Writer in Residence

Things to Do This Summer in Toronto, for Free

By Pamela Mordecai

In these difficult times when every penny must count, and money for entertainment, as for everything else, needs to be wisely spent, it’s reassuring to know that there are lots of things to do in Toronto that cost only the TTC fare, or the gas, if you drive, or, if you ride a bike, the energy to get there. Pack a sandwich, some juice, your frisbee, yo-yo, skates, skateboard, paperback, boggle or scrabble, sunglasses, bug spray just to be on the safe side, and off you go.

I always think of the islands first, because I’m originally from an island, I guess. Take the ferry across to the Toronto Islands. Walk out to the end of the Pier and gaze across the lake. On a clear day, you can see the other side! Look at the flora, the fauna, the fountain and the passing parade of folks. Be soothed by the swans. Enjoy shore fishing if you are a fisherperson. Walk from Ward’s Island to Hanlan’s Point Ferry Dock, if you want. Sun yourself on Manitou Beach and take a dip in the – br-rrrrr – cool waters of the lake, See the Toronto skyline, coming and going. You may want to take a jacket, even if the day is warm. It gets cool on the water.

Visit the Toronto Music Garden, designed by world famous cellist, Yo Yo Ma, and landscape designer Julie Moir Messervy, in collaboration with landscape architects from the City’s Parks and Recreation Department. To better appreciate the garden, constructed as “a reflection in landscape of Bach's First Suite for Unaccompanied Cello,” check the website http://www.harbourfrontcentre....
Free concerts are Thursdays at 7 pm and Sundays at 4 pm. It’s advisable to bring your own lawn chair, as bench seating is limited.

Visit Allen Gardens where six greenhouses feature colourful seasonal plants. (You can do this summer or winter, of course.) There’s a “Palm House" that’s modeled after similar structures in the United States and England, and giant tree ferns. Meander through for the sheer joy of lushness and greenery.

Visit the Leslie Street Spit. Look at gorgeous ‘wild’ plants, big fat bees (skinny worker bees too), rocks, wide lake water, big wide sky. Walk or ride the stuck-out tongue of the Spit. (Make sure you stay on the designated paths.) It’s a good long route, so you can get great exercise.

Visit Harbourfront. If there’s no outdoor event (and there’s almost always something), walk along by the lake and watch the sailboats, yachts and ferries. Soak up sun. Or visit the studios and the exhibition spaces, where there’s always good stuff to see. Or poke around in shops.

Visit the Lakeshore. You can also get in a vigorous walk here, all the way down to the bridge by Palace Pier, and beyond that, to the lookout point and down to the shore on the other side. Lounge on the beach. Don’t go here if bird pooh bothers you, though.

High Park is a great big wonderful park with old trees, ponds (including Grenadier Pond), Colborne Lodge and a petting zoo. There are the occasional statues and piece of sculpture, and at least one ancient fountain. It’s a great big park, and so good for walking or riding. There are excellent places, covered and uncovered, to picnic, and the neighbourhood of High Park, developed on an oak-tree savanna, has lots of gracious old houses, if you enjoy looking at these.

Admire the fountain and the formal gardens at Rosetta McClain Gardens at Kingston Road and Glen Everest Road. Open daily, dawn to dusk. It’s a ways out, but often less crowded on that account.

Making no apology that these are all outdoors. It’s summer, time to crank up your supply of vitamin D and get some colour into that wintry skin, because, sad to say, the sun will be headed south again before you can squint!

The views expressed in the Writer-in-Residence blogs are those held by the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Open Book: Toronto.

The views expressed in the Writer-in-Residence blogs are those held by the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Open Book.

Pamela Mordecai has been many things: a teacher, a trainer of teachers, a TV host, a diplomatic wife, an anthologist, a writer of poems, stories and textbooks for children, and a writer of criticism, fiction, poetry and plays for those challenged by age. Born and raised in Jamaica, educated there and in the U.S.A., Pam has lived in Toronto for the past 15 years.