Meghan Young for See Toronto Now
It’s just as common nowadays, for visitors to swap walking shoes for running shoes when exploring in a new city – and actually go out for a run. With an urban running scene that is as diverse as it is welcoming, people from all walks of life come out whether or not the sun’s shining. It’s a great opportunity to meet incredible locals from sneaker heads and artists to youth and professionals, while exploring the views.
Here are five scenic running routes, inspired in part by popular Toronto artists, Drake and The Weeknd:
EAST SIDE TING
Although this isn’t necessarily the east side Drake raps about (that’s Scarborough, which is home to the beautiful Bluffs and incredible cultural foods), it’s as far as most visitors will want to stray away from the city centre on a shorter stay. It’s a great way to enjoy the nature surrounding the Beaches neighbourhood as well as the mom and pop shops along Queen Street East. I would even suggest running with a light knapsack packed with a bathing suit and perhaps a few treats from Dufflet. A dip in the Donald D Summerville Olympic Pool is a great way to cool down after this 7km run.
A SWEETER ROUTE
Slightly more west is where you’ll be able to grab an incredible view of the Toronto skyline. Starting at Sugar Beach, which is a lot smaller but arguably more beloved than the Beaches for its iconic pink umbrellas, this route follows the waterfront east until you hit Polson Pier with its unobstructed view of the city. From there, you’ll head north to the Distillery District with its gorgeous redbrick buildings and cobblestone roads straight through to St. Lawrence Market. I would suggest a pit stop here for a refreshment before heading back to Sugar Beach where you can also hit a patio for a cold beer and lake scenery.
THE MINK MILE
Drake might rap that you can’t shop on Bloor, but at least you can run on it. The Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) is the perfect meeting point. You can appreciate the Daniel Libeskind-designed crystal extension before heading east toward the Prince Edward Viaduct. Once you cross that bridge, head south on Broadview for another stunning view of the city in front of Riverdale Park. This might be a solid 8km run, but if you’re feeling particularly strong, you can even add a few hill repeats here. Then loop back around through the park (consider visiting some adorable farm animals), to Wellesley Street where you’ll hit the Village and finally back up to the ROM.
For those looking for an easy jog around the city core, this is it. It’s only appropriate to begin at Toronto-born Frank Gehry’s first building in Canada, the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO). From there, you’ll head north through a typical downtown neighbourhood to connect with College Street (Little Italy). You’ll pass some of the top restaurants in the city before cutting through Trinity Bellwoods to Queen Street West, a Weeknd haunt. He may have been raised in Scarborough (hence the connection to Drake), but constantly references Queen Street on his tracks. You’ll also be able to check out Kensington Market and Chinatown before looping around the Ontario College of Art and Design’s modernist wing on the way back to the AGO. You can break up this run quite a bit if you stop to thrift shop, eat and more.
WEST END RUN
The longest run on this list is also arguably the most traditional. Sticking strictly to the west end waterfront, you’ll start at the Princes’ Gate before heading south to the latest trail paved by the city of Toronto. Circling a manicured park that leads into the abandoned Ontario Place, you’ll continue west until you reach the Humber Bay Arch Bridge, hitting a few minor sights along the way. Of course, the bridge itself is stunning to behold with its white beams and graceful lines. It’s the perfect opportunity to take a few running photos of yourself with the Toronto skyline in the distance. You’ll be able to enjoy that view for a while longer as you double back to the gates to finish the 12km run.
Although you can run on your own or with your travel buddy, always consider joining a run club while you’re in town – there are tons to choose from. You never know what tips you’ll learn from the locals. Otherwise, don’t be afraid to ask for directions when stopped at a red light, we don’t bite.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Meghan Yuri Young is the editor of her eponymous site encouraging readers to pursue happier, healthier lives through her own experiences. Follow her adventures: Meghan Yuri Young on Instagram.