1. Fat bike the Lower Don
There’s a new way to explore the Lower Don in the winter. And it’s on a fat bike – or rather, a bike with fat tires. Sweet Pete’s runs two-hour fat-bike adventure rides on Sundays and Tuesdays out of the Bike Works location at Evergreen Brick Works throughout the winter. The tours cost $50 (that’s with a bike rental; $15 if you have your own bike). That buys you a sweet ride on a Trek Farley 5 and includes rides through little-known trails throughout the Don designed for both experienced and beginner riders. (Tuesday’s night ride is for intermediate riders.) This is going to be fun.
From November 18. Evergreen Brick Works (550 Bayview). Rides are Sundays at 10 am and 1 pm, Tuesdays at 7 pm. sweetpetes.com
2. Learn how to “crokicurl”
This winter, Toronto gets its first-ever “crokicurl” rink, which combines two great Canadian pastimes: crokinole and curling. Invented in 2016 in Winnipeg, crokicurl is like a life-size version of crokinole on ice, where players slide plastic curling rocks toward an inner ring to win points. Located at the shipping-container market, Stackt, after playing a round of crokicurl, you can sip on a glass of wine in the holiday yurt bar and make a homemade present at a DIY workshop.
November 22-December 21. Stackt (28 Bathurst). Free. stacktmarket.com
3. Go for a spin at Toronto’s newest skating rink
It seems like every year we get a new outdoor rink. Not that we’re complaining: skating is free, family-friendly and a fun way to get moving during a season when we’re prone to Netflix binges. This winter, Union Station’s Sir John A. McDonald Plaza transforms into what will be the city’s biggest outdoor rink – approximately half the size of an NHL pad. It’s open daily, so pack your skates (or rent a pair for free) and squeeze in a spin before you start your commute home.
November 29-January 4. Union Station (65 Front West). Free. torontounion.ca
4. Ride the Cavalcade of Lights
Glittering lights, live music, circus arts and fireworks are part of events at the Cavalcade of Lights, the city’s official kickoff to the holiday. The ice rink in front of city hall will also be ready for a skate. As in the past, this year’s 53rd annual celebration will feature the first lighting of Toronto’s giant Christmas tree. No worries if you can’t get to the official launch. There are events going on all month in the square.
November 30. Nathan Phillips Square (100 Queen West). 6 pm. Free. toronto.ca/cavalcade
5. Skate at one of city’s best icy trails
Toronto has plenty of great outdoor rinks, but we also boast an impressive selection of skating trails. Loop around the concrete beams at the Bentway, weave around the snowy gardens at Evergreen Brick Works or practise your twizzles at Colonel Samuel Smith Park near the lakeshore in Etobicoke. All of these trails offer skate rentals, lessons for beginners and spots for sipping hot chocolate.
Evergreen Brick Works (550 Bayview). Opens November 30. Free. evergreen.ca
Colonel Samuel Smith Park (65 Colonel Samuel Smith Park). Opens November 30. Free.
The Bentway Skate Trail (250 Fort York). December 20-February 17. Free. thebentway.ca
6. Shop local at holiday markets
If you despise the crowded malls and don’t want to support Amazon, Toronto is lush with holiday markets where you can check everyone off your list. Head to Fan Expo’s market to snag commissioned artwork from professional comic artists; the Black Owned Holiday Market for unique gifts made by Black-owned businesses; or Pink Market, the queer fair with vendors selling everything from Indigenous beadwork to sexy body harnesses. For the classic mulled wine and twinkly light experience, go to the Distillery District for the 10th anniversary of the Toronto Christmas Market and pick up some seasonal goodies.
