With its winding streets, gently rolling hills and towering oak trees, High Park is a neighbourhood of natural beauty that delights all those who live here and adds incalculable value to its homes for at least half a dozen blocks in every direction. The neighbourhood is named after the park itself, which is the largest and most popular park in Toronto.
Grenadier Pond by Diego Torres Silvestre
In 1836, John Howard, Toronto’s first surveyor, purchased the High Park property south of Bloor Street. Due to the fact that his estate had a magnificent view of Lake Ontario, he named it High Park. In 1873, John Howard gave his vast estate and his home, Colborne Lodge, to the City; that is why he was considered a great benefactor. Colborne Lodge is still situated on its original site in High Park, where it is now a museum.
Walking in the winding tree-lined streets of High Park, you will be captivated by the gorgeous Victorian, Edwardian and Tudor-style homes built largely during the late 1800s and early 1900s. The most typical High Park home designs are two- and three-storey detached brick with a variety of architectural details, such as leaded and stained glass windows, lush wood trims, French doors, hardwood floors and fireplaces.
There are also several very nice condominium buildings situated on Gothic, High Park, and Quebec Avenues near Bloor, offering stunning views of the park from their balconies, some even providing sightlines all the way down to Lake Ontario.
Bloor West Village by Jose
Where to Shop
High Park is located within walking distance of ‘Bloor West Village’, one of Toronto’s most popular shopping districts. The ‘Village’ is known across the City for its European bakeries, delicatessens, specialty food shops, cafes and restaurants. More than 400 shops provide everything the residents need for daily life. In 1970, High Park businesses organized themselves into the first mandatory business improvement district, an idea that has spread to numerous other commercial streets in Toronto and to cities around the world.
High Park’s other major shopping area is the ‘Junction Gardens’ along Dundas Street West, a revitalized retail district with grocery shopping, restaurants, pubs and professional services.
The Park and Its Facilities
For a tranquil retreat from the city, visit High Park, the largest green space in Toronto. At nearly 400 acres, High Park is an outdoor urban oasis in the heart of Toronto. It is for every taste and mood as it includes manicured ornamental gardens, picnic grounds, playgrounds, flower gardens, animal paddocks, quiet spaces surrounded by native vegetation, a whimsical zoo, the Colborne Lodge historical museum, sport facilities and many other diversions.
Bridge and forest pond in High Park by Joel Bedford
One-third of High Park’s terrestrial system is considered to be ecologically significant because of the rare vegetation and wildlife found there. The countless species of wildlife and the outstanding concentration of rare plant species provide the visitors with a unique sense of wilderness. Strolling in the park, you will see insects, birds, amphibians and other reptiles, fish, mammals and plants like woodland fern-leaf, cup plant, shrubby St. John’s Wort and wild blue lupine.
Sports facilities in High Park include a tennis court, a baseball diamond, a soccer field, lawn bowling, a swimming pool and skating rink, as well as walking, jogging and cycling paths found throughout the park. By law, cycling is permitted only on paved trails and roads in the park to prevent erosion and disturbance; the unpaved dirt trails throughout High Park are for hikers and walkers only.
A municipal swimming bath complex, free of charge and supervised by lifeguards, is open during the summer. In the southeast corner of the park, an ‘adventure playground’ for children was assembled by volunteers in 1999. The playground is named after Jamie Bell, a volunteer who initially pioneered the idea. In a ravine along Deer Pen Road, you will also find the High Park zoo, with bison, llamas, peacocks, deer, highland cattle, yaks, and sheep. It is open year-round from 7:00 a.m. to dusk.
Last but not least, there is a large restaurant and outdoor patio at the centre of the park, at the intersection of West Road and Colborne Lodge Road, called the Grenadier Cafe. The restaurant opened in May 1958 as a dining room and coffee shop, with seating for 300. Today, it is also used for community meetings. Twice a year, plant sales are held at the Cafe, featuring plants native to the park, to raise money for conservation activities.
Tennis by Wanda Gould
Dream in High Park
“Dream in High Park” is a popular annual event held during summer in High Park by the Canadian Stage Company. Canada’s third largest not-for-profit contemporary theatre company puts on a selected Shakespearean play in the park’s amphitheatre on the hill side directly to the east of the Grenadier Cafe.
