Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Discover Toronto like a Star during the Celeb-Filled Toronto Film Festival

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Discover Toronto like a Star during the Celeb-Filled Toronto Film Festival

Article excerpt

A tourist's guide to celeb-watching at TIFF

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TORONTO - Outside Hollywood, there are few places in North America as overrun with celebrities as downtown Toronto in September.

You can thank the Toronto International Film Festival for that -- each year the prestigious movie marathon explodes in celebrity visitors, from Clooney to Kidman to McConaughey.

As such, it's prime time for star trackers and film-loving tourists to head to Hogtown, cameras in tow. This year's fest runs Sept. 5 to 15, but a word to the wise: most A-listers tend to favour the first weekend, when the splashiest premieres and parties take place.

Start with a stop at TIFF Bell Lightbox (350 King St. W.), which is ground zero for filmmakers, journalists and fans. It's also where you'll find an army of volunteers eager to answer questions.

From there, the options are many. Here's a look at some of the best places to eat, shop and not so casually bump into famous people if you happen to be in Toronto:

The films:

A surefire way to see a celeb is to score a ticket to their film premiere, where the stars generally sit in the audience and take part in a Q&A afterward.

But A-list galas sell out instantly, so if you land in Toronto without a ticket your best bet is the rush line. All TIFF films, even the star-studded galas, release tickets at the venue box office 10 minutes before the screening. Needless to say, the lower the star wattage the better your odds, but be prepared to wait hours in a rush line regardless.

And all is not lost for those who can't make it inside -- if you can find a good spot along the red carpet you actually have a better chance of face-time with a friendly celeb. Ryan Gosling and George Clooney have proven to be among the friendliest on the carpet, obliging group photo requests and even holding a few babies.

For the budget-conscious film purists, there's the festival's Cinematheque program which features restored classics. Tickets are free, and are available at the Lightbox on a first-come, first-served basis two hours before each screening.

Hotel hotspots:

Much of a celeb's time during the festival is spent holed up in hotel rooms at press conferences and interviews. That makes hotels perfect spots to scout out autographs -- you can literally wait for an A-lister to just walk by. Think chi-chi in picking your post: the Ritz-Carlton (181 Wellington St. W.), Four Seasons (60 Yorkville Ave.), Park Hyatt (4 Avenue Rd.) and Shangri-La (188 University Ave.) are all good prospects.

But unless you're a guest, you can't just ride the elevators hoping for Ben Affleck to serendipitously hop on. Try lingering outside the front doors as stars leave and arrive, or grab a coffee at the hotel lounge where interviews and celeb powwows occasionally take place. In past years, Jude Law and Jay Baruchel have each held interviews at the Intercontinental's main floor bar (220 Bloor St. W.), while Ralph Fiennes preferred the Park Hyatt lounge overlooking the lobby.

Nightlife:

Technically TIFF is about the films, but for celeb-watchers it's really about the after-parties. Where do the celebs unwind after walking the red carpet at their gala movie premieres? The members-only Soho House (192 Adelaide St. W.) offers an elegantly low-key setting. Last year, Jennifer Lawrence and Woody Harrelson were there to celebrate "Silver Linings Playbook," while Keira Knightley and Jude Law swung by for the "Anna Karenina" after-party. Meanwhile, the bikinis-and-balaclavas pulp flick "Spring Breakers" held its shindig at the sleek, chic resto Brassaii (461 King St. W.), where stars Selena Gomez and Vanessa Hudgens were spotted eating popsicles.

Of course, studio parties are generally private affairs so you may have more luck rubbing shoulders with celebs who prefer to slum it with the locals at low-key hipster haunts. The strip around the intersections of Dundas Street West and Ossington Avenue is one such trendy enclave, bookended by Sweaty Betty's (13 Ossington Ave. …

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