“…where art meets nature.”
There is no better way to describe Guild Park and Gardens. With each step you take through the grounds, you simultaneously feel like you’ve been transported to a secret garden in the middle of an otherwise bustling city as well as feeling like you’ve stepped back in time, surrounded by architecture and features that are more reminiscent of Europe and the Mediterranean, than Toronto.
We visited the park for the first time a couple of weeks ago as one of our after-school adventures. The kids absolutely loved it! They immediately set about exploring the different structures and installations. They were so inquisitive and curious and it was one of the first times they were able to touch and see architecture of this type, firsthand. In a city where heritage buildings push the limits to incorporate modern elements (take, for instance, the ROM), it was breathtaking to see a place where structures were recovered, preserved, and re-assembled to their original glory, albeit in a completely different context.
The main feature is unquestionably the theater in the center of the park. As the website explains, “eight Corinthian columns from the Bank of Toronto at King and Bay Streets were re-assembled to build Canada’s only Greek Theatre.” While it was definitely worth spending the time exploring, there is so much else to see as well (see the gallery below!). Like this structure, the others are also re-assembled from different buildings, ranging from those of the Toronto Star to an old brewery. The way in which the original context has been changed to create such a majestic and breathtaking garden, is incredible!
Below I’ll address different elements that I take into consideration when planning, in the hopes of clarifying any accessibility or suitability questions you may have as you plan your visit! These are all based on our personal experience (our oldest son is autistic and non-verbal, and we are a family of 5 with a 7 year old, 6 year old and 2 year old). I would suggest doing a quick search to ensure availability before heading out to avoid any disappointment (especially with changing health protocols, potential grounds upkeep, events, etc).
201 Guildwood Pkwy.
There was plenty of parking available, at no cost.
We found that all areas were accessible and where there were stairs, there were grassy hills nearby that could be used as an alternative. For the most part, the paths consisted of fine gravel or grass. The Greek Theatre itself, could be accessed from behind, if the stairs are not an option, still allowing for the ability to explore the stage closely. I would suggest bringing insect repellent, since we did leave with a few mosquito bites!
There’s a lookout area that faces the lake that is beautiful and peaceful, if a space to regulate or take a small break is required. Truthfully, when we visited (mid-week, early evening) it was very quiet and not overwhelming. Everything is spaced out and it feels very open and airy.
Size of Location/ Busyness
There was ample grass and space for the kids to run around and play when they needed a break. It’s a fairly large park and E did request to be carried after a little while – if you have a young child, I’d recommend a stroller. Having said that, in about an hour we had explored the different structures, spending a bit of time at each. As I mentioned before, we visited mid-week and in the early evening, and it wasn’t busy at all. The majority of visitors were taking photos or picnicking, and it was a very laid-back and calm atmosphere. Y was very comfortable during our entire visit and had plenty of space to explore, touch, and feel different elements and take it all in, at his own pace. The area is surrounded by more forest-y patches that we had to prevent him from running too far into, but otherwise, he was able to independently take it all in, since it was fairly enclosed and there weren’t any roads or otherwise dangerous areas he could wander to (although be especially careful near the lookout to the water, considering there is only a very small barrier to the bluffs).
Variety of Activities
Other than exploring the architecture, we noticed a few people taking part in picnics and wished we had brought dinner with us!
There is no cost to visit. Having said that, the website does provide opportunities for membership or donations, to assist with the upkeep, maintenance and preservation of the site.
If you have any questions you can leave a comment below, or check out these websites:
Friends of Guild Park
Guild Park and Gardens
Other helpful links in this series:
Summer Adventures & Accessibility!
What We Consider When Planning An Outing