Often called a city within a park, Toronto has more than 1,500 parks covering 8,000 hectares. Toronto’s fabulous parks feature beaches, public artwork, playgrounds, sports fields, gardens, conservatories, ice rinks, outdoor theatre, and biking and hiking trails, not to mention plenty of space to just lie in the grass.
Just a short ferry trip away, and you’re immersed in over 600 acres of beauty on Toronto Island. The island provides a parkland paradise; if not for the spectacular skyline view, it would be easy to forget you’re anywhere near the city. There’s plenty of fun on offer for the family, not to mention awesome options for spring or summer dates
From Centreville Amusements, the Franklin Children’s Garden, and the year-round (and free entry) Far Enough Farm to pedestrian and cyclist trails, there’s plenty to do. There are bike and boat rentals, with follow-up relaxation on a licensed patio, the opportunities for fun are endless; even the ferry ride over is part of the fun!
Located in the Don Valley, Brick Works Park showcases Toronto’s dedication to healthy and diverse ecosystems. The area is one of the city’s most valued natural environment parks and is home to wetlands, wild flower meadows, forest habitats, and steep cliff faces, not to mention the many species that call the park home. Transformed from a quarry site into a nature sanctuary, the park is directly north of the fabulous Evergreen Brick Works. An award-winning community environmental centre, it also features a year-round weekend farmer’s market and regular event schedule, as well as retail shops and the delicious Café Belong.
As the largest public park in the city, High Park contains an outstanding number of options for the nature lover and an incredible concentration of rare plant species. In addition to the famous cherry blossoms, hiking trails, sports facilities, beautiful lakefront, dog park, playgrounds, restaurants, greenhouses and picnic areas, there’s even a mini-zoo!
The Scarborough Bluffs stretch for about 15 km along the Lake Ontario shore, from the Eastern Beaches of Toronto in the west, to West Hill in the east. Formed by the natural erosion processes of wind and water from Lake Ontario, this stunning spot offers spectacular views as well as trails, beaches, and excellent butterfly watching in the spring and fall migration. The inclusion here could be considered a bit of a cheat since the entire area in fact includes nine parks.
Rouge Park is considered one of Toronto’s best kept secrets, with some city slickers barely registering its existence. For Durham-based commuters, however, it’s a regular spot and a lovely view on route to TO. Parks Canada runs guided outings and events in the park, which is on its way to becoming Canada’s first national urban park. The park is the outdoorsy city person’s dream, just a stones through from downtown but with all the northern joys of hiking, camping, canoeing, swimming and fishing.
Located on Queen West at Strachan, Trinity Bellwoods is easily accessible via TTC and jam-packed with amenities and space. The park has everything from volleyball, tennis, and baseball facilities to picnic sites and playgrounds. An oasis away from a tough day of shopping and caffeine consumption along Queen West. Information on the park’s greenhouses and farmer’s markets is available from the Friends of Trinity Bellwoods Park, and a full events calendar is available from the City.
Located in Riverdale, between Logan and Carlaw, just south of Danforth Avenue, Withrow Park is a hidden gem for newcomers and a weekend must for the neighbors The park is a whopping eight hectares and home to baseball diamonds, a sports field, outdoor tennis courts, table tennis, and a dog park, as well as children’s play areas and a wading pool. The Friends of Withrow Park host events in the park year-round, from skating and caroling parties in winter to pumpkin parades and picnics when the weather’s fine.
The park is also home to a farmer’s market every Saturday from May to October. Throw in a bonfire pit (permits are available from the city) and the fabulous Shakespeare in the Ruff performing every August, and it’s the perfect summer spot.
Since the 1800s, when the Beach boasted amusement rides and quaint cottages, both tourists and Torontonians alike have flocked to this east-end neighbourhood. With tennis courts, a baseball diamond, wading pool in the summer and ice rink during the winter, not to mention the picturesque bandstand and playgrounds, it’s no wonder that Kew Gardens is the go-to venue for those in the know. The park regularly hosts events, with movie nights a favourite throughout the summer; it’s also home to the Beach Guild of Fine Art, a group of local artists who regularly host exhibits and sales in the Historic Gardener’s Cottage. There’s even appeal in the rain, with the beautiful Beaches Branch of the Toronto Public Library on site.
Check out the Beach Village website for news on current events in the neighborhood.
Sitting opposite the Toronto Botanical Gardens, which themselves span nearly four acres, Edwards Gardens is a former estate garden featuring wildflowers, fountains, and merry squirrels. Be sure to check out the website for news on Edwards Summer Music Series, for the perfect pairing of eclectic tunes and eco-friendly vibes.
Tom Thomson’s Canoe by Douglas Coupland | Nicole Egan
Canoe Landing Park, near Spadina Avenue and Lake Shore Boulevard West, is a privately funded, eight-acre urban park that’s well worth a visit for the art enthusiast. Canadian artist and author Douglas Coupland is to thank for Tom Thomson’s Canoe, often simply referred to as the Red Canoe, which inspired the park’s name. The larger-than-life canoe is sizeable enough for people to stand in and look out over Lake Ontario (just behind the bumper-to-bumper traffic on the Gardiner). The park is also home to iceberg benches and a colourful display of fishing floats in steel, resin, and LEDs, also by the artist.