From September 5 to 15 – Toronto’s already sparkling personality gets even brighter as movie stars descend on the city for the highly acclaimed Toronto International Film Festival. The hundreds of thousand of film buffs who attend the event will discover a metropolis abuzz not merely with Hollywood glamour and gossip, but also with an array of restaurants, attractions and high-end hotels that boast their own indelible allure. Here’s the best things to do, eat and where to stay in Toronto during TIFF.
What to Do in Toronto
From new hot spots, to festivals, to long-standing favs, Toronto has lots of activities to keep cinephiles busy in-between films. For those who get here early, one event not to miss is Toronto Fashion Week. Running from September 3 to 5 in the well-heeled Yorkville neighborhood, this fashionista free-for-all showcases the best of Canadian and international fashion—with some art, food and culture thrown in for good measure.
Foodies will want to check out STYLE PLATE, where local chefs and mixologists offer special creations to honor the event. STYLE ART highlights artists and galleries with innovative works that merge the world of fashion and art.
If you’re feeling flush, head to Chanel’s recently opened first Canadian standalone fragrance and beauty boutique located in ritzy Holt Renfrew Center. Valentino has opened its first Canadian flagship at Yorkdale Shopping Centre. Daredevils will want to give the CN Tower’s EdgeWalk a try—you’ll walk along the outside rim of the observation pod, over 1000 feet in the air. Take a look at some of the fanciest footwear on the planet at Bata Shoe Museum’s Gold Standard exhibition. Explore sci-fi and horror art at the Royal Ontario Museum and tap-into Canada’s art scene at the Art Gallery of Ontario.
So, all you want to do is see TIFF movies? If you missed out on buying tickets for some films, don’t despair. Every day during the festival at around 8 a.m. tickets that may have been held back for TIFF VIPs are released for sale—check daily. Another option is to wait in line for Rush seats. This is when organizers try to fill any empty seats just before a movie starts. Be warned: you’ll likely need to line-up three or four hours ahead of time to get a seat and payment is cash only.
Where to Stay
Over the last several years, Toronto has seen the opening of an unprecedented number of luxury properties and hip boutique hotels that will definitely provide prime celebrity-spotting opportunities. At the center of all the TIFF action lies The Ritz-Carlton Toronto, one of the city’s most opulent hotels—it’s the place to go when you’re looking for glitz and glamour. The property will be offering numerous special TIFF events, including festival-themed cocktails and a pop-up seafood bar. The lovely St. Regis Toronto is an elegant five-star hotel that will also be featuring special events for TIFF. Events include a portrait studio pop-up where you can get your photo taken by professional on the cover of The Hollywood Reporter, as well as a Moët & Chandon pop-up lounge.
Bisha Hotel Toronto, with its dark decor and gold accents oozes sex appeal and evokes an alluring sense of mystery—try to snag one of the signature suits designed by Lenny Kravitz. Sophisticated Shangri-La is an Asian-inspired retreat that has a lively bar sure to attract some celebs (it also has the only Hammam spa in a hotel setting). Hotel X is ideal for those looking for the style of a five-star with all the amenities (like a rooftop pool) of a resort. The Broadview Hotel, which sits astride two trendy districts—Riverside and Leslieville—is a chic, fun property.
Where to Eat
Famed as a multicultural hub, Toronto hosts an unparalleled cornucopia of culinary delights. If your stomach’s rumbling but you can’t quite put your finger on what you’re craving, go straight to St. Lawrence Market. The spot features over 120 vendors and made National Geographic’s list of top 10 food markets in the world.
Another place to feast on the city’s best casual fare is at Kensington Market. It offers an eclectic and affordable mix of meals from across the globe. A well-guarded secret among local foodies is that Koji Sushi, located in a strip mall along Dupont, has some of the best Japanese food in town at can’t-beat prices. If Thai is more your thing, PAI is bound to please.
For something really unique, you can’t go wrong with Kūkŭm Kitchen Toronto’s first indigenous fine-dining restaurant where Chef Joseph Shawana, of the Wikwemikong Unceded Reserve, treats your palate to perfectly prepared bison, elk and salmon. Chotto Matte, one of the most recent additions to the city’s food scene, is already winning loyal fans for its flavorful take on Nikkei (Japanese-Peruvian) fare. Grey Gardens is ideal for friends who like to share small plates of food over (several) amazing glasses of wine. Rosalinda, is a gorgeous vegan Mexican restaurant in the heart of TIFF. Stylish and scrumptious, Alo was just named the number one restaurant in Canada and books up months in advance.
Toast Toronto atop one of its stellar rooftop bars where you can feast on city views as you sip. Not surprisingly, the city’s high-end hotels offer some of Toronto’s top sky-hugging terraces, including Broadview, Bisha, Hotel X and The Drake. Though it has no rooftop, BarChef offers the most creative cocktails in town.
Toronto’s hottest hotels also offer some of its most incredible dining experiences. Check out Ritz-Carlton’s TOCA for divine Italian food, St. Regis’ lavish LOUIX LOUIS Grand Bar & Restaurant for upscale American and Bisha’s Akira Black for incredible Asian food.
– Sandra MacGregor
What to Watch
Here are some of the strong contenders for this year:
1. The Goldfinch
Donna Tartt’s acclaimed novel featuring Nicole Kidman
2. Marriage Story
Writer-director Noah Baumbach’s latest gives viewers an intimate look inside a marriage — or, rather, a divorce.
The real-life tale of strippers-turned-scammers features a stunning ensemble cast which includes JLo, Constance Wu, Lili Reinhart, Keke Palmer, Julia Stiles, and cameos from Cardi B and Lizzo.
Renée Zellweger plays child-star-turned-icon Judy Garland
5. A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood
Marielle Heller set her directorial sights on one of the most beloved men to ever live: Mr. Rogers.
Cynthia Erivo is unrecognizable in her portrayal of titular abolitionist and American hero Harriet Tubman.