Dance, Theater, and Music

Canadian Opera Company

“The acoustics are so good in the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts, you can hear different instruments in the same section.”—Alec Scott, arts columnist, Toronto Life magazine. COC gives modern glosses to the classics and features the world’s leading voices: Isabel Bayrakdarian, Ben Heppner, Pavlo Hunka. Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts, 145 Queen Street W; tel. +1 416 345 9595. www.coc.ca

National Ballet of Canada

One of the world’s only ballet companies led by a woman; Canada’s sweetheart, former prima ballerina Karen Kain is the artistic director. Ballets are often treated to a modern twist (Rooster is set to the music of the Rolling Stones). 145 Queen Street W; tel. +1 416 345 9595. www.national.ballet.ca

Opera Atelier

“Everything down to the performers’ eyelashes look like they’ve come from Louis XIV’s court.”—Alec Scott. The world’s leading baroque company features opera, ballet, and drama from the 17th and 18th centuries; elaborate period decor and costumes. Performs at Elgin Theatre, 189 Yonge Street; tel. +1 416 703 3767. www.operaatelier.com

Soulpepper Theatre Company

A classical repertory theatre in a grand space in the Distillery District. Soulpepper stages classics by Anton Chekhov, Noel Coward, and Bertold Brecht. Young Centre for the Performing Arts, 55 Mill Street, Building 49; tel. +1 416 203 6264. www.soulpepper.ca

Tarragon Theatre

“The heart and soul of Canadian theater; great new playwriting in an intimate space and one of the engines behind the revival of Canada’s theater scene.”—Alec Scott. Located steps from Casa Loma in a former cribbage board factory; 37-year-old theater company nurturing local talent and original work. 30 Bridgman Avenue; tel. +1 416 536 5018. www.tarragontheatre.com

Toronto Symphony Orchestra

Helmed by renowned French violinist and concertmaster Jacques Isrealievitch; features starry lineup of guest artists, including Itzhak Perlman, Yo-Yo Ma, and Maxim Vengerov. 212 King Street W; tel. +1 416 593 7769. www.tso.ca

Nightlife

Banu

“Try the bison grass vodka and chase it with home-squeezed pomegranate juice.”—Stephanie Verge, arts and entertainment editor, Toronto Life magazine. A slick and snug blue-and-white, 70s-style boîte on Queen Street West; nibbles are toothsome and lusty in flavor (organic meat kebobs on mint-and-tarragon-dressed taftoon flat bread). 777 Queen Street W; tel. +1 416 777 2268. www.banu.ca

Chelsea Room

“It has an almost Brooklyn-type feel, it’s intimate but still a little raw, and because it’s off the beaten path, you always feels like you’ve discovered it.”—Amy Verner, style reporter, Globe & Mail. Discreet, dimly lit, hipster niche, a find on (slowly) gentrifying Dundas Street West; cedar-planked patio is lovely in summertime. 923 Dundas Street W; tel. +1 416 364 0553.

The Gem

“If the evening’s soundtrack isn’t singles from the pristine vintage 1960s jukebox, it might be live music from a surf guitar band, the same maestros who created the twangy theme music for Kids in the Hall.”—Nathalie Atkinson, style and culture columnist, National Post. Hidden in an out-of-the-way residential corner in midtown; a warm-weather patio is tucked behind shrubbery; quirky rockabilly sensibility; earns its moniker. 1159 Davenport Road; tel. +1 416 654 1182.

Hugh's Room

Folk, country, and roots music; intimate venue with superb acoustics. “Unlike so many other live-music bars, it’s also civilized: you can make reservations and dine before the show.”—Nathalie Atkinson. Classic acts like Valdy and Ian Tyson have taken to the stage. 2261 Dundas Street W; tel. +1 416 531 6604. www.hughsroom.com

One Restaurant

“Oozes power and sophistication; heated outdoor patio has an L.A. feeling.”—Amy Verner. The Hazelton Hotel’s ground-floor restaurant and bar, helmed by local chef and wunderkind Mark McEwan; color scheme (copper reds and cigar browns) has a moneyed masculinity. 118 Yorkville Avenue; tel. +1 416 961 9600. www.hazeltonhotel.com

Park Hyatt Roof Lounge

“They make a mean gin-and-T.”—Shinan Govani, society columnist, National Post. Moody, 18th-floor bar with wood paneling and leather furnishings; color scheme (merlot reds and whiskey browns) takes its cue from the bar. Four Avenue Road; tel. +1 416 925 1234. parktoronto.hyatt.com

Southern Accent

“Most thorough selection of authentic small-batch Kentucky bourbons in the city.”—Nathalie Atkinson. Campy and celebratory New Orleans-style niche in Mirvish Village; city’s longest running Cajun restaurant; situated in a converted Victorian townhouse; nightly tarot card readings. 595 Markham Street; tel. +1 416 536 3211. www.southernaccent.com

Festivals

Contact

May 1-31. North America’s largest annual photography exhibition showcases the work of big hitters and local talent (such as shining star Edward Burtynsky); founded by Canada’s leading photography dealer (and local gallery owner) Stephen Bulger. www.contactphoto.com

Hot Docs

April. International documentary festival features more than 100 films from Canada and around the world; post-screening Q&A sessions with directors give the film festival an intimate and interactive appeal. www.hotdocs.ca

International Festival of Authors

Late October. “Pico Iyer wrote that Toronto has the richest literary culture of any North American city. This is one of the reasons it’s so rich.”—Alec Scott, arts columnist, Toronto Life magazine. Ten-day festival features lectures, readings, and round-table discussions with renowned authors. www.readings.org

Nuit Blanche

Date varies annually. Fantastical all-night celebration of contemporary art; nearly 200 venues (from churches and museums to squash courts and alleyways) pose as shadowy prosceniums for music performances, bedtime readings, video projections, and art displays. www.scotiabanknuitblanche.ca

Pride Toronto

Last week in June. Week-long celebration of the city’s diverse sexual and gender identities; recognized as a “Signature Event” by the city. Includes arts and cultural activities, annual Pride Parade and Dyke March, massive crowds, fabulous costumes, and outrageous floats. www.pridetoronto.com

Toronto International Film Festival

Early September. It’s unseated Cannes as the largest and most important film festival in the world. Features 300-400 screenings in more than 20 theatres across town; considered the official launchpad to the Oscar race. Ten-day festival begins the Thursday after Labor Day. Tel. +1 416 968 3456; fee. http://tiff.net/

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