Weekend Getaways: Visit Toronto, a 'City Within a Park'

Explore the Toronto Islands, Scarborough Bluffs, Rouge National Urban Park and more.

Dave Ghose
Columbus Monthly
Bluffer's Beach, Scarborough Bluffs

Even though it’s one of North America’s most densely populated cities, Toronto is also abundant in natural splendor. Canada’s largest city boasts a lush, unrivaled network of green spaces that have earned it the nickname “the city within a park.”

An archipelago of 15 tiny islands connected by footbridges known as the Toronto Islands is one of the city’s most unique natural amenities. Just a 10-minute ferry ride away from the crowded highways and towering skyscrapers of downtown, the islands offer a quiet, serene and car-free sanctuary in Lake Ontario, complete with beaches, quaint neighborhoods, bicycle paths, kayaking routes and more.

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Summer is the prime season for the islands, with locals and tourists alike flocking to their four beaches: Centre Island, Gibraltar Point, Ward’s Island and Hanlan’s Point, Toronto’s only clothing-optional public beach. But there’s much to appreciate in the off-season, too. In the fall, you can enjoy beautiful waterfront vistas and the changing colors of the islands’ abundant tree canopy in a less-crowded atmosphere, an important safety benefit amid COVID-19. In the winter, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and ice-skating are popular.

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On the mainland, nature lovers shouldn’t miss Scarborough Bluffs, more than 9 miles of cliffs, hiking trails and beaches along Lake Ontario, and Rouge National Urban Park, Canada’s only urban national park. Also be sure to visit at least one of Toronto’s ravine parks. They’re beloved by locals, including the city’s most famous literary resident, Margaret Atwood, who’s cited them as a source of comfort and inspiration. Glen Stewart Ravine, in the charming Beaches neighborhood, is especially vibrant in the fall.

Flights from Columbus to Toronto

Air Canada, daily to Toronto Pearson International Airport; the Canadian government allows only fully vaccinated nonresidents to enter the country.

Canadian Requirements for Vaccinations

U.S. citizens and permanent residents need to upload proof of vaccination to a Canadian government app before boarding a flight to Canada, as well as carry digital or paper copies with them. Also required is proof of a recent negative COVID-19 test.

This story is from the October 2021 issue of Columbus Monthly.