Toronto insider: take a walk on the wild (or quiet) side

You know how it is at the FIPP World Congress. You’ll listen to some great speakers, meet loads of new people, get crazy on social media. But sometimes, it’s just nice to go for a walk. 

But where, you ask, since you will be staying at a downtown hotel? No worries, Toronto is full of great walking paths and trails. And, depending on what you’re looking for, a walk awaits you. 

Book it on the boardwalk: It’s actually called the Martin Goodman Trail, and it’s almost 60 kilometres long — a fantastic cycling, inline skating, running and walking path along the waterfront in the city, traversing the lake shore from the Humber River in the west end to the Rouge River in the east. Find a nice spot on the grass or a park bench to read a book or eat a sandwich. 

Toronto on the river ()

Take the ferry: The Toronto Islands are a quick escape from the city and downtown skyscrapers. Pay your fare, then stand in the gated enclosure that will remind you a bit of a cattle pen (the city is now asking architects to redesign this space, it will be amazing in the future, sadly not in time for when you’re here, however). Never mind that. Then take the Toronto Island ferry to Ward or Centre Island and walk along the islands for fantastic views of the city skyline or picture-perfect views of Lake Ontario. Also, I know we’re talking about walks here, but sometimes walking makes me thirsty. And hungry. I hate to cough this up because it’s my secret garden, but well, here it is: Go to Ward’s Island to The Rectory Café, it’s a five-minute walk west from the Ward’s Island Ferry Terminal. It’s my favourite patio in the city. You will feel as if you are in the countryside, except perched right on the edge of Lake Ontario.

It’s a quiet place: Is it just me? Do you love cemeteries? They always make me feel better about my life. St. James Cemetery in downtown Toronto is the oldest cemetery in Toronto. Quiet, winding paths make this a good location for a meditative, restorative walk. The cemetery is the final resting place of some of Toronto’s most notable citizens, like George Gooderham and William Gooderham of Gooderham and Worts distillery, and also houses the historic chapel of St.-James-the-Less. 

Follow the ravine: Right in the centre of the city, you’ll find the Rosedale Ravine, starting at Yonge and St. Clair Avenue. Duck down Heath Street East, go down the staircase, and it’s as if you’re a million miles away in a forest, just walking along a creek. Go south to the Bayview Extension or farther north, you can take it to the old Belt Line trail, the old railway that went through Forest Hill. When you come out from this forest, you’re at a subway station. Some of the trees in Toronto’s ravines are more than 150 years old. It makes me feel young, like dogs must feel when we talk about their age. 

Walking the grounds of academia: The University of Toronto campus in downtown Toronto covers a lot of ground. This is the place to go for a quiet walk if you like buildings and architecture, as it’s filled with Victorian-style and modern buildings. A good place to start is Philosopher’s Walk (entrance from the south side of Bloor Street, just west of the ROM) and meander along from there.

Discover a path: Toronto’s downtown Discovery Walk takes you through the centre of the city, where you will find hidden parks and gardens, each with its own personality and unique designs, such as a Victorian Garden, along with a sculpture garden, a historic railway round-house park and ceremonial squares.

If the weather sucks: Try the largest mall in North America, the PATH underground walkway: it’s a network of underground connections between buildings in Toronto’s downtown core – the best way to get around when the weather isn’t great. In fact, it connects more than 30 kilometres of walkways, and although it’s pretty packed on weekdays, it’s very quiet on weekends.

St. Lawrence Market: This is a food market, so I know what you’re thinking. This girl is addicted to food and this post about great walks in the city is just a fence for talking about food. Well, yes and no. It’s a big place, you get a good walk in before you can pick up the best back bacon sandwich in the world. And there’s a reason why National Geographic ranked this market #1 in the world. Toronto’s oldest and largest indoor market features more than 100 retailers selling some of the very best anything that you can buy — everything from incredible fruits and veggies to flowers and coffee. Located on the southwest corner of Front and Lower Jarvis Streets, the building was actually Toronto’s first permanent city hall and jail house. 

Image: Creative Commons view of downtown Toronto from Toronto Island

Don’t miss

If you haven’t yet booked your place at the FIPP World Congress, which takes place on 13-15 October 2015 in Toronto, find out how to do so here.

Any questions?

Get in touch with FIPP’s head of events, Claire Jones.

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