all the snowfall Toronto has to concentrate all its road work in the summer months, add the fact that Toronto's highways are some of the busiest in the world (the main crosstown route, Highway 401, is by most measures the busiest highway in the world), so that when construction starts forcing lane closures, things get gnarled very quickly. Luckily there are fewer people in the city during the summer, as many go off to "cottage country" or elsewhere for vacations.

The snow thing is a bit of a sore point. Back in 1999, a particularly huge (by Toronto's standards) snowfall had Mayor Mel Lastman so worried, he called in the army to help to clear it away. This became a goldmine of mirth for other places in Canada like Montreal and Ottawa, which get an average of almost twice as much snow as Toronto does and get ice storms as well.[8]

Major Landmarks
  • CN Tower (Canada's National Tower, previously Canadian National Tower) [9] - Tallest free standing tower in the world (losing the "tallest freestanding structure" title to the Burj Kalifa (aka. Burj Dubai) in 2007) and the very symbol of the city. They forgot to airbrush it out in the original theatrical release of Resident Evil.
  • City Hall - Two curved towers that would look right at home in any futuristic show like Star Trek
  • Royal York Hotel - Swankiest hotel in the city; one of Canada's grand railway hotels.
  • Air Canada Centre - The hockey arena for the Toronto Maple Leafs, a team so lucrative they haven't won the Stanley Cup since 1967 and they still almost always earn the most of any team in Canada always earn the most by far of any team in the NHL. The franchise is worth nearly double the next most valuable...every game is a sell-out and the waiting list for season tickets is tens of thousands long.
  • Rogers Centre (originally called the Skydome; most locals still refer to it as such) - first stadium to be built with a retractable dome. Also has a hotel built right into it — remember to close your blinds if you stay there.
    • If you want a room facing the stadium, you have to sign a form stating that you won't do anything lewd in front of the cameras. Because someone once did.
  • Exhibition Place, aka The Ex.
  • Casa Loma, a late-medieval style castle built by an eccentric millionaire more or less in the middle of the city. While it was originally an actual place of residence, the castle is now (by order of the owner's will) a public museum, complete with tours of the many rooms. And yes, it has secret passages.
  • The Ontario Science Centre.
  • The Royal Ontario Museum, which recently[when?] was given an overhaul with the Michael Lee-Chin Crystal, an architectural monstrosity which sticks out over the sidewalk and is decried by a large population of museum-goers and city residents.
  • The Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO), which has just[when?] completed an overhaul of its own with a new design by Frank Gehry, and is one of the largest art museums in North America.
  • Ontario Place, a large festival and exhibition area on the lakeshore, built on a series of artificial islands as part of a failed plan (one of many) to expand the city into Lake Ontario.
  • Eaton Centre, a big, pretty, tourist-filled mall. Named after the department store chain that built it and was its original anchor tenant; Eaton's is no longer in business and hasn't been for decades.
  • Harbourfront Centre, another big, pretty, tourist-filled mall.
  • Ontario Legislative Building, the seat of government for the province of Ontario. It's a beautiful century-old structure, surrounded by the University of Toronto.
  • The University of Toronto - tends to get used as a stand-in for Oxbridge or Ivy League colleges in movies (especially the St-George campus, which combines modern architecture with old, ivy-covered buildings).
  • Yonge[10] Street: The major street in downtown Toronto, formerly host to the historic Sam the Record Man store (which closed in the mid-2010s, the trademark neon record signs being removed for refurbishing to return attached to a Ryerson university student centre), and the surprisingly-visible-in-the-Hulk-Movie Zanzibar strip club, one of the biggest and brightest strip club signs you'll ever see. It runs North-South, and all thoroughfares crossing it are bisected into "West" and "East".
    • It is also, technically, the longest street in the world at 1,896 km, even if the Guinness Book of World Records doesn't agree anymore.
  • Honest Ed's: The most famous discount store in the city, founded by the late Ed Mirvish, marked by a massive, garish flashing light sign display. The store has been featured - not just seen - in the film The Long Kiss Goodnight and in the Scott Pilgrim comics. Alas, it closed forever on December 31, 2016. (Ed Mirvish himself was renowned as a patron of the arts such as helping established artist facilities in the neighbourhood of his store, and for his well-known turkey giveaways to the poor of the city before Thanksgiving and Christmas. Furthermore, he was most famous across the country for being a theatre impresario, putting on the biggest stage productions in the country such as Mamma Mia! and The Lion King.)
  • The ironically (though not inaccurately) named Church Street, one of the most famous gayborhoods in North America.
    • The street name actually comes from three major church buildings all located on or just off the thoroughfare, all dating back to the 19th century and all beautiful examples of neo-Gothic style; in order going northwards, these are St. James' Anglican Cathedral, the Metropolitan United Church, and St. Michael's Catholic Cathedral. The section of Church Street most historically known as the "gayborhood" is actually several blocks further north, centered around the intersection of Church and Wellesley Street East.
  • The Metro Toronto Convention Centre. Home to Fan Expo Canada, basically "San Diego Comic-Con North".
  • Massey Hall, Toronto's oldest still-open concert hall. This venue has the same reputation in Canada that Carnegie Hall has in the United States.
  • Union Station, the downtown intercity railway station. The interior of Union Station has doubled for various New York train stations in various films.
Some Famous Torontonians

Wikipedia has a larger list of people from Toronto.



