Surfaces: wood chips, sand, concrete.
As you travel the far-western reaches of Toronto’s lakeshore, just before crossing into the suburban oblivion of Mississauga, there are three neighbourhoods – Mimico, New Toronto, and Long Branch – that feel almost like small towns stuck in a different age.
They’ve got little main streets straight out of the 1940s, with small bank branches, cute storefronts, and diagonal parking. They’ve got quiet parks and beaches with views of the Toronto skyline so distant that you hardly feel like you’re still in Toronto.
Which is, probably, how these places want you to feel. Each of the three towns was an independent municipality until reluctantly becoming part of Etobicoke in 1967. But to me, it still feels like we’re leaving the city whenever we head down to Union Station and hop on a GO Train bound for Mimico station, and one of my favourite Toronto playgrounds, Amos Waites Park.
Beautifully situated on the shore of Humber Bay, the splash pad and climbers are boat-themed…or, more accurately, sinking boat-themed, as the structures in question all have a distinct tilt to them. This might be a nod to the Sligo, a real-life shipwreck in the waters just off the shore. If so, kudos to the people who did the planning here.
The climbers are wooden Henderson beauties, with some small rope climbing elements at one end. Swings, teeter-totters, and a shaded sandbox round out the equipment.
The splash pad is great, although my kids were the only ones using it as an actual splash pad on our last visit. As my son happily flew a toy plane through the jets of water, a severely tanned man in a bathing suit, with a belly to which gravity had not been kind, showed up and used part of the splash pad as a shower. Like, with soap and everything. About half an hour later, a lady in a hat that looked like a satellite dish arrived with a caged parrot. She gently placed the parrot, in its cage and looking about as perplexed as I was, in the middle of the splash pad to “have a little shower.” This really happened.
It was an odd morning, but nothing can dampen my love of this playground. Cyclists and runners scrolling by on the waterfront trail. The distant dinging of old streetcars along Lakeshore Boulevard. It’s great.
The cool lake breeze can go a long way towards cooling the family off. And if your kids need a full soak, there’s a city pool in the park as well. (Although on our most recent visit the pool was closed due to a broken filter, evidenced by the apologetic signs on the fence and by the opaque green water filling the pool.)
Once my kids had done enough climbing and seen enough parrots for one morning, our rumbling tummies prompted us to walk up to Lakeshore to a restaurant which, like most other things in this part of the city, had one foot firmly in the past.
It was the Canadiana Dining Lounge, and everything about the place – the menu, the décor, our server’s makeup – looked as if it hadn’t changed since 1967, when Mimico was absorbed into Toronto. I sat there watching my kids devour every cubic inch of their grilled cheese, marveling at the time capsule that is Mimico.
Condos are creeping in, but an idealistic past that may or may not have ever existed feels very present. The restaurant. The shipwreck. The playground’s namesake, Amos Waites; Mimico’s longest-serving mayor. The past is tangible here.
Even the name, Mimico, has echoes of the past. It comes from an Ojibway word meaning something like, “an abundance of pigeons,” referring to the passenger pigeon, which used to fly over North America in flocks of – no kidding – billions. The passenger pigeon is now extinct, hunted into nothingness a couple of decades before the village of Mimico succumbed to the sprawling metropolis to the east.
If you’ve never been to this part of the city, I highly recommend it. The Amos Waites playground is a big part of the attraction for me, and I hope that kids and parrots of all ages continue to enjoy it for years to come.