By Caitlyn Holroyd
City walks have always been one of our favourite pastimes, so needless to say, we’re totally psyched for the annual Jane’s Walk this weekend.
The walks are named in honour of local urban activist Jane Jacobs, famous author of ‘The Death and Life of Great American Cities.’ Jacobs moved to Toronto in 1968 in protest of the Vietnam War-and was a firm believer that the only way to understand a city was to take to the streets and walk. (Were it not for Jane, we would all be living our lives in the shadow of a Spadina Expressway.) In true Jacobs form, the initiative is a series of free neighbourhood walking tours that encourage people to connect to their environment while exploring every area of their city.
Since it started in Toronto in 2007, the initiative has spanned to 67 cities worldwide and continues to expand locally with 120 walks happening in Toronto this weekend.
From local councilors to the adorable kindergartners of The Grove Community School – everyone is eager to show off their city and we’re just as eager to take to the streets. Whether you’re keen on rediscovering your own ‘hood or taking on an area not yet ventured, with 120 walks happening in Toronto, you’ll have plenty to choose from. Here’s just a few of the walks to look forward to.
Degenerates On Parade! Queer Culture and Public Space
Start Time: 9:30 am
Start Location: Yonge and Dundas Square east end, near Victoria St.
Learn about Toronto’s hidden gay scene, where doormen would flick the lights to warn patrons that the morality squad was coming. Fighting against prejudice, a culture thrived on Yonge St. Follow in the footsteps of Toronto’s gay community, learning how they created a place in this city to call their own.
East End Wander: Shortcuts, Pet Portraits & Bungalows
Start Time: Saturday, 9:30 am
Start Location: Sideshow Café (1300 Gerrard St. E.)
The perfect getaway for West-enders looking to see what’s on the other side. The tour starts at espresso outpost Sideshow Café (an obvious choice given the early start time) before moving on to the old dog race track and its local lore, reclaimed swamps, the popularity of post-war bungalows, and the outdoor pet portrait gallery. Finishes up with a jaunt down Gerrard St. to browse the shopfronts.
Dundas & Ossington: The Past & the Future
Start Time: Saturday, 10:30 am
Start Point: St. Christopher House (248 Ossington Ave. at Dundas St. W.)
This neighbourhood may be best known as a drinking hotspot these days but it wasn’t always so trendy. Join Portuguese and Vietnamese seniors from the area for an exploration of Trinity Bellwoods Park, the changing make-up of the area, the leafy streets around Dovercourt, and the CAMH redevelopment. With a picnic finale at Trinity Bellwoods, we’re sold!
Dufferin Grove Park & its Friends
Start Time: Saturday, 11 am & 4 p.m.
Start Point: Dufferin Grove Park Clubhouse (875 Dufferin St.)
This tour runs two hours but the park friends are promising stragglers and impromptu hijinks. Activities include baking at the outdoor ovens, gardening, puppet-making and campfire circles – plus plenty of free food if you stick around long enough!
Trinity Bellwoods: Our Park’s Leafy Canopy
Start Time: Saturday, 1 pm
Start Point: Main Gates (Queen St. W. & Strachan Ave.)
We’ve enjoyed many-a-summer beneath the trees in Trinity Bellwoods and their significance goes far beyond afternoon reading and picnicking. The Friends of Trinity Bellwoods and tree advocate Brian Volz will take you on a tour of some of the city’s most interesting, oldest, and newest trees and discuss their significance to our greenspaces and our health. You may even spot the park’s elusive albino squirrel.
Toronto Island: Exploring its History
Start Time: Sunday, 1 pm
Start Point: Wards Island Dock
First Nation’s camps, a military post, a fishing community, violent storms, shipwrecks, hotels, amusement parks, demolitions, and outdoor concerts – the Island has one lengthy and exciting history. This tour includes a ride on the ferry so seasickers be ware!
Alexandra Park: The Sonny Side
Start time: 2 pm
Start Point: Alexandra Park Community Centre, 105 Grange Ct.
Residents of the Sonny Atkinson housing project will lead you to hidden downtown gems. Learn about the co-op and the community.
City Farmers & Locavores: Free Food in the City
Start Time: Sunday, 11 am
Start Point: Trinity Bellwoods Main Gates (Queen St. W. and Strachan Ave.)
Locavore author Sarah Elton and City Farmer author Lorraine Johnson lead this urban agricultural tour focusing on the inventive ways people grow and find food in the city, from a community garden at a mental health hospital to a rooftop herb garden. Foraged snacks provided!
Parkdale Through The Eyes of Newcomer Youth
Start Time: Sunday, 12 pm
Start Point: St. Christopher House, 1497 Queen St. W. Unit 103
Hosted by youth from the HOST program, newcomers to the neighbourhood will tell their stories about living in Parkdale. Explore their hang out spots, short cuts, and all the ‘firsts’ they’ve had since moving to Canada.
Sisters Walk Tall on Bloor
Start Time: Sunday, 1 pm
Start Point: Sistering (962 Bloor St. W. at Dovercourt)
This tour is all about girl power, so make sure you bring along your sister, mother, or BFF. The women at Sistering show you what it’s like to walk in their shoes and how the public realm accommodates women affected by poverty, homelessness and trauma. Find out how their extraordinary circumstances have shaped their stories and experiences of public space – not to mention their feet!
Thorncliffe Park Tour
Start Time: Sunday, 2 pm
Start Point: TNO Youth Centre, 45 Overlea Blvd, behind East York Town Mall
The wonderful Kathleen Wynne, MPP, will lead you around this culturally diverse neighbourhood, where one elementary school is home to students of 95 different heritages. And oh yes, there will be free samosas. Mmm.
Beach Walk with Councillor Sandra Bussin
Start Time: Sunday, 2 pm
Start Point: Beaches Library (2161 Queen St. E. at Lee Ave.)
Easily one of the best summer hangout spots. From the boardwalk to the Neville Park Water Filtration Plant – Sandra Bussin will show you how her efforts in cooperation with local residents are returning the Beaches to its natural habitat.
Chicken Fat Perambulation
Start Time: Sunday, 4 pm
Start Point: Yonge St. and Isabella, south east corner
As the title indicates, imagine Sir Nikolaus Pevsner colliding with Will Elder. A continuous interactively animated sensual shimmering urban riff and vamp, guided by the awkward, imperfect souls of the city, ourselves, and pure chances. Whatever this means, we’re intrigued. Includes a touch of architecture, history, psychogeography, urban exploration, and a whole lot of psychodrama as it completes a series of two-hour guided walks up Yonge St. with the end point becoming the starting point for the next. Ultimate destination is Steeles.