One of North America's loveliest parks, High Park (at one time the privately owned countryside "farm" of John George Howard, Toronto's first city architect) is especially worth visiting in summer, when the many special events include professionally staged Shakespeare productions. Hundreds of Torontonians and guests arrive at dinnertime and picnic on blankets before the show. Admission is by donation. Grenadier Pond in the southwest corner of the park is named after
the British soldiers who, it's said, crashed through the soft ice while rushing to defend the town against invading American forces in 1813. In summer there are concerts on Sunday afternoons, and there is skating in winter. At the south end of High Park, near Colborne Lodge, is the High Park Zoo, which is open daily from dawn to dusk. It's more modest than the Toronto Zoo but a lot closer to downtown and free. Even young children won't tire walking among the deer, Barbary sheep, emus, yaks, llamas, peacocks, and buffalo. Colborne Lodge (416/392–6916 C$7 Jan.–Apr., Fri.–Sun. noon–4; May–Aug., Tues.–Sun. noon–5; Sept., weekends noon–5; Oct.–Dec., Tues.–Sun. noon–4) was built more than 150 years ago by Howard on a hill overlooking Lake Ontario. This Regency-style "cottage" contains its original fireplace, bake oven, and kitchen, as well as many of Howard's drawings and paintings. Other highlights of the 398-acre park are a large swimming pool, tennis courts, fitness trails, and hillside gardens with roses and sculpted hedges. There's limited parking along Bloor Street north of the park, and along the side streets on the eastern side. June through August, on the first and third Sundays, free 1.5-hour walking tours depart across the street from Grenadier Restaurant.
Bordered by Bloor St. W, Gardiner Expressway, Parkside Dr., and Ellis Park Rd. Main entrance off Bloor St. W at High Park Ave., Toronto, Ontario, M5H 2N2, Canada
Aug 3, 2007
High Park is more than worthy of being #1 on the Top Ten list of places to visit in Toronto. It is home to a rare and endangered ecosystem, called a "black oak savannah" and there is a community group working hard to protect and restore it. You can walk on any onthe nature trails in the park and immediately be transported a million miles away from the city that surrounds you. 150-200 year old black oak trees tower over tallgrass prairie plants
like big bluestem (over 7 feet tall!), wild lupine and butterfly milkweed. It is a bird watcher's paradise, a butterfly watercher's dream and likely one of the most wonderful places I've ever visited. The facilites in the park are old (as in historic) but good - bathrooms work and are located around the park, there is a lovely restaurant and a few concessions,a beautiful Nature Centre,a children's garden, a fantastic little Zoo (Saturday mornings from 10-11am you can meet the keepers and meet some of the animals, including a very sweet baby llama) and a wonderful playground for children. The park is huge - 399 acres, so make sure to look at a map before you try making your way around the park. Colborne Lodge, the former home of John and Jemima Howard, is a quaint little museum that is also worth a visit. All in all, you can't go wrong with a visit to High Park. The surrounding neighborhoods (Bloor West Village and Rocesvalles Village) are also worth a wander through - lots of local shops and restaurants, with lots of character.