Riders of all ages will enjoy the city experience and also see why Toronto is known as a park within a city, exploring a number of areas on two wheels.
What better way to get to know the city than a pedal through the parks and neighbourhoods of Toronto?
While many of the parks are attractions themselves, they also are great jumping-off points to see nearby sights that the city is famous for. Let the extensive network of off-road paved trails and paths be your guide around the city with these top suggested rides for families visiting the city, a great way to keep all active and engaged in fabulous urban outdoor settings.
High Park & Humber River
With so much to see and do, it is well worth a visit to the largest park in the city. Coordinate a ride that gives you enough time to see the giant trees and stop at the nature centre before getting to the show-stopping magical and massive castle playground.
Kids might be lured away to see the ducks, geese and frogs on the nearby pond, with soft serve ice cream, or a visit to the zoo to see the animals, bison and deer included, all located in the southeast corner of the park.
On weekends and holidays, family riders can enjoy a more relaxing ride on the car-free park roads. For more ambitious riders from the south end of the park, it is easy to connect to the waterfront trail for a ride that can stretch to any distance, Humber River to the west, Ontario Place to the east, and lots of playgrounds, a pool and other park amenities along the way.
Getting There: High Park TTC Station or several streetcar options.
Parking is limited in the park, and only available on weekdays. Parking at the waterfront is an option and a short ride away, but younger children need to be carefully supervised as busy road crossings are required.
The kids will happily spend hours running free and riding far on the Toronto Islands. Just a short ferry ride across the harbour, be transported to the lush green park, island waterways, beaches and more.
Pack a picnic and blanket to spread out beside one of the many playgrounds, splash pads or the Franklin Children’s Garden. Bike rentals of all types are available from the kiosk on the south side of Centre Island, with the four-seater quad bikes being most popular with young families and perfect for a fun tour to Hanlan’s or Ward’s Island.
Also on Centre Island is a mini amusement park, big enough to amaze the smallest visitor. For tired little legs, the Sky Ride chairlift floats across the park, a mini train circles all amusements, and a giant swan ride makes for an easy float on the pond.
Far Enough Farm is also located within the amusement park, and for free, kids can interact with over 40 different animals. Canoes and kayaks can be rented by the hour to paddle, play and explore more of the inland island waterways.
Getting There: Union TTC Station has streetcars with stops near the ferry terminal. To take the City ferry, it is best to buy tickets online in advance, as the ferry terminal can be extremely busy. An alternate ride option and a way to beat the summer crowds are the water taxis that depart from many locations along the waterfront.
There are a number of parking lots along the waterfront, with rates that can be pricey but may be convenient if bringing bikes.
Bikes are welcome on all City ferries except the Centre Island ferry on weekends. Water taxis also transport bikes.
Located northeast of downtown is a delightful green space that has trails that connect north and south. Stop at Sunnybrook Stables, and if your timing is right, see the beautiful show horses and riding lessons from the edge of the large outdoor paddock.
From the large parking area on the south end of Sunnybrook Park, access the West Don River Trail, ride a small section between park areas, or if young riders have the stamina for more, keep riding south as the Don River off-road trail system stretches all the way to downtown.
From the trail, an educational and fun detour can be made to the Ontario Science Centre, a huge complex that will keep all amused for hours on end.
Getting There: Make use of parking lots at park areas, or if visiting the Ontario Science Centre use their large parking lot. Some parking areas require a fee. Until the Eglinton LRT train opens, TTC buses are required to access the park.
The Beaches, Woodbine Beach
A day on the beach and along the waterfront in this east-side community is sure to please all. The busy waterfront trail is 5 km from end to end, with enough to do to fill out a day.
Pedal into the delightful Kew Gardens, and stop at the enclosed playground with a summer wading pool. Located right beside all the shops and restaurants of Queen Street, grab a takeout spread to fill one of the many park picnic tables.
Additional playgrounds can be found at both ends of the trail, and boardwalk ice cream cafés and smoothie bars provide extra treat options.
Lock up the bikes or bring them onto the sand for some real beach time and a swim in Lake Ontario; lifeguards are on duty come summertime at these Blue Flag, swimmable city beaches.
Also nearby is the gigantic Donald D. Summerville outdoor pool. If the gang is well fuelled, pedal west a few kilometres on the dedicated bike path to Tommy Thompson Park, a marvellous adventure and car-free urban wilderness, 5 km from entry to tip.
Getting There: There are a number of paid parking lots close to the beach. During the summer season and festival days, these can be busy.
While TTC streetcars allow for bikes outside of rush hours, travelling with bikes for all could be a challenge.
Black Creek Village & Trail
Take a step back in time with a visit to the pioneer village located northwest of the city centre. Tour the old buildings and get immersed in the industry, farms and lives of early settlers within this authentic park filled with costumed guides living the life.
Open all seasons, an early spring or colourful fall ride can be enjoyed by accessing the Black Creek Trail that runs south from the Village parking lot, following creeks and tributaries on an easy trail through this naturalized watershed area.
An extended trail ride can be enjoyed south and east to Downsview Park, a former air base that still has a small airport nestled in parkland, plus the Aerospace Hub, with models of de Havilland aircrafts on display throughout the park.
Access another well know North Toronto park on an eastward trail connection following the Finch Corridor Hydro Trail that skirts York University campus to G. Ross Lord Park, another gigantic city park full of playgrounds and park amenities.
Getting There: Pioneer Village or York University TTC Stations provide easy access to Village and trails. Paid parking is available at Black Creek Village and also at nearby parks.
With no shortage of park trails and nearby attractions, a family trip to Toronto that includes some outdoor adventures and bike rides should definitely be added to this year's travel plans.
Bike Rentals and Bike Share Toronto
There are a number of bike rentals in the city, more easily found and centred around the Harbourfront area. Bike rentals are also available on Toronto Islands. Toronto does have a large and convenient Bike Share network, but users have to be 16+ years old. Bring your own helmets.
Getting Here on GO
City driving can be challenging. Consider a family or weekend pass to get to the city using GO Transit if arriving from one of the many stations out of the city. Bikes are allowed on trains during non-peak travel times, free of charge.
Bike and Ride Safety
For a carefree ride, stick to the numerous off-road paved trails and separated bike paths throughout the city. Know the rideability of young riders and anticipate having to stop or make changes to plans as needed.
Be sure to secure all bikes when locked up at attractions, stops along the way or left on vehicle bike racks to avoid bike theft. The City has extensive bike safety information and resources that are useful for any ride experience and can be viewed here.
Article originally published on Ontario By Bike