These one-of-a-kind parks feature gardens, special designs, sculptures and installations.
Torontonians enjoy being active, socializing with friends, or relaxing amongst nature at one of the 1,500 parks and green spaces across the city. While many will gravitate to the more popular spots like High Park, Trinity Bellwoods Park or Bluffer’s Park, there are a number of smaller and more unique spots that often fly under the radar.
These green spaces feature unique designs, storied histories, environmental initiatives and often have smaller crowds then their more frequented counterparts. If you’re looking to add more to your outdoor park experience, check out one of these five unique green spaces in Toronto.
Toronto Music Garden
Situated along the waterfront near Lower Spadina Ave., the Toronto Music Garden is a hidden gem frequented by those in the know. Tucked along Queens Quay West, the park was designed by acclaimed cellist Yo Yo Ma and landscape designer Julie Moir Messervy. They took inspiration from Bach’s ‘The First Suite for Unaccompanied Cello’, with each dance movement within the suite corresponding to a different section of the garden.
There are six sections that make up the Toronto Music Garden, with curves and bending pathways to mimic the movements of waterways, regular spacing of trees to represent measures of music, contemplative seating areas, a Music Pavilion, and a large public amphitheatre.
The Toronto Music Garden also hosts musical performances throughout the year, including their annual Summer Music in the Garden series, where you can enjoy free outdoor classical music performances.
Toronto Sculpture Garden
One of Toronto’s smallest parks is also one of its most unique. Located along King Street East, across from St. James Cathedral, the Toronto Sculpture Garden is a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it green space and was built to promote sculptural art for the people of Toronto. Opened in 1981, the park has commissioned contemporary sculptures from more than 80 national and international artists.
Two installations are featured each year and artists are encouraged to experiment with public space, explore issues of scale and materials while engaging with the local community. A permanent waterfall fountain is installed on the east wall and the park provides access to a pedestrian laneway that connects King Street East to Front Street East.
Evergreen Brick Works
Located along the Don Valley River, in Toronto’s east end, the Evergreen Brick Works is Canada’s first large-scale community environmental centre, operating since 2010.
For more than 100 years prior, the area was formerly a quarry and industrial site. It was home to the Don Valley Brick Works company, which produced bricks and kiln-fired clay products used to build many landmarks in Toronto, including Casa Loma, Massey Hall, Osgoode Hall and the Ontario Legislature.
Today, there are 16 remaining heritage buildings (including the original kilns) and an adjacent 40-acre public park, the Weston Family Quarry Garden, where you can wander the gardens, hike the nature trails, and take in an uninterrupted view of the Toronto skyline from the lookout point.
The Evergreen Brick Works also offers a wide range of activities and environmental programming. Farmers, Artisan and Garden Markets take place on weekends, there is a seasonal Winter Village complete with an artificial ice rink, and you can grab a quick bite or dig into a full sit-down meal at Picnic Café and Wine Shop.
Be sure to check out the Plant Positivity Gardens located in the Tiffany Commons and beside the Pavilions. These six gardens explore different themes including Restore, Develop, Heal, Renew, Thrive and Connect, and use plants to educate and connect us with our senses through these themes.
Also located in the Don Valley, north of the Evergreen Brick Works, this 35-acre former estate turned public park is an oasis for all things horticultural and botanical.
The Toronto Botanical Gardens also offers a wide range of indoor and outdoor learning experiences for all ages including programs, garden tours, nature day camps, special events and Canada’s largest private horticultural library. Once through the Toronto Botanical Gardens, make your way down the stone steps and past the Edward Garden statue.
Here the green space widens into a massive area with paved and dirt walking trails, forested areas, meticulously manicured gardens and the Wilket Creek running through the middle of the property. A popular spot for wedding and family photo shoots, you’ll regularly see photographers snapping pics.
You can easily spend a few hours wandering the grounds, enjoying a picnic or grabbing a bite to eat from the TBG Bloom Café.
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Guild Park and Gardens
Formerly known as Guildwood Park, the Guild Park and Gardens is located along the Scarborough Bluffs, about a 30-minute drive from downtown Toronto. There are 50 acres of gardens, wooded trails and soaring views of Lake Ontario to enjoy.
But the history of this property is what makes this green space so unique. Since 1914, the property has been a private residence, an estate and sanctuary for artists and artisans, a training base for the Women’s Royal Naval Service and military hospital for victims of shellshock during WWII, and again as an arts society.
As you wander the grounds, you’ll see dozens of sculptures and architectural remnants of buildings from the late 19th and early 20th centuries dotted throughout, including the large-scale Greek Theatre built from a Bank of Toronto building. Today, visitors can walk the trails, admire the sculptures and architectural pieces, and take in theatrical plays at the Greek Theatre.