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REJUVENATION: High Park (north)

Surfaces: sand, wood chips, rubber.

Updated August 2021. Old review here.

Now that’s how you rejuvenate a playground.

Before its 2020 makeover, this was High Park’s “other” playground; everybody knew that the Jamie Bell Adventure Playground at the park’s southern end was the place to go. With its castle and its spot on most people’s “best Toronto playgrounds” list, Jamie Bell was the park’s (and maybe the entire west end’s) go-to spot.

Well, High Park’s northern playground just flipped the script. Here are some things you’ll find at High Park north that you won’t find at its more celebrated southern neighbour:

  • A splash pad

  • A wading pool (rare to have both water features in the same place)

  • More benches and generally better seating, including a lifetime supply of picnic tables

  • A better variety of equipment

  • A sandbox

  • Better landscaping

  • A gazebo

  • A bathroom that you can actually see from the playground (although it’s not super close)

Add to this that it’s closer to the subway, equally close to parking, and right by a (seasonally open) snack bar…well, I’m not sure if this is a hot take, but High Park north now ranks several spots higher on our playground ranking list than the Jamie Bell Adventure Playground.

Most of the equipment is by Landscape Structures, and much of it is similar to what you’ll find at the recent Moorevale Park rejuvenation, including some nice rope climbers, faux caves, and a couple of nice tall slides. There are plenty of swings, several accessible / inclusive elements and – for lovers of classic equipment – a carousel for some good old-fashioned spinning.

In addition to the sandbox, there is a large sandy area with boulders strewn around that kind of serves as a secondary sandbox. Sheltered by large trees, it provided a nice break for my younger one, who played in the sand for a good long time, entertaining herself by doing what she described as “making cakes for your bedtime, daddy.” Cool.

The whole area is much more thoughtfully landscaped as well, with a trail of logs and stumps and stones for kids to walk along, or for parents and guardians to sit on.

It’s not perfect, of course: the splash pad was not part of the rejuvenation, and it’s still good, but a couple of elements could use a tune-up, as they weren’t fully functioning on our visit. And there are some strange shading decisions; in one spot, there’s a row of three benches, but only the middle one is covered by a sun shade. And then there’s the obvious thing that we have to mention: this place does get very busy, so going outside of peak hours is always good.

It’s time to bump High Park up your list of summer priorities. It is now the only park in the city to have two playgrounds that we’ve rated at a 90 or higher.

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