Few public spaces can engage and accommodate such a wide range of ages as a skate park.
On the average day at a skate park you’ll see mop-haired teens, wobbling kindergarteners on scooters, daring twentysomethings, and 50-year-old first-generation skaters all using the same equipment, and it’s hard to imagine another place where this would happen.
And it’s not just the coexistence; it’s the patience. An older skater will gear up for a drop into the bowl, only to pause patiently while a 3-year-old beginner putters by obliviously. A gangly pre-teen will watch in awe as an older kid does an incredible trick. An old-timer will give a worried parent advice on what size of board to get their fourth-grader.
There are a dozen or so skate parks within Toronto’s borders, and a dozen more in the 905. Many of these are profiled by the excellent site Session Atlas, whose drone footage (as you’ll see below) can give you a clear idea of what you’re in for before you go.
When you can pair a skate park with a nearby playground…well, for recreation nerds like me, it’s the parenting equivalent of a good wine / cheese combination. With summer around the corner and my kids getting more and more daring every year, skate parks are quickly becoming a favourite all-day activity.
Here are, in no particular order, my five favourite skate parks in Toronto:
Tucked into the city’s south-west corner, this beginner/intermediate park was very photogenic on the day of our visit last fall. The trees were on fire with colour, and the graffiti was more artistic and friendly than you’ll find at most skate parks. Although there’s no playground, Amos Waites Park is an excellent option nearby. I have a bit of a soft spot for this neighbourhood. It’s right on the lake, it’s far from downtown but doesn’t feel like suburbia…and parts of the original Degrassi Junior High series were filmed here. So if you get bored of semi-supervision of your young ones, you can imagine that you’re consoling Joey Jeremiah on his recent break-up with Caitlin.
If your little ones are still finding their balance on their scooter/bike/skateboard, Stanley Greene might be your best option. The surface still has the shiny smoothness of a new skate park, and the hills are nice and gentle, with just a couple of steeper drops for kids with more courage. Add to that the adjacent playground and splash pad, and you’ve got a spot where any young kid would happily spend a whole morning.
The location - at the south end of Downsview Park - is a bit of a hike if you're a downtown family, and if you're depending on public transit you might be out of luck. Worth the trip if you can do it.
With steep sides, a deep bowl, and something called a “clamshell over-vert extension,” this one is a bit more challenging. There are dedicated regulars here who will happily regale you with stories of the various bones they’ve broken over the years, or give you advice on the best scooters and skateboards to buy for your kids. If the bowl is too intimidating, the playground is pretty good, and there’s lots of green space and a basketball court for other diversions.
You can’t make a list of Toronto’s top skate parks without including Toronto’s largest. It’s got a deep bowl, plenty of banks ranging from gentle to steep, and it’s frequented by the type of skaters who can do tricks that will make your kids gasp out loud and reconsider their career aspirations. The only downside is that it gets extremely busy, and trying to keep eyes on a small rider in the long, narrow layout can be like engaging in a live-action high-stress game of Where's Waldo; I recommend getting there early and heading to the nearby beach when things get too hectic.
I know I said this list was in no particular order, but this one might be my favourite. It’s big, but unlike Ashbridges you can see the whole thing reasonably well from a single vantage point. There’s some shaded seating for snacks and downtime, and the terrain is varied enough to suit a range of abilities. The playground nearby isn’t spectacular, but can provide a second option if your kids need a break. There’s also a basketball court, large open field, and ample parking, which is something several of the other parks on this list lack.
Wherever you go – be safe and have fun!