Fan Expo. December 7. Metro Toronto Convention Centre (222 Bremner). $10. fanexpocanada.com
Black Owned Holiday Market. December 14. International Centre (6900 Airport). Pwyc. blackownedunity.com
Pink Market. December 7-8. The 519 (519 Church). Pwyc, $5 suggested. pinkmarkettoronto.com
Toronto Christmas Market. To December 22. Distillery District (55 Mill). Free-$10. torontochristmasmarket.com
7. Go on an interactive night walk at the zoo
Montreal-based studio Moment Factory has created awe-inspiring luminescent night walks across Canada (including one in Rouge Park two years ago), Japan and Singapore using dazzling lights, installations and digital projections. It’s 11th experience, Terra Lumina, is coming to the Toronto Zoo with a one-and-half kilometre nighttime hike among the wolves and polar bears that’s meant to transport us to a bright future where people and nature live in harmony.
Dates and prices TBA. Toronto Zoo (2000 Meadowvale). torontozoo.com
8. Get fired up at Kensington Market’s Winter Solstice Parade
Loud, commercial-free and fire-breathing, there’s no solstice celebration in the city quite like Kensington Market’s. The annual parade produced by Red Pepper Spectacle Arts to mark the longest night of the year – and the return of the sun – celebrates its 30th anniversary this year. Take in the pageantry and raise a lantern to welcome the light of the longer days to come. You should be here.
December 21. Details TBA. Free. redpepperspectacle.com
9. Shoot the puck with neighbours
Shinny – aka pick-up hockey – is one of Hogtown’s time-honoured traditions. All you need is a helmet, gloves, skates and a stick – and know the basic rules: no slapshots, no goalies and no body contact. There are hundreds of games for adults and kids scheduled at community arenas across the city, but impromptu, unsupervised games also happen after hours at many outdoor rinks.
For details visit toronto.ca/hockey
10. Escape to nature
From the wilds of Colonel Samuel Smith Park in Etobicoke (3145 Lake Shore West) to the hidden wonders of Glen Stewart Ravine (Glen Manor at Kingston) and Crothers Woods in the Don Valley (enter off Bayview, north of Pottery), there are plenty of picturesque green spaces to breathe in on a wintry day. If you prefer the northern reaches of the city, the rare stands of Sherwood Park (Blythwood, east of Mount Pleasant), the views from Topcliff Park (Finch West, east of Driftwood) and trails of Earl Bales Park (Bathurst and Sheppard) make great escapes. For the particularly adventurous, a trek to the lighthouse at the end of the Leslie Spit will free the mind.
All winter long. Free. toronto.ca/parks
11. Marvel at Disney characters on ice
While Canada’s own skating royalty (Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir) officially retired this year, figure skating fans can still see magical routines at this spectacular performance. This year’s show, Dream Big, features Disney heroes including Anna and Elsa, Miguel from Coco, Moana, Belle and the Genie. Watch as they sashay, spin and jump to all your favourite Disney songs.
January 24-26. Scotiabank Arena (40 Bay). $15-$125. disneyonice.com
12. Embrace your inner child
Tobogganing might seem like a strictly kids-only pursuit, but is there an adrenaline rush more wholesome than speeding down a steep hill? Grab your snow pants and hand warmers and hit Christie Pits, Riverdale Park, Withrow Park or L’Amoreaux Park in Scarborough, which is located within the Hydro corridor south of the community centre and has nice, long and obstacle-free runs.
For a list of city-approved hills, visit toronto.ca/tobogganing
ARTS & CULTURE
13. Check out new Canadian artists at MOCA
A machine that logs silence and a virtual-reality walkthrough of a drag “house” are among this year’s BMO 1st Art! winners on display at the MOCA. The 13 works selected nationwide from post-secondary art school submissions encompass installations, digital prints and acrylic paintings. Some deal with race, colonialism and violence against marginalized bodies while others imagine how bodies and technology relate in the future.
November 21-December 16. Museum of Contemporary Art (158 Sterling). $5-$10, under 18 free. 1start.bmo.com
14. Amuse yourself at Canada’s Wonderland’s WinterFest
The amusement park is extending its season to the end of the year as nutcrackers, elves and five million lights transform the summer staple into a holiday-themed wonderland for the first time. Even the funnel cakes will be sprinkled with gingerbread, candy cane and eggnog flavours. Some rides will still be operational, but not Leviathan – because who wants to kiss the atmosphere in this frigid weather?
