The Weekender: Jann Arden, Spirited Away and six other items on our to-do list

The Weekender: Jann Arden, Spirited Away and six other items on our to-do list

The Weekender: Jann Arden, Spirited Away and The Neverending Story 

1. JANN ARDEN
Despite all our attempts to be cool, we have to admit the hilarious Jann Arden is one of our favourite Canadian singers. She even gently poked fun at Pam Anderson’s earnest anti-seal tirade at the 2006 Junos, so we’re kind of in love with her. That’s why we’ll be the ones belting out “Insensitive” during her two-night engagement at Massey Hall. March 9 and 10. $59–$99. Massey Hall, 178 Victoria St., 416-870-8000, ticketmaster.ca.

2. SPIRITED AWAY: THE FILMS OF STUDIO GHIBLI
Studio Ghibli, the Japanese animation and film studio that produced beloved—and much-lauded—animated features like Princess Mononoke, Spirited Away and My Neighbor Totoro, gets the Lightbox treatment with this kid-friendly retrospective. Ghibli garners lots of comparisons to Disney—and it’s certainly as influential as the U.S. kid-flick behemoth—but their elegant, fantasy-driven animation is fun for the grown-ups, too. March 10 to April 13. $12. TIFF Bell Lightbox, 350 King St. W., tiff.net.

3. FRIDAY AFTER FIVE: JAMIE KENNEDY DINNER AND A MOVIE
Every instalment of this Gardiner Museum social series has one thing in common: catering from chef Jamie Kennedy. Beyond that, anything goes. Past evenings included live music or wine tastings, but this one is our pick for date night. The dinner portion of the evening features winter minestrone, roast chicken galantine and a summer fruit trifle praline for dessert. Those who haven’t settled into a food coma will be entertained by a screening of the Kevin MacDonald–directed documentary Life in a Day. MacDonald combined footage from 80,000 videos shot on a single day—July 24, 2010—by regular people worldwide. March 9. $55. Gardiner Museum, 111 Queen’s Park, gardinermuseum.com.

4. SUGARBUSH MAPLE SYRUP FESTIVAL
This annual slice of Canadiana is the ideal way to spend a day with the kids. Think about it: hit up this outdoorsy fest and they’ll be getting lots of fresh air and soaking up some history in disguise. Plus, it’s a surefire boredom buster, complete with sap-tapping demos, wagon rides and yummy pancake snacks to enjoy. To April 9. $9. Kortright Centre for Conservation, 9550 Pine Valley Dr., 416-667-6295, maplesyrupfest.com.

5. THE NEVERENDING STORY
In this classic children’s tale, a young boy named Bastian finds refuge from a group of bullies in a book called The Neverending Story—literally. While he stays up all night devouring the story of Fantastica, a land depending on a boy warrior named Atreyu to save them from an enemy called the Nothing, he becomes part of the tale himself and must do his part to rescue Fantastica. To March 17. $20. Young People’s Theatre, 165 Front St. E., 416-862-2222, youngpeoplestheatre.ca.

6. WHAT MAKES IT GREAT?: VIVALDI FOUR SEASONS
Part of the TSO’s Exposed: Unveiling Great Music series, a sort of lecture-meets-concert that features classical greats, this explanation of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons violin concertos is hosted by Rob Kapilow. He’s the host of What Makes It Great? on NPR, making this the perfect partnership. After a brief talk on the background of these popular pieces, he conducts violinist Jennifer Koh and the TSO in a performance of Spring and Summer. March 9. $23–$76. Roy Thomson Hall, 60 Simcoe St., 416-598-3375, tso.ca.

7. TORONTO COMICON
There are plenty of workshops, seminars and shopping opportunities at this fan-filled convention, but for some people, the real draw of these things is the opportunity to rub shoulders with some stars. Here’s a rundown of some of the names: Buffy alum Charisma Carpenter; Revenge of the Nerds’ Robert Carradine and Curtis Armstrong; Wayne’s Worlds Tia Carrere; T2’s Edward Furlong and T3’s Kristanna Loken; various Star Trek players like John Delancie, Robert Picardo and Nicole Deboer; and even Star Wars’ Chewie! (By which we mean, Peter Mayhew.) Happy autograph hunting. March 10 and 11. $20–$30. Metro Toronto Convention Centre, South Building, 222 Bremner Blvd., comicontoronto.com.

8. GHOST TRACKING AT CASA LOMA
For the older crowd who may not be easily scared, this tween-friendly take on Casa Loma’s regular ghost hunting nights is the perfect kick-off to a week’s vacay. With ghost investigators Michelle Desrochers and Patrick Cross hosting, kids get a lesson in ghost-hunting equipment and a rundown of what a “spirit sighting” might entail before they head into the castle to search for ghoulies and ghosties. At the end of the night, the group reconvenes to share their war stories and photos. Registration required. Bring a camera and a small compass. March 9 to 16. $28. Casa Loma, 1 Austin Terr., 647-725-1826, casaloma.org.