Spend the rest of 2021 outdoors enjoying these 12 Toronto favourites

These Toronto parks and outdoor events are easily accessible by TTC.

toronto parks
Glen Stewart Ravine is a scenic forest hidden in the heart of Toronto's east end. Courtesy Beach Beat Blog

With colder temperatures rolling in, Torontonians are seeking more ways to take advantage of the last few weeks before the annual dramatic temperature drop. Over the COVID-19 pandemic, access to nature has been more critical than ever before.

Luckily, Toronto residents and visitors are blessed with a mass of easily accessible parks and inexpensive events to escape reality, even if it’s just for a little while.

“Throughout the pandemic, the value of parks, ravines, and open spaces was underscored,” said Devika Deonarine, communications advisor for the City of Toronto. “Making sure that our parks system is maintained to a high standard and has the amenities to maximize enjoyment and use, is of critical importance to our day-to-day operations as well as our long-term strategic planning.”

The increased appreciation of Toronto’s natural diversity has led to an increase in visitors. This in turn has necessitated more people to help keep these spaces clean, beautiful, and thriving.

Floyd Ruskin is a member of Don’t Mess With The Don (DMWTD), a volunteer-led initiative working to address the issue of pollution in the Don ravines. While working with DMWTD, Ruskin has noticed a large increase in the number of people exploring Toronto’s natural heritage during the pandemic.

“Those lockdowns were hard on people,” he said. “Some people can get in a car and drive out to the cottage or go to Algonquin Park to experience nature. But what do you do if you’re coming from a lower-income situation? How will your kids experience nature? You explore it here.”

Toronto has more than 1,500 parks where people of all ages, backgrounds, and experiences come together to explore, play, learn, and strengthen communities.

“Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, we heard that access to fresh air and exercise is important for helping people and communities deal with stress and mental health challenges,” said Deonarine. “Both the demand and the need for parks and open green space have always been present but the pandemic reinforced the importance of the City’s parks system, particularly for those without private outdoor space like a backyard.”

With snow on the way, the city has officially launched the WinterTO program in Toronto parks to keep more pathways clear and washrooms open so park goers can enjoy the outdoors all winter long.

Check out these 12 parks and outdoor events that are easily accessible via TTC and open to everyone through fall and winter.

Charles Sauriol Conservation Area

This picturesque Toronto park is part of the extensive East Don River Trail system and can be accessed from several entrance points. A collection of paved pathways and forested foot trails lead visitors through a diverse landscape full of wildlife and plant species. Named for the late conservationist and ecologist Charles Joseph Sauriol, this conservation area is a great place for nature lovers of all sorts. A hot spot along the paved path system is the rainbow tunnel, which is easily spotted when heading north on the Don Valley Parkway.

The main access to Charles Sauriol Conservation Area is at 1191 Lawrence Ave. E. Plan your trip on the TTC here.

The Distillery Winter Village – Distillery District

The Toronto Christmas Market in the city’s Distillery District has been a seasonal staple for Torontonians and visitors for more than 10 years. Now, the festive event has been rebranded to The Distillery Winter Village. The market typically caters to thousands of visitors each year looking to bask in the twinkling lights, enjoy live performances, sip on hot drinks, and do some shopping at local vendors. To help manage capacity during peak hours, tickets are required on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays after 4:00 pm, and from Dec. 20 – Dec. 23 after 4:00 pm. Tickets are $8 each (age six years and up) and can be reserved here.

The Distillery Winter Village will be running from Nov. 18 – Dec. 31. Plan your trip on the TTC here.

Glen Stewart Ravine – The Beaches

This small ravine in The Beaches is a stunning walk any time of year. From four official entrance points, visitors can follow a path and boardwalk system through this urban forest surrounded by some of the oldest trees in the city. The ravine features a small but magical creek surrounded by one of the very few red oak woodlands remaining in Toronto. This ravine is home to foxes and coyotes, as well as smaller woodland animals like squirrels and snakes, so remember to keep on the path, not only to the preserve the natural environment, but for your own safety.

You can access Glen Stewart Ravine from Kingston Rd. across from St. John’s Catholic Church. Plan your trip on the TTC here.

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The Guild Inn Estate

Home to the historic Guild Inn, the Guild Park and Estate is one of the city’s scenic treasures. A popular destination for anyone looking for the perfect Instagram pics, the notable sculpture garden on the estate is filled with ruins and rescued facades of demolished Toronto buildings. The park sits on top of the Scarborough Bluffs with a path on the east side leading down to the waterfront.

Plan your trip to the Guild Inn on the TTC here.

