Top Reasons to Love Toronto's High Park Life
High Park. A beautiful garden within a city that spans 161 hectares (or 400 acres). It’s a mix of recreational and natural park, with sporting, cultural & educational facilities, gardens, playgrounds and even a zoo! It’s home to Bonnie and Clyde, Toronto’s infamous Capybara’s that broke free from the High Park zoo and spent weeks on the run in 2016. One third of the park remains in a natural state with a rare oak savannah ecology.
It opened to the public in 1876 after 120 acres of park property were deeded to the City of Toronto by John George Howard, Toronto’s official surveyor & civil engineer, and also the first professional architect in Toronto. Howard can also be credited as the architect for numerous public, commercial, and residential buildings in Toronto in the 19th Century. The remaining 45 acres and property surrounding Colborne Lodge became city property at his death.
So Much History!
Historically, the neighborhood of High Park exists within the traditional territories of various First Nations people in Southern Ontario. It exists today on part of an old trading trail that led down toward the lake that is the namesake for Indian Road, Indian Road Crescent, and Indian Grove. In the 1880s, Bloor Street was mostly an uneven and undeveloped street. Early housing was concentrated to the north and east, where it was easy to access stores and industry along Dundas Street. High Park Avenue was the site of homes to the wealthy, many of which are still standing. High Park North emerged as a neighborhood once Bloor Street was widened following World War One, when most of the residential homes were built, and still exist today.
Steeped in history, natural beauty and some of the city’s most unique local shops, it’s no wonder it has quickly grown to be one of the most sought after pockets in Toronto. Just West of Downtown Toronto, this highly desirable neighbourhood is bounded on the South by Bloor Street, on the West by Runnymede, on the North by Annette Street, and on the East by Dundas Street West running alongside the CNR/CPR railway tracks.
Tales from a Local!
Last September, I had the pleasure of helping Anne find her condo located directly across from High Park. She shares her experience of living in this incredible neighbourhood for almost a year now!
I love how the neighbourhood is a perfect blend of urban and suburban. There are tree-lined streets with quaint Victorian homes, cute small businesses and coffee shops, and scenic places to walk. Meanwhile being on the subway line makes it easily accessible to downtown and most places in the city. The best of both worlds!
The cherry blossoms in High Park are beautiful in the Spring, and Shakespeare in the Park is a fun summer event. There are also some interesting outdoor events in the summer and fall too, like taste of the Kingsway and Ukrainian and Polish street festivals.
When it comes to shopping, here’s what Anne says about her favorite spots.
Not sure about a favourite shop but I love that there are tiny free libraries throughout the area. It’s little things like that that give the neighbourhood it’s family friendly charm.
The Sweet Potato, nearby in the Junction is a great place to find organic and healthier options. There’s also two No Frills for staple items. All walkable on a nice day.
I asked her about her favourite restaurants and coffee shops. Here’s what she recommends!
There are a lot of little restaurants in the area. Lit on Bloor is a lovely and affordable spot to get exceptional pizza. I recommend their marguerita Mondays. The Good Fork is my go to spot for unique brunch food, like the epic French toast I had here
The Good Neighbour on Annette is a cute coffee shop with a hipster vibe and a little patio. It’s nice to to walk to on a sunny day.
As we move into spring and summer, she’s really looking forward spending it locally. Being able to go on long walks through the neighbourhood and pass through the free, high park zoo, or walk down to the waterfront where you can find swans swimming.
Overall, she says there’s not much to complain about in this awesome neighbourhood. Her condo building offers a great, South facing view of the park and CN tower. According to her, it’s amazing having a subway stop just steps away from my front door. I also think it’s one of the last buildings where people greet each other in the elevators. The building feels very safe and cozy.