High Park is the second-largest public park in Toronto and features hiking trails, sports facilities, a dog park, a zoo, playgrounds, community spaces, greenhouses, picnic areas, a beautiful waterfront – and is easily accessible by public transit! This park is truly a gem of the west end of Toronto, but its origins are humble. In 1836, John Howard purchased the land from the County of York for a sheep farm. Back then the wholesale cost was about $1,000. Decades later, in 1873, Howard and his wife agreed to give the land to the city on the condition that it must never be sold and the land to be preserved as a park. The City of Toronto agreed and added some land of their own to create the boundaries of current day High Park.
There are many unique areas of High Park you’ll want to visit again and again. My personal fave is playing frisbee on the Central Plain!
The Cherry Trees
Along the roadway near Grenadier Pond are several Japanese Cherry Trees. In 1959 over 2000 cherry trees were donated to Toronto, by a Japanese ambassador. During the blooming period, thousands of people come to visit the trees and take some fun photos.
Located on the north-south ravine, that’s where the eastern half of the park is. It has a forested part and a spring-fed pond that turns into a small creek. The Eastern Ravine has more picnic areas to the south, a playground and the High Park Zoo.
Central Plain and Savannah
On the northern boundary, is the central section, which slowly narrows to a point that overlooks Lake Ontario. Most of the Central Plain is developed for picnicking, including the high park gardens and sports fields. Many of the trees in this part are over 150 years old, and the area is under the special care of the City and conservationists.
This large body of water is 35 acres in size, this pond is located on the west side of the park. They’re two interesting rumours around the pond: First, that British Grenadiers fell through the thin ice when crossing to defend the city in the War of 1812. Second, that the pond is bottomless, due to all the mud. What do you think?
The High Park Zoo
In the Eastern Ravine, the High Park Zoo has a small collection of animals. This free to visit zoo has Bison, Sheep, Emus, Highland Cattle, Reindeer, Yaks and… the Capybaras. More on them to come. The zoo is cared for by Toronto Parks, Forestry and Recreation division plus volunteers. The zoo is partially paid for through donations at the zoo, online and charity foundations.
May 2016, that’s when a pair of Capybaras made headlines by escaping the zoo. No one knows how, no one knows why. But this sneaky pairs where gone, for a while. With reports of sightings all over the city, the pair named Bonnie and Clyde were found on June 12th and June 26th. The two are now parents to three baby Capybaras, Geddy, Alec and Neil, named after members of the rock group Rush.
Shakespeare In High Park Park
Before COVID-19 reared its ugly head, every year the Canadian Stage Company would perform Shakespearean plays in High Park. The unique amphitheatre – situated at the bottom of a hill to ensure excellent sightline – offers an opportunity for some fairly elaborate sets (for outdoor theatre). It’s the perfect date for a summer evening; get your tickets early, as it usually sells out!
There’s so much for you to do at High Park; to truly experience it all, you’d need to come back many times!
So get out and enjoy!
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