November 22-December 31. Canada’s Wonderland Hall (1 Canada’s Wonderland). $21.99 (admission included with select season passes). canadaswonderland.com
15. Amuse yourself at Aurora Winter Fest
The CNE is bringing this Instagrammable wonderland of light sculptures and installations back to Ontario Place. This theme park is basically the winter version of the Ex: it features a food village, a heated entertainment tent with live music (and mulled wine), a Ferris wheel, carousel and a 170-foot tube slide that should satisfy your winter-breeze craving. And if Christmas is your thing, there’s a Christmas market and photo ops with Santa.
November 22-January 5. Ontario Place – West Island (955 Lake Shore West). $13-$18. aurorawinterfestival.com
16. Bask in prettiness at the Toronto Light Festival
Who doesn’t need a little light therapy come wintertime? Once again, more than 20 artists from Canada and around the world will illuminate the Distillery District’s Victorian industrial buildings with interactive installations and light sculptures. Last year’s fest included illuminated sea containers, a light tunnel, a spinning cylindrical light sculpture and a 35-foot-tall polar bear.
January 18-March 3. The Distillery District (55 Mill). Free. torontolightfest.com
17. Feast your eyes on the finest in design
Ringing in its tenth year in 2020, DesignTO (previously known as Toronto Design Offsite Festival) is back with over 100 exhibitions, events and installations workshops starting January 17. On this year’s docket is the fifth annual A Future Without Work symposium (January 25) and a tour of Don Mills Centre (January 18) focused on the way planners are rethinking malls as part of suburban intensification. The Gladstone Hotel’s annual Come Up To My Room (January 16-19) event is also back to transform the hotel’s rooms into site-specific installations. Hot Docs is also getting in on the action with the inaugural Art, Architecture, Design Film Festival, which will feature documentaries on everything from urban planning and landscaping to feats of engineering.
DesignTO. January 17-26. Various venues. designto.org
Come Up To My Room. January 16-19. Gladstone Hotel (1214 Queen West). $10. comeuptomyroom.com
Art, Architecture, Design Film Festival. January 22-26. Hot Docs Ted Rogers Cinema (506 Bloor West). hotdocs.ca
18. Put the crotch in crochet at the Erotic Arts and Crafts Fair
Every year ahead of Valentine’s Day, the city’s finest sellers of handmade toys, floggers, harnesses and other sexy crafts come together under one roof for your shopping pleasure at this market. Also on offer: erotic-themed prints, cross-stitches, zines and other work from indie artists. Sex shop Come as You Are (now an online business) is behind this annual event, and though it’s left a gaping hole on Queen West – a hole that can never be truly filled – this helps ease the pain. Or create more pain, depending on what you’re into.
February TBA. Free. Gladstone Hotel (1214 Queen West). eroticartsandcrafts.com
19. Cruise the Winter Stations on Woodbine Beach
The sixth annual design competition is now a firmly entrenched Toronto winter tradition. Organized by firms RAW Design, Ferris + Associates and Curio, the event sees local and international artists and designers transforming lifeguard stations into art installations that animate otherwise desolate east-end beaches from Family Day weekend through early spring. This year’s theme is Beyond The Five Senses, meaning the winning seven installations will give viewers a sense of how humans make meaning of their world.
February 17-March 31. Kew and Woodbine beaches. Free. winterstations.com
20. Enjoy Arbus and Houdini together at last at the AGO
Influential photographer Diane Arbus is getting her first Canadian solo show in almost 30 years with the AGO’s Diane Arbus: Photographs, 1956-1971. It features 150 of the more than 500 photos the AGO acquired in 2016, including images of circus performers, which dovetails nicely into the gallery’s other winter show, Illusions: The Art Of Magic. The exhibit includes 55 posters from the period dubbed “the golden age of magic,” plus archival projections and a straitjacket belonging to Houdini.
