Summer in the city marks the beginning of every Torontonian’s favourite pastime – park hopping. With each park offering a different atmosphere and range of activities, we’ve rounded up the best green spaces in Toronto. From splash pads and tennis courts to picnic spots, Toronto’s parks are a blend of urban oasis and vast green expanse. Known as the “city within a park,” here are the best spots to head for when you need to reconnect with nature and your favourite outdoor pastimes.
Without a doubt, this is the most popular park in Toronto. Akin to New York’s Central Park, High Park is the largest public park within the city and also the most accessible. Located just down the street from High Park subway station, it’s easy to hop off the train and head straight into the rolling hills. With a small café on hand for snack breaks, you can spend an entire day here enjoying the facilities, which include a zoo, an off-leash dog park, a public pool, a skating rink, Grenadier Pond, picnic pavilions and hiking and biking trails. During the spring, High Park is also a popular spot to take in the swathes of cherry blossom.
Christie Pits Park
A favourite for those in the west end, a stroll through the scenic Bluffer’s Park can leave you feeling as if you’ve left the city altogether. Surrounded by the towering Scarborough Bluff cliffs, here you’ll find one of the city’s most pristine beaches, meaning its perfect for picnicking in the summer and just as appealing for icy, winter surf sessions. You’ll also find the Bluffer’s Park Marina, where you can cast a line on the dock and grab a bite at Bluffers Restaurant and Grill, known for its fresh and sustainable seafood. Outdoor enthusiasts can also tighten up the laces on their hiking boots and hit the trails, as there are plenty to choose from complete with Instagram-worthy lookout points.
Rouge National Urban Park
Perhaps one of the best-kept secrets in the city, Rouge Park is Canada’s first national urban park and a great spot in which to get back to nature. With paths stretching over 40 kilometres (25 miles), you can enjoy long all-day hikes here, as well as camping, fishing and even swimming at the little hidden beach. Also home to Canada’s largest wetlands, follow the helpful signs to try and identify each creature natural to the boggy land or, for a day out on the water, rent one of the canoes or kayaks on offer. While it may feel like you’re worlds away, Rouge Park is only around 30 minutes from central Toronto thanks to the city’s public transport system, TTC.
Riverdale Park East
Tucked away on the eastern side of the city, this park offers unparalleled views of Toronto thanks to its position high atop a hill. This spot is not only ideal for photographers wanting to capture landscapes, but also for wildlife photography, and there’s even a small working farm in the park with a number of animals including sheep, pigs and ponies. There is also a wading pool to escape the summer heat and a sizable off-leash dog park for four-legged friends.
This picturesque park sits directly on the waterfront with sweeping views of the sailboats docking in the harbour. Get a group together for a picnic – made easy by on-site BBQ pits for roasting or keeping toasty during the cooler months – or keep active at the park’s bocce court, tennis court and two basketball courts.
Trinity Bellwoods Park
Although Trinity Bellwoods Park is often packed during the summer, something about the buzz of everyone enjoying the weather makes this park fun instead of crowded. Its location – right on famed Queen Street West – is ideal for combining a day of shopping and picnicking with friends, and on any given day you might also spot an art installation, beer garden, drop-in basketball game or a book fair taking place.
Toronto Music Garden
For a decidedly unique park experience, visit the Toronto Music Garden. Designed by internationally renowned cellist Yo Yo Ma and landscape designer Julie Moir Messervy, the park was created as a reflection of Bach’s Suite No. 1 in G Major for unaccompanied cello, BWV 1007. The garden itself is a peaceful spot for reflection or reading, and guided tours detailing its history run Wednesdays and Thursdays (there’s also the option of a self-guided audio tour). During the summer months, there are even special concert series on Thursdays and Sundays.
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