By Momstown Editor – Alison Martin
There’s more to Toronto than office towers and tourist attractions. Peppered throughout the urban jungle are a number of lush green spaces and activity areas where kids and bigger kids can spend a fun-filled day. Here are just some of our favourites.
Nestled in Toronto’s west-end is High Park, a tranquil, green space stretching from Bloor Street to the Gardiner Expressway. The popular park boasts a variety of activities for every season including outdoor swimming, tennis, tobogganing and skating. Children will love the Jamie Bell Adventure Playground, one of the largest outdoor parks in Ontario, where they can swing from ropes, climb to the castle turrets or sail down the slides.
When the kids are ready for a rest, slow things down by the nearby duck pond and cool off with a treat from the ice cream truck, conveniently located nearby on hot days. Then, stroll through the park’s zoo, open year-round from 7 am until dusk. The zoo which dates back to the early 1900s, is home to bison, deer, llamas, peacocks and highland cattle.
Sign up for the High Park Walking Tour and learn about the park’s history. Not up for walking? Ride the Trackless Train around the park.
During the summer months, families can also watch a play at the outdoor theatre during the annual Dream in High Park. Admission event is free for children 14 and under and adults may make a pay-what you-can donation.
Tucked beneath Toronto’s highway overpasses, the park transforms a previously barren space into a unique urban skate and adventure park. There’s plenty of seating around the park for spectators.
Kids who aren’t into skateboarding can check out the two basketball half courts, modern climbing sphere, hopscotch patches and teeter-totters at the all-ages playground in the middle of the park. And don’t miss artist Paul Ruff’s “Mirage” installation, with mirrors and panels reflecting the fun below.
Sunnyside Park Toronto
This former site of Toronto’s Sunnyside Amusement Park, remains a popular place for picnics and the wading pool. Visitors can choose from a multitude of activities including walking along the boardwalk and climbing the big dinosaur statues, playing beach volleyball and even trekking west to the Martin Goodman Trail and bridge. And on hot days, take a refreshing dip in the lake water or in the Gus Ryder swimming pool.
Dufferin Grove Park
Located on Dufferin Street just south of Bloor Street West, Dufferin Grove Park is popular with kids of all ages. The park boasts an enclosed playground with traditional wooden play structures, as well as an accessible swing and a sandpit, perfect for digging and building.
The park also features a multipurpose sports field, a basketball court, a picnic area, a wading pool and a campfire pits. At the north end of the park is the Dufferin Grove Park Artificial Ice Rink and Clubhouse.
Humber Bay Butterfly Habitat
Toronto’s western lakeshore is home to the Humber Bay Butterfly Habitat, an ecological restoration project and natural habitat for native butterfly species and colourful Monarchs. Four acres of gardens and meadows are filled with wildflowers, tall grasses and interactive signs to prompt you along self-guided tours and to help identify the butterflies fluttering about. Check out the Home Garden to learn how to create a butterfly habitat in your own backyard.
In the shadows of Toronto’s towers and condos, slotted between the Metro Toronto Convention Centre and Rogers Centre, is the Roundhouse Park. The park features the original, fully restored and operational 120-foot long locomotive turntable and a carefully chosen collection of full-sized railway equipment. It is home to the Toronto Railway Historical Association live steam miniature railway and other outdoor exhibits illustrating Toronto’s railway heritage.
Children can hop on the mini passenger-carrying steam train that visits stations around the park. The train runs on weekends until the end of June, and then Wednesday to Sunday for the rest of the summer.
Franklin Children’s Garden on Centre Island
Inspired by children’s storybook character Franklin the Turtle, the Toronto Islands destination allows toddlers and young kids to explore both nature and storytelling themes in the various sections of this interactive garden. Equipped with maps and binoculars from their free Franklin Discovery Backpacks, children can enjoy gardening, storytelling, exploring wildlife and visiting bronze sculptures from the Franklin the Turtle series.
Neshama Playground in Oriole Park
Toronto’s first fully inclusive playground, Neshama, opened in 2012 boasting musical features, braille panels, sign language diagrams, and a wheelchair-friendly surface. This kid-friendly park for all ages and abilities also features a splash pad, sand pits, and mature trees that provide plenty of shade.
Corktown Common is an 18-acre park located at the foot of Lower River Street and Bayview Avenue. The park features a marsh, sprawling lawns, playground areas, a splash pad as well as a fireplace, permanent barbeque and picnic tables. The playgrounds are designed to coincide with nature, like slides built right into the hills, and the equipment targets different age groups and abilities.
Just south of The Danforth, this massive park-on-the-hill serves as the backdrop for family fun. There are tennis courts, a ball hockey pad, a big children’s playground and a huge outdoor swimming pool. Take the pedestrian bridge to cross the Don Valley Parkway to Riverdale Farm where you visit the farm animals like sheep, pigs and horses who call the barns and tiny cottages home. On Sundays in July and August, you can bring a blanket to the east side of the park and watch free family movies.
This expansive playground is in one of the city’s most historic parks. Under a canopy of tall trees, it’s a deluxe complex of wooden and other play structures with a castle theme. With lots to do for big kids, there are also play structures for little ones, wooden fencing around the perimeter and washrooms nearby so parents can breathe easier on a busy day. With a wading pool, and a just short walk away from Queen Street East and the beach, this spot is worth a day trip.
Have a favourite park in Toronto? Let us know where you like to spend the day.