February 22-May 17 (both shows). Art Gallery of Ontario (317 Dundas West). $25, free for AGO members/pass-holders and visitors under 25. ago.ca
21. Reconnect with Winnie-the-Pooh
Originally mounted at London’s Victoria & Albert Museum and now touring the world, Winnie-The-Pooh: Exploring A Classic makes its sole Canadian stop at the ROM from March to August. It’s an all-ages exhibit celebrating the pure magic of A.A. Milne’s creation, and the simple beauty of E.H. Shepard’s illustrations, with interactive aspects for younger visitors and more detailed examinations of the words and pictures for older fans. Don’t expect to get through it without tearing up when you realize you’re looking at one of Shepard’s very first sketches of the characters you’ve loved your entire life. (Not that this happened to us, of course. We’re made of stone.)
March 7-August 3. Royal OntarioMuseum (100 Queen’s Park). Free for members, ticket price TBA. rom.on.ca
FOOD & DRINK
22. Hit up these hotly anticipated new restaurants
Tacos Rico, a new vegetarian taco joint from the people behind Grand Electric, is set to replace GE’s Queen West location (grandelectrictoronto.com). Elsewhere in taco news, the former Schmaltz Appetizing on Ossington has just been replaced by Mexican joint Gordy Smiles (gordysmiles.com) – also from chef Anthony Rose, who has a revamp of Rose & Sons in the works. The newly renovated Paradise Theatre (opening December 5) will be home to two on-site restaurants: Osteria Rialto and Bar Biltmore, from Porzia chef Basilio Pesce (paradiseonbloor.com). And if you haven’t checked out vegan fine-dining restaurant Avelo yet, its upstairs offshoot Bar Avelo is set to open any day now (avelorestaurant.com).
23. Dine on a dime at Winterlicious
That faint clacking sound you hear every January is the sound of the entire city typing frantically in an effort to score Winterlicious reservations. The biannual prix-fixe promo is returning for another year, bringing three-course meals ($23, $28 or $33 for lunch and $33, $43 or $53 for dinner) from roughly 200 local restaurants. This season’s lineup hasn’t been announced yet, but perennial hot tickets include high-end locales like Café Boulud, Canoe and Auberge du Pommier.
January 31-February 13. winterlicious.ca
24. Get cheesy with fondue
The 70s are back, as proven by the return of houseplants, macramé, flared corduroys and – of course – fondue. Nothing takes the edge off a bitter winter wind like a bubbling cauldron of hot cheese, and a few local spots have gotten in on the act. At Le Swan (leswan.ca), they roll out fondue (made with Gruyère, Emmental, garlic and a heroic amount of white wine) after 11 pm. A few blocks away, Otto’s Bierhalle (ottosbierhalle.com) does a German spin served with soft pretzels. East-end cheesemonger Good Cheese (goodcheese.ca) is serving the melty stuff Friday through Sunday. And if you really want to splash out (we’re talking $60 and up), Barberian’s (barberians.com) does a luxe version for the after-theatre crowd.
25. Raise a frosty stein at a beer event
A rotating slate of beer festivals help chase off the winter doldrums, and this year is no different, with perennial favourite the Winter Craft Beer Festival set to return to the Roundhouse for another day of Ontario brews (craftbeerfest.ca). If you’d rather pair a workout with your pints, the Sud Salutations yoga series is hitting a string of breweries December 7 through March (beckicharlesyoga.com). For something completely different, hop your broom over to CRAFT Beer Market on March 1 for The Wizard’s Beer Festival, featuring tastings, events like tarot readings and wand-making classes, and the requisite cauldrons of dry ice (eventbrite.ca).
26. Give back to the community and your stomach at Chefs For Change
Break up your parade of after-dark Kraft Dinner in style with Chefs For Change, an annual midwinter dinner series that doubles as a benefit for Community Food Centres Canada, raising cash for food-oriented programs in low-income communities. This year’s bashes will be held at Propeller Coffee in late January to mid-February, and though the chef lineup is still TBA, each evening has historically featured a dozen culinary luminaries (with Ivana Raca, Paula Navarrete, Suzanne Barr, Ted Corrado and Carl Heinrich among last year’s participants).
