Toronto residents love the great outdoors, whatever the time of year. In summer, you'll see people cycling, boating, and hiking; in winter, they are skating and, out of town for the most part, skiing and snowboarding.
For additional information on facilities in the parks, golf courses, tennis courts, swimming pools, beaches, and picnic areas, contact Toronto Parks and Recreation (tel. 416/392-8186; www.toronto.ca/parks).
The Beaches is the neighborhood along Queen Street East from Coxwell Avenue to Victoria Park. It has a charming boardwalk that connects the beaches, starting at Ashbridge's Bay Park, which has a sizable marina. Woodbine Beach connects to Kew Gardens Park and is a favorite with sunbathers and volleyball players. Woodbine also boasts the Donald D. Summerville Olympic Pool. Snack bars and trinket sellers line the length of the boardwalk.
Many locals prefer the beaches on the Toronto Islands. The ones on Centre Island, always the busiest, are favorites with families because of such nearby attractions as Centreville. The beaches on Ward's Island are much more secluded. They're connected by the loveliest boardwalk in the city, with masses of fragrant flowers and raspberry bushes along its edges. Hanlan's Point, also in the Islands, is Toronto's only nude beach.
Canoeing & Kayaking
The Harbourfront Canoe and Kayak School (283A Queens Quay W.; tel. 800/960-8886 or 416/203-2277; www.paddletoronto.com) rents canoes and kayaks; call ahead if you are interested in taking private instruction.
You can also rent canoes, rowboats, and pedal boats on the Toronto Islands just south of Centreville.
Just about every park in Toronto becomes potential cross-country skiing territory as soon as snow falls. Best bets are Sunnybrook Park and Ross Lord Park, both in North York. For more information, contact Toronto Parks and Recreation (tel. 416/392-8186; www.toronto.ca/parks). Serious skiers interested in day trips to excellent out-of-town sites, such as Horseshoe Valley, can contact Trakkers Cross Country Ski Club (tel. 416/763-0173; www.trakkers.ca), which also rents equipment.
With biking trails through most of the city's parks and more than 29km (18 miles) of street bike routes, it's not surprising that Toronto has been called one of the best cycling cities in North America. Favorite pathways include the Martin Goodman Trail (from the Beaches to the Humber River along the waterfront); the Lower Don Valley bike trail (from the east end of the city north to Riverdale Park); High Park (with winding trails over 160 hectares/395 acres); and the Toronto Islands, where bikers ride without fear of cars. For advice, call the Ontario Cycling Association (tel. 416/426-7416), contact Toronto Parks and Recreation (tel. 416/392-8186; www.toronto.ca/parks), or visit www.toronto.ca/livegreen/greenlife_onthego_cycling.htm. Bike lanes are marked on College/Carlton streets, the Bloor Street Viaduct leading to the Danforth, Beverly/St. George streets, Jarvis Street, and Davenport Road.
For a list of bike rental shops, contact the Toronto Bicycling Network (tel. 416/766-1985; www.tbn.ca). One sure bet is Wheel Excitement (249 Queens Quay W., Unit 110; tel. 416/260-9000; www.wheelexcitement.ca). If you're interested in cycling with a group or want information about daily excursions and weekend trips, contact the Toronto Bicycling Network.
Be forewarned: Like many other North American cities, the tensions between cyclists and car drivers are mounting, so be on your guard and take it easy.
The Metro Central YMCA (20 Grosvenor St.; tel. 416/975-9622; www.ymcatoronto.org) has excellent facilities, including a 25m (82-ft.) swimming pool, all kinds of cardiovascular machines, Nautilus equipment, an indoor track, squash and racquetball courts, and aerobics classes. The University of Toronto Athletic Centre (55 Harbord St., at Spadina Ave.; tel. 416/978-3436; www.ac-fpeh.com) offers similar facilities. Guest passes to both centers are C$25 per day.
For yoga aficionados, there's no better place to stretch than Yoga Plus (40 Eglinton Ave. E., 8th Floor; tel. 416/322-9936; www.yogaplustoronto.com). A single class costs C$20; there's also a pay-what-you-can "Karma" class available. For a listing of all of Toronto's yoga studios, visit www.yogatoronto.ca, which covers the city and the Greater Toronto Area.
Toronto is obsessed with golf: There are more than 75 public courses within an hour's drive of downtown. Here's information on some of the best.
- Don Valley. 4200 Yonge St., south of Highway 401 (tel. 416/392-2465). Designed by Howard Watson, this is a scenic par-71 course with some challenging elevated tees. The par-3 13th hole is nicknamed the Hallelujah Corner (it takes a miracle to make par). It's considered a good place to start your kids. Greens fees are C$30 to C$63.
- Humber Valley. 40 Beattie Ave., at Albion Road (tel. 416/392-2488). The relatively flat par-70 course is easy to walk, with lots of shade from towering trees. The three final holes require major concentration (the 16th and 17th are par-5s). Greens fees are C$44 to C$52.
- Glen Abbey Golf Club. 1333 Dorval Dr., Oakville (tel. 905/844-1800; www.glenabbey.ca). The championship course is one of the most famous in Canada. Designed by Jack Nicklaus, the par-73 layout traditionally plays host to the Canadian Open. Greens fees are C$135 to C$265.
