David Whitley finds that parts of Toronto have gone to the dogs – but in a very entertaining way.


The man at the travel shop is moaning. “They keep doing this,” he says. “They keep closing streets for something or other. The buses can’t get to hotels for pick-ups, and they can’t go on the routes. It hurts tourism.” “So what’s the problem today?” I respond, attempting to placate his inner rage a little. “Oh, some kind of race or other.” I don’t see any runners all day. But there are plenty of other distractions and disruptions to send the tour bus drivers into apoplectic fits. Toronto, it seems, is not the sort of place to throw one bash when 462 will do. The first unexpected blockade comes in the form of hundreds of dogs. Stretching back to the St Lawrence Market is some sort of festival for the sort of people who love their dogs so much that they’ll buy any kind of doggy product that conniving marketers throw their way. If you really loved your horrid little mutt, you’d buy my magic beans, guys.


Unsurprisingly, the little dogs (and they’re all little dogs. People that such goodies are aimed at don’t own big, stupid, slobbering dogs that will happily chase sticks through nettle patches all day) are behaving like spoilt brats. I can conclusively state that if you put a lot of pampered small dogs together, they’ll vociferously object to the company and start trying to prove that they’re much bigger than they are. The street, therefore, is a gloriously comic snapshot. As the ratmutts face off, owners are left frantically trying to hold them back, and are dragged unwillingly all over the road. I’m not sure what the event is called, but it may as well be I’m So Sorry, He’s Never Normally Like That.


This canine farce is by no means the only thing going on in Toronto, however. As we pull up at Nathan Phillips Square, home of Toronto’s city hall, we appear to have been transported to Manila. Some sort of Filipino festival is going on. There are food stalls sprawling over whatever space they’re allowed to, whilst a couple of singers are fumbling with their microphones on a temporary stage.


And this is a theme that continues throughout the day. Toronto is one of those instantly amiable places where you find something different going on at every turn. Outside the state legislative building, there’s an ostentatious invite-everyone-and-hang-the-cost wedding. Another street further north is roped off for a small community street party.  In David Pecaut Square, hundreds of people are sat on the grass watching people play Middle Eastern instruments.


It’s not just events either. On just about every corner into Toronto, you’ve got a cool piece of street art, a sculpture of an elephant or the sort of building that makes you go “wow”. Unlike most North American cities, the Downtown area is far from dead, while scores of other little districts spreading out from the skyscraping hub have immediately distinct characters. In short, it’s exactly as a city should be – one where you don’t want to stop walking all day, in case you miss something else that’s going off. And if that disrupts the odd tour bus schedule, so be it.


Disclosure: David was a guest of Tourism Toronto ( and stayed at the stonkingly impressive Intercontinental Toronto Centre (