Toronto families have so many awesome playgrounds to choose from—there's even one with a ginormous (fake) lion! Here are our favourites, in no particular order.
1. Neshama Playground in Oriole Park A short jaunt from Davisville subway station, this midtown park is the first of its kind in Canada. An invigorating spot for all kids, the flat rubber ground is wheelchair friendly and the colourful expanse features sensory toys for children with autism and wide ramps that cater to all. The real beauty of this spot, however, is that it allows all kids—regardless of mobility—to play side by side. Toddlers have free reign over their own little section, and older kids can run or wheel around without the worry of knocking over any little guys. Bring a towel and bathing suit on hot days for the sprinkler.
Go play: 201 Oriole Pkwy, Toronto. friendsoforiolepark.com
2. Corktown Common A fairly new face in Toronto, the park was built on top of the Don River flood barrier and at 18 acres, it’s the largest park in the area. Home to a vast urban forest with over 700 trees and a plethora of plants and shrubs that play host to a variety of woodland critters, it’s here you’ll find a very modern-looking natural playground with a sandy base and several metal slides (some a storey-high!) built into hills. Squishy rubber mounds in the ground are a great place for kids to bounce their sillies away. They can pump their legs on the swing sets or run through the sprinkler area that incorporates a pretty stellar view of the Toronto skyline.
Go play: 155 Bayview Ave., Toronto. friendsofcorktowncommon.com
3. Dufferin Grove Park This park is a major community hub. The enclosed play area and traditional wooden fun zones are housed under a leafy canopy. Nature is incorporated into another play area with climbable fallen trees making up a mini-urban woodland. Be sure to pack an extra set of clothes and some towels in the warmer months as the wading pool (with sprinklers) and sandboxes make for happy, albeit mucky, children. Budding engineers and architects can hone their building skills by constructing bridges and dams in the sandpit, which even has a water hose—a key ingredient in mud pies. Snacks are usually available in the summer from the Cob Courtyard. Refuel with some fresh coffee, muffins and juice boxes. Open year-round.
Go play: 875 Dufferin St., Toronto. 416-392-0913 dufferinpark.ca
4. Kew Gardens The perfect spot for families to kick it, the castle-themed play area is similar in style to High Park’s regal playground. Scale up the tall wooden structure and swoosh down the slide or bounce on the four-person spring teeter-totter. There’s a wading pool beside the jungle gym and water fountains around to quench your on-the-go tot’s thirst.
Go play: 2075 Queen St. E., Toronto.
5. Jamie Bell Adventure Park The sprawling 400-acre spread at High Park is every urbanite space-seeker’s dream. The wooden playground (with a wood chip surface) is a medieval-themed village, perfect for your little knights to roam in and climb on. There’s a fenced-in tot-lot with toddler and accessibility swings and age-appropriate climbers. On the big kids' side, children can run through the tiered towers decorated with Toronto-themed paintings to get to the tall, curly tube slide. Picnic areas are located nearby and picnic tables, benches, water fountains and washrooms (open seasonally) are within the semi-fenced play area. This park tends to be busy, so come early to get a parking spot (two parking lots are located at the Hillside Gardens and the zoo, and there’s parking on the street). Open year-round.
Go play: 1873 Bloor St. W, Toronto. 416-338-0338 highparktoronto.com
6. Little Norway Park Tucked alongside the Harbourfront, this Toronto gem is a perfect spot to shoo away the icky humidity. With cool breezes coming in off Lake Ontario, little ones will love watching the planes take off from Billy Bishop Airport and waving at the ferry as it takes passengers across the narrow. Your explorer can stand up on tiptoes to check out the hulking totem pole. And the best part? The play structure features a tube slide built around a regal lion, who looks as though he’s sleepily standing guard over the whimsical playground. There are climbers and a small wading pool to boot. And if you feel like taking a stroll to watch the sailboats, the pier is accessible from the park. But be careful, there’s no railing.
Go play: 659 Queens Quay W., Toronto.
7. Vermont Square Park A community staple in the west-end neighbourhood of The Annex, the nautical playground has two play structures—one for teeny tots and one for bigger kids. The wooden ship, with an attached twisty green slide, offers plenty of spots for kids to climb and dangle from—safely, of course. If swinging and splashing are more your little one’s jam, a swing set and splash pad are nearby. The Natural Play section is an exciting spot for urban dwellers to get to enjoy nature. With stumps to climb and a sandbox with a nearby tap, kids can create a muddy pit. Oh, and the long, beautiful wooden bench that surrounds the playground is a relaxing spot for parents to hang out on and take it all in.
Go play: 819 Palmerston Ave., Toronto. http://www.branchplant.com
8. Trinity Bellwoods The trendy Queen West park is a popular spot for hangouts on Aztec-patterned blankets, but the shaded picnic space has got a strong playground game. After undergoing a facelift, it features climbers that cater to varying adventure levels. There's a roped spider web-like section to get tangled in, rings to navigate over, under and through, stepping stones, and twisted monkey bars that acrobat enthusiasts will enjoy tackling. Alongside the climbers are standard playground structures for the littler visitors. A colourful splash pad provides some cool relief during the summer months. Make sure to keep your eyes peeled for the elusive white squirrels while you're there.
Go play: 790 Queen St. W., Toronto. trinitybellwoods.ca
9. Lithuania park Lean in, we've got a secret for you: Lithuania Park in The Junction has the best toboggan hill in the city. But even after all the snow has melted, it's a fun spot for kids to climb, families to graze and for everyone to let their sillies out. Towering trees line the sandy playground offering a nice reprieve from the hot sun. There's a wading pool, swing set, slides and climbing structures, too. That ample toboggan hill lends itself as a fun place to roll (#grassstains) and explore. The Keele Community Centre right next door has washrooms.
Go play: 155 Oakmount Rd, Toronto. toronto.ca