We love checking out new playgrounds and often even drive for a daytrip to enjoy new parks as it is a fun and affordable way to entertain the kids. Now we have visited a few Playgrounds in Toronto but Danforth Dad is clearly the expert so we asked him for some advice.
These are not necessarily Toronto’s ten best playgrounds. If I’ve learned anything by attempting to visit, rate, and rank Toronto’s 1000 or so playgrounds, it’s that “best” is not as useful a term as “favourite.” I often find myself falling for parks that are demonstrably mediocre. Or I’m left feeling lukewarm about a playground with brand-new, top-of-the-line equipment.
The only thing I can depend on feeling is gratitude: for the sheer abundance of playgrounds tucked away in every corner of Toronto for adventurous families to explore. So whether you passionately agree (or violently disagree) with the list that follows, the important thing is that you get out there and try them for yourself. Giving your kid the chance to be outdoors, engaging with their city and igniting their imagination…that’s the only metric that really matters.
In no particular order, here are my 10 Favourite of the 200+ Toronto playgrounds that my kids and I have
visited so far:
It’s hard not to feel completely in love with Toronto while sitting beneath a beautiful old willow tree as your children play in the shadow of OCAD and the AGO, with the CN Tower looming in the distance. This one has just about everything you could want, with some of the best, most challenging equipment for all ages, plus a water feature and all of downtown at your fingertips.
High Park (north playground)
Before its 2020 makeover, this was High Park’s “other” playground; everybody knew that the Jamie Bell Adventure Playground at the park’s southern end, with its castle and its Mike Holmes pedigree, was the place to go. Here is a partial list of things you’ll find at High Park north that you won’t find at its more celebrated southern neighbour: a splash pad, a wading pool, more and better seating, a sandbox, a gazebo. It’s also closer to the subway, closer to a bathroom, closer to the amenities of Bloor Street, and right next to a seasonal snack bar.
Trace Manes Park
Hidden in the heart of Leaside, Trace Manes Park has the best playground in East York by a pretty wide margin. Given that it’s not a huge space, it’s impressive just how much equipment they’ve managed to fit here: shoe-horned between the tennis courts and the library, the playground includes a sandbox, splash pad with a unique waterfall feature, swings, climbers for littles and bigs alike, and plenty of shaded seating.
In part by the urban revitalization specialists at The Planning Partnership, Underpass Park takes an element of cities that are usually either underused, unsafe, or both, and turns it into a fun, vital, even beautiful space that can be enjoyed by Torontonians of all ages. The underpasses in question – raised roadways that connect three downtown streets to the DVP – provide shelter for a playground, skate park, basketball courts, and some very Instagram-friendly mirrors hung directly above the heads of passersby.
A deceptively large park that stretches westward from Rosedale subway station, Ramsden is home to one of Toronto’s biggest, and awesomest playgrounds. A giant crow’s nest structure is the centre piece, with a wading pool, sandbox, and plenty of other equipment spread over a lovely, sloping landscape.
Glen Cedar Park
Far from the bustle of downtown but not so far as to feel drearily suburban, Glen Cedar is a cozy, quiet place to play. This one stands out for its dinosaur theme: along with a ride-on dino supported by springs, there’s a huge green dinosaur (who looks vaguely like Yoshi from Super Mario) overseeing the whole thing. My kids were also excited to discover, hiding under a molded plastic climbing element, a faux dinosaur fossil.
Sharon Lois & Bram Playground (June Rowlands Park)
Checks all the boxes for a playground, but the most memorable feature here is the music circle. In a lovely tribute to the music legends that give the playground its name, a variety of chromatic percussion instruments provides a constant background soundtrack to this lovely play spot. It’s rare that a child’s urge to hit things and make noise can be soothing, but this playground proves that it’s possible.
Tiny and terrific, this is one of Toronto’s hidden gem playgrounds. Revamped in 2017 with a surprising amount of equipment for such a small space, this should be the template for how to build great playgrounds when land is limited. Proximity to the GO railway tracks is exciting for kids who are in love with trains.
Little Norway Park
Not only does it have a splash pad, a shaded play area, and the city’s most photogenic slide, but it’s right by the ferry that goes over to Billy Bishop Airport every few minutes. So if your kid is into vehicles, this is a great spot for plane/helicopter/ferry spotting!
St. James Park
The equipment here pays homage to the area’s marketplace history; climbers made to look like food crates, balance beams disguised as carrots, giant asparagus towering over kids’ heads. Toronto doesn’t have many themed playgrounds, so this one stands out based on that alone. But it’s more than cute gimmickry, as this King Street spot boasts one of the city’s best slides, and is cozily nestled across from beautiful St. James Cathedral, whose hourly dinging will enthrall young park goers.
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