Perennial Favourite: The Garden District, Toronto
Amidst the century-old buildings springs forward Toronto’s Garden District. Among the ever-changing collection of kitschy tourist shops and high-end boutiques, you’ll find some of Toronto’s finest century-old structures.
Even though it’s been more than 100 years since these institutions took root in the neighbourhood, these perennial favourites are always abuzz with activity. From Gerrard to Queen and Sherbourne to Yonge, there are lots of things to do in the Garden District.
Under the great glass dome of the Allan Gardens Conservatory at Gerrard and Sherbourne, a colourful collection of plants spans a series of interconnected greenhouses. One of the best free things to do in Toronto, a visit to Allan Gardens offers an exciting opportunity to explore a lush assortment of exotic plants right in the heart of the city. Whatever the weather is like outside, this climate-controlled conservatory offers visitors a slice of summer, 365 days a year.
Wander down winding stone paths past palms, papaya trees, and prickly pear cacti. Informative plaques along the path provide information on the various plants, as well as the history of the gardens themselves.
But Allan Gardens isn’t all flora and no fauna. You’ll also find koi fish, turtles, and the occasional lucky local squirrel making their homes in the conservatory.
If you’re exploring this extraordinary example of Edwardian engineering during the summer months, the greenhouse’s splendour continues outside. Plant displays and park benches extend the area of the Gardens when the weather warms up.
After Allan Gardens closes down for the day, the Garden District’s other activities open up. At the Elgin and Winter Garden Theatre, a spectacular stained glass exterior is the first of many architectural features that make this pair of Edwardian stacked theatres the perfect setting to see a show.
Choose between the botanic-inspired decor of the Winter Garden Theatre and the gilded grandeur of the Elgin Theatre to enjoy an evening of entertainment in this Ontario Heritage Trust building.
Another nearby venue, Massey Hall, wears its hundred-year-old heritage on its sleeve, or rather, its redbrick exterior. The Hall’s 1894 inception date is featured on almost every sign, reminding visitors of the rich artistic history its halls hold. Having hosted everyone from the Dalai Lama to Justin Bieber, Massey Hall still stands as one of the highlights of Toronto’s theatre scene.
If you arrive early for your show, take a seat at Centuries Bar. Filled with memorabilia dating back to the late 19th century, Centuries Bar allows visitors to savour Massey Hall’s rich past while waiting for show time.
Whether you’re looking for horticulture or a night of culture, the enduring appeal of the Garden District’s century-old structures is sure to grow on you.