Favorite long walks in Toronto?
April 13, 2012 5:49 AM   Subscribe

Favorite long walks in Toronto?

We will be in Toronto in late May for a short vacation, staying downtown. We like to take 8-10 mile walks through parks, neighborhoods, city, really anything. Does not have to be a pure nature walk - we like to stop and get lunch or check out a shop or bookstore. We won't have a car, so, ideally, we can start the walk from downtown or transit.

What are your favorite walks in Toronto?
posted by Mid to Travel & Transportation around Toronto, ON (16 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
High Park is a nice spot, lots of interesting birds and trees and people if you like that sort of thing, and you can include the Roncesvalles Avenue as part of the walk. There are a couple bookstores, new and used, and some great cafes and places to have lunch. It's easily accessibly by subway or streetcar from downtown.
posted by beau jackson at 5:59 AM on April 13, 2012 [2 favorites]

The city of Toronto has a number of what they call "discovery walks" on their web site. I think most are shorter than 8-10 miles. But maybe interesting.

You might also want to check check out Murmur Toronto. They have short "walks" through neighborhoods where you can call a number on a cell phone and hear stories from people that happened to them at various posted locations. Shorter walks than you are hoping for, but maybe a nice feature.

For a general nice, long walk, if you like city neighbourhoods: You could go from Kensington Market, though spadina/dundas chinatown, toward Yonge/Dundas Square, to cabbagetown, then Little India, then the Beaches. I haven't mapped it but I'm guessing that's about 10 miles, and you'd get to see a lot of different, interesting Toronto neighbourhoods. Not too many parks in there (except at the beaches).
posted by ManInSuit at 6:16 AM on April 13, 2012

If you feel like going behind the scenes a bit, there's a set of rail tracks (with generous truck roads running next to them) that run from Dundas West and Bloor (and parts further north) all the way downtown.

Alternately, Queen West (around Bathurst or Spadina) east to the Don Valley, then walk up the valley to the Evergreen Brick Works. You'll get fun shopping, both City Halls (note that City Hall has a public green roof with a killer view for photos of downtown), the new Regent Park, lovely nature in the valley, and the Brick Works is awesome (herons! In the city!)
posted by sixswitch at 6:18 AM on April 13, 2012

The Leslie Spit is also worth checking out. It is a 3-mile artificial peninsula, with tons of birds and other stuff. The "friends of the spit" describe it as "North America's most remarkable public urban wilderness", which may or may not be true. But it is pretty remarkable - tons of bird species and other things, in a setting which evolved, I believe, more by accident than by design.
posted by ManInSuit at 6:30 AM on April 13, 2012

I've done the Uptown walk several times with friends when visiting TO. Also, I second what sixswitch said.
posted by vkxmai at 6:58 AM on April 13, 2012

Toronto is almost entirely made up of pretty, safe, & walkable neighborhoods.

If you are here May 26-27, the city will be holding Doors Open during which dozens of usually private buildings are open to the public. It's a great way to see inside the city in a different way. Though there are definitely lines & crowds for some sites.

Regardless of when you come, I suggest taking the Queen Streetcar to its easternmost point (Neville Park in The Beaches) and walking back towards downtown. You can stop walking whenever you want on the trip below because there are streetcars in Queen, Gerrard & King St E.

The streetcar tracks end at the RC Harris water treatment facility, which is a gorgeous art deco building on a substantial piece of land overlooking Lake Ontario that is popular with dog walkers, runners & teenagers. From there, you can walk on the beach itself (the boardwalk doesn't go quite as far as RC Harris, but the sand is easy to walk on), or back along Queen St E. I usually walk along the water for 6-10 blocks and then head back to Queen to window shop in the boho yuppie boutiques.

I'd walk along Queen to Rhodes Ave (a residential street), then head up to Gerrard St E to see "Little India", several blocks of grocery stores, retail & restaurants of South Asian products. Lahore Tikka House is where I eat on this stretch, but most options are good.

I would likely go back down to Queen along a Woodfield or Highfield. One of the city's 3 streetcar yards is west of Woodfield and Queen and you may be able to spot the refurbished 1930s streetcars siting there. This neighbourhood is called Leslieville and the retail is a combination of antiques (Victorian - midcentury modern), housewares and bakeries serving the gentrifying neighbourhood. There are also lots of good restaurants, coffee shops & a knitting store.

Continue east over the Don River (cool art installation on the bridge BTW) and then dip south to the Distillery District at Sumach / Cherry St. You'll be in Corktown a neibourhood of Victoria row houses and skirting the edge of a big new development called "the west don lands" which will be a new mixed use neighbourhood on these former industrial lands. The Distillery District was originally the Gooderham & Worts distillery and is now an arts and culture hub with a great theater, really good interpretative signage for the almost 200 year old buildings. Balzac's coffee is amazing here.

From the Distillery/Parliament St, continue walking west into the St Lawrence neighbourhood (a really great mixed-income neighbourhood), walk north to visit Regent Park and Cabbagetown or walk up & west along King St to window shop the high end furniture stores from Parliament to Yonge St.
posted by Heart_on_Sleeve at 7:05 AM on April 13, 2012 [2 favorites]

Toronto has a lot of "lost rivers:" rivers and creeks that were covered over or moved into pipes years ago, but whose ravine valleys remain and are now usually parks. Lost River Walks has maps and descriptions of them, and if you follow the path of, for example, Castle Frank Brook on a street map, you'll see how you could go to Eglinton West station and walk southeast from there, through ravines and parks and up over city streets and through neighbourhoods, all the way over to the Don Valley (where most rivers drain) and the Brickworks there.

