where to go in toronto to escape

I’m very excited to launch the first post (of hopefully many!) of the brand new series: “My velvet escape travel tip“. This series is about what the name ‘Velvet Escape’ evokes and what that would be in the hometown of the guest writer. I’ve invited several blogger friends to kick-start this series. With this series, I hope to uncover spots or activities around the world for visitors to explore and get to know for a truly local experience.

Escape travel. It’s one of life’s necessities.

While I typically travel to discover rather than escape – I travel to, not away from things – there are times when an escape is essential. Whether I’m at home in Toronto or traveling, I sometimes need to find a place away from noise to quiet my mind, reflect and recharge. For me, an escape is a tranquil place. There may or may not be people around. That doesn’t really matter. What is important is that it affords me a bit of tranquility. These are my ‘velvet‘ escapes.

My task here is to reveal my favourite places in Toronto to seek tranquility. It is my hope that, when you visit Toronto, you too can enjoy some quiet time along with the sites, theatre, music, festivals… that this fabulous city has to offer.

Central – Toronto Islands

A wonderful place, especially during the week. If it’s quiet you’re looking for, don’t go to the islands on the weekend, but during the week it a wonderful escape. A short ferry ride from the foot of Yonge St.,(downtown) you can enjoy the islands’ parkland on foot or by bike. On the south side are rugged beaches that completely ignore the city. On the north side are cityscape views.

The Toronto skyline on a stormy day seen from the islands

East – The Waterworks

If you’ve read Michael Ondaatje’s “In the Skin of a Lion” you will be familiar with the Waterworks in Toronto –known properly as the R.C. Harris Water Filtration Plant. Take the Queen Streetcar east to The Beach. Get off anywhere from Woodbine Ave. on and go south to the lake. Follow the boardwalk east along the lake to its end and keep going. Walk along the sand, again, to the end. Now go up and around onto the Waterworks property. Enjoy the building itself, the lake from the top of the hill or go through the gate at the water to a very small beach which rarely has a visitor.

West – Humber River Bike Path

Riding is always an escape for me. There are bike paths and bike lanes throughout Toronto but I really like the Humber River path. It starts at the lake and goes north about 30k. There are a few occasions when the trail breaks but the vast majority is along park land and on occasion it’s easy to pretend that you are completely out of the city in a national park.

Art Gallery of Toronto

In bad weather – The Art Gallery of Ontario. The newly renovated AGO was designed by Toronto born architect Frank Gehry. Like all Gehry buildings, this one is nothing short of stunning. You don’t have to like art to escape to the AGO. Wander and enjoy Gehry’s imaginative style or sit quietly and rest your eyes on the exhibits, the city views, or the interior design. Feel contented in a space that allows you to breathe.

where to go in toronto to escape
Art Gallery of Toronto

Lake Ontario during the winter is dramatic. I love it. So I recommend both the Toronto Islands and the Waterworks as year-round escapes. The Humber River Bike path is a three season escape. It’s especially beautiful in the fall with the leaves changing colour. And, of course, the Art Gallery of Ontario is great year round.


About this week’s guest writer

Janice Waugh is a contributor, editor and publisher of Solo Traveler, a blog offering solo travel tips, stories, destinations and insights.


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