Category Archives: things to do

Criss Angel “Believe” Review: Magnificent Illusions in Las Vegas

This October I took some time off from my parental leave to attend the PubCon online marketing conference in Las Vegas.  I don’t drink or gamble so my favourite Vegas activity is attending the great shows they have to offer throughout the city.  On my last trip to Vegas I saw the Cirque show “KA” and fell in love with what the Cirque has to offer.   I have always been mesmerized by the YouTube videos of Criss Angel’s illusions and I loved the idea of seeing him live in the Cirque du Soleil production “Believe”.

I lucked out since the show was playing at the Luxor, where I was staying during my trip.   I stayed at the Luxor the last time I was in Vegas also and I love the Egyptian theme of the building. Every night I was taken in by the powerful light streaming from the top of the Pyramid that houses the Luxor shows, the Titanic Exhibition and Casino.

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When it was time for the show, it was easy to navigate from my hotel room to the performance stadium. The theater had a dark and eerie feel which, to be honest, spiked my anticipation. I could tell other audience members were excited to be there as well.

The show itself was very good. I had read a number of reviews claiming that he is the best magician in  Las Vegas, and he did not disappoint. The strip promotes a lot of fun and quirky magicians to see; after all, it is one of the trademarks of Las Vegas. The program brochure claims that he performs over 40 illusions, and I have to say he delivered on every one.

This show is much more than a magic show. It is fun, it is engaging, and it is even dangerous at times. I applaud Criss Angel on the right combination of lights, music, and fire along with the entertainment. I was particularly engaged at how he keeps eye contact with the audience. It is as if he’s personally welcoming you to the show.

Although I had a great time at the production, there were a couple of downsides. One is the comedic breaks he takes between the acts where his goofy assistant does some lame stand-up and simple tricks.  It’s not quite as well executed as the comedic breaks in the other Cirque shows I have seen.  At the same time, I understand all performers need a break during their shows.  The other is his self-promotion. Do not get me wrong; I feel every performer should have the opportunity to promote their work, but I think he does it a little too often.   He also spent several minutes talking about how he is rated the best magician in Vegas, how he has the most YouTube downloads, and how he has the most time on TV etc.  All those quick facts could have been put into the program brochure instead of interrupting the flow and fun of the show.

I do not want to give away too much of his performance, but his introductory mind reading trick on people that were clearly chosen at random was stunning and had me at the edge of my seat for the rest of the show. If you like watching variety shows like “America’s Got Talent” or have never been to a magic show this is a must attend show while you are in Vegas.

GIANT PANDAS coming to the Toronto Zoo this May.

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With summer around the corner, I’ve been trying to convince my wife that we should take a family trip to the Toronto Zoo. Our oldest daughter Amina is 21 months old which is old enough to enjoy looking at the animals from her picture books. Last year we went to African Lion Safari when she was under one but at the time she didn’t really understand what was going on.  It’ll be interesting to see what her reactions to real live animals will be like this time.

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This summer the Toronto Zoo has an exhibit featuring two new Pandas: Er Shun and Da Mao and their exhibit opens May 18. Did you know that Pandas are carnivores?  Most people think they only eat Bamboo, but their diet consists of 90% bamboo and 10% other food items including meat like birds and rodents. These two pandas won’t be short on bamboo since FedEx is delivering 600-900 kilograms from the Memphis Zoo in the United States two to three times per week, to keep them well fed.  Pandas are very picky eaters. They will take a stalk of bamboo, smell it, and decide if they like it or not. If it doesn’t appeal to them, they will just toss it. I bet Amina wishes she could do that when we feed her blended Broccoli.

The pandas are only 1 of 500 species and there are over 5000 animals at the Toronto Zoo, being one of the biggest zoos in the world. We are pretty lucky to have it right in our backyard given that Pandas are an endangered species.    To find out more about the Toronto Zoo and its pandas check out this link.

A Toronto landmark takes a break – Ontario Place shutting down until 2017.

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Ontario Place is temporarily closing until its expected revitalization in 2017.  Some areas of Ontario Place will be ready for the 2015 Pan Am Games, and privately run attractions (Atlantis, the Molson Amphitheatre and marina) will remain open throughout the redevelopment.  Ontario Place was opened on Victoria Day in 1971 and was welcomed as a ‘beacon of the future’, an achievement which represented Ontario’s richness and untouched potential. Four decades ago, newspapers acclaimed the ‘futuristic playground’ made into Lake Ontario on manmade islands and creative pods.  Its closure and revitalization is due to its inability to make a profit since its opening year when 2.5 million people visited the attraction.  Last year,  Ontario Place saw about 1 million visitors and half that number only walk through it to get to the Molson Amphitheatre.

My wife and I enjoyed the attraction in 2010 and we had quite an adventure that saw a bag I was carrying with food and my glasses drop into the propeller of a bumper boat. The food was lost, the glasses got scratched and the boat’s motor started releasing smoke … good times. I’m  looking forward to going back in 2017 when Ontario Place becomes a futuristic Toronto attraction again.

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Construction underway for 2015 Toronto Pan AM games

Athletes Village Toronto Pan AM games

After some inactivity due to the birth of our baby and some crazy times at work, I’m back in the blogosphere! I recently spent a great weekend with a group of bloggers I took down to the Detroit auto show and their enthusiasm and dedication shamed me into reviving my own blog.  So here we go:

Infrastructure Ontario and Waterfront Toronto announced today that they have signed a $514 million  contract for the development of the Athletes’ Village during the Toronto 2015 Pan/Parapan American Games. The village is set to be built on the West Don Lands — an area triangulated by  the Port Lands, Corktown and the southern terminus of the Don Valley Parkway.

The project is expected to create and support 5,200 jobs, including employment of approximately 700 workers on the construction site.

I’m excited by any activity that brings more visibility to Toronto within the international community and cultivates Tourism. What do you think?

CN Tower Edgewalk – For Toronto Thrill seekers

Do you love bungie jumping, skydiving and other crazy things that I would not go near even if someone paid me 1000 bucks?  If so the CN Tower Edgewalk  might be a cool way to get thrills this summer.  For 175$ starting in August, you’ll be able to circle around the CN tower without a guard rail to protect you while you walk on a see through ledge.

On a side note: When I was in Montreal the joke was that the CN was a towering symbol of Torontonians trying to compensate for their deficiencies. The CN tower was the tallest free standing structure from 1976 until 2010, but then the insecurities of Dubai and China manifested themselves in the form of Burj Khalifa and the Canton tower knocking the CN tower off it’s perch.