Escape the hustle-bustle of the city and choose your own fitness, food or shopping adventure in the heart of Toronto’s Don Valley.
The days may be frosty, but there are still many adventures to be had in Toronto’s crisp winter air. First stop: Evergreen Brick Works. Situated in the Don Valley ravine system, this picturesque destination offers an escape from the bustle of the city, a variety of seasonal activities and a whole lot of hygge (the Danish art of living cozy).
Located on Bayview Avenue, Evergreen Brick Works is a public space that focuses on sustainability, recreation, education and green design initiatives. Its rich history dates back to 1889 when it was the site of a quarry and brick-making factory called the Don Valley Brick Works.
In 2010, Canadian non-profit organization Evergreen transformed the collection of abandoned heritage buildings into the dynamic cultural centre and verdant indoor/outdoor space it is today. Open year-round, Evergreen Brick Works hosts public markets, conferences, public art exhibitions and other events.
From its lush surroundings to its ongoing initiatives, Evergreen Brick Works lends itself to exploration, meaning with every visit, you get to choose your own adventure. Here are three ways you can explore Evergreen Brickworks this winter.
Adventure 1: Work up a sweat in the great outdoors
One of Toronto’s best-kept secrets is Evergreen Brick Works’ skating rink. Nestled within the walls of the old brick factory, this open-air skating rink sits under the building’s rustic, exposed beams. The ice-skating surface weaves around a snow-covered garden lined with beautiful evergreen trees.
By day, skaters enjoy a sunny winter wonderland. But by night, the twinkle lights are aglow under the moonlight, creating a truly magical experience unlike any other (talk about a great date spot!).
In true Evergreen fashion, the skating rink uses a sustainable refrigeration system called ECO CHILL, which cools the ice and reuses any excess heat to warm the adjacent Marketplace building.
Best of all, admission to the skating rink is free, and it’s open every weekend from December to March, weather permitting. Have your own skates? Bring them with you and get them sharpened on site. Skate rentals are also available for those without a pair. And for anyone looking to learn how to skate, there are a variety of lessons available for all ages.
If hiking is more your thing, you’ll love the snowy trails of Don River Valley Park. Connected to the Evergreen Brick Works site, the park spans 2 sq km (200 hectares), taking you from Pottery Road all the way down to Corktown Common on the waterfront. While you can explore the trails on your own, Evergreen Brick Works offers free guided group walks or private tours where you’ll learn about the Don Valley, the history of its surrounding neighbourhoods, wildlife, architecture, ecology and more.
If you only have 20 minutes to spare for a hike, make your way to the top of the Chester Hill Lookout Path for an unmatched view of Toronto’s winter skyline.
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Adventure 2: Heighten your taste buds at the Farmers’ Market
Did you know that Evergreen Brick Works is home to Toronto’s largest farmers’ market? Held on Saturdays year-round, it offers the widest variety of local and seasonal food in the city.
Shop over 60 vendors, including local farmers, producers, entrepreneurs and chefs. Hailing from different parts of Ontario, they offer a range of locally made products, from fish, produce, cheese and baked goods to kombucha and artisanal nuts.
The farmers’ market is also a great place to find sustainable and eco-friendly gifts. Check out Love Your Planet for green-living goodies (think: dryer balls, beeswax wrap and bamboo cutlery), Terradomi for beautifully poured candles, and Talis for fair trade jewelry.
While you’re shopping, be sure to grab a drink at The Sipping Container, a beverage station repurposed from — you guessed it — a shipping container. Warm up with a steaming cup of cider, tea or coffee, or refresh yourself with a craft beer or fresh juice.
The Farmers’ Market runs outdoors from May to November and indoors from November to April. Be sure to check out the market guidelines ahead of your visit for current COVID-19 building protocols.
Adventure 3: Find your next treasure at the Artisan and Vintage Market
Vintage-lovers, take note: the Brick Works’ Artisan and Vintage Market runs every second Sunday of the month from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Its outdoor setting in the Pavilions at Evergreen Brick Works lets you enjoy fresh winter air under twinkling string lights set along the building’s beams. The Artisan and Vintage Market connects visitors to over 40 local artists, makers and vintage sellers.
Expect a similar hustle and bustle to that of the Farmers’ Market — curious patrons, chatty and friendly vendors — with the added layer of the thrill of the hunt. Peruse a variety of vendors selling everything from ceramics, woodwork, crafts, wellness products, fine art, jewelry, flowers, pet items and of course, vintage clothing. Expand your vinyl collection with Selector Records, welcome a new piece of decor into your home with Rainbows and Retro, or snag a cozy vintage sweater with Solo Uno Thrift Store. No matter what you walk into the market looking for, you’re almost guaranteed to step away with something unique.
Getting to Evergreen Brick Works:
Take the Line 1 Yonge-University subway to Davisville station, then catch the 28 Bayview bus southbound.