There are so many things to consider when buying a home. Is it large enough to accommodate your needs? Is it close to amenities? What’s the neighbourhood like? One thing we overlook is the property’s proximity to parks. We tend to overlook the value of this public space, but when the kids want to go out and play, or you want a retreat from your daily routine, a park becomes essential.
Being one of the most beautiful cities on the planet (c’mon, you know it is), Toronto offers a wealth of scenic sights – from idyllic beaches and lush parks, to historical architecture and modern-day structures. There are a lot of places in the city to walk and take in the sights, but we’ve chosen a few truly unforgettable places to stroll.
1. Long and Relaxing
- The Beaches Boardwalk
The Beaches is a popular tourist destination, residential area and Torontonian favourite, where you’ll find quiet streets, impromptu volleyball games in the sand and a wealth of festivals. The boardwalk is a great place to take a stroll, to see the gorgeous homes on one side that serve as weekend getaways for downtowners, and the infinite view of Lake Ontario on the other.
- Tommy Thompson Park
The park, named after a former Toronto Parks Commissioner, is located on the man-made Leslie Street Spit. Walk or ride down the bike trail to the spit’s northern end and you’ll find this park and its abundance of natural species, from cottonwood forests to coastal marshes. The park is also home to many species of birds. This often-overlooked park is an ideal spot for a weekend trek with the family, but be sure to pack plenty of water and snacks as this is an all-day activity.
2. Fun and Unpredictable
- The Harbourfront (Queens Quay)
Downtown’s waterfront area is lined with restaurants, hotels, parks, cruises, buskers, concerts – you name it! If you want to take a walk and never know what you’ll encounter on your stroll, Harbourfront is a safe bet. A popular spot among cyclists as well (thanks to new, smoothly-paved bike lanes), pedestrian areas stretch right along the serene waterfront and winding tree-lined trails in the Harbourfront’s many parkettes. For Torontonians looking for a quiet, introspective walk, it may be better to look elsewhere as The Harbourfront can experience heavy foot traffic – particularly on weekends.
- Canoe Landing
Located in the newly developed City Place neighbourhood, Canoe Landing services the many residents who live around it. You’ll find two multipurpose sports fields and walking paths in this urban park, as well as a man-made elevation allowing visitors to see Lake Ontario to the south.
3. Along The Creek
- Rosedale Ravine Trail
An amazing path situated in the middle of Toronto will make you think you’ve left town, that begins at Yonge and St. Clair. Rosedale Ravine Trail follows a creek that slices the forest in half and makes you feel like you’ve really gotten away.
- Charles Sauriol Conservation Area
Named after the well-known conservationist whose work helped preserve the Don River, this area is part of the East Don River Trail system. You’ve probably spotted the park while driving along the Don Valley Parkway without knowing it. It’s home to the Rainbow Bridge, an iconic piece of Toronto architecture, as well as many plant and wildlife species.
4. Green and Spacious
- High Park
One of Toronto’s largest public park offers various hiking trails and sports facilities where people can get active. Of course, lounging on the grass after a long walk with a book is highly acceptable too here. Surrounded by lush greenery and a small lake, High Park is undoubtedly a perfect venue for a walk, whatever hour of the day it may be.
- Rouge National Urban Park
This national urban park sprawls into Toronto, Markham, Pickering and Uxbridge– it’s gigantic! In addition to being home to the Toronto Zoo, you’ll find over 1,500 species of animals and plants in their natural habitat. Pack a picnic lunch, bring the family and spend an afternoon hiking along its many trails. Or spend the night at the campground (the only one of its kind in Toronto). Rouge Park is still under development, but once it’s completed will be the largest urban protected area in North America. It’s truly something all GTA-ers should be proud of.
5. Tale of Two Rivers
- Don River Trail
Commonly referred as the Don, it’s actually composed of two rivers, the east and west branches that flow southward into Lake Ontario. And the trail is wondrous. We recommend sourcing hiking trails through the Discover the Don, which maps out the countless trails and sites to see along the various hiking paths. The best part? Most of these trails are just a short walk or bike ride from a public transit stop. Take a day with the family and discover public art projects, local species and beautiful ravines.
- The Eaton Centre
Situated right smack-dab downtown, the bright and lengthy shopping mall with over 250 stores is bound to have you reach your footstep quota for the day. It is one of the most popular destinations in the city. The newly completed Nordstrom has added an elevated touch to the mall, and its food court (called the Urban Eatery) has a state of the art disposal system for the environmentally friendly among us. If you need a respite from the throngs of people, head over to the Church of the Holy Trinity just outside the mall’s western entrance. This Gothic revival-style building, built in 1847, was supposed to be demolished to make way for the shopping centre, now serves the needs of the urban homeless and street-involved that live in the neighbourhood.
- Queen Street West
If you prefer perusing stores outside the confines of a shopping mall, Queen Street West is the place to go. Big-name brands (from the likes of Zara, H&M and Rudsak), local boutiques and brunch spots can all be found huddled side by side in former red and brick row-houses along this bustling stretch of Toronto’s west end from Bathurst to Dufferin Streets. The 14.6-hectare Trinity Bellwoods Park is also located along this street, so relaxing under the shade of trees after a long day of shopping is an option for those in the neighbourhood.
- Casa Loma
Built in the early 1900s by Sir Henry Pellatt, what could be more enchanting than a stroll through this iconic Toronto museum that was once a lavish residence? This area may just give you the feeling that you’re a protagonist in a classic, magical novel. The castle features seven floors surrounded by 3.16 hectares of grounds. It’s a perfect spot for an afternoon date, especially for one its summer events in the garden.
8. Arts and History
- The Distillery District
An epicentre for the arts and culture, this part of the town is engulfed with Victorian era buildings that house fabulous restaurants, retail spaces and galleries. The Distillery district, indeed, is the perfect escape from downtown. It also features the largest collection of Victorian-era industrial architecture in North America.
- Riverdale Park
Made up of two parks, one to the east and the other to the west, Riverdale Park is home to fabulous views of the Toronto skyline, as well as sports fields and a swimming pool. The two sections are connected by a footbridge that runs along the Don Valley Parkway, Bayview Avenue, the Canadian National Railway. The park is a part of Toronto’s rich history, as it was once owned by John Scadding, one of Toronto’s first settlers. Take a wander just west of the park and discover Riverdale Farms, a city-run public farm complete with a petting zoo.
9. Out of the city
- Bronte Creek Provincial Park
This 6.4-hectare park is located at Oakville’s west end, and features everything from hiking and swimming, to overnight camping and cross country skiing. The Spruce Lane Farmhouse located in the park is a historical landmark. Built in 1899, it now houses costumed interpreters in the summer months. The park’s nature centre showcases aquariums, terrariums and other natural history exhibits in the spring and summer for the visiting public and school groups.
- Port Credit Memorial Park
Located at the mouth of the Credit River and Lake Ontario, this Mississauga park is a focal part of the community. Families love the park for its picnic areas, playgrounds and skateboard park, and the barbecues and sports facilities are used in the warmer months. Two festivals bring crowds to Port Credit Memorial Park: the Waterfront Festival and the Port Credit Southside Shuffle. (For a list of the best parks in Mississauga, click here).