  • Robert Bateman – painter
  • Alex Colville – painter
  • Group of Seven – art collective
    • A.Y. JacksonGroup of Seven artist
    • Tom ThomsonGroup of Seven artist



Directors and Producers


  • Ayria
  • deadmau5
  • Drake
  • Dream Warriors – hip hop group
  • Percy Faith – composer
  • Leslie Feist – singer/songwriter
  • Glenn Gould – pianist
  • Lawrence Gowan – musician, lead vocalist of the band Styx (1999–present)
  • Jeff Healey
  • Dan Hill – singer/songwriter
  • K'naan – hip hop musician
  • K-os – hip hop musician
  • Geddy Lee – musician, lead singer of Rush
  • Joni Mitchell
  • Kim Mitchell – musician
  • Anne Murray – singer
  • Alannah Myles – singer
  • Mary Margaret O'Hara – singer/songwriter
  • Steven Page - of the Barenaked Ladies
  • Carole Pope – rock singer
  • Robbie Robertson – musician
  • Howard Shore
  • Jane Siberry – musician
  • Richard Underhill – jazz musician
  • The Weeknd – R&B singer
  • Hawksley Workman – singer/songwriter
  • Neil Young

Voice Actors


  • Peter Gzowski – radio broadcaster (CBC Radio's Morningside) and writer
  • Foster Hewitt – sports broadcaster (Hockey Night in Canada)
  • Peter Jennings – ABC News anchor
  • James Randi – magician
  • Morley Safer – journalist (60 Minutes)
  • Trish Stratus
  • George Stroumboulopoulos – TV/radio personality and VJ
  • Alex Trebek – game show host (Jeopardy!)

Media Set in Toronto

Anime and Manga

Comic Books

Fan Works



  • In the Skin of a Lion by Michael Ondaatje, in which a man named Patrick Lewis arrives in Toronto in the 1920s and makes a living in search of a missing millionaire and the tunnel under Lake Ontario. Is also a Prequel of sorts to Ondaatje's much more well-known novel, The English Patient.
  • What We All Long For by Dionne Brand, which explores the lives of a group of friends living in downtown Toronto.
  • Girls Fall Down by Maggie Helwig. In the wake of what might (or might not) be a chemical attack on the Toronto subway, paranoia runs rampant among through the city — and love may blossom for diabetic news photographer at risk of losing his sight.
  • In The Fionavar Tapestry by Guy Gavriel Kay, five students from the University of Toronto are transported to a magical land to fight against the forces of evil.
  • Cat’s Eye by Margaret Atwood tells the story of Elaine Risley, a controversial painter who returns to Toronto, the city of her youth, for a retrospective of her art — and finds herself having to untangle the complex knots of her life while facing down disturbing memories.

Live-Action TV

Puppet Shows

  • The Canadian version of Fraggle Rock. (Other countries had their own localized versions of the show's "outer space".)


Video Games

  1. Also told elsewhere in Ontario and the Great Lakes region.
  2. (See this article for why.)
  3. Similar to the American concept of Flyover Country, but where that has the two largest and most diverse population centres hogging the spotlight of national culture, here's it's just Toronto.
  4. This fact trips up quite a few actors portraying Canadians, e.g. in The Proposal, where Sandra Bullock's character is supposed to be a native Torontonian but immediately spoils the fact by pronouncing the city name as it is spelled
  5. though as mentioned above, few people living outside of Toronto will show any recognition to a name other than T.O.
  6. and to any Americans or Europeans who may wonder why "multicultural" comes up so much in discussions of Toronto, remember that in Canada this is always considered a selling point
  7. Sometimes there's construction during the winter.
  8. The concern was at least partially justified as, while Toronto is used to snowfall in general, there's really nowhere to put all that snow: snowplows would cover the sidewalks, and sidewalk cleaners would push it back onto the roads. The eventual solution was to just dump it all in Lake Ontario.
  9. Named after the CN railway company which paid for it
  10. Pronounced "Young"
  11. The corresponding episode of Super Dimension Fortress Macross doesn't specify which city in the "Ontario Autonomous Region" was destroyed, but since everybody in Canada who lives outside of the GTA hates Toronto, the perception's there.