Celebrate Father’s Day, 2014-Style, in Toronto!
by Kate Pocock
Celebrate the man in your life, whether it’s your hubby, your dad, or even a son who’s now a father, with a fun weekend in Toronto geared to his interests. Whether he’s a sporting type, a friend of nature, or a culture vulture—or all of the above, there’s enough going on in Canada’s biggest city to please any dad!
And if kids and friends, partners or parents are along for the ride, so much the better! No matter if your special father is surrounded by his kids or visiting alone with that special someone who got him into that fatherly situation (you!), here are some tried-and-true suggestions in Toronto to honour that notable man in your life—for a day, a weekend, or longer!
Bonus: Many of these possibilities are free or inexpensive. Most are within easy distance from downtown Toronto, a good chance to roam car-free.
If a dad is a sporting type and loves ice hockey action, take him directly to the Hockey Hall of Fame where he can admire the goal-winning pucks from the 2014 Olympic Winter Games and other prized items of hockey memorabilia. Kids enjoy blocking slapshots while dad watches a movie on the Stanley Cup, or admires the awesome collection of pucks.
Tip: purchase your ticket online and receive a discount for a family photo with the Stanley Cup—but check first to make sure the Cup is in town!
During non-game days at the Rogers Centre, dad can stroll onto the plushy green of the baseball diamond, imagine he’s a Yankee pitcher in the bullpen, or plunk down on the visiting team benches. “You’re sitting right where a player would sit,” says Robert Murphy, Supervisor of Rogers Centre Tours. “For some, it’s a treasure for life.” Kids will enjoy sitting up in the press room for a stupendous view over home plate. Tip: Call ahead on a sunny day to see if the roof will be open, which gives a totally different perspective of this chameleon-like sporting arena.
For a true adrenaline rush, head to the CN Tower to stand on the Glass Floor and look down from 1,122 feet. Or, gather family members for a true bonding experience: leaning backwards over the city skyline on Toronto’s new exhilarating EdgeWalk. Three and even four generations have done it together. Then toast the experience (and the view) in 360 Restaurant with some bubbly (non-alcoholic for juniors) from their award-winning wine cellar. This Father’s Day weekend, the tower itself will be lit up in blues in honour of Father’s Day and Prostate Cancer Canada’s Annual Do It for Dad Walk and Run.
Tip: Minimum age for EdgeWalk is 13; up to 17s must be accompanied by a parent for written consent. All ages will come away with a keepsake certificate, photos and a DVD of video footage.
If your man is a nature nut, don’t miss Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada, Toronto’s newest attraction that is enlivening huge crowds. It may seem strange to think of fish in tanks as being environmental, but this is a different kind of aquarium. Learn how species are maintained, have fun in the pop-up bubbles to see fish swirling around your head and walk the world’s longest aquarium walkway with sharks or a stingray floating overhead. The jelly ballet is mesmerizing.
Tip: there is no set closing time at Ripley’s, so visit later in the day or evening when the crowds have thinned out.
For a true green experience, hop onto one of the historic Toronto Island ferries to explore Toronto Islands Park, the city’s prime parkland, a short boat-ride from downtown. Rent a bike on Centre Island near the beach —or if granddads are along for the ride, rent a four-seater cycle with a canopy on top. Then cycle over bridges and islets to explore the Toronto Islands—or cycle to Hanlan’s Point, site of Toronto’s nude beach, and a plaque honoring the spot where 19-year-old Babe Ruth hit his first professional home run. New dads with toddlers could head to Centreville Amusement Park to ride the log flume, swan boats, or the 1907 carousel. For a relaxed lunch or dinner, opt for the garden of the Rectory Café.
Tip: Weekend ferries back to the city can be packed, so avoid the crowds by leaving earlier or staying later than most visitors. FOTI (Friends of Toronto Islands) maintains a good website on the Islands.
Further afield, in the green heart of Toronto, explore Evergreen Brickworks, a quick subway and shuttle bus ride away. Hike the ravines and hills or dip a fishing rod into the ponds. Last time we were visiting, we spotted cranes and a Great Blue Heron resting in the rushes.
Tip: On Sundays, until June 22, free hikes along the watershed may invigorate and inspire active environmental dads.
If a dad takes a more cultural approach to life, Toronto is brimming with museums, galleries and hidden culture spots such as Toronto’s new ‘Culture Corridor.’ Stroll along Bloor Street to visit a dozen arts organizations in a single mile. Some are well known such as world-famous ROM, the Royal Ontario Museum, or the funky Bata Shoe Museum, but others are not even known by Torontonians such as the Bloor Hot Docs Cinema offering international documentaries or the Japan Foundation, where a free photo exhibit of Seiji Ozawa, the music director of the Toronto Symphony during the 1960s, is on show until July. Tip: For a map and locations, click onto the Bloor St. Culture Corridor website.
For other cultural events, stroll Toronto’s harbor at Harbourfront Centre, where a Chess Festival is taking place during Father’s Day weekend. See galleries, cultural performances and art by the water. Or give dad a treat by sending him out in a canoe or kayak with a guide onto Lake Ontario to explore the shore’s natural gifts.
Top off dad’s weekend with a family art tour at the Art Gallery of Ontario and refreshments at the Espresso Bar in the Frank-Gehry designed Galleria Italia, one of our favourite spots to celebrate our architecturally-blessed city.
When it comes to’ vittles,’ it’s no surprise: dads like meat! So opt for the thrill of the grill, the Gretsky family’s favourite ribs, a great Toronto street sausage from a cart or hearty deli offerings.
Friday night dinner: Try Wayne Gretsky’s Toronto, renovated rooftop patio with a view of the lit-up CN Tower. Chow down on the branded ‘99’ burger, family favourites such as Grandma’s Meatloaf. Watch “all the sports action, all the time” on one of the 37 screens around the restaurant and admire the memorabilia such as young Wayne’s junior skates with mismatched laces. It’s a fun place!
Saturday breakfast or lunch: A good choice for early-risers lunchtime meet-ups: St. Lawrence Market for a Toronto tradition: the “award-winning, world-famous” peameal bacon sandwich on a bun at the Carousel Bakery. Or head to Little Italy and try smoked meat piled high on rye at Caplansky’s. During Father’s Day weekend, the street will be closed to traffic between Bathurst and Shaw so you could toast to dad in any number of bars or restaurants at the Taste of Little Italy Festival. In the evening, swirl dad around to live salsa music in the street.
Sunday: after a ride on the Red Rocket along Queen St. East and a romantic stroll along the Beach (Woodbine, Kew, etc.), test your meat mettle at Hogtown Smoke, Toronto’s original mobile Barbecue Smoke House. Caution: they love kids but the portions are huge even for hefty dads!!
Take dad on the tour at Steam Whistle Brewing located in the John St. Roundhouse, a National Heritage Site. It’s a fascinating look at the brewing of their award-winning Pilsner with tastings and a bottle of Steam Whistle plucked fresh off the assembly line; kids welcome.
Or take a beer-loving dad, adult kids and granddad on an afternoon walking tour that mixes craft beer tastings with Toronto history. The three-and-a-half hour Beer Makes History Better Tour sets out from the Hockey Hall of Fame.
With all these ideal father-friendly attractions and stops for food and drink, it’s sure that dad will come away a definitely happy guy!
Tip: to get Dad in the mood for a visit to Toronto, get some music playing from Torontonians Rush, a video featuring music by one famous Toronto dad featuring many other famous dads and Toronto: Down by the Henry Moore by Murray McLauchlan