Toronto is blessed with more than 1,500 parks. Everyone seems to know about the cherry blossoms in High Park; the parks on the Toronto Islands, which are swamped with visitors in summer, and Riverdale Park, which spans the Don Valley, in the Cabbagetown and Riverdale neighbourhoods. But there are countless smaller or lesser-known parks throughout the city that provide a respite from the hustle and bustle of daily life. Here are our team members’ favourite neighbourhood gems, many of which few outsiders know about. Shhhhhh….. don’t tell too many people!
Berczy Park, in the downtown St. Lawrence Market neighbourhood, features a whimsical dog fountain, which also includes one cat! Children love to clamber on the dogs, while their parents relax on the grass or have lunch at one of the tables nestled beneath the large shade trees. The park was named after painter William Berczy, who is most famous for his portrait of Mohawk Chief, Joseph Brant. 35 Wellington St. E.
Carlton Park is a total hidden gem. Don’t be fooled by the name, though; this park is located in the west end, just east of the Junction and north of Dupont Ave. – nowhere near downtown’s Carlton St. It seems that nobody knows about this h-u-g-e park, with a basketball court and a playground, in a little residential neighbourhood. Call Mattachioni, on Dupont St., ahead of time and arrange to pick up lunch. You’ll soon understand why neighbours meet there. 20 Edith Ave.
Dufferin Grove Park is a vibrant community hub offering areas for summer and winter sports, children’s play, picnics, and relaxation beneath the trees. The City of Toronto is currently in the midst of a project to provide a renovated clubhouse; a new double-pad ice rink; a new basketball court with six nets (including two at child height); a pedestrian plaza between the clubhouse and rinks, and additional seating and lighting. We can’t wait to see the results when the work is completed in 2023! 875 Dufferin St.
Earl Bales Park is named after Robert Earle Bales, former Reeve of the Township of North York. At the turn of the 20th century, this parcel of land was a 127-acre farm owned by his great-grandfather. The original site of the York Downs Golf and Country Club, today the park features playgrounds for the kids, a splash pad, sensory gardens, picnic sites with fire pits, an outdoor amphitheatre, and an off-leash dog park. Everything one could want for a great family outing! 4169 Bathurst S
Etienne Brulé Park sits on a historically-significant piece of land along the Humber River, once a major trade route of the Aboriginal Peoples of the area. It is a beautiful park, which winds along the river from the Old Mill to the Baby Point neighbourhood. Within the park you will find interpretive signage with historical details of the property and its original native uses. Enjoy the bridge, waterfalls, baseball diamond, picnic areas, and Discovery Walks. 10 Catherine St.
Healey Willan Park, in Toronto’s Palmerston neighbourhood, offers play equipment and a splash pad for the kids; harried adults will appreciate the park’s peaceful setting, across the lane from a small Anglican church from which the beautiful pipe organ can be heard on Sundays and most evenings. The park was named after the prolific Anglo-Canadian composer who spent more than half his life creating music in Toronto. 504 Euclid Ave.
James Gardens, a former estate on the west bank of the Humber River, in Etobicoke, offers lovely flower gardens, terraced stone pathways beside spring-fed pools and streams, and mature trees. The park features the historic James Gazebo, along with terraced pathways and the original home, “Red Gables”. You can also enjoy lawn bowling, cross-country skiing, and a scenic lookout over the Humber Valley to downtown Toronto. 99 Edenbridge Dr.
Jean Sibelius Square Park is a real gem, nestled among homes in Toronto’s Annex neighbourhood. The park offers green space with benches for lounging, as well as a wonderful playground for the little ones to enjoy. Originally called Kendal Park, its name was changed in the late 50s, to honour the world-famous, Finnish composer, Jean Sibelius, following his death in 1957. A memorial statue of the composer was donated to the park by the local Finnish community in 1959. 50 Kendal Ave.
June Rowlands Park was named for the first woman to be elected mayor of Toronto. This charming, mid-town park is a perfect spot for the family to play and relax – with a ball diamond, tennis courts, a volleyball court, and a splash pad. The park is also home to the Sharon, Lois and Bram Playground, recognizing the beloved children’s music and entertainment trio’s contribution to Canadian culture. 220 Davisville Ave.
Margaret Fairley Park is located in the historically-designated block of Brunswick Avenue, south of Harbord St., and is named after the Canadian writer, educator, and political activist. Stop at FLOCK rotisserie + greens on Harbord St. first, to pick up some of their delicious chicken and salads, for a picnic in the park. The equipment in the recently-renovated playground has an organic, natural feel that the children love. The park is also home to many community events and gatherings. 100 Brunswick Ave.
