You’ve probably seen them dotting the city: those Discovery Walk signs that seem to pop up when you least expect them. Torontoist has always wanted to explore these intriguing city strolls, and this summer will be taking readers along some of these routes that connect the city’s parks, green spaces and historical sites to the neighbourhoods we live in.
A good place to begin is the Uptown Discovery Walk, partly because this route is so accessible. Museum, Yonge/Bloor, Wellesley, College and Dundas subway stations all lie along its path. Bounded by Cumberland Street to the north, Sherbourne to the east, the Ryerson campus to the south, and the University of Toronto to the west, the Uptown Discovery Walk meanders through some of the busiest parts of the city, but contains some surprising oases of tranquility.
One of the points of interest on this walk is Paul Kane House. Set back from the street behind a small manicured parkette, the house was once owned by Paul Kane, a prominent Toronto artist. It was designated a historical property in 1979, and the parkette is a popular spot for the brown-baggers from the local office buildings.
One of the city’s oldest parks, Allan Gardens is home to plenty of shade trees, making it a great place to take in some shade in the middle of a hot summer stroll. While there, don’t forget to take a tour of the famous Palm House. This Victorian-style greenhouse is home to many exotic plants, and changes with the seasons—a great place for photographers to add some colour to their portfolios.
Tucked away from the Winners store and the College TTC stop, it’s easy to forget that there’s actually a park at College Park. While condo construction around the edges of this patch of green space is evident, there’s still some peace to be found around the park’s fountain and reflecting pool. The proximity of Dominion and a well-stocked food court also make it a good spot for an impromptu picnic. If you happen to be taking the Uptown Discovery Walk on a weekday between 8:30 and 4:00, take a few minutes to walk through the Police Museum and Discovery Centre across College Street from College Park. It’s free and, if nothing else, good for a laugh at the old cop uniforms.
A highlight of this walk is the route passing through both the Ryerson and U of T campuses. It’s on the university grounds where the official Discovery Walk map gets a little confusing, especially for those of us who never attended these institutions. While this no doubt adds a little time to the walk, the intrepid explorers among us will welcome the opportunity to find a piece of public art or grove of trees that wasn’t on the sanctioned route. Both universities also conduct guided walking tours of their respective campuses for those who’d like to see more.
Connecting the neighbourhoods of Cabbagetown, Yorkville, and Church and Wellesley, passing through two university campuses, Queens Park, Allan Gardens, College Park and nearly a dozen neighbourhood green spaces, this is a great walking route whether you want to check out some parks, discovery new city hotspots, tour a little history or just do a little shopping.
Just one little note about the Discovery Walk map (which can be seen on signs along the route, or can be picked up at City Hall, libraries, community centres or here): Cawthra Square, a favourite place for dog walkers in the Church and Wellesley area, is marked as a thoroughfare on the route. Currently, however, there is some construction going on in the park, making it impossible to exit from the east side. You can get around this by skipping that part of the walk and taking Wellesley straight to Jarvis.