January 30. chefsforchange.ca
27. Have a nice Long Winter
Long Winter is now long-running. Long since launching as a Fucked Up-led series, the all-ages, multi-room, venue-changing event has established a community-driven, anything-goes sprit. The first show of this eighth season is at the Tranzac with R. Flex, Pretty Matty, Scorpio Rising and more independent musical and visual artists from across the spectrum. Stay tuned for events on December 13 at Harbourfront Centre, January 11 at the Gladstone Hotel, and February 21 and March 21 at Workman Arts.
November 22 at Tranzac (292 Brunswick). 8 pm, all ages. Pwyc at the door or ticketscene.ca
28. Meet Jason Collett in the basement
Damian Rogers and Jason Collett’s annual year-end music/literary variety show is moving to a new not-so-basementy venue: the newly renovated Paradise Theatre. The Basement Revue, now in its 13th year, has had many homes since it launched at the Dakota Tavern, but the premise is still the same: the lineups remain a surprise until show night and feature a mix of live performances, readings and other intermingling artists from different disciplines. Maybe some cinema this year?
December 5, 12, 19 and 26 at Paradise Theatre (1006 Bloor West). 8 pm. $30. eventbrite.ca
29. Mosh to the year’s biggest breakout rapper
Charlotte, North Carolina MC DaBaby went from zero to 20 Billboard Hot 100 hits this year. Suge was his ubiquitous breakout smash, then he stole the spotlight with his guest verses for Chance the Rapper and Post Malone. His second album, Kirk, released in September, reaffirmed his ability to blanket every crevice of every track with playful, sing-songy verbosity. If you missed DaBaby’s quickie cameo at OVO Fest this summer, his gig at Rebel is your proper chance to see how he holds down a stage as headliner – and if his fans can keep up with his warp-speed rhymes.
December 10. Rebel (11 Polson). Doors 8 pm, all ages. $55-$75. ticketweb.ca
30. Catch one of Hollerado’s confetti-drenched farewell shows
Hollerado have spent most of the last decade making catchy pop-rock, promoting it with viral music videos, whimsical gimmicks and delightfully giddy shows. Now mostly devoted to their record label, Royal Mountain, which has become one of the go-to Canadian indie rock labels, the Toronto band are ready to fire their confetti gun for the final time. (Well, the final three times.) If we know the band at all, these farewell shows will be more wake than funeral.
December 11-13 at the Danforth Music Hall (147 Danforth). Doors 7 pm, all ages. $25-$35. ticketmaster.ca
31. Celebrate Shondi with Born Ruffians
Veteran Toronto band Born Ruffians are putting on their second annual Shondi Festoon. Unfamiliar with Shondi (is that possible)? Celebrate by gathering around the festoon lamp, sipping on mugs of hot beer and cheering away the Shondi clown. You can also celebrate the classic 00s/10s Canadian indie rock sound as the decade speeds to an end. There’s nothing indie rockers love more than a holiday show – whichever holiday.
December 14 at Danforth Music Hall (147 Danforth). 7 pm. $20. ticketmaster.ca
32. Let Jennifer Castle usher you through the darkness
There’s no better place to be on the darkest day of the year than with Jennifer Castle. The mystical folkie is resurrecting her long-running annual winter solstice show (she was a week early last year). If you’ve never been, it’s a nice and intimate hometown affair with plenty of yet-unannounced special guests, hushed renditions, spontaneous banter and other winter warmth. Castle loves nature imagery, and she comes alive during seasonal rites.
