Category Archives: tourist attractions

Toronto finally gets a “wow factor” attraction with CN Tower’s EdgeWalk for extreme thrillseekers

EdgeWalk at the CN Tower

CN Tower’s new EdgeWalk thrill attraction opens August 1


EdgeWalk at the CN Tower

Harnessed to overhead safety rails, thrill seekers will be able to lean over the edge of the CN Tower roof for the ultimate bird’s eye view of Toronto — from 116 stories (1,168 feet) above the ground


EdgeWalk at the CN Tower

May 8 2011: EdgeWalk safety structure being installed on CN Tower


On the edge: I knew something big was in the works when I saw something I had never noticed before on the roof the main CN Tower observation deck pod last weekend. I was walking along Wellington Street West when a glint of sunshine off dozens of white metal posts protruding from the pod roof caught my eye. My camera’s zoom lens confirmed that something was being constructed on the roof, but what was it? A new window cleaning platform? Probably not. A new addition to the tower’s night-time exterior light show? I doubted that, too. Roof repairs? Perhaps — I could see what appeared to be blue tarps hanging over the edge of the pod. When I got back home, I double-checked other CN Tower photos I had taken recently to see how long the posts had been up there. They didn’t appear in any of my pics from late March, so I figured that construction had started during April so whatever was being done could be finished before Toronto’s summer tourist season gets into full swing. The CN Tower website didn’t mention anything new, so on Monday morning I emailed the tower one of my pics to ask what was going on. I got my answer when I returned home a few hours later and logged into facebook, where my news feed was filled with links friends had provided to an online Toronto Star report about the CN Tower’s new EdgeWalk extreme thrill attraction.

Opening August 1, EdgeWalk at the CN Tower will offer Toronto adventure seekers the ultimate adrenaline rush. Securely harnessed to an overhead safety rail, groups of six to eight daredevils will get to spend nearly half an hour taking a “hands-free” walk along a 5-foot-wide, 492-foot-long ledge circling the roof of the tower’s revolving restaurant, the 360.The harness system will let them lean perilously over the roof edge to see how far they can push their personal thrill boundaries while testing the limits of their anxious loved ones (It puts a whole new spin on the expression, “Look ma, no hands!”).

Though I noticed the EdgeWalk support structure only this past weekend, the project has been in the works for nearly 10 months. Design took four months, while fabrication took another three. Installation is expected to take around two months.  Comprised of 36,000 pounds of steelwork, the EdgeWalk structure includes 112 pieces of 5-by-4-foot galvanized steel grated floor and 36 support arms. These arms are linked to two side-by-side 450-foot rails plus two 50-foot rails leading outside; one will be used for the tour group leader, while the other is for each group of EdgeWalkers.

The walks will last 20 to 30 minutes, but with pre-walk safety briefing, the whole EdgeWalk experience will take about 1.5 hours. The tower will offer two to three walks per hour, with up to 30 walks per day. The attraction will operate roughly from May or Otober, and the number of actual walks conducted will vary depending upon weather and sunrise/sunset times. Tickets will cost $175 and will go on sale beginning June 1.

Though this is an adventure I don’t have the guts to try myself, I think it’s a great new feature for the 35-year-old CN Tower — and a long-overdue new tourist attraction for Toronto.  For years, I’ve seen newspaper and international travel magazine articles raving about Sydney, Australia’s famous Harbour Bridge Climb, and last year I saw a television program that profiled the SkyWalk and SkyJump at the Sky Tower in Aukland, New Zealand. Toronto didn’t have anything even remotely comparable, and I thought the city needed a new drawing-card with a tremendous “wow factor” to put itself on the map. The best “wows” the city had to offer were already at the CN Tower — the Glass Floor, which was installed in 1994, and the world’s highest glass floor-panelled elevator, which opened in 2008. I checked out the Toronto forums to see what local residents were recommending to visiting tourists, and thought the list was pretty sad. It included the Eaton Centre and the St. Lawrence Market, both of which might wow shopping enthusiasts and foodies, along with Casa Loma, Harbourfront and the Toronto Islands. The only attractions I’ve seen mentioned favourably in international travel publications have been the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) and the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM). Though the ROM’s Michael Lee-Chin Crystal was named as one of “The new seven wonders of the world” in the April 2008 issue of Condé Nast Traveler magazine, I thought the city still needed something more — something really big and exciting — to catch international attention. EdgeWalk ought to do it.

Below is a CN Tower ad for EdgeWalk, along with some of my recent pics of the tower.