Travelers who are really into golf might want to consider a side trip to the Muskoka Lakes. This area, just 90 minutes north, has some of the best golfing in the country at courses such as Taboo and the Deerhurst Highlands.
Ice Skating & In-Line Skating
Nathan Phillips Square, in front of City Hall, becomes a free ice rink in winter, as does an area at Harbourfront Centre. Rentals are available on-site. More than 25 parks contain artificial rinks (also free), including Grenadier Pond in High Park -- a romantic spot, with a bonfire and vendors selling roasted chestnuts. They're open from November to March.
In summer, in-line skaters pack Toronto's streets (and sidewalks). Go with the flow and rent some blades from Wheel Excitement.
Skate till You Drop? -- Let's say you'd like to go skating, while your traveling companion wants to hit the shops. If you head to Hazelton Lanes, you can both get what you want. A central courtyard doubles as a skating rink. Better yet, the shopping center's Customer Service Centre (tel. 416/968-8600) offers complimentary skate rentals. It's hard to beat a deal like that.
Downtown routes might include Harbourfront and along the lakefront, or through Queen's Park and the University. The Martin Goodman Trail runs 20km (12 miles) along the waterfront from the Beaches in the east to the Humber River in the west. It's ideal for jogging, walking, or cycling. It links to the Tommy Thompson Trail, which travels the parks from the lakefront along the Humber River. Near the Ontario Science Centre in the Central Don Valley, Ernest Thompson Seton Park is also good for jogging. Parking is available at the Thorncliffe Drive and Wilket Creek entrances.
These areas are generally quite safe, but you should take the same precautions you would in any large city.
Walk/Jog/Cycle in Peace -- One of the best places to walk, jog, or cycle in the city is the path that connects downtown with the Don Valley Ravine and winds up at the Evergreen Brick Works. There's plenty of topography and the promise of a beautiful and tranquil spot to rest at the end of the journey. On Saturdays in summer, you can also refuel at the farmers market, where good prepared foods, often made with local and seasonal ingredients, make the trek back a breeze.
Toronto has several climbing gyms, including Joe Rockhead's (29 Fraser Ave.; tel. 416/538-7670; www.joerockheads.com) and the Toronto Climbing Academy (100 Broadview Ave.; tel. 416/406-5900; www.climbingacademy.com). You can pick up the finer points of knot tying and belaying. Both gyms also rent equipment.
Snowboarding & Skiing
The snowboard craze shows no sign of abating, at least from January to March (or anytime there's enough snow on the ground). One popular site is the Earl Bales Park (4169 Bathurst St., just south of Sheppard Ave.), which offers rentals. The park also has an alpine ski center, which offers both equipment rentals and coaching. Call (tel. 416/395-7931) for more information.
Spas in the City
In the past decade or so, Toronto has established a reputation for superior spas, some in hotels and others stand-alone facilities. Here's a short list of the best, and most unique to the city.
Elmwood Spa. 18 Elm St. (tel. 416/977-6751; www.elmwoodspa.com). Just a stone's throw from the busy corner of Dundas and Yonge streets, and a convenient respite for shoppers who have exhausted themselves at the nearby Eaton Centre, this is a favorite day spa to while away many serene hours of pampering, dining, and quiet play. They really have it all: massages and facials, a range of water therapies that center around a pretty pool, steam rooms, a whirlpool, and a poolside lounge where spa cuisine and herbal teas are served. The service is top-notch and the brand so highly respected they have their own line of beauty products. Facials are a highlight.
Holt Renfrew Spa. Holt Renfrew, 50 Bloor St. W. (tel. 416/960-2909; www.holtrenfrew.com). Located in one of Toronto's most luxurious stores is, appropriately enough, one of the city's most luxurious spas. Decorated in modern-chic blond wood and glass, the spa provides a good range of cosmetic services, from manicures to massage. If you've flown to Toronto, try their Jet Lag Facial, which rehydrates the skin and includes lymphatic leg therapy.
Stillwater Spa. Park Hyatt Toronto, 4 Avenue Rd. (tel. 416/924-5471;www.stillwaterspa.com). Water is the theme at this spa in the Park Hyatt, and it undulates in streams under transparent floor panels and courses down walls in mini-waterfalls. Before you even get to the treatment rooms, you'll be dazzled by the changing areas, which include a whirlpool and sauna, and also private cabana-like nooks for reclining (personal TV screens come with a headset). There's something for everyone at this lovely spot, from manicures to hair "rituals," Swedish and Reiki massage to anti-stress treatments. For a taste of Canadiana, try a Canadian grain facial (with grain from Alberta) or the BC seaweed wrap. The hotel dining room, combined with the health menu at the Spa, offer culinary delights, too.
The municipal parks, including High and Rosedale parks, offer a dozen or so outdoor pools (open June-Sept). Several community recreation centers have indoor pools. For pool information, call tel. 416/338-7665.
Visitors may buy a day pass to use the pools at the YMCA (20 Grosvenor St.; tel. 416/975-9622) and the University of Toronto Athletic Centre (55 Harbord St., at Spadina Ave.; tel. 416/978-4680).
There are 200 municipal parks across Toronto with tennis facilities. The most convenient are the courts in High, Rosedale, and Jonathan Ashbridge parks. They are open from April to October only. Call Toronto Parks (tel. 416/392-1111) for information. The Toronto Parks website also has a brochure you can download; visit www.toronto.ca/parks.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.