All the lost river walks there will get you a nice mix of park and city, and a view of Toronto that most Torontonians don't even see.

All the other suggestions here are good. It's interesting to take an east-west street like Bloor or Queen and just walk it for a long time and watch the neighbourhoods change.

Speaking of Bloor (and the Danforth): walking over the Bloor St. Viaduct (crossing from one side of the Don River to the other) is worth it.
posted by wdenton at 7:38 AM on April 13, 2012

Seconding Leslie Spit. The best way to experience it is to go off-path and stroll along the shore. Most of the spit was made from landfill and the shoreline is literally covered in old bricks, tiles, and other building materials that have been rounded and sculpted by decades of waves.
If you have a dog, be aware that they aren't allowed due to the area being a protected bird nesting area.
posted by rocket88 at 7:47 AM on April 13, 2012

Building on what Beau Jackson said, here's my suggestion for taking the subway to High Park station then walking east.

Through High Park to either Howard Park Ave or High Park Ave. east to Roncasvalles for window shopping south along this family-friendly retail strip with recent Polish roots. You could also lack over to Sorauren if you want to look at houses instead of shops.

At Queen St W, turn east again. This is a retail/residential strip with junk/antique stores from which I bought my dining room table. This neighbourhood has everything from restored Victorian single family homes, apartment buildings and rooming houses so the retail & restaurants are equally varied. Toronto's Tibetan community also as opened retail and restaurants along here.

Queen St W from Roncasvalles to University Ave is a continuum from gritty to trendy. I prefer the section between Landsdowne and Bathurst because it's got interesting art, furniture, housewares and clothing generally by independent shopkeepers.

An alternative, which is slightly grittier is Dundas St W... More art galleries and experimental restaurants next to Vietnamese and Portuguese restaurants serving immigrant communities (some of whom have been here 50 years). The weirdest bookstore I know is on Dundas W - the Monkey's Paw. I also really enjoy the Lakeview Restaurant for its modernized diner classics. MADE design sells neat modern furniture and housewares that my husband and I like to browse / covet.

Ossington is currently ground-zero for a particular type of design-geek hipster, where they can eat, display their art, vintage clothing shop, and get their nighttime drink on.

Trinity Bellwoods Park is a really actively used local park, which connects Dundas and Queen streets.

If you still have the energy when you get to Bathurst St or Augusta, head up to Kensington Market between Dundas and College Streets. This is a collection of narrow streets that still have some "ethnic" immigrant grocery/dry goods stores, and also great cheap restaurants leaning towards recycled paper napkins and utensils made of corn. I strongly recommend Jumbo Empanada (get a salad to share and 2 empanadas) and the Urban Herbivore.
posted by Heart_on_Sleeve at 7:54 AM on April 13, 2012

There are so many options!

The Don River and Humber River have extensive bicycle/foot paths that run north from the lake for several miles.

The old Belt Line path runs west from just south of Yonge and Davisville to near Eglinton West subway station. From the east end of this path, you can link up to Mount Pleasant Cemetery and then south through the Moore Park ravine... from which you can get to the Don Valley Brick Works, which is a cool area to walk around.

It's an obvious choice - and is very crowded on weekends - but the boardwalk in the eastern Beaches neighbourhood gives you a great view of the lake. You can walk all the way west to Ashbridge's Bay.

Also thirding the Leslie Street Spit - you can also wander west to Cherry Beach from there. And High Park is beautiful, and large enough that you can get away from crowds, if that is something that you want to do.

Neighbourhoods: Heart_on_Sleeve has some good choices. You can also walk north on Yonge from the lake - you can get a good feel for the city from that.

I could go on for hours - Toronto is my home, and I love it here. Have a great trip!
posted by tallmiddleagedgeek at 1:35 PM on April 13, 2012

No one has mentioned this, so I should mention it: the Leslie Street Spit is only open on weekends.
posted by tallmiddleagedgeek at 1:41 PM on April 13, 2012

If you don't mind spending enough to pick up a book, I highly recommend Stroll: Psychogeographic Walking Tours of Toronto, by local favourite Shawn Micallef. It's a fantastic book and guide for people who want to just walk the city.
posted by criacow at 1:43 PM on April 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

And I can't believe that no one has mentioned the Toronto Islands yet! Take the ferry from the foot of Bay Street, and there's several miles of parkland plus the Ward's Island neighbourhood. Cars aren't allowed there, but you can bring or rent bicycles.
posted by tallmiddleagedgeek at 1:44 PM on April 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

Kensington market, chinatown, danforth, little india, islands, leslie street spit, queens quay, don valley, beaches, yonge, queen west, little italy, annex, cabbagetown, church, st. clair west, high park, king west, university...

(sigh, miss it)
posted by ead at 11:54 PM on April 13, 2012

I enjoy following the subway line for a long walk through the city. I used to live at Dufferin Grive, which is a beautiful park, and I worked at Spadina and Bloor. In nice weather, I would walk home from Spadina all the way up Bloor until the park. There were some lovely ethnic grocery stores, a great ice cream store, a huge used book store (the biggest in the city) and other attractions along the way.

I have also walked from my old apartment at Yonge and Eglinton to my mother's place at Yonge and York Mills (i.e. up Yonge Street following the Yonge subway line). You can't go much further than that because it is not pedestrian-friendly past Sheppard, but that was a good half-hour walk and there is lots to see on Yonge Street. My mom, who also enjoys long walks, has walked the other way and gone straight to downtown along that route!
posted by JoannaC at 6:56 AM on April 14, 2012

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