High Park

A Toronto classic, High Park is one of the largest parks in Toronto at nearly 400 acres. A popular destination for its hiking trails, playgrounds, diverse vegetation, and the High Park Zoo. The zoo, open year-round from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., can be found inside the park on Deer Pen Road and is home to bison, dear, llamas, highland cattle, and more. In the springtime, the cherry blossoms bring thousands of spectators. In autumn, people can crunch through the beautiful orange leaves as they explore this urban forest. And in the cold winter months, Grenadier Pond freezes over, becoming a picturesque winter wonderland.

Plan your trip to High Park on the TTC here.

Lakeview Farmers’ Market

Find local, sustainable foods and goods for sale at the Lakeview Farmers’ Market just a 15-minute walk from the Long Branch TTC loop. Open Sundays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., this market features Ontario-grown produce, small-batch products, preserves, meats, baked goods, and artisanal products from a variety of local vendors. The market was recently extended to run until Dec. 5, so don’t miss out.

The Lakeview Farmers’ Market is located at 1352 Lakeshore Rd. E. in Mississauga. Plan your trip on the TTC here.

Rally For The Valley Event

Get out Nov. 21 for a community clean-up event and rally hosted by Don’t Mess With The Don. This event is in response to Metrolinx’s plan to cut down 1,100 trees in order to construct and operate a GO train service and storage facility. According to environmentalists, like Floyd Ruskin, this project could undermine the past 70 years of ecological revitalization in the valley. The event will kick off with a clean-up from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., followed by a rally scheduled to run until 1:30 p.m.

Follow Don’t Mess With The Don on Instagram and Facebook for more ways to get involved in keeping the Don Valley system clean, accessible, and thriving.

Rally For The Valley starts with a meet-up at 450 Broadview Ave. Plan your trip on the TTC here.

Red Embers Installation – Ashbridges Bay

This art installation now on display at Ashbridges Bay in The Beaches pays tribute to Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls. Created by 15 Indigenous female-identifying artists, the interactive installation features large banners forming a pathway that people can walk through. The 13 banners of Red Embers symbolize the 13 Grandmother Moons within the Lunar System. In Indigenous tradition, “Grandmother Moon governs women and heals those who have suffered sexual assault or domestic violence,” a release from OCAD University said. The installation is a short walk from the Ashbridges Bay parking lot.

Ashbridges Bay is located at 1561 Lake Shore Blvd. E. Plan your trip on the TTC here.

Riverdale Farm

Resting along the Don River and connected to the vast Don Valley trail system, this historic 7.5-acre farm is a rural retreat in the heart of Toronto. Open year-round, visitors can get up close and personal with poultry, pigs, horses, cows, goats, and sheep. The farm also features heritage sites like Francey Barn (1858), the Donnybrook Ruin (early 1900s), and the Toronto Necropolis (1850), a Gothic style burial ground where famous Torontonians like William Lyon Mackenzie have been laid to rest. Open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., admission to the farm is always free.

Find Riverdale Farm at 201 Winchester St. Plan your trip on the TTC here.

Snow Magic Event – Ontario Place

Over the pandemic, drive-thru experiences became a safe way to explore interactive art and music exhibits. Snow Magic is an illuminating drive-thru located on Ontario Place’s East Island featuring 18 vibrant art installations, created by some of Canada’s most acclaimed artists. This winter wonderland boasts mythical creatures, crystal caves, and forests of light and wonder. Tickets must be purchased in advance and range from $45 to $65 per vehicle.

For those who don’t drive or have access to a vehicle, Ontario Place is still a must-go for urban explorers. The defunct theme park can now be publicly accessed and enjoyed by all who feel a little nostalgic or want to scout the site for an Instagram-worthy photo shoot.

Plan your trip on the TTC here.

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Toronto Islands

The Toronto Islands are a mini getaway from the hustle and bustle of the city. The Islands are a summer favourite, with beaches, canals, restaurants, and an amusement park. But, the islands are accessible year-round and great at any time. Post-beach season, visitors can still easily spend a full day on the Islands, exploring local heritage sites such as the old island public school now turned artist’s retreat, and one of Toronto’s oldest buildings (built in 1808), the allegedly haunted Gibraltar Lighthouse.

Plan your trip on the TTC here to the Jack Layton Ferry Terminal located at 9 Queens Quay W. Pre-book your ferry tickets here.

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Tommy Thompson Park

This “accidental wilderness” is truly a unique Toronto treasure. In the late 1950s, the Toronto Harbour Commission (now PortsToronto) began constructing the Leslie Street Spit as a port facility. This man-made peninsula expanded over the following decades into more than 1,200 acres of landscape along the city’s eastern waterfront. Now a public park and one of the region’s best sites for bird watching, Tommy Thompson Park is an ecological gem with more than 200 recorded species and diverse vegetation. Visitors are welcome to enjoy the park but are requested to leave dogs at home and avoid playing music so as to not disrupt the park’s wildlife.

Access Tommy Thompson Park at 1 Leslie St. Plan your trip on the TTC here.

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Posted: Nov 19 2021 1:20 pm
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