The Canadian Invasion is well underway. You can’t listen to 45 minutes of popular radio time without The Weeknd, Drake, or Shawn Mendes coming up at least once. Justin Bieber has been prevalent in the news and popular music for over a decade now. PARTYNEXTDOOR is on the come up, Charlotte Day Wilson’s album is a steady underground favorite. Toronto and Vancouver are huge film hubs, Toronto homing some of North America’s biggest studios and shooting up to 30 percent of North American productions a year. Despite being a media epicenter, rarely do people give Toronto its dues. Chloe Sevigny even called Toronto boring! Movies shot in Toronto don’t claim to be from Toronto, but Chicago or New York. Toronto Musicians often leave the moment they gain success.
I don’t think Toronto, my hometown, is a dull city – despite what Miss Sevigny says. Lush with full gardens, sprawling space, ample suburbia, and diversity, Toronto is a baby, developing into its full cultural impact. While in New York, Chicago, New Orleans, or Los Angeles, the cultural sites are well-known and documented in media, Toronto’s aren’t as well known (outside the CN tower). Still, Toronto has beautiful and picturesque spaces for influencers to take advantage of.
Like New York, Toronto has six boroughs – hence, the Six – North York (think Brooklyn), East York (think Queens), York (think Queens, too) Old Toronto (think Manhattan), Scarborough (think The Bronx), and Etobicoke (think Staten Island). Each borough was its own city in itself before the city amalgamated. Each borough has its own landscape, culture, and even accent.
1. Earl Bales Park – North York
Hosting a ski hill, a forest, BBQ pits, a community center, and a playground, Earl Bales is one of the cities often glossed over gems. There’s an outdoor amphitheater, a dog park, and a huge walkway with an accompanying pond. And it STILL doesn’t earn the title of the city’s best park! In the winter, there’s skiing and snowboarding. There’s hiking and BBQ in the summer. It offers the nature outside Toronto, within Toronto. It’s open and beautiful year-round, featuring natural sites in a concrete jungle rivaling Chicago. Earl Bales almost never crowds. It’s deep in North York and far from the City’s center, where tourists flock. It’s a beautiful retreat away from the burlesque mess of downtown and there are hundreds of places to take photos or shoot videos in any season.
2. Aga Khan Museum – East York
Featuring Muslim art, history, and culture, Aga Khan is an often-ignored sanctuary away from the city’s core and distinct from tourist traps. Featuring art from the seventh century up to modern times, from Spain and North Africa all the way to China. It’s North America’s first museum of Muslim arts and hosts some of the biggest collections of Islamic art in the world. Islamic Art doesn’t use faces or animals, rather patterns and shapes to express morality and aesthetics. It’s deep inside one of Canada’s biggest Muslim communities. Still, the Aga Khan is rarely crowded. It offers what other museums don’t in its catalog. It’s rarely photographed, even by Toronto natives. Both the architecture and landscape are modern, minimalist, and mellifluous.
3. Humber Bay Park – Etobicoke
The perfect place to take sunrise pictures, Humber Bay Park has docks for you to perch and have a coffee while watching the sunrise. Quiet, untouched, and peaceful, Humber Bay Park has easy access to parking, biking, and walking lanes. It has a small beach nearby with dozens of swans. It shows Toronto’s iconic silhouette (arguably) better than anywhere else in the city. Nearby are charming breakfast spots. High Park (Toronto’s most esteemed park) is a hop, skip, and a jump away. There’s a bird-watching sanctuary nearby and an off-leash dog park for animal lovers. If you want to show off that you’re in Toronto while not going somewhere hyper-exposed, Humber Bay Park is perfect, serene, sexy, understated.
4. David Pecaut Square – Old Toronto
Right off of St. Andrew’s Station, David Pecaut Square is right in the middle of Toronto’s hubbub. Close to the CN Tower and the Roger’s Centre, it’s a perfect place to take photos or videos that include the metropolitan growth of Canada’s biggest city. There are huge buildings in the background, seemingly millions of people outside of it yet being quiet within and right off of Toronto’s financial district. If you want a place that is “Toronto” without going to a place stereotypical, it’s perfect. Additionally, It’s within walking distance to other tourist spots on your way and has frequent farmers markets, free film screenings, and music shows. It’s a great highlight that’s not often referenced or used.
5. South Marine Park – Scarborough
Toronto’s central beach is Woodbine. It’s the biggest, the one most surveyed by lifeguards, and has the easiest access from public transit. Despite being the most popular, it is the worst beach in the city. Polluted, freezing, littered with used needles, it’s awful. Scarborough is known in Toronto for having beaches that look like they’re straight out of the Caribbean despite being on a lake. And a lake in Canada, at that. South Marine Park proves Scarborough’s serenity. A bit farther east from the popular Scarborough Bluff Park, South Marine is quiet, calm, and beautiful. And, without thousands of people there or trying to get there offers better access to parking. There are huge cliffs to take pictures over, there’s a beach to swim in that isn’t as polluted or cold as Woodbine. Even taking the subway all the way over is worth the visit!
Toronto is quickly ballooning into a bigger and bigger cultural hub. The spots unknown are where much of the city’s real beauty hides.
Featured Image by Mwangi Gatheca for UNSPLASH.COM