These are not necessarily Toronto’s ten best playgrounds.
They aren’t even the top ten according to my own rankings.
Okay, most of them are at or near the top, but the funny thing about ranking or assessing anything is that total objectivity is impossible.
As I trudge forward on the impossible quest to visit every playground in Toronto, I often find myself falling for parks that are demonstrably mediocre. Or I’m left feeling lukewarm about a playground with brand-new, top-of-the-line equipment.
The only thing I can depend on feeling is gratitude: for the sheer abundance of playgrounds tucked away in every corner of this city for me (and, oh yeah, my kids) to explore.
So whether you passionately agree, or violently disagree, with the list that follows, the important thing is that you get out there and try them for yourselves. Giving your kid the chance to be outdoors, engaging with their city and igniting their imagination…that’s the only metric that really matters.
In no particular order, here are my 10 favourite of the approximately 120 playgrounds that my kids and I have visited so far:
It’s hard not to feel completely in love with Toronto while sitting in the shade of a beautiful old willow tree while your children play in the shadow of OCAD and the AGO, with the CN Tower looming in the distance. This one has just about everything you could want, with some of the best, most challenging equipment for all ages, plus a water feature and all of downtown at your fingertips. Full review here.
A deceptively large park that stretches westward from Rosedale subway station, Ramsden is home to one of Toronto’s newest, biggest, and awesomest playgrounds. A giant crow’s nest structure is the centrepiece, with a wading pool, sandbox, and plenty of other equipment spread over a lovely, sloping landscape. Full review here.
Jean Sibelius Square Park
Hidden in the heart of the Annex, this playground packs a lot into a relatively small space. Some challenging climbing elements, a sandbox with a water feature for first-rate mud-making, and (this is a key element, ask any parent) bathrooms. There’s also usually a good supply of shared toys, left by families in the neighbourhood and free for all to use. Full review here.
Sharon Lois & Bram Playground (June Rowlands Park)
This one checks all the boxes for a playground - climbing, water play, shade, sandbox - but the most memorable feature here is the instrument circle. In a lovely tribute to the music legends that give the playground its name, a variety of chromatic percussion instruments provides a constant background soundtrack to this lovely play spot. It’s rare that a child’s urge to hit things and make noise can be soothing, but this playground proves that it’s possible. Full review here.
Sir Casimir Gzowski Playground (Budapest Park)
The equipment at Budapest Park won’t blow any minds, but the lakeside setting is lovely, and there’s a certain quirkiness about the playground. It’s kind of a grab bag; a rope pyramid, a sit-on digger in the sandbox, some old swings with really long chains for great air time. And then there are the two concrete dinosaurs who stand guard, although the site has no history of fossil findings as far as I know. I’m not sure what it is that makes me love this place. Perhaps, as a Canadian kid raised in the 80s and 90s, there’s something inherently soothing about anything that bears the name Gzowski. Full review here.
St. James Park
One of the newest playgrounds on this list, with equipment that echoes the area’s marketplace history: climbers made to look like food crates, giant asparagus towering over kids’ heads…Toronto doesn’t have many themed playgrounds, so this one stands out based on that alone. But it’s more than cute gimmickry, as this King Street spot boasts one of the city’s best slides, and is cozily nestled across from beautiful St. James Cathedral, whose hourly dinging will enthrall young park goers. Full review here.
My childhood park. Am I biased by nostalgia? Yup. But this is my list, so I can do what I want. Full review here.
Tiny and terrific, this is one of Toronto’s hidden gem playgrounds. Revamped in 2017 with a surprising amount of equipment for such a small space, this should be the template for how to build great playgrounds when land is limited. Proximity to the train tracks is exciting for kids who are in love with trains. Full review here.
Morse Street Park
Another recent rejuvenation, this Leslieville playground features an artificial cave under one of the climbers, complete with critters painted on the walls. With a sandbox, splash pad, wading pool and washrooms, it’s got just about everything a playground-going family could hope for. Full review here.
For a city with a relatively long “indoor” season, Toronto has precious few city-run indoor playgrounds. In fact, I’m pretty sure this is the only one. Which is a shame, because it’s awesome. With an indoor play area that’s on par with most pay-for-play indoor playgrounds, and an outdoor climber and splash pad to boot, this might be Toronto’s best public all-season play location. Full review here.
Honourable Mention: Jamie Bell Adventure Playground (High Park)
I know, I know, this one's great too. It's just not my favourite. If you're curious as to why, read the full review here.