Best Ways to Enjoy Spring in Toronto
You know the day when you make the premature decision to switch to your spring jacket? Given Canada’s flip-floppy seasonal transitions, that is the day I officially recognize as The First Day of Spring. And by a clear spring-jacket majority, it has now finally sprung in Toronto!
If you want to get to know Toronto, come in the spring. The city’s most defining characteristics are at their best at the moment it emerges from hibernation. What I love about this city is its ability to shine as both an adventurous and a culturally rich hub. Here are some of my favourite ways to get outside and enjoy the best Toronto has to offer.
Spring is notoriously short, so catching a glimpse of the first daffodil yellows and scilla blues is one of the most rewarding ways to enjoy it. High Park is Toronto’s answer to Central Park, except for its not-so-central west-end location. Nevertheless it’s the best place in the city to feel like you’re miles outside it. If you’re seeking those first green shoots in the centre of town, St. James Park evokes perfectly manicured English gardens with neat flower beds framing an elegant fountain. Insider tip: Toronto has some lovely hidden courtyards waiting to be discovered. Go in search of the University College quad at the University of Toronto and Ryerson University’s Community Park.
I love this sport, but not the steep fees at Toronto’s private tennis clubs. Instead I head to Trinity Bellwoods park to make use of its eight free public courts. You will generally find the four “nice” courts occupied by players with more than a beginner’s level of experience. The other four courts, despite their rickety surface and chain-link fence for nets, are a perfect place to have a beginner’s knockabout without feeling too intimidated, or having to apologize for wayward balls. Insider tip: Head to Yogurty’s at Queen and Palmerston for the perfect refreshing post-game treat.
The first time I discovered the Toronto Islands ferries, I spent the trip awash in memories of island hopping in Greece. At $7 for an adult return trip, it’s more than worth exploring the lands beyond the Toronto shoreline. Pick an extra-hot day to pack your swimsuit and a picnic, and you will soon forget you’re still in the heart of a major city. Did you know these islands are the largest urban car-free community in North America? Insider tip: If you want to ditch the crowds, skip the popular Centre Island destination and head for Ward’s Island to experience the scenic seclusion of picturesque little houses and spring-bloom gardens. This is island life at its best in Toronto!
Wait—you can kayak in Toronto? Yes, you can. The Humber River on the west side of town is the best place to get acquainted with the wonderful world of river kayaking in the city. Toronto Adventures has a great guided trip and social that goes from King’s Mill Park down to Sunnyside Beach. Whether you’re a kayaking newbie or a veteran, they offer seriously affordable lessons and rentals. Insider Tip: If you choose the late-afternoon paddle, refuel at Sunnyside Pavilion right on the beach—just remember to bring bug spray!
St. Lawrence Market
Named the world’s best food market by National Geographic in April 2012, this is an absolute must-visit during spring in Toronto. Seasonal veg is fresh, abundant and always local, and the eclectic finds at bustling stalls make it feel decidedly European. Foodies rejoice at this mecca of culinary delight; I once spent over an hour at one jam stall. Insider tip: If your budget is limited, make sure to scoop up all the free samples on offer. My favourite is Kozlik’s stall where “samples” are taken to a whole new level: they fry up peameal bacon for you to dip into any of over 30 different types of mustard—amazing.
Spring in Toronto is short, but it is without a doubt my favourite season to discover the things you never knew you were missing in this vibrant city.