As a Torontonian who grew up right downtown (near King and Portland, if you’re interested), I’ve never been shy to admit that I fall into the category of city core residents who don’t enjoy venturing further than a few blocks in any given direction. Even though I grew up on the West Side of the city, I’ve been an East Ender for over ten years now and absolutely love my sleepy side of the city. When you’re someone like me–not quite a homebody but some kind of neighbourhood-body–you get to know the area you live in really well. Luckily, living in Corktown on the city’s East Side means that I’m privy to living in close proximity to some truly special spots that I love visiting on the regular.
Ever since my friends at CLIF Bar invited me to kick off #BikeMonthTO (it’s throughout the month of June!) with them, I started to think about some of my favourite spots to bike to in the city, and the safest ways to get there using bike lanes. Once I put together my list, I realised they all happen to be on the East End spots. Was I surprised? Not really.
Admittedly, biking in downtown Toronto does make me nervous, but the growing addition of bike lanes in the city has been helping to build up my confidence and hit the road on two wheels. If you don’t have a bike, grab one that you don’t have to store at home from Bike Share (an annual membership is only $90!), be sure to wear a helmet (because it’s always better to be safe than sorry!) and pack a healthy energy snack to keep you fuelled up like the new organic CLIF Nut Butter-Filled Energy Bars–Banana Chocolate Peanut Butter and Caramel Chocolate Peanut Butter.
So, whether you’re an East Sider lover like I am, a Toronto resident who is (more) willing to leave their own ‘hood, or just someone who is interested in discovering more of their city during #BikeMonthTO, keep reading for how and where to discover 7 magical places in Toronto to bike to that are all on the east end!
1. Riverdale Farm
Sometimes I like to joke that I’m actually a country mouse at heart, even though I’ve always lived in the city. My absolute favourite part about living in Corktown is that I can visit a real farm (with live animals!) in the middle of the city and a few blocks away from downtown. If you decide to ride a Bike Share to Riverdale Farm, you’ll find a bike station conveniently located on the edge of the park on the corner of Sumach St. and Carlton St. You’ll also find shared lanes along Wellesley Street East and Sumach St.
2. Sugar Beach
This little hot spot is one you may recognise from your Instagram feed thanks to its highly instagrammable scattering of pink beach umbrellas along the waterfront. This semi-recently revitalised location turned an industrial parking lot next to the Redpath Sugar Refinery, into a community-friendly ‘urban beach park’. Here you’ll find a BikeShare station right by the beach along Queens Quay (as well as a multi-use trail that goes along the lake) and a great bike lane on Sherbourne Street to help you venture down to the water safely.
3. Allan Gardens
When I’m in need of a tropical escape (but don’t have any travel plans in place) one of my favourite spots in the city to visit for a quick escape is Allan Gardens. The Allan Gardens Conservatory is over 100 years old and is home to the most incredible public greenhouse in the city. You can get to this city gem quickly and safely by using the bike lanes on Sherbourne Street and Gerrard Street, and access bike stations on the corners of Jarvis and Carlton, and Sherbourne and Carlton.
4. Corktown Common
Even as a Corktown resident, the Corktown Common is a fairly recent discovery to me. Although it opened in 2013, it wasn’t until last year when I finally figured out how to get to this magical new park in downtown Toronto. And oh am I glad I did! Nearly every time I’m there with my dog Olive, we spot at least one furry bunny (or two!) hopping around as free as can be. Visiting the Corktown Common is not only beautiful, but it’s the closest I get to feeling like I’m at my cottage rather than in the city. When visiting the park, you’ll find a bike station nearby at Mill Street and Tannery Road, and you can bike to it using the bike lanes on River Street, Bayview Avenue, Mill Street and the Lower Don Trail.
5. The Don Valley Trail
Speaking of the Lower Don Trail, that leads me to my next suggestion: The Don Valley Trail! Every one in Toronto knows the Don Valley Parkway, but what some may not know is that right next to the parkway that’s filled with traffic congestion, is a beautiful, nature-filled trail that’s fantastic for biking, walks or running. Just like the parkway, this trail is super long and can take you all the way from the waterfront to Evergreen Brick Works! Since the trail itself is so long, there are many different access points. Be sure to check out the city’s Cycling Network Map to find the best route for you.
6. Cherry Beach
Some may think that beach life in Toronto can only be found on the Island, and some may not know that there’s any beach life in Toronto at all! Although it can be easy to forget about, we are lucky to have an amazing waterfront all along our city, and there are tons of great spots for enjoying the beachfront without having to cross the water. Cherry Beach can be found at the bottom of Cherry Street, and you can conveniently take the Waterfront Trail straight to this downtown beach. PS. Don’t forget to stop by my favourite restaurant, Cherry Street Bar-B-Que, while you’re down there!
7. Ashbridges Bay
If you’re closer to the core of the city but looking for a longer ride, set your sights on Ashbridges Bay in The Beaches. Not only can you ride the Waterfront Trail all the way there, but upon your arrival you’ll be able to enjoy the gorgeous Ashbridges Bay park, and the Woodbine Beach for the ultimate summer day hangout.
As mentioned earlier, biking safely is a major concern of mine, and making sure you’re taking care of your body is a huge part of that. Beyond wearing a helmet, always be sure to have water with you (especially when you’re biking in the heat!) and that you’ve nourished your body with the right fuel. I’m a big fan of CLIF Nut Butter Filled bars for easy energy food I can throw in my bag and enjoy any time of day, and I would also recommend packing CLIF BLOKS Energy Chews if you’re planning a long ride. Other than that, just have fun!
Do you have any other secret spots in the city that you like to visit by bike? Let us know!
(Story by Editor-in-Chief, Gracie Carroll)
*Please note that this post has been brought to you thanks to a paid partnership with Clif Bar Canada, all thoughts and opinions are our own*