December 21 at Longboat Hall (1087 Queen West). 8 pm. $20. eventbrite.ca
33. Start the year with a double dose of Laurie Anderson
It’s been a while since the multidisciplinary American artist performed in Toronto, so naturally her concert at the Royal Conservatory of Music’s 21C Music Festival is sold out. The avant-garde icon will mix sounds, images, poems and electronics and performing her solo works with cellist Rubin Kodheli. The good news: if you missed getting tickets, Anderson is sticking around to present a screening of her 2015 documentary, Heart Of A Dog, at Hot Docs the following night. Other 21C concerts include a staged version of Schubert’s song cycle Winterreis featuring a klezmer band and, Against The Grain Theatre’s production of the song cycle Ayre starring Lebanese-Canadian soprano Miriam Khalil.
January 18. Koerner Hall (273 Bloor West). 8 pm. $21 and up. rcmusic.com
January 19. Hot Docs Ted Rogers Cinema (506 Bloor West). 6:30 pm. $15. hotdocs.ca
34. Catch up with Chance the Rapper
The reaction to his debut album, The Big Day, might have been a bit lukewarm, but Chance the Rapper’s long-awaited (and once-delayed) first Toronto arena show is happening in the dead of winter. The album has some undeniable songs worth revisiting at the show, along with his already long catalogue of sweet and soulful “mixtape” tracks. Chance’s brother Taylor Bennett and Lil Yachty are along for the ride.
February 12 at Scotiabank Arena (40 Bay). Doors 6 pm, all ages. $59.95-$175. ticketmaster.ca
35. Get dramatic with Bat for Lashes
It’s been way too long since Natasha Khan gave Toronto a headlining show. Last seen in town opening for Depeche Mode, the English musician known as Bat for Lashes has a rep for theatrical world-building, storytelling drama and emotive balladry. She’s taken a turn into 80s-horror-inspired synth-pop on her new Lost Girls album, and this run of North American dates is described as “intimate, vocal, electronic synth and piano sets” that mix new songs with never-performed-before BFL material. Fingers crossed for some Sexwitch deep cuts.
February 22. Phoenix Concert Theatre (410 Sherbourne). Doors 8 pm. $25-$50. eventbrite.ca
36. Get a fresh perspective on a classic movie at Bend It Like Beckham: The Musical
Filmmaker Gurinder Chadha’s hit coming-of-age tale makes a Billy Elliot-style leap from screen to stage. Chadha, lyricist Charles Hart (Phantom Of The Opera) and composer Howard Goodall turn the story about a British-Indian girl realizing her soccer dreams into a Bhangra-meets-Broadway fusion production, which is having its North American debut in Toronto. Premium tickets include dinner from celebrated Indian-Canadian Chef Vikram Vij. Read our interview with Chadha about the show here.
December 7-January 5. Bluma Appel Theatre (27 Front East). $49.95-$299.95. benditmusical.com
37. See Evan Hansen in red tights
If you’re wondering where the whole family can enjoy a show, don’t miss Ross Petty Productions’ Lil’ Red Robin Hood, a Toronto-set mashup of several fairy tales, starring Dear Evan Hansen’s Robert Markus and several excellent performers from last year’s production: Michael De Rose, Sara-Jeanne Hosie, Daniel Williston and Eddie Glen. Matt Murray’s joke-filled script and Tracey Flye’s direction and choreography should provide a fun respite from stressful holiday shopping.
November 29-January 4. Winter Garden Theatre (189 Yonge). $27-$99. rosspetty.com
38. Remember your grandmother at The Nonna Monologues
Last year the indie theatre company DopoLavoro Teatrale (DLT) had a big holiday hit with their immersive and interactive show If On A Christmas Night… Now they’re back with a show that celebrates that essential figure in Italian-Canadian life: the nonna, or grandma. Styled after the kind of cabarets common in the Old World, the show is full of stories about Italian matriarchs and encourages audience members to share their own anecdotes.
December 4-22. Columbus Centre (901 Lawrence West). $20-$40. villacharities.com/nonna
39. Choose from various Nutcrackers
It’s a testament to the cultural richness of the city that every December there are many versions of the seasonal ballet to choose from. Of course, the biggest is the National Ballet of Canada’s sumptuous version, choreographed by James Kudelka. This could be one of your last chances to see ballerina Greta Hodgkinson before she retires in 2020. There’s also the Toronto International Ballet Theatre’s version of the work featuring stars of the Bolshoi Ballet. And don’t forget Bengt Jörgen’s charming production of the classic, which touches down in Markham and then the Betty Oliphant Theatre around the new year.
National Ballet of Canada: December 12-January 4. Four Seasons Centre (145 Queen West). national.ballet.ca
Toronto International Ballet Theatre: December 14. Meridian Hall (1 Front East). $85 and up. torontoballet.ca
Ballet Jörgen: December 30-31. Flato Markham Theatre (171 Town Centre), $15-$60; and January 3-4. Betty Oliphant (404 Jarvis), $35-$65. canadasballetjorgen.ca
40. See a play… at a movie theatre
Toronto has plenty of great live theatre, but if you’re curious about what’s happening on stages around the globe, take in one of Cineplex’s stage-to-screen events. Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s Fleabag, the solo show that inspired the hit TV series, screens November 23. And Fleabag’s Hot Priest himself, Andrew Scott, stars in a production of Noël Coward’s classic comedy Present Laughter on November 28. Or see Sally Field and Bill Pullman star in the Old Vic production of Arthur Miller’s absorbing drama All My Sons on January 18.
Various dates and times. $13-$20. cineplex.com
41. Check out some of the next big things at Next Stage
The Fringe’s winter mini-festival is a great way to beat the post-holiday blues. This year’s edition includes the return of Fringe hits Tita Jokes, an all-Filipinx sketch show; Morro & Jasp: Save The Date, the hilarious sibling clown duo’s look at marriage; and the poignant Every Silver Lining, a musical about family and friends moving beyond grief. In addition, there are shows that haven’t played here yet by queer/disabled comedy vet Ophira Calof, Pearle Harbour (aka Justin Miller) and Julia Lederer, among others.
January 8-19. Factory Theatre (125 Bathurst). $TBA. fringetoronto.com
42. Catch your weird TV buddies live onstage
What’s more fun than watching your favourite cult shows on your laptop at home? Watching the stars of Tim & Eric: Awesome Show, Great Job! or Letterkenny performing right in front of you! Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim bring the unfettered weirdness of their 2020 Mandatory Attendance World Tour to the Danforth Music Hall for two shows February 15, while Jared Keeso, Nathan Dales and the rest of the hicks bring their Letterkenny Live back to the Queen Elizabeth Theatre March 6. Trust us, you haven’t lived until you’ve seen Wayne and Daryl speed-shout at each other in person.
Tim & Eric: February 15. Danforth Music Hall (147 Danforth). 5 and 8:30 pm. $53-$154. ticketmaster.ca
Letterkenny: March 6. Queen Elizabeth Theatre (190 Princes’ Blvd). 6:30 pm. $92-$350. ticketmaster.ca
43. Be there when Hannah Gadsby makes her Toronto debut
The Australian comedian is coming to Toronto for the first time with her latest solo show, Douglas. Gadsby broke open the typical stand-up template with her hit Netflix special Nanette, in which she transitions from laughs to dissecting certain types of jokes and processing trauma as a lesbian growing up in Tasmania. In Douglas, Gadsby takes on Nanette’s haters, the patriarchy and then some.
February 28-29. Roy Thomson Hall (60 Simcoe). $45.75-$65.75. roythomsonhall.com
44. Catch a flick at the newly restored Paradise Theatre
The Paradise Theatre at Bloor and Dovercourt just got a big makeover – sort of. Originally built in 1910 and then renovated in an art deco style in the early 30s, the cinema’s aesthetic charm languished over the years. Now after being closed for over a decade, the Paradise is back, along with all the racing stripe motifs, elegant furnishings and a replica of its original marquee sign. Along with independent and critically acclaimed features, the new venue will also host live music performances, comedy nights and talks. Read more here.
Opens December 5. 1006 Bloor West. paradiseonbloor.com
45. Let Martin Scorsese show you what real cinema looks like
TIFF is using the release of The Irishman to launch a full-on Scorsese retrospective, screening his dramatic features – and one concert film. There’ll be week-long runs of Taxi Driver (November 29) and Raging Bull (December 6), and 35mm presentations of Mean Streets, After Hours, Kundun, Bringing Out The Dead, The Departed and more. But if you can only see one film in a theatre, make a date with Silence (December 22 and 31), the 2016 drama starring Andrew Garfield and Adam Driver as young priests searching for a friend in 17th-century Japan. In its majesty and eerie calm, and its unflinching inquiry into matters of faith and doubt, it feels like Scorsese’s masterpiece.
November 22-January 4, at TIFF Bell Lightbox (350 King West), $17. tiff.net/scorsese
46. VR games at the Rec Room
The immersive VR games at the Void, the Rec Room’s maze-like arcade, are a trip. Gamers can go on digital odysseys across narrow bridges swaying in wind and snow – it feels so lifelike you’ll be rubbing your brow and clutching at the nearest rope or wall for safety. The latest attraction, Jumanji: Reverse The Curse, is tied to the Jumanji movie franchise and sends you into the jungle on an Indiana Jones-style adventure. Expect thrills and moisture.
Begins November 27. The Rec Room Toronto Roundhouse (255 Bremner). $29.95. therecroom.com
47. Have a retro big-screen experience
If a film is not that recent and has a fervent fan base, you can likely find it at the Cineplex Flashback Film Series, which brings back old favourites like Ghostbusters, The Goonies and The Matrix for appreciative audiences all-year round. The 2020 schedule has yet to be announced, but Cineplex will be running the extended cuts of the Lord Of The Rings trilogy over the holidays. That’s a full 12 hours you don’t have to spend talking to your family! Alternately, brave the walk from the Exhibition streetcar stop to the Cinesphere in Ontario Place and check out some digitally upscaled classics – we’re hoping for the return of that IMAX edition of Francis Ford Coppola’s latest cut of Apocalypse Now – on a truly massive screen.
Cineplex Cinemas Yonge-Dundas & VIP (10 Dundas East). $6.99. cineplex.com
Cinesphere (955 Lake Shore West). $15. ontarioplace.com
48. Re-watch Home Alone with a live score
Home Alone is a contender for the ultimate holiday movie. It’s Die Hard for kids, with Macaulay Culkin’s elfish Kevin McCallister laying waste to Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern’s burglars using Christmas ornaments, paint cans and a flamethrower. Watching the score performed live by the Toronto Symphony Orchestra is worth it for the trap-setting sequence alone, during which choral voices singing Carol Of The Bells give way to a more action-packed take on soundtrack composer John Williams’s The Star Of Bethlehem.
December 6-7. Roy Thomson Hall (60 Simcoe). $35-$205. tso.ca
49. Immerse yourself in 70mm
Magnificent 70mm, TIFF’s annual celebration of large-format filmmaking, is a little limited this year, screening just three films over the holidays. But two of them, David Lean’s Lawrence Of Arabia and Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, rank among the greatest cinematic experiences ever made, and the third, Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar, doesn’t lack for scope or scale. And the Lightbox 1 remains one of this town’s best spaces to watch a movie, so get on it.
December 25-January 5 at TIFF Bell Lightbox (350 King West), $17. tiff.net/70mm
50. Catch up on awards contenders
In the summertime, the megaplex represents escapism and air conditioning; come January, it’s all about warm seats, hot popcorn and Oscar bait. Once the 2020 nominations are announced on January 13, start catching up on the titles you missed… and waiting for the lesser-known contenders to trickle out as smaller distributors fight for limited screen space. (And if you don’t feel like braving the cold, The Irishman and The Report will be streaming on Netflix and Amazon Prime Video, respectively.)
Various locations including Cineplex Varsity Cinemas (55 Bloor West) and TIFF Bell Lightbox (350 King West). oscars.org