Programs and Initiatives
- The Volunteer Stewardship Program, along with the City of Toronto Urban Forestry and Horticulture staff, work to protect and restore the remaining natural areas of High Park, including large areas of savannah with black oak trees and related flora and fauna. Spring, summer and fall activities include planting, collecting seeds, and removing invasive species from restoration sites. There are also educational presentations and greenhouse work during winter.
- The High Park Nature Centre, a non-profit organization run by High Park Initiatives (the park’s charitable organization), offers an enriched educational and park stewardship program to local schools, community groups and families throughout the year. Its aim is to influence long-term individual attitudes toward natural environment and contribute to the protection of High Park’s rare and significant natural areas.
- The High Park Natural Environment Committee is a volunteer committee that maintains a website with a wide variety of information about the park’s natural heritage. The committee also advises the city on environmental issues in the park.
Other Parks Close to High Park
- Etienne Brule Park
- Rennie Park
- Earlscourt Park
Colborne Lodge by Robert Taylor
High Park Public Library
The High Park Public Library, at 228 Roncesvalles Avenue, is an ideal destination for book lovers in High park. With its bright rooms, tall wooden ceilings, old fireplace and big comfy chairs, it feels truly cozy. It has two levels with the kids’ section downstairs and adults’ section upstairs. The main floor, with the lobby and the children’s section, is small, while upstairs the area is larger and contains the bulk of the library’s contents.
Situated at the heart of the Toronto Polish community, the library reflects its surroundings: it contains perhaps the largest collection of Polish books, magazines and videos in a public library anywhere in Canada. Some of these books have been donated by members of the Polish community.
Roncesvalle by Cory Doctorow
Other Easily Accessible Libraries
- Runnymede Public Library, 2178 Bloor Street West
- Swansea Memorial Library, 95 Lavinia
- Annette Branch Library, 145 Annette
- Parkdale Library, 1303 Queen W
- Masaryk-Cowan Community Centre, 220 Cowan
- Parkdale Community Centre, 75 Lansdowne
- Holy Family Community Centre, 141 Close
High Park residents can quickly commute to downtown via Lakeshore Boulevard, or via the Bloor subway and Queen West steetcar lines. The Bloor-Danforth subway line has three stations within walking distance of the High Park neighbourhood: Runnymede, High Park, and Keele. In addition, the Gardiner Expressway provides a fast exit out of the city for those who “reverse commute” to Mississauga.
Bloor Danforth line by David J
The park itself stretches from The Queensway to Bloor, but the community of High Park extends all the way up to Dundas. Runnymede Road is High Park’s western boundary with Bloor West Village, while Roncesvalles Avenue is the limit to the east. Homes in High Park can be found in Toronto Real Estate Districts W01 (south of Bloor) and W02 (north of Bloor).
- Keele St. Jr & City Community Centre School
- Indian Road Crescent Jr. School
- Annette St. Jr. & Sr. School
- Perth Avenue Jr. School
- Humberside Collegiate Institute
- Bloor Collegiate Institute
- Runnymede Collegiate Institute
- Kent Sr. School
- Western Technical-Commercial School
High Park Sunrise by Travelmania
- The most admired plant communities in High Park are the black oak savannahs, remnants of the sand prairie systems that once covered much of southern Ontario’s landscape. By some estimates, less than one percent of oak savannah ecosystems are left in the world, and High Park contains the fourth largest system globally.
- Tobogganing, a formerly popular winter pastime, is only done now at the hill at Howard Park Avenue and Parkside Drive. Several toboggan runs existed in the past in the hillside gardens area, and the “bowl” at the bottom of an old toboggan run still exists just east of Grenadier Pond, to the northwest of Grenadier Cafe—this run started at West Road and ended at the bowl next to the Pond. Today, it is no longer used and trees block the run. Hiking paths are maintained for cross-country skiing.
- Leashed dog walking is allowed in all areas of the park, except for the children’s playgrounds. An “off-leash” area is located to the east of Colborne Lodge Road, northeast of Grenadier Cafe.
- High Park is the last “dry” (i.e. alcohol-free) area of the City of Toronto, and the Cafe restaurant and banquet hall are not licensed to serve alcohol.
- High Park’s 18 designated group picnic sites can be reserved through the City of Toronto.
- The practice of keeping animals in the park originated in 1893 with the keeping of deer.
Interested in living in the neighbourhood? Browse the MLS Listings for the perfect house or condominium available in this area.