Walking Tour: Ontario Place
Abandoned rides, a revitalized Cinesphere and a new park make it one of the most unusual spots in Toronto for a walk.
Ontario Place is a park in transition. It was closed in 2012 but re-opened to the public this year. Now it's in the middle of a long-term transformation— which makes it an interesting place to visit.
A word of warning for those driving down: the parking lot is shared by Budweiser Stage and can be expensive. I drove down on a Tuesday evening during Warped Tour and parking was a $25 flat rate. Yikes. Normally it's $3.25 / half hour.
If parking is too expensive you can also take the The Martin Goodman Trail along Lakeshore or take the pedestrian walkway over Lakeshore. There's also seasonal TTC service.
The best way to visit Ontario Place is through Trillium Park— which is accessed through the east-end of the Ontario Place parking lot.
Trillium Park is one of Toronto's newest parks— and it shows. Park benches don't have barriers to keep people from sleeping and water fountains are dog-friendly, kid-friendly and water-bottle friendly.
It's about a 15 minute walk through Trillium Park to access Ontario Place.
Ontario Place is in a state of transition— and while it occasionally has the feel of an abandoned theme park, there are signs of life throughout: I visited on a Wednesday morning and found open snack bars and washrooms, a YMCA camp for children and a sprinkling of visitors taking selfies in front of a novelty-sized chess set.
The Cinesphere has always been Ontario Place's most iconic attraction. When it opened in 1971, architect Eberhard Zeidler promised audiences that the six-story-high screen would make them feel like they were floating in space. It was an instant hit, with lineups 90 minutes long.
(The Cinesphere has re-opened for summer movie screenings— The Dark Knight plays soon).
Ontario Place's Wilderness Adventure Ride is slowly being overrun by weeds (here's a Youtube clip of it when it was still functioning). The ride was originally designed to showcase northern Ontario— alongside a simulated mine and "Muskeg Pete's Main Street".
The Vista Eatery, a restaurant, has opened recently in Ontario Place. I asked staff if they had many customers and they said it varied: weekends were busy but Ontario Place admin staff were the majority of customers on weekdays.
When you're ready to leave Ontario Place, you'll want to look for signs to Bridge #6— it's a shortcut back to the parking lot. Ontario Place can feel disorienting, so just keep an eye out for signage.
On your way back, take in views of the original pod designs and reflect on the original purpose of Ontario Place: showcasing Ontario's cultural and historical accomplishments.