For better or for worse, Toronto faces its fair share of hot humid days each summer. On sweaty day like this, thoughts tend to wander towards temperature-easing solutions. Here are some of our suggestions for the best places in the city to cool-off.
Head to the Pool
On a sweltering summer day, there’s nothing better than going for a swim to cool off. It’s usually the first idea that pops into your head after the thought, “what can I do to cool off?”
If you’re not the type with your own pool, worry not because there are 70 municipal pools in Toronto open to the public. They come in varying shapes and sizes, and also offer a range of instructional programs. During heat waves, the city also extends their operating hours as late as 11:00 pm.
The city’s largest public swimming pool is the Sunnyside Gus Ryder Pool, located in the west-end in Sunnyside Park (just south of High Park).
This huge facility is built right on Lake Ontario, and features enough water-space to have plenty of room dedicated to kids as well as those wanting to swim laps in peace. Other popular city pools include Alex Duff Pool, at Christie Pits Park, D.D. Summerville Pool in the Beaches, and the High Park Pool.
There are also privately-run pool facilities all over the city, particularly gyms, sports clubs and newer condominium buildings. One of the most popular spots to go downtown is the pool at the Sheraton Centre on Queen Street West.
Here $28 will buy you access to the largest indoor-outdoor pool in the city, as well a great poolside bar. Meanwhile, another busy spot is The Wave Pool in Richmond Hill, which features simulated waves and waterslides.
Head to the Beach
Of course, pools are not the only place to take a swim in the city. Toronto has many great beaches on Lake Ontario which have enjoyed a resurgence in recent years as the city has worked hard to improve their water quality.
Since 2005, Toronto has been certifying its beaches under the international Blue Flag program, where they are monitored regularly to ensure they meet the high standards of the label, in both water quality and environmental management. Daily monitoring of water quality is posted on both the City of Toronto and Blue Flag websites.
The most popular stretch of sand is in the east-end neighbourhood of The Beaches. There is one long continuous length of beach stretching from Ashbridge’s Bay Park in the west to the R. C. Harris Water Treatment Plant in the east.
However, the lakeshore is actually broken down into several different beaches. Woodbine Beach is in the west, then moving eastward it is followed by Kew Beach, and finally Balmy Beach.
In west-end, there is a long stretch of scenic boardwalk and sand along Sunnyside Beach, and another beach further west at Marie Curtis Park. Perhaps the cleanest beaches in the city belong to the Toronto Islands, which have the advantage of facing out towards Lake Ontario. There are four main beaches there, as well as a nude beach at Hanlan’s Point, if that’s your thing.
In the realm of cooling-off, the next level beyond swimming has to be waterslides. Kids and adults alike can enjoy the excitement of sliding down these watery tubes at high speeds. In the downtown area, Ontario Place is your best bet for waterslides, where you can find the “Soak City” waterpark.
Travelling out from the city, there are great waterslides at some of the area’s larger amusement parks. Canada’s Wonderland, located north of the city in Vaughan, has a sprawling waterpark in addition to their roller coasters, bumper cars and other rides.
It also features the largest outdoor wave pool in Canada. Wild Water Kingdom, located northwest of the city just off Highway 427, is another large waterpark that also features recreational activities like mini-golf and rock-climbing.
Only a quick ferry-ride from the downtown core, the Toronto Islands are one of the crown jewels of the Toronto park system. On muggy July day you can literally feel the temperature drop as you travel on the boat over the water of Toronto’s harbour.
The islands are generally cooler because they don’t retain heat the way the concrete and asphalt of the city does, and the breeze off Lake Ontario helps as well.
The ferry runs across to the islands every half-hour at peak times, with a return ticket costing $6.50 for adults, $4.00 for students and seniors, and $3.00 for children under 12. Once on the island, there are many activities including boat rentals, bike rentals, beaches, volleyball nets and even a disc-golf course (also known as Frisbee-golf, or “frolf”).
One of the best ways to check out the island’s trails and boardwalks is by bike, which can be rented on site. The islands are packed with activities for all ages, including an outdoor maze, several great beaches, and an amusement park for the kids.
Go to the Movies
In the early 20th century, movie theatres were among the first places that air conditioning was installed. People would flock there on sweaty summer days to escape the heat, adding to the overall allure of the cinema.
However, just because these days more people have air conditioners doesn’t mean it’s not still a great place to beat the heat.
Being cultural and media hub for Canada, it should come as no surprise that Toronto has wide variety of movie theatres. There are numerous large cinexplexes scattered across the city, including Scotiabank Theatre Toronto on Richmond Street downtown, AMC Yonge Dundas 24, and Cineplex Odeon Queensway Cinemas.
For movies a little more outside the mainstream, there are spots like Bloor Cinema, the Toronto Underground Cinema, and even the Bell Lightbox Theatre on King Street.
Have a Drink
If all else fails, the best solution to an excess of summer’s heat is a liberal dose of patio drinks. Toronto’s patio culture is well-established in the warmer months, and there are dozens of fabulous spots to have an ice cold beverage.
Some of the most popular patios in the city include the Drake Sky Yard on Queen West, Café Diplomatico in Little Italy, and Allen’s on Danforth Avenue. But don’t take our word for it; explore any neighbourhood in the city and you’re bound to find somewhere great to cool off.