Enter the tranquil Nordheimer Ravine at the end of the bridge on Spadina Rd., just south of St. Clair Ave. W. This shady ravine is a superb place to view native species, hear birds sing, and totally escape from the hustle and bustle of the city. There is a dirt path that runs through the ravine, where you are totally surrounded by tall trees and native flora. It’s hard to believe that a subway runs beneath it, though you can see the emergency exits as you approach the west end of the ravine. 326 Spadina Rd.
Ramsden Park, across from the Rosedale subway station, stretches from Yonge St. to Avenue Rd. The park has been recently refurbished and is a wonderful place for families looking for relief from the summer heat. There’s a wading pool, a new playground, tennis courts, a baseball diamond, a basketball court, and lots of shade trees to sit under for picnics and lounging. Bring the dog too, as the Avenue Rd. end of the park features an off-leash area! 1020 Yonge St
Rosetta McClain Gardens offers spectacular views of Lake Ontario from the top of the Scarborough Bluffs. A tall, rock fountain, surrounded by raised planter beds and a long, curving, wood pergola forms the focal point of these gardens, which are beautiful throughout the spring, summer, and fall, and offer the most tranquil space to relax in. If you love flowers, butterflies and birds, this is the place to spend some time surrounded by nature. 5 Glen Everest Rd.
Rouge Beach and Marsh is part of the fabulous Rouge National Urban Park, on the eastern border of Toronto. The beach and marsh area, where the Rouge River opens into Lake Ontario, offers such popular activities as paddling, hiking, cycling, swimming, fishing, bird watching, and BBQing. You’ll feel as though you’re hours outside of the city! Corner of Lawrence Ave. E. and 195 Rouge Hills Dr.
Roycroft Park is located in leafy South Hill, between St. Clair Ave. W. and Dupont St., west of Avenue Rd., and features large, open areas with benches that provide a quiet place to sit and read, and plenty of trees to sit under when the summer sun beats down. The walking path along the south end of the park connects to the larger, Winston Churchill Park at Spadina Rd. and St. Clair. 150 Boulton Dr.
Sorauren Avenue Park was transformed from a brownfield site, into a vibrant Roncesvalles community hub. Opened in 1995, the park offered local residents tennis courts, a ball diamond, and a sports field. A fieldhouse was added in 2008, and the Town Square in 2014. There is also an off-leash area for the neighbourhood Fidos to enjoy! The final phase of the park’s development – the construction of a community centre – is currently underway, at the southeast corner of the property. 289 Sorauren Ave.
Suydam Park is nestled in the heart of Forest Hill Village. In 2012, over 200 families donated funds to rebuild the playground. Since then, more improvements have been made, including larger seating areas, new lighting, and new plantings, all of which have transformed the green spaces. This September, Toronto musicians are scheduled to perform concerts in the park’s stage area, every Saturday from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. (weather permitting). 22 Relmar Rd.
Trillium Park is a newer, and gorgeous, addition to Toronto’s waterfront. It’s hard to believe that the 7.5 acres of well-designed hills, rock bluffs and boulders – inspired by Ontario landscapes – used to be a not-so-beautiful Ontario Place parking lot. There are now romantic gardens, a fire pit, and a fantastic view of the downtown skyline. The William G. Davis Trail passes through the park, connecting it to the Martin Goodman Trail, for those who want to walk or cycle along the city’s lake shore. 955 Lake Shore Blvd. W.
Toronto Music Garden is an unexpectedly quiet, serene space on Toronto’s busy, downtown waterfront. The garden design interprets, in nature, Bach’s First Suite for Unaccompanied Cello, with each dance movement within the suite corresponding to a different section in the garden. Every one of the six sections offers something different as you walk through it. Before the pandemic, Toronto Music Garden was the site of free classical music performances during the summer. We hope that programming will resume, once life gets back to something more like normal. 479 Queens Quay W.
Underpass Park is perhaps the coolest recreational space in the city – a unique, covered park, located beneath the overpasses of Adelaide St. E., Eastern Ave., and Richmond St. E., in the West Don Lands. Underpass Park features a creative play space for the little ones, and basketball courts and a skateboard area, as well as picnic tables – all providing for sheltered play and relaxation 365 days a year. 29 Lower River St.