A bustling city with plenty to see and do, Toronto is the ideal spot for art fans. Photo / Getty Images
Whether it’s paintings, plays, films, dance-offs or anything in between, Toronto’s Luminato Festival has all the creative bases covered.
Held annually for more than a decade, the festival started as a way to promote Toronto as a vibrant spot for visitors. These days, it’s morphed into one of North America’s biggest arts and culture events, and has played host to more than 15,000 artists from around the world. After a Covid-enforced break, it’s on again this year from June 9-19, and it’s as much a celebration of the start of the Canadian summer as it is a nod to all things cool and arty.
Out on the streets
With much of the festival happening outdoors, there’s often plenty to see in various corners of the city. This year’s lineup includes a large-scale choreographed photo show beamed onto buildings in Yonge-Dundas Square. Featuring crashing waves and immersive forest flyovers, the work looks at the perils of global pollution. Also at the square, “Luminato Live” includes a range of free concerts, on-stage talks, and an eco-art fair.
At the lakefront, curious passers-by can check out mesmerising video installations, and watch performances from Canadian contemporary dance company, Animals of Distinction.
There’s an interactive podcast adventure through the city’s Chinatown, while train commuters will be entertained by lively street theatre at the Union Station. Over in Woodbine Park, theatre fans can also watch a mystical play in the woods, and on the last weekend of the festival, food stalls and colourful parades will light up the summer night.
Concerts and cabaret
For those who would rather head to a venue and make an evening of it, there’s a wide range of talent gracing the city’s stages. Late Night Cabaret includes 10 evenings of live performances, while The Cave is a cabaret-style play about an animal’s take on human destruction of the planet, with songs in English and Cree.
Literature fans are also well-catered for, with masterclasses exploring a range of different genres, and a conversation series featuring a lineup of Canadian authors.
Aside from the arts festival, there’s always plenty to do and see in vibrant Toronto, known to locals as “The 6ix” due to the six amalgamated areas that make up the city. It’s a great place to explore on foot, and each diverse neighbourhood has its own culture and vibe.
Head to Old Town for historic architecture and the much-photographed Flatiron Building, similar to its New York counterpart. Dotted with boutiques and craft beer bars, Ossington Ave is a hipster hangout in Toronto’s West End, while foodies should also check out The Danforth for its lineup of restaurants and some of the best Greek eats in the city.
Vintage fans will love the bustling Kensington Market, and eclectic Roncesvalles Village,(aka “Roncy”) boasts charming coffee shops, second-hand book shops and laid-back restaurants.
Art and design lovers should make a beeline for The Royal Ontario Museum and the Art Gallery of Ontario, as well as the huge range of smaller cultural hotspots like The Power Plant gallery and the Aga Khan Museum. The Distillery District, with its cobblestone streets and heritage buildings, is a top spot for galleries and creatives, with a range of hipster restaurants for evening drinks.
If water views are calling, head to The Beaches area for sunbathing, volleyball and relaxed swims in Lake Ontario.