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Nuit Blanche: Survival – even enjoyment – tips for attendees

TORONTO, ON: OCTOBER 2, 2011-A massive crowd gathers at Yonge Dundas Square in Toronto, Ont. during Nuit Blanche on Saturday, October 1, 2011. The contemporary art event takes place overnight from sunset to sunrise.

Michelle Siu/The Globe and Mail

This is the eighth year for Toronto's Nuit Blanche, now officially called Scotiabank Nuit Blanche. Sufficient time, in other words, for Nuit Blanche veterans to have come up with a loose list of dos and don'ts and assorted suggestions for making the long night's journey into day an experience to enjoy, rather an event to be endured. The Globe and Mail chatted with Julian Sleath, programming manager for special events at the City of Toronto, offers advice and counsel.

1. DON'T drive your car, especially downtown. The subways are running until 7 a.m. Sunday and you can buy a TTC Nuit Blanche day pass for $10.75, which can be used by up to six people (two adults maximum, plus children under 19).

2. BE realistic. Pick four or five projects you want to see. Plan to get to each, "then be more spontaneous from there." Just as no one could see all 288 feature films at this year's Toronto International Film Festival, no one will be able to see all 120-plus Nuit Blanche projects in 11 hours and 51 minutes.

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3. HAVE a nap. If you're going to start at 6:51 p.m. and go until midnight or so, Mr. Sleath recommends about 60 minutes of shut-eye between 3 and 5 p.m. He notes more attendees are choosing to sleep until early Sunday, then start out at 2 a.m. with breakfast to finish it off.

4. WEAR sensible shoes, bring a hat and take three pairs of cotton socks. The weather is supposed to be pleasant – with a high of 17 C – with a chance of rain. Besides, observes Mr. Sleath, "it's amazing how refreshing it is to put on clean pair of socks at 2 or 3 in the morning."

5. MAKE a party of it. Mr. Sleath notes that for the past few Blanches, his wife has participated in a roving dinner party. Friends gather for one course – say, soup or salad – and then take in Blanche events en route to the main course, then après entrée, attend more events, followed by dessert.

6. FIRST you take the Distillery District (or Artspace in the Wychwood Barns or West Queen West), then you take Nathan Phillips Square. Downtown, particularly around City Hall, is where the greatest number of revellers will be found, especially during peak hours (8 p.m. to 1 a.m.). As a result, some choose to "enter" the event from outlying areas, working from less crowded to full-on crush.

7. REST. There are four official rest areas, equipped with chairs, benches, tables, toilets and food services, for this year's Scotiabank Nuit Blanche, all of them downtown: Albert Street at Bay; King Street West between Bay and York streets; Grosvenor Street at Queen's Park Crescent East; and Armoury Street at University Avenue. For more information, go to and click on "plan ahead."

8. BE CHOOSY. Yes, it's fun – apparently – to be part of the milling masses at 3 in the morning. But if you prefer to experience art in calmer, less crowded circumstances, why visit an exhibition or installation that's going to be up for days, sometimes weeks after Oct. 5-6? At least six of this year's commissioned projects are having extended runs – including Ai Weiwei's "Forever Bicycles" (till Oct. 27), "Garden Tower" (Metropolitan United Church, till Oct. 14) and "Plastic Bags' (Bell Trinity Square), "The rose is without why" (Nathan Phillips Sq.), "Tanks" (David Pecault Sq.) and "Arctic Trilogy," an installation of three videos by New York's Janet Biggs (15 Adelaide St. W., just east of Bay, also till Oct. 14).

9. DAVID BOWIE IS not in the house. Since Nuit Blanche is mostly free, don't go to the Art Gallery of Ontario expecting to see its big-budget David Bowie exhibition gratis. Ditto Ai Weiwei: According to What? Both are paid admission shows and neither is open for Nuit Blanche. The AGO, however, has organized a Nuit Blanche happening: artist-in residence Diane Borsato is presenting, in Walker Court, Your Temper, My Weather, a sort of performance piece/collective meditation featuring 100 beekeepers in white bee-suits.

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