In a city as big as Toronto, there’s always a new festival happening, a new show playing or a new venue to check out. While we are certainly luckily to have all of these exciting things to choose from, it can sometimes be overwhelming with the constant crowds and hyper-inflated prices, especially when we are stuck in this seemingly endless recession. So let’s get back to the basics and talk about what is perhaps one of the most underappreciated date night locations in the city: High Park. You may be surprised to learn that the west side of Toronto is home to a sprawling 399 acres of parkland that stretches all the way from Bloor Street to the Queensway. High Park is the perfect spot for couples who are looking for an escape from the hustle and bustle of the city, that’s also easy on the wallet.
One of my favourite date activities is packing a picnic, grabbing a cheap bottle of wine and settling into a cosy corner of the park for the afternoon. There are plenty of picturesque areas to choose from, often with picnic tables. Choose a path and wander down it until you find a secluded nook for you and your honey, or snuggle up on a bench along Grenadier Pond in the south-west corner of the park. Personally, I like to stretch out on a blanket on the rolling hills overlooking Hillside Gardens. The landmark maple leaf-shaped floral centerpiece can be seen from satellite, and the gardens themselves provide a lovely after-dinner excursion through paths leading over bridges, beside waterfalls and surrounded by vibrant flowers and creative shrubberies.
If picnicking isn’t really your thing, there are other ways to curb your hunger. The Grenadier Café lies at the heart of the park, providing full service or cafeteria-style service at reasonable prices, and both options offer indoor or patio seating. There are also plenty of snack booths, hotdog carts and ice- cream stands scattered all over the park.
Keeping each other motivated about staying in shape is important to many couples, and High Park is an ideal place for your work-out date. The park is filled with scenic trails that are great for a leisurely stroll, a casual jog, or even a full-fledged marathon training session. Some are glossy and manicured, while others are more rustic and natural, offering a variety of terrain. For the sports-fans there are several tennis courts (both public and private), three baseball diamonds and a soccer field, as well as a swimming pool in the summer and in ice-rink in the winter.
After your romantic dinner or vigorous work-out, there’s still a great deal left to see in the park. There’s a cultural heritage museum, a dog park and a petting zoo. Each summer at the High Park Amphitheatre, the Canadian Stage Theatre Company presents a different Shakespeare play six nights a week (Tuesday-Sunday). This year’s play is A Midsummer Night’s Dream and the admittance is pay-what-you-can. Last but not least, you simply can’t leave High Park without a visit to the Jamie Bell Adventure Playground. Located in the south-east corner, this medieval-themed playground will marvel you with its towering turrets, bridges and spiral slides. Whether you wait for the kiddies to disperse and let your inner-children loose on each other, or daydream about the potential little ones you just might bring here someday, it’s sure to be a fantastic bonding experience.
So the next time you want refuge from the noisy, over-crowded and financially draining place that the city can sometimes become, just hop on over to the west side and disappear into High Park.