Now that the heat has finally hit it’s time to get prepared for those long, sunny days. Granted, I still have a lot of the city and its outskirts to experience, but summer is where I am most knowledgeable when it comes to The 6ix, and so I thought I would share some of my personal favourite summer activities.
In no particular order:
- The Toronto Island
The fact that this appears fist on my list is kind of a bummer this year, the island is remaining closed until it is marked safe for visitors, due to flooding from record-breakingly high water levels- a result of abnormally heavy rainfall over the spring months. Word on the street is that it won’t reopen until the beginning of August, which sucks.
But, I digress, for when August rolls around this is a great way to spend a hot, sunny day. Just a short ferry ride from the downtown core, the Toronto Island is a great escape from the city that doesn’t cost too much and offers something for everyone. As a child, my parents would take my cousins and I to the island to enjoy the Franklin Children’s Garden and mini fairground.
As a young adult, my cousin and I loved taking the ferry over to wards island and enjoying the beautiful blue flag beaches. The water is even good enough to paddle in- or swim if you’re brave enough.
Alternatively, head to the opposite side of the island and check out Hanlan’s Point, but be warned: this beach is clothing optional!
Pack a picnic and some sunblock, climb aboard the ferry, take in the breath-taking views of Lake Ontario and the city skyline, before having a well deserved lazy day on the sand.
- Beach days
Following swiftly onward from the Island are the other beaches that the city has to offer. Of course, Toronto is not near the ocean, but Lake Ontario’s blue waters disuses itself as a gorgeous sea year round.
Head East to Woodbine beach, which offers a fun atmosphere to relaxing to hang out with friends and family, as well as convenience stands and even a skate park at Woodbine. With blue-flag water and some of the best sand’s that the city has to offer, woodbine is your most genuine “beach day”.
Just a short walk from the Port Lands, navigate your way to Cherry beach, which boasts a far more relaxed vibe. I’ve even been told that you can often find beach-goers setting up their own campfires on the shore as the night draws in.
If you’re in the downtown core, and just fancy a quick beach break, without the hassle of getting wet and covered in soggy sand, why not check out Sugar Beach Park? You’ll spot it on the dockside, an array of little pink deckchairs and parasols all set up on a man-made beach area- soft, golden sands included. Granted, you can’t swim in the water here, but Sugar Beach is great if you want to take a break from a busy day of walking, checking out tourist spots, or even on your lunch-break. Plus, it’s an awesome spot for a photo shoot (just think of the Instagram likes!)
- Exploring Scarborough Bluffs
The Bluffs are a tranquil stretch of 11 parks across 15km and not too far from the main city, however if you’re going to commit to visiting the area, I’d fully recommend taking a car, or finding someone who is willing to drive.
The Bluffs are ideal for an early evening walk, picnic with stunning views of both the Bluffs and a great place to swim. Head to Bluffers Park for a full view of the Bluffs, or take a left and venture to the beach and marina. For a more in detail summary of the Bluffs check out my post from a couple of years ago here.
- Picnic in Trinity Bellwoods
Being close to my neighbourhood, and the perfect in-between for my friends and I, Trinty Bellwoods feels like my most frequent stomping ground as soon as the sun comes out. Pack up some snacks and a blanket and head to the park to meet friends, or take a book and have some “me time”.
The park is full of all kinds of interesting people, from super active workout bunnies and dog walkers, to people nerve-rackingly slack lining and even some interesting looking performance artists.
Not too far from the park you can find Bellwood’s Brewery, an LCBO and a Beer Store- all great for some refreshments. While drinking in parks is not legal in Toronto (as of right now) I won’t tell if you don’t. Plus, there are some lovely can collectors walking the length and breadth of the park who will take your cans for you- they make some money recycling them and your ass is saved from those pesky bike cops-win, win.
