A Cross-city Cycling Tour, Salsa on St. Clair and Multiple Free Concerts
Close to a century ago this was one of the most popular areas in Toronto and featured a large amusement park from 1922 onwards. The area was drastically changed in the 1950s with the construction of the Gardiner Expressway which essentially reduced the parkland in half and led to the destruction of the amusement park. Today, the only original buildings remaining from this era are the Palais Royale (a recently restored ballroom and banquet facility), and the Sunnyside Bathing Pavilion which houses a popular waterfront café.
The entrance to the Sunnyside Bathing Pavilion
Despite these changes, Toronto’s western waterfront in Humber Bay is hugely popular with people. Walkers, picnickers, inline skaters and bikers make extensive use of the Waterfront Trail. Three beach volleyball nets grace the narrow strip of sand in front of the café and a boardwalk made from recycled plastic invites for a walk on the waterfront. I grabbed myself a slice of pizza and relaxed a bit on bench, watching the comings and goings in a beautiful sunny spot by the water.
Action on the Toronto’s western boardwalk
I then started heading eastwards along the Waterfront Trail past Ontario Place, a multi-purpose entertainment and seasonal amusement park. Opened in 1971 Ontario Place consists of three artificial islands that feature walking trails, food and drink concessions, an IMAX theatre located in a geodesic dome-shaped structure, an amusement park for children and an outdoor concert facility, the Molson Amphitheatre.
Getting ready for the Chinese Lantern Festival at Ontario Place
Immediately adjacent to Ontario Place is Coronation Park, a park centered around a royal oak tree that was planted in tribute to King George VI. Right in front of the park is a marina that houses hundreds of sailboats. Cycling further east I passed by the recently renovated Tip Top Tailor Building, a historic property built in 1929 in true Art Deco style. This building was recently completely restored and has been converted into loft condominiums.
Sailboats in the harbour
From here I snaked onto Queen’s Quay and made a stop at the Toronto Music Garden, a waterfront garden that was inspired by Bach’s First Suite for Unaccompanied Cello and designed by internationally renowned cellist Yo Yo Ma and landscape designer Julie Moir Messervy. The Toronto Music Garden features spiral-shaped walkways surrounded by lush shrubs and flowers and is highlighted by an outdoor amphitheatre that offers free concerts to the public. As I was riding by, dozens of music enthusiasts were sitting in the outdoor concert facility, intently listening to a free classical concert.
A free concert in the Toronto Music Garden
My ride continued to Harbourfront, a popular entertainment area at Toronto’s waterfront. Harbourfront Centre, a former warehouse, today holds a high-end shopping centre, commercial office spaces and condominiums. The bottom level also features restaurants and outdoor patios that look out on the docking facilities for the many tourist boats that depart from here for harbour tours.
View of Harbourfront
Free concerts are held every weekend at Harbourfront on the Concert Stage while the World Café and the International Marketplace feature foods and merchandise from around the world. Additional cultural offerings are provided by the Power Plant Gallery, the Premiere Dance Theatre, the Enwave Theatre and the York Quay Centre. A Cuban music group was enchanting the crowd at the Concert Stage. I pushed my bike a bit further east and sat down with an ice cream to enjoy the beautiful view across the harbour to the Toronto Islands and to watch the colourful promenade of people strolling by.
Cuban music at Harbourfront Centre
Finally, after an action-packed day full of explorations and almost 60 km of riding I got on my iron horse one last time to make the 45 minute trek home along Toronto’s lakefront. Summer in Toronto is amazing; I had cycled from secluded nature areas, through a Victorian-era cemetery to a Latin festival, enjoyed the waterfront and caught two more free concerts in or near Harbourfront. There is so much going on in this city in the summer and the bicycle is the ideal way to explore it.
A view of the Toronto Islands