Updated: May 14, 2021
Surfaces: turf, sand.
The area around Yonge & St. Clair has always interested me.
It’s busy, but doesn’t feel as hectic as Yonge & Bloor. It also doesn’t feel like it’s been as utterly transformed by Toronto’s condo boom as Yonge & Eglinton. And although many downtown amenities are there – the subway, the streetcar, restaurants and cafés – walk a block in almost any direction and you find yourself in a surprisingly quiet neighbourhood.
Well, that neighbourhood is Deer Park, and it’s full of hidden surprises.
There’s the St. Michael’s Cemetery, which is virtually invisible from Yonge Street, but which occupies a full 10 acres and houses almost 30 000 graves.
There’s the Avoca ravine, a lesser-known but beautiful spot for summertime explorations.
And then, sitting on the edge of that ravine, just north of St. Clair and east of Yonge, is Deer Park’s public school. When I say that it’s on the edge of the ravine, I really mean it; a meagre-looking chain link fence is all that separates the playground from a precipitous drop. I imagine there’s a bounty of soccer balls at the bottom of the ravine with “Deer Park phys-ed” inscribed on them in thick Sharpie.
For a school playground, this one has almost everything you could hope for. A nice mix of new and old equipment, separate climbers for bigger and littler monsters, and plenty of shade. The old wooden climber is a classic Henderson, which is a rare find in the city. We visited on a damp fall day, and the slide on the wooden climber was so slick that my son turned into a blur of blond curls and rain boots before being thrown clear, just a foot or so short of the fence at the ravine’s edge. It was quite exciting.
We became acquainted with this playground because our daughter was signed up for swimming lessons at the school, through a company called Water Babies. (Which, by the way, is an excellent way to get your kid comfortable in the water, assuming you sign them up when they are less than 9 months old. Seriously, it’s great, and they’re not paying me to say that.) Her older brother liked the playground so much he got in the habit, for a while, of coming to her swimming lessons just so he could play there.
If you’ve got older kids with you, bring a soccer ball; there’s a nice big turf field next to the playground which, if it’s not being used by a local team, provides some great open space for a run-around.
And if that excitement wears off, just go for a walk around the neighbourhood. You never know what you’ll find. My daughter and I happened upon something called the “glam tunnel” this past winter – an 80-foot long tunnel lined with reversible sequins. Seriously.
Deer Park is full of surprises.