400 acres in the city, with recreational facilities, natural landscapes and picturesque walking trails. It’s accessible by subway and close to shops, restaurants and in the heart of a beautiful city neighbourhood. It is maintained by the City and enjoyed by locals and tourists alike 365 days a year. I’m not talking about Central Park in New York (which is actually 843 acres) or Hyde Park in London (which is only 350 acres) – I’m talking about High Park, which can be found just west of the downtown core in my city, Toronto.
We stayed in the city this past long weekend and again hosted a pile of family. On Sunday afternoon, when most family had moved on to their next destination, we decided that Julia needed to get out and have a good run. Where to go on a gorgeous day in the summer, that is free and family-friendly, in our own city? High Park!
With ongoing renovations on the Collingwood country house, I am continuing my spring-summer-fall series of being a tourist in my own city. I will admit that instead of getting out and discovering the many hidden gems of my city every weekend we often laze around and just lounge in our backyard (which I will admit is an indulgence I love). The summer is not over yet, though how many of us feel that as we pass August 1st that the best of the summer has passed? I know that I still have weeks ahead to discover and rediscover some of the best spots in Toronto.
Back to High Park. I have visited this wondrous place a few times and have yet to explore many of its attractions. 160 acres of land were donated by John George Howard to the City of Toronto back in 1876. While Howard lived in his home, called Colborne Lodge, until his death in 1890 (he and his wife are buried near that home too), his land was turned into a park for all city residents to enjoy. More pieces were added over the years to create the current 400-acre area that is known to this day as High Park.
We only arrived at the park late afternoon and decided to focus on walking trails on the east side, with a final destination at the famed playground.
I knew that the High Park Zoo was sure to please both the one and seven-year-old. This is a teeny tiny zoo, along a pedestrian-only pathway. There are some interesting and friendly animals in this zoo, such as yaks, bison, llamas and of course the infamous capybara. If you are looking to visit a zoo with many exotic animals with acres and acres of paddocks and cages then this is not the zoo for you. If you want to learn a few things about a few animals on a stroll through the park then this is a must-see!
The highlight of the day for my kids was definitely the Jamie Bell Adventure Playground. This playground was the dream of local resident, High Park neighbour and community builder Jamie Bell whose vision was realized when this playground opened in 1998. This natural playground, built to look like a castle, is a dreamland for children. It is busy on a long weekend, but all the parents and children were in such good spirits to be at this park on a beautiful day that the crowded scene did not seem to bother anyone.
My husband, David, does not like to walk in a straight line or ever take a direct path to his destination. He suggested we follow some of the nature trails on our way back to our car, and seeing that the park was busy with people and cars I followed his lead. We took a few wrong turns and tripped over a couple of tree roots, but it was a worth it. We walked through the off-leash dog area, which pleased my girls. At one point Julia saw three Chihuahuas, her favourite dog breed, and was thrilled to skip alongside them down the path.
We covered only a few of the 400 acres of High Park. I have yet to see the famous Sakura trees and their cherry blossoms in the spring or walk along the western shore of Grenadier Pond to see its ducks and geese. The french fries at concession stand #2, along Colborne Lodge Drive, are tasty, but that’s the only food I have consumed there. High Park is vast, with so many areas I really must explore.
So where to next as I continue my journey to be a tourist in my own city. I am open to suggestions. Comment here, post me an idea on Facebook or Tweet me @AliciaRichler.