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100 Things: Visit Toronto – so close and so many things to do

Toronto and Buffalo have met once before on our 100 Things journey. One unruly night at KeyBank Center, we explored the friendly but raucous rivalry between the Buffalo Sabres and the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Now, we explore Toronto itself.

It's a funny place, Toronto. Going there, you know you're in a foreign country. The people don't look like us. Their houses don't look like ours. Bloor, Bathurst, Spadina, Yonge, Dundas and Dufferin – you just don't find names like that here. Duff's, yes. Dufferin, no.

And let's admit it, if there's a friendly rivalry between our hockey teams, we feel a similar sense toward Toronto itself. Toronto used to be smaller than Buffalo. Now it's bigger. That ain't right.

But that's one reason every Western New Yorker should go to Toronto. It puts things in perspective.

Fireworks over the Toronto skyline during opening ceremony for the 2015 Pan American Games in July 2015. (Harry How/Getty Images)

Do we really want their high-rises, their traffic problems? Isn't it better to have this sprawling, international megalopolis right in our own backyard? So we can go visit?

What fun it is to have this neighbor so like us, but so different. In the spirit of the 100 Things, here is a list of things every Western New Yorker should do in Toronto – comparing and contrasting all the way.

Visit the St. Lawrence Market. They sell sausages, spices, aprons, gifts, candy, everything. Make mental notes for the Broadway Market.

Wander the Kensington Market.  Stop for a hippie lunch, an exotic herb tea, or gourmet hot chocolate.

Go up to the top of the CN Tower. Look at Buffalo. That's what the Torontonians do. The famous Toronto pianist Glenn Gould said that when the tower opened. He said, "Toronto likes to look at Buffalo."

Pop into one of Toronto's many British-style pubs and remember you are in the British commonwealth. Look for steak and kidney pie, Yorkshire pudding, and fish and chips. You'll probably find wings, too. Taste them and sit in judgment.

Save room so you can stop into one of Toronto's many ethnic restaurants, different from our ethnic restaurants.

Stroll through the Royal York Hotel, where British royalty have stayed.

At the Hockey Hall of Fame, reflect bitterly on the Sabres and the Maple Leafs.

Dominik Hasek reminds Sabres fans of better days. The goaltender was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2014. (Getty Images)

Walk the PATH, an underground warren of shops and restaurants so extensive that it is in the Guinness Book of Records. Why don't we have underground malls?

Shop the Eaton Centre. The striking mall, with its glass ceiling, is Toronto's top attraction, and the most popular mall in North America. Eaton's itself folded in 1999. We're not the only ones to lose our department stores.

Look for celebrities. Once, in a park, my brother and I met Margot Kidder.

Take the subway. They have actual ads, for upscale things.

Another view of downtown Toronto at night, pictured at Nuit Blanche in 2014. (Sharon Cantillon/Buffalo News file photo)

Check out Casa Loma, a massive mansion with great views of the city. Notice the Mighty Wurlitzer. Made in North Tonawanda, this renowned instrument was salvaged from the Shea's Hippodrome, Toronto's grand movie palace. Take a rare opportunity to feel sorry for Toronto: They lost their Hippodrome, while we were able to save Shea's Buffalo.

The Bata Shoe Museum, need we say more?

We repeat: The Bata Shoe Museum! Why didn't we have this idea? Let's think up something like it.

Savor some genuine souvlaki meat in Greektown.

The Science Centre, the Royal Ontario Museum and the Toronto Zoo have long been the destinations of many a Western New York field trip. Revisit them and see how much you remember from when you were a kid.

Catch some jazz at the hip Rex Hotel. Off-handedly mention our hip Colored Musicians Club.

Visit the Distillery District and take notes for our Cobblestone District and our burgeoning distillery industry.

Visit the Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto's equivalent to the Albright-Knox Art Gallery.

Toronto's ninth annual Nuit Blanche festival lit up the night in the downtown Toronto in October 2014. This is Shasti O'Leary Soudant's performance art. (Sharon Cantillon/Buffalo News file photo)

See a Mirvish show. Make it a comedy because it's exotic to see how subdued the crowds are next to a Buffalo audience at Shea's. If you see one of the Mirvishes, complain about the recent closing of Honest Ed's Warehouse, a huge, garish, iconic store the family had run since 1948. We don't have to restrict our kvetching to Western New York. We can kvetch about other places too.

Finally, learn some French. Canada being a bilingual nation, you'll have that opportunity.

Vive la difference.

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