CN Tower EdgeWalk ad

From the CN Tower website, an advertisement for EdgeWalk at the CN Tower


CN Tower

March 29 2011: Installation of the EdgeWalk structure hasn’t yet started, as this photo of the CN Tower — shot from Concord CityPlace to its west — indicates


CN Tower and the Ritz-Carlton Toronto

March 29 2011: No signs of any EdgeWalk structure on the northeast side of the CN Tower, either, seen here peeking from behind The Ritz-Carlton Toronto


CN Tower

May 8 2011: EdgeWalk’s newly-installed steel support arms caught my attention


EdgeWalk steel support arms on the CN Tower pod roof

May 8 2011: A closer look at the EdgeWalk steel support arms


CN Tower viewed from corner of King & Bay Streets

May 8 2011: CN Tower viewed from the corner of King & Bay Streets

City Scene: ROM reflects namesake condo tower

Royal Ontario Museum reflecting Museum House condos


Mirror image: Windows in the Royal Ontario Museum’s Michael Lee-Chin Crystal (above) reflect an image of the Museum House on Bloor condo tower under construction across Bloor Street. Below is a view of the Museum House condos building from Philosopher’s Walk to its south, on the University of Toronto campus. Both photos were taken on April 1, 2011.


Museum House condos viewed from Philosophers Walk at U of T


Renovators tackle Eaton Centre’s Trinity Court

Toronto Eaton Centre interior

Scaffolding stands three storeys high in the Trinity Court escalator banks while the 250 Yonge St. office tower entrance (top right) sports a sleek new look


Renovators move north: Now that Centre Court looks crisp and clean with its new flooring, handrails and refurbished escalator banks, Toronto Eaton Centre renovators have turned their attention to the northern half of the shopping mall area — specifically, in and around Trinity Court outside the Sears store.

The Centre’s two-year, $120-million revitalization project has been chugging along for months, and regular visitors have become accustomed to taking detours and dodging scaffolding en route to their favourite retailers. For the past few weeks, shoppers have had to wind around hoarding to access the Trinity Court escalators while contractors replace handrails on the upper levels, refurbish the lifts, and replace the old tile floors.

New glass and stainless steel handrails have been installed on Level 2 in the retail area between the information desk and Trinity Court, but the old floor tiles there haven’t yet been changed. But with the railing replacement work out of the way, the scaffolding and temporary artificial ceiling have been removed from Level 1 (the mall’s lower level), and traffic is back to normal down there.

For its part, Level 2 looks open and bright — it has lost the dark, almost claustrophic feel it had before.

Below are some recent photos;  to see even more, check out the Toronto Eaton Centre revitalization album on the Photo Sets page of the blog.


Toronto Eaton Centre Trinity Court

February 3 201: The old handrails will be ripped out soon


Toronto Eaton Centre

North view of scaffolding being set up around the Trinity Court escalators


Toronto Eaton Centre

Level 2 view of scaffolding and hoarding around the Trinity Court escalators


Toronto Eaton Centre

Level 2 view of scaffolding in Trinity Court


Toronto Eaton Centre revitalization

The scaffolding in Trinity Court is stacked three storeys high


Toronto Eaton Centre

Hoarding on Level 1 (the Eaton Centre’s lower retail floor)


Toronto Eaton Centre

February 15 2011: Scaffolding is gone, but Level 1 floor still hasn’t been replaced


Toronto Eaton Centre

With the temporary ceiling removed, shoppers can look up to Level 2 once again


Toronto Eaton Centre

Escalator refurbishment at the Queen Street end of the mall


Toronto Eaton Centre

Someone shut the barn door: The Pottery Barn has moved out of the Eaton Centre

Toronto Eaton Centre

The Shooting Fountain in Centre Court is still popular with visitors

Toronto Eaton Centre

Level 2 (behind the information kiosk) feels far less confined and dark

Toronto Eaton Centre

The new railings on Level 2 provide a better view of Level 1

Toronto Eaton Centre

The new flooring looks good on Level 3, but it looks bare without the row of giant ficus benjamina trees that used to grace this stretch of shops

Toronto Eaton Centre

February 25 2011: The old metal handrails have been removed from Trinity Court

Toronto Eaton Centre

Level 4 view of the scaffolding in Trinity Court

Toronto Eaton Centre

Old railings and floor tiles on Level 4 eventually will be replaced

Toronto Eaton Centre

These stairs and escalator at Centre Court were refurbished recently

Toronto Eaton Centre

A closer look at the new stairs and refurbished escalator

Toronto Eaton Centre

Visitors check out the Level 4 south view over Centre Court

Toronto Eaton Centre

Toronto Eaton Centre south view from Level 4

Go, fish! Governments believed ready to splash some cash to lure aquarium to base of CN Tower

Ripley Aquarium

Ripley aquarium

Architectural renderings of the proposed Toronto Ripley Aquarium

Shore thing?: Toronto may finally get a much-needed new tourist attraction now that various levels of government are prepared to pump millions of dollars into the project — a Ripley Aquarium that will sit at the base of the CN Tower off Bremner Blvd.

In a story posted on its website last night, the Toronto Star reports that governments are prepared to take the plunge and invest taxpayer dollars in the aquarium project because of the obvious spin-off economic benefits such a major attraction would provide to the city. Ripley’s had applied to the city in November 2009 for zoning approval to build the three-storey entertainment complex which would include the aquarium as well as retail and restaurant facilities. The City gave approval last summer, but negotiations have continued to work out project details. Now the project is even closer to fruition, with sources telling the Star that construction is on the horizon since contracts could be signed as early as this summer. If so, the 150,000-square-foot attraction could be ready in time for the Pan Am Games in July 2015. 

One of the aquarium’s top tourist draws will be “the largest underwater tunnel in North America,” Ripley’s Entertainment president Jim Pattison Jr. told the Star. “There will be tens of thousands of different (marine) animals,  and some features that will be unique to Toronto,” he said. Further details about potential government investment in the aquarium are outlined in the Star story available at this link. Additional information about the Ripley’s Aquarium and its location beneath the CN Tower is provided in a public art plan that was submitted to the city’s Public Art Commission last July.

Building the aquarium beneath the CN Tower is a brilliant idea, I think, since the Tower draws nearly 2 million visitors a year to the area, and the Rogers Centre and convention centre are both right next door. Other nearby tourist draws include the Air Canada Centre just a five-minute walk away on Bremner Blvd., and Harbourfront just a 10-minute walk to the south. Toronto desperately needs more tourist attractions; as the Star points out, the Hockey Hall of Fame was the last major tourist attraction to open in the city, and that was 20 years ago.

It’s almost embarrassing to read the Toronto forum on and see how short the list of city tourist attractions actually is (besides recommending visits to the Royal Ontario Museum, Art Gallery of Ontario, Eaton Centre, Hockey Hall of Fame and CN Tower, locals usually recommend tourists leave the city for day trips to Niagara Falls and Niagara-on-the-Lake instead.)

Personally, I’ll be thrilled to see construction commence since I have heard talk about bringing an aquarium to Toronto since I moved here nearly 30 years ago. That’s been more than enough time for talk and wishful thinking. It’s high time now to finally get this project going!

Below are some photos I’ve taken of the proposed aquarium site — presently a grassy knoll between the CN Tower and the Metro Toronto Convention Centre.

Aquarium development proposal sign

Aquarium development proposal sign near the CN Tower

Ripley Aquarium site

CN Tower observation deck view of proposed Ripley Aquarium site Nov. 2 2010

Ripley Aquarium site

View towards the Ripley Aquarium site from the base of the CN Tower

Ripley Aquarium site

Aquarium site viewed from walkway along the east side of the Rogers Centre

Ripley Aquarium site

The aquarium would be built on this grassy hillside beneath the CN Tower

Ripley Aquarium site

View toward the Ripley Aquarium site from the south side of Bremner Blvd.

City Scene: Frank Gehry’s Baroque Stair at the AGO

AGO staircase

The view straight up the Frank Gehry-designed staircase in the AGO

Twists & turns: Most visitors watch their feet while they huff and puff their way up — or down — the many wooden steps of the Baroque Stair at the Art Gallery of Ontario. Some look out the windows, and some glance at the people they pass, but most don’t bother looking up. Straight up, that is, at the staircase spiralling upwards above them. It’s too bad, because they’re missing a real treat.

Designed by Frank Gehry, the Baroque Stair is one of my favourite architectural elements in the recently renovated gallery. Whenever I walk the Stair, I like to stop and look up at the sensuous curves of the wooden form that twists and turns overhead, linking ground-level Walker Court with the AGO’s new fifth floor contemporary art galleries. I notice new things about the Stair every time — surprising shapes, textures and colours that vary in different levels of light. For me, the Baroque Stair is a delightful piece of eye candy that takes my mind off the long, thigh-burning climb (it’s a very long walk indeed — the Stair is approximately 11 residential stories tall).

As AGO director/CEO Matthew Teitelbaum notes in an audio commentary on the gallery website, Gehry designed the Baroque Stair to be a “place of experience, not just a way of getting somewhere.” For me, that experience is one of the highlights of any visit to the AGO.  Below are several more pics of the Stair.

More photos and further information about Gehry’s gallery transformation are provided at this link on the AGO website.


AGO Baroque Stair


Art Gallery of Ontario Baroque Stair


Art Gallery of Ontario Baroque Stair


Art Gallery of Ontario Baroque Stair

City Scenes: Snow and ice on the ROM’s Crystal

ROM Michael Lee-Chin Crystal

Snow and ice on the Royal Ontario Museum’s Michael Lee-Chin Crystal

Snowy crystal: Until earlier this month, I had never seen the Royal Ontario Museum’s Michael Lee-Chin Crystal after a snowfall. Toronto didn’t get much snow last winter or in 2009, so whenever I was in the ROM’s vicinity, the Daniel Libeskind-designed Crystal looked the same as it does in summer. But I finally got to see a very wintry-looking Crystal when I passed the ROM on January 9. Here’s several pics from that afternoon.


Michael Lee-Chin Crystal


Michael Lee-Chin Crystal


Michael Lee-Chin Crystal


Michael Lee-Chin Crystal