March 17, 2020
With the kids out of school on March Break and “social distancing” in effect – looking at ways to get out of the house. As many places were closed, what would help keep the kids entertained and be able to burn some time during the day? Returning to google to find somewhere – Ontario Place popped up as a place to explore when searching for “parks”. I have fond memories of Ontario Place from my childhood. All the attractions, exhibits and rides, many that were