Summer has officially arrived and with it weather that makes us want to forget the grown-up responsibilities, pick up a book, some snacks and head to the beach, patio or a park. Toronto is good that way. It offers so many ways to enjoy the summer in the city. One of my favourite places to visit and get lost in for a while is High Park. In fact, High Park is a fantastic city gem that can be enjoyed no matter the season. All are welcome – casual strollers, fitness junkies, gardeners, bird watchers, animal enthusiasts and even jungle gym pros.
Some say that as North America’s fourth largest city, Toronto doesn’t offer as much green space as cities such as New York or Chicago. Manhattan has its Central Park. Chicago has its gorgeous and vast waterfront. Although looking at a map, it might seem like High Park is just a fraction of the size, being there in person feels just as immense. The park offers 399 acres of land to be explored, including forested area, creeks, Grenadier Pond, recreation areas and well-maintained parkland.
Walking through truly feels like you are no longer in a large city, thanks to the countless species of wildlife and concentration of rare plant species. One of my favourites are the Sakura cherry trees that bloom in April/May (depending on the weather) attracting thousands of visitors each year. The beautiful white and pink cherry blossoms last about a week to a week and a half, but during a rainy spring the flower petals fall quicker. This year the trees had more leaves than buds, but nevertheless, the fewer blossoms were still worth admiring.
The Sakura trees were a gift presented by a Japanese ambassador to Canada in 1959 on behalf of the citizens of Tokyo for Toronto’s support of the Japanese-Canadian refugees after the Second World War. Since then, the City created the “Sakura Project” and continue to plant additional Cherry Blossom trees in the spirit of continued friendship.
High Park is a place to spend time with the whole family including your four-legged ones. Between Grenadier Restaurant and the High Park zoo, you’ll find a generous off-leash area where your pup can play and socialize. The park is not fully fenced so if your dog tends to run the minute the leash goes off, better keep the leash on. There is a good amount of flat surface for throwing a ball or a frisbee and there is running water, but don’t forget to bring plastic bags to pick up after your pet. If your dog is more of an explorer, the hiking trails inside the park are perfect, just keep in mind that dogs are not permitted to run off leash outside the dog park area.
These are just a few reasons why it’s worth making High Park a destination all year round. It’s a place where you will discover something new each time you visit. Just a walk around the pond can be an afternoon event. Hiking through the east-side trails will make you feel like you’re in cottage country. If that’s not enough, High Park offers many sports facilities including tennis courts, baseball diamonds, soccer fields and an outdoor swimming pool.
Given its central location, High Park is easily accessible by transit or car. If you have to drive, there is ample parking available most days, but be prepared to circle around a few times on weekends. Best way to get there is by transit. The High Park subway stop is just a few steps from the park, and the 501 Queen streetcar will get you to the south side of the park, near the pond.
Enjoyment of local green spaces helps create a connection that not only helps bind us to our cities but also increases our physical and emotional well-being. So take advantage of the gorgeous sunny weather and head over to High Park this Summer! For more info on High Park visit www.highparktoronto.com.