This week, the City of Toronto announced a historic deal to reshape Casa Loma into a tourist attraction that will, in the words of Councillor Joe Mihevc, "tell the story of Toronto." At last, tourists can partake in this city's gripping history and bask in its captivating character. Herewith, a sneak peek at some of the attractions coming to a big medieval castle near you.
Upper Canadian Rebel Without a Cause
Located in the Oak Room, this incredibly realistic historical experience lets visitors take part in Toronto's most thrilling act of political insurrection. The place: Montgomery's Tavern, 1837, scene of the Upper Canada Rebellion. You are a disgruntled youth fed up with the governing Tories, who have ignored reformist grievances for too long. All day, you sip pints of flat ale and listen to your leader, William Lyon MacKenzie, fulminate against the colonial oppressors.
Join MacKenzie's unruly throng as they gather for their march down Yonge Street. Smell the puffs of gun smoke as Sheriff William Botsford Jarvis fires his artillery, then join in the full-fledged panic as the rebellion suffers its first of a string of ignominious defeats.
100 Years of a Toronto Kitchen
Situated on the second floor, this two-room diorama with wax figures shows the same midtown kitchen separated by a century, thus telling story of a city, its people, and the food they love.
In the 1911 kitchen, a family eats boiled salt pork and carrots while an Irish maid scrubs pots and pans. See the plucked snow goose sitting on the counter? That's being saved for Thursday, when the Reverend Atkinson is visiting.
The 2011 kitchen, by contrast, is a modern-day fantasy of Italian cabinetry, German appliances and granite counters - only the placement of the window remains from 1911. A young girl in a private-school uniform, whose parents are at a fundraiser, sits at a counter and stares at a flat-screen TV. A Filipina housekeeper microwaves an organic frozen lasagna.
The Christie Pits Riot - In 3-D!
On August 16, 1933, as the final out was called in a baseball game between Harbord and St. Peter's, a flag bearing a swastika was unfurled, thus kicking off what one local newspaper dubbed one of the "worst free-for-alls ever seen in the city," featuring Jews and Italians on one side and "Anglos" on the other. This specially made 3-D film - screened every 20 minutes in the Conservatory - is replete with clenched fists and broken bottles whizzing past your head while recreating a lost Toronto of flappers, hep cats and pre-MMA punches to the head, a bygone era when it was still possible to be white and a visible minority all at the same time.
Eighties Toronto - The Video Game
Too young to remember Toronto before it was the T-Dot? Then enter the Windsor Room and try your hand at the arcade video-game sensation that brings the eighties to life for the iPhone generation.
You are standing in Remy's drinking a bottle of Molson Dry when your analogue Motorola flip phone rings. Score 1,000 points for yelling, "Buy more shares!" before snapping it shut. A blond Cantel sales rep in a black miniskirt begins flirting with you and accepts your invitation to dinner - 2,000 points. You drive your white Ferrari Testarossa to the city's then culinary mecca, Yonge and Eglinton - 5,000 points - where you order the poached skate wing in cilantro vinaigrette at Centro - another 5,000 points. You go to the bathroom to snort coke - new high score! - but when you return to your table your date is at the bar flirting with Gary Leeman - lose 10,000 points. You go to the bathroom to do more coke and miss a call from your real-estate agent, who's calling to tell you the condo market is tanking. Game over.