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High-flying Toronto.

Worldly, wealthy, civilized and personable, Toronto is the Big Apple north of the border, a magnet for young and talented movers. The late University of Toronto communications theorist Marshall McLuhan called it "the last great city not yet devastated by progress."

Without attracting crime or litter, this lakeshore metropolis of almost 3 million people hosts 21 million tourists each year. Queen Elizabeth, the Pope and the Tall Ships visited Toronto during its 150th-anniversary celebration last year. And the city has received extra attention through the newfound prominence of its high-flying baseball Blue Jays. The city, in which one-tenth of Canada's people live, is an anomaly: a 244-square-mile city that really works, with clean streets, 200 green parks and safe subways.

Many Americans accustomed to crime in major U.S. cities will find Toronto surprisingly safe. Toronto's subway-crime rate is about one-fourth of New York city's. Last year more than 400 million riders arrived at their destinations safely and quickly on Toronto's buses, streetcars, subway cars and trolley buses.

Some people attribute Toronto's growth to the infusion of new blood it received when Canada relaxed its immigration laws in 1952. More than on-half of Toronto's people are born outside Canada, an ethnic mix unmatched outside Manhattan. Composed of 57 ethnic groups that coexist harmoniously, it is a city of neighborhoods with ethnic diversity but without ghettos. Touring Toronto is like touring the world without the inconvenience of passports and inoculations. Toronto is a Huron Indian word for "place of meeting."

The CN Tower is Toronto's most famous landmark, a communications structure that dominates the skyline; it can be seen from almost 75 miles away. At 1,815 feet, the CN Tower is the world's tallest freestanding structure. Its glass-walled elevator skims up the concrete-and-steel stiletto at a heart-stopping pace--1,200 feet a minute, or faster than a jet gains altitude at takeoff--to more than one-third mile above the downtown area. From the tower you can choose the sited you want to visit; on a clear day you can also see Rochester, Buffalo and Niagara Falls.

But the best way to get your bearings in a big, strange city is to take a bus or a trolley tour. The Gray line Tours offers the 2-1/2-hour Great Toronto tour, which hits all the high spots. Or take the one- or two-hour guided visit in a beautifully restored 1920s Peter Witt trolley car. Toronto has the largest trolley-car system in North America.

A Toronto must-see is the Ontario Science Centre, perched atop a wooded ravine. Part museum and part fun fair, it encourages you to explore, to experience and to enjoy the more than 500 exhibits. Touch 500,000 volts! Your hair stands on end. Test your reflexes, balance, heart rate and grip strength. Look at fired and unfired bullets under the microscope. Walk through the "disorientation room." Watch a laser beam cut through a brick. Land a simulated lunar module. Pull a lever, punch a button and participate in the great adventure of science. (It is open year-round.)

Ontario Place, a 96-acre, family recreation and amusement center, is built partly on stilts on three man-made islands in Lake Ontario; it includes the imaginative, two-acre Children's Vilage playground, a dozen restaurants, lawns for picnics, a marina and an 8,000-seat outdoor amphitheater called the Forum, which offers everything from blue-grass to ballet. (Toronto is the home of the National Ballet of Canada and the Canadian Opera Company, which perform at Toronto's O'Keefe Centre.) The 800-seat Cinesphere movie house, located in a geodesic-domed theater, features films projected on a six-story screen with wraparound sound. The IMAX screen is the world's largest.

Toronto's smartest and most expensive shopping section if Yorkville, a neighborhood of boutiques, galleries, bookstores, restaurants, bars and sidewalk cafes. Yorkville's Victorian-Gothic houses originally formed an artists' quarter, then a hippie haven; now it's a small, fashionable village. Yorkville's Innuit Gallery features Eskimo art--carvings, fabrics and prints. Toronto's main thoroughfare, Younge Street, is Yorkville's eastern boundary. The longest street in the world, it extends 1,300 miles to the Manitoba-Ontario border.

The narrow streets in what used to be Toronto's Jewish community form a European-style market of amazing variety. Kosher butchers, Portuguese fishmongers, West Indian greengrocers, secondhand dealers and restaurateurs chat in a babel of languages. Customers haggle over prices. The market sells live geese, pigeons, guinea pigs, chickens, vegetables and dry goods. The air is filled with shouts, music and exotic smells.

Toronto has more than 4,000 restaurants. The listings by ethnic category begin with Arabian, Armenian and Austrian and finish with Ukrainian and West Indian. For instance, feast on the delicious classical East European food at the Ukrainian Caravan and then watch a 60-minute musical-comedy revue that includes a saber duel, wild songs, gymnastics and good humor. The ceiling is pockmarked, testifying to enthusiastic saber dancing. The five members of the group are the only Ukrainian cabaret dancers in North America. They sing and tell stories in both Ukrainian and English. (A meal without wine costs between $10 and $20.)

Toronto has much we don't have space for--the Toronto Zoo; Eaton Centre; the World's Biggest Bookstore; North America's largest record store, Sam the Record Man; exhibitions; fairs--but you'll just have to see for yourself.
COPYRIGHT 1985 Saturday Evening Post Society
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Copyright 1985 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Crowley, Carolyn
Publication:Saturday Evening Post
Date:Oct 1, 1985
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