- Visiting Harbourfront
Quite possibly one of the most “touristy” things on this list, but enjoyable none the less. Harbourfront is another one of those things that you can do when you’re hanging with your mum, your kids, your gran or your friends, because everyone can find something to enjoy. Head to the Amsterdam Brewery where you can sample some in-house brewed beers while enjoying some almost “guilt-free” aperitifs including Crispy Brussels Sprouts and Mexican Sweet Corn from the comfort of one of their traditional red Muskoka chairs facing the beautiful Lake Ontario.
Or take a stroll along the boardwalk, eye-up some yachts you probably can’t afford (or at least I can’t) and finally hit up the Steam Whistle Brewery, original railway turntable included, for a boozy history lesson.
- Visit a park
Okay, so I kinda covered this one already, but Toronto has so many other parks to offer- both city and national parks. And whether you have money to spare or want to have a great day on a budget, a park is your go to.
For me, I like approximately a six-minute walk from the famous Christie Pits, which in summer offers free viewing of baseball, including the Toronto Maple Leafs, as well as a swimming pool and an outdoor cinema at night.
Or head West on the subway to High Park where you can experience beautiful views of the water, the city, and even spend time in the park’s own mini-zoo.
The city is awash with parks, a perfect escape from metropolitan life, no matter which neighbourhood you live in. Take some snacks and a book and enjoy that warm summer breeze.
- A rooftop pool
I only discovered rooftop pools that are open to the public were a thing back in the summer of 2015 but lemme tell ya, that nugget of summer joy changed my life. Yeah, you have to pay some money to have access to these pools- mostly situated in hotel complexes, but they are worth it if it’s a sweltering day and you have a few friends together looking to enjoy the heat.
The first pool I visited was with my cousins- after we concluded that Cabana Pool Bar (while I’m sure super cool, with great views and lots of hot people flocking to it) but kinda out of our price range- was the pool atop the roof of the Hyatt Residency on King. A gorgeous pool with a breath-taking view of the city and a staffed bar, this place is ideal to pretend you’re an extra on ‘The Real Housewives of –insert your favourite franchise here-“.
- Brunch, lunch or drinks on a patio
The great thing about summer is the ability to finally be able to sit on a patio. I feel like I spent the entire winter longing for that moment when I could sit, free of a jacket, on a patio and enjoy the hyped-up atmosphere that is the summer.
There are a billion amazing brunch and lunch places in the city, and it’s impossible to even begin to list them all. The same goes for bars. There is something for everyone in this diverse city, so no matter if you want a quiet beer with your pals, or to sit on a rooftop patio with some fancy cocktails while gazing at the city skyline, you have your pick.
In my own neighbourhood, I’d like to give a special mention to Pourboy, which offers tasty food and great drinks- including a mean sangria- for a great price.
Or hit up Bellwoods Brewery for some in-house brewed beers and ciders, all set on an idyllic patio, complete with white picnic benches. You can read more about the Brewery here on my review.
- Explore Kensington Market
Kensington can be a bit of a tourist trap, but it is also home to an array of amazing creatives, the streets filled with some of my favourite people in the city. A great place to scope out some delicious vegan and vegetarian food, some one-of-a-kind vintage fashion items, or some hand-made jewellery you won’t find anywhere else. Even if you’re on a budget, the market is just as cool to walk around, camera in hand, and take in the sights.
- Watch a movie under the stars
It’s not often you can actually hang out in the great outdoors and watch a movie at the same time.
A number of parks in the city offer public evening screenings of some classic movies, including Christie Pits and Trinity Bellwoods, as well as viewings at Yonge-Dundas Square and the Harbourfront.
Take a blanket (and a date if you are so lucky) and enjoy summer right until bedtime.
I could go on and on, because when the weather is just right, I think Toronto excels in its nature of being the city that keeps on giving. If you’re new to the city, or just want to experience something you haven’t done before, I hope some of these points gave you that little sprinkling of inspiration you need to get out there and seize this summer day!