A week ago, Toronto's
opened its doors the pubic once again. One of the largest art museums in North America, the AGO has been closed for three years for a nearly $300 million expansion, designed by star architect and native son Frank Gehry. The museum's expansion added 97,000 square feet and increased art-viewing space by 47%.
There are 4,000 works on display, dating from 100 A.D. to the present, making it a must-see museum for any art enthusiast, and this a great time to visit to
for a quick art getaway.
Start at the AGO, naturally, where you won't want to miss the Edward Burtynsky exhibit detailing the museum's transformation. (Burtynsky is a photographer and the subject of the award-winning 2006 documentary
.) Also take in the Thomson Collection of ship models, which stretch from the mid-19th century to World War II.
Outside the AGO's doors, Toronto's art abounds. A great place for your itinerary is the historic
, a pedestrian-only neighborhood devoted to art, culture and entertainment. Considered North America's largest and best-preserved collection of Victorian industrial buildings, this was once the site of the Gooderham and Worts Distillery, which operated from 1831 to 1990. It was at one time the largest distillery in the British Empire.
Today, the Distillery is home to artist studios, galleries and fine boutiques. Swing by the Case Goods Warehouse, where you might be able to sneak a peek inside the studio's upstairs, and where you can definitely shop for one-of-a-kind items. Try
for textiles, including quilted laptop cases, and
for hand-crafted jewelry. (The Distillery's artisans are holding a Christmas crafts show through Sunday.) Year-round,
, in building #56, offers a carefully curated selection of Canadian art, craft and design.
Downtown is packed with galleries aplenty. Check out this
. For reviews of what's on at each gallery, the go-to source is
, Toronto's alternative paper.
Although you might feel museum-ed out after your AGO visit, it's worth squeezing in a visit to the far less daunting, although more quirky,
. Yes, it's a museum dedicated to footwear, but you don't have to be a
Sex & The City
fan to enjoy it. Here, the exhibits provide a unique view on culture, beauty and status by examining the shoes worn by people in different cultures throughout history. Look for Napoleon's red leather boots. You'll understand a lot more about the man (and his notion of masculinity).
With your curiosity piqued, get yourself some arts education at Type Books (883 Queen St. West; 416-366-8973). In addition to a thoughtful selection of books about the arts, there's also a small art gallery in the basement.
- Dine: Frank, the AGO's new restaurant designed by Frank Gehry (and named after guess who?), is generating a lot of foodie buzz. When Hollywood celebs are in town to shoot movies, though, they tend to frequent Chiado, a world-class Portuguese restaurant and among the city's finest establishments. For pre-art sustenance, try Le Petit Dejeuner, where the omelets are tasty enough to make both the wait for a table and the distracted-to-snotty staff worthwhile. The lines are often shorter, and the service more pleasant, at Toba, a few blocks down the street.
- Fly: Porter Airlines offers service from Newark and Chicago-Midway to the airport located right in Toronto's downtown. In Toronto, the lounge offers free lattes and WiFi, and aboard, complimentary wine and snacks.
- Stay: Le Meridien King Edward is conveniently located near Toronto's arts attractions. Look online for weekend specials, running through the end of March. Book one night, get the second night at half price.
Alison Stein Wellner writes about travel, culture and lifestyle from her home in New York City. She blogs about travel for the Huffington Post, and has written for Business Week, Fast Company, Glamour, The Robb Report, Sierra magazine and The Washington Post, among other publications.