UPDATED OCT 17, 2019
Toronto has over 1,500 parks, each with trails, sports fields, beaches, BMX parks, street art, and off-leash dog areas. If you want to get a feel for what it’s really like to live in the city, consider putting one or two of these green escapes on your must-see list.
Pass by these gardens and you might just witness a wedding or a photoshoot… or a photoshoot for a wedding. It’s got a formal entrance gate and stone steps leading down to the flower gardens, a favorite for special events. If you’re not getting hitched or posing for pics, you can relax in the gardens or go for a run through its Discovery Route Trail (where you’ll find yourself going through ravines and another Toronto park) — both will give you all the R&R you need.
Brick Works was an abandoned brick factory that has now been turned into a hip, industrial space devoted to sustainability. Want to know how to compost or how to DIY eco-friendly products? This is the place to go. Plus, there are trails that will lead you to a peak of the park where you can find a phenomenal view of Toronto’s skyline. When you’re done being active, fill your tote with fresh market food or grab a hot cup from The Sipping Container.
Some say you can find the best view of Toronto’s skyline here (and we’d have to say it’s a strong contender). Broadview Ave. is the best place to catch an impressive panorama. Another special feature about the park is the Riverdale Farm. Besides spending time with cute baby goats, it can help offer you a sense of the peace and serenity associated with rural life, which is always hard to find in a big city.
If you know Toronto, then you’ll know Yorkville is the definition of posh, filled with high-end restaurants and boutique shops. Everything is found in small, Victorian-like houses, similar to streets of a modern European village in the heart of the city. You get the everyday normal, then you get the celebrity sightings, especially during Toronto’s International Film Festival (TIFF). But it’s also a relaxing spot to people-watch or take a break if you’ve spent all your time shopping on Bloor Street, which is adjacent to the park.
Grange Park may be one of Toronto’s best architectural feats. It was developed through a partnership between the City of Toronto and the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) that revitalized the downtown space to be more community-friendly. It’s totally got that art studio vibe, too — the park is beside OCAD and has sculptures moved from other parts of the city. Don’t just stretch your legs but also open your mind while hanging out in Grange Park, coffee in hand.
Want to feel like you’ve just transported to Hogwarts? Visit University of Toronto. This campus is so large that it’s worth spending an entire afternoon discovering the different sites, green spaces, and ideal seats for a quality sit. There are nice, enclosed grassy spaces surrounded by castle-like architecture and wide sports fields where you can find people playing Quidditch (seriously, this place is Hogwarts).
401 Richmond is truly a hidden gem. This arts and culture hub in Downtown Toronto is filled with greenery inside and out and has a rooftop garden with a beautiful view of the city’s skyline. In the winter, tropical plants are brought inside from the garden, which make the hallways really feel like an oasis. Who wouldn’t want a work space like that?
Trinity Bellwoods is one of Toronto’s most popular parks, and that’s probably because it’s right by Queen West and Ossington — two streets with some of the best food in the city. It’s a nice space for a picnic, and from May-October, you can grab food from their farmers market. The park brings together so many communities across Toronto, it can really help the big city feel a bit smaller. Plus, the hills in the park also make for a killer workout, great if you’re looking to add some intervals to your runs.
What isn’t there to do in High Park? One of Toronto’s largest parks, it features hiking trails, sports facilities, dog parks, playgrounds, and a zoo, so you’re guaranteed to never get bored. On Tuesday–Sunday from June–September, you can attend Shakespeare in High Park performances for free. And in the early spring, people flood the Hillside Gardens to witness the Cherry Blossom Trees. They only last up to two-and-a-half weeks at most if the weather persists. Bring your picnic blanket, snacks, and post up on the lawn to appreciate the beauty at its best!
First and foremost, Christie Pits has outdoor movies all summer long! And they’re completely free. The courts and pitches at Christie are also some of Toronto’s favourites, along with its playgrounds and tobogganing hills. With the added intimate feel of the sloped hills and shaded areas, it’s perfect for picnics and potlucks. Fitt Tip: grab yourself a slice of vegan pizza at Apiecalypse, it’s right across the from the southeast end of the park.
Fun fact: this park was built for the summer 2015 Pan Am games as a village for the athletes. But Corktown Common is really a product of smart design for our public green spaces. It’s small in size but was built intentionally to open up sight lines to the city’s skyline and waterfront and contains everything from modern, non-traditional playgrounds to wetlands and water lily ponds. And having a public fireplace is also nice for barbeques or warming up in the winter time. Better yet, bring s’mores supplies, too.
Sometimes you just need some room to breathe while you’re sightseeing, but maybe you don’t want to head too far from downtown. We got you. The City Hall podium roof is where you should go. It has a bird’s eye view of Nathan Phillips Square (a top tourist spot in Toronto), so, naturally, it’s great for people-watching. But the space is unique in that it minimizes the scale of downtown a little bit, which is refreshing whenever the concrete jungle feels overwhelming.
Talk about genius, Yo Yo Ma actually co-designed this space, along with a few other Canadian musicians! The layout is meant to reflect Bach’s Suite No. 1 through landscape, which makes it a tourist hot spot. The garden hosts tours, and, of course, free music concerts in the summer. Plus, it’s practically an outdoor botanical garden because of the variety of species here. Be sure to find a nook or corner to relax in — it’s truly a peaceful space.
One short ferry ride away and you’re off to a tropical island! Okay, not really, but the Toronto Islands do make for a relaxing getaway. (And you might not be able to resist taking a picture of the city from the ferry boat — it’s encouraged.) You can rent tandem bikes if you’re with friends, visit the nude beach (if you’re into that), canoe, sail, or kayak. There’s even a mini amusement park. And if you missed out on the cherry blossom trees in High Park, you can catch the Sakura trees (a variety of cherry trees) on the islands.
Centennial is Toronto’s second largest park and has probably been used for more national events than any other park. It was originally made in time for Canada’s 100th birthday in 1967, and not even 10 years later, it was home to the summer Paralympic Games. One of the park’s biggest selling points is the BMX park, so you shouldn’t be surprised to hear that it also hosted BMX cycling at the 2015 Pan Am Games. Drop in and see for yourself!
Coronation Park is another gem along our beautiful waterfront. It’s a luscious, green outdoor space where you can walk your dog, have a picnic, or batter up at the baseball diamonds. Arrive in the evenings and you might catch a few outdoor bootcamps taking place, but don’t feel bad if all you wanted to do is take a nap on the grass. It’s further out east, close to Ontario Place, which means it’s a great escape from the craziness of the central Harbourfront.