Three New Ways to Experience Toronto

Behind Carolyn are arches spanning a rectangular fountain with a row of spouts. A large ornamental building with a clocktower stands in the distance.
Author Carolyn Heller poses at Toronto’s Nathan Phillips Square.
Photo courtesy of LiveToronto Private Walking Tours

This summer, I attended the TBEX conference in Toronto, a gathering of more than 1,200 travel bloggers from around the world. Besides talking about travel, blogging, and business with hundreds of fellow writers, I had the chance to sample three new Toronto experiences. The next time you’re in the area, check them out!

LiveToronto Walking Tours

Dustin Fuhs has a unique approach to help visitors explore Toronto. As the founder of LiveToronto Walking Tours, he’ll take you on a private, one-hour tour of downtown Toronto. Even better, he’ll also photograph you in front of iconic city sights, essentially creating digital postcards—with you in them. He’ll customize your walk to your particular interests, but he normally visits popular locations like Toronto City Hall, Eaton Centre, Roy Thompson Hall, the CN Tower, and the Lake Ontario waterfront.

Fuhs is a walking encyclopedia of Toronto lore—you’d want him on your team if you were playing Toronto Trivial Pursuit—and he knows the best angles for snapping photos, too. LiveToronto tours run daily, cost $40 per person, and can be booked online.

A Riverside Stroll through Aboriginal Toronto

Thousands of years before European settlers began exploring what is now present-day Ontario, the region—like most of North America—was home to aboriginal peoples. You can learn more about Ontario’s aboriginal heritage with a stroll on the Shared Path, a walking trail that runs along Toronto’s Humber River. The Shared Path is the newest of the Toronto Parks, Forestry & Recreation department’s free, self-guided Discovery Walks that help you learn more about the region’s history—on foot.

The Shared Path runs through Etienne Brule Park, named for the French explorer who is considered the first white man to travel the territory of the Wendat (or Huron) people in the early 1600s. The park that bears Étienne Brûlé’s name sits on the site of Teiaiagon, a former Wendat village. The Wendat adopted Brûlé into their community, and he in turn adopted many Wendat customs, including their dress and their sexual practices. He learned the Wendat language, too, and became an interpreter between the Wendat and the French.

The tree-lined riverfront path, which connects to a traditional aboriginal portage route, includes several informational plaques that explain the region’s aboriginal history. The Shared Path and Etienne Brule Park are on the west side of Toronto, a short walk from the Old Mill Station on the Bloor-Danforth subway line.

Canada’s First Urban National Park

I’ve always thought of national parks as vast outdoor wilderness spaces, far from metropolitan centers. Ontario’s spectacular national parks, including Bruce Peninsula National Park, Georgian Bay Islands National Park, and Point Pelee National Park, are no exceptions. But Canada’s newest national park, on the eastern border of metropolitan Toronto, will be the country’s first urban national park.

An 18-square-mile (47-square-kilometer) parcel of land stretching from the community of Markham in the north to Lake Ontario in the south, Rouge Park has been a recreational area for the greater Toronto region for many years. However, as development increasingly encroached on the park lands, many Torontonians began lobbying to provide greater protection for this natural area. In 2011, Rouge Park was approved to become part of Canada’s national park system.

While Parks Canada staff members say that various administrative details remain to be sorted out before Rouge obtains its official national park status, the park is open to the public in the meantime, and admission is free. Hiking trails crisscross Rouge Park’s forested areas, and park employees lead periodic guided walks. You can look out over the Little Rouge Creek Valley from the Glen Eagles Vista Trail (a great place to take in the fall colors), or go for a swim in Lake Ontario from sandy Rouge Beach. Campers can pitch a tent or park their RV in the Glen Rouge Campground, the only camping spot in metro Toronto.

Several sections of the park are accessible by public transit from downtown Toronto. Check the park website for transit details and driving directions.

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