This cultural center encompasses a 38-hectare (94-acre) strip of waterfront land, once-abandoned warehouses, charming piers, and an old smokestack. The center, which opened in 1974, is a stunning urban playground and one of the most popular destinations for locals and visitors alike -- a great place to spend time strolling, picnicking, gallery-hopping, biking, shopping, and sailing.
Queen's Quay, at the foot of York Street, is the first stop on the LRT line from Union Station (you can also get there in 5 min. on foot, walking south from Front St. along a walkway under the Gardiner Expwy.). From here, boats depart for harbor tours and ferries leave for the Toronto Islands. In this renovated warehouse, you'll find the Premiere Dance Theatre and two floors of shops. York Quay also has a decent art gallery with rotating art installations. There's an information booth with a calendar of events, also available online (www.harbourfrontcentre.com).
Harbourfront has several venues devoted to the arts. The Power Plant is a contemporary art gallery with some excellent and often edgy shows; behind it is the Du Maurier Theatre Centre. At the Craft Studio, you can watch artisans blow glass, throw pots, and make silk-screen prints. You can buy their works at Centre Shop. The Artists' Gardens features outdoor gardens created by local and visiting landscape architects, designers, and other artists.
More than 4,000 events take place annually at Harbourfront, the biggest of which are two literary gems: the Harbourfront Reading Series in June and the International Festival of Authors in October. Other happenings include dance, theater, music, film, children's programs, multicultural festivals, and marine-themed events. Harbourfront is best in summer but a great destination year-round, especially with the pretty skating rink and other activities for wintertime fun. In midwinter, the winds blowing off Lake Ontario can be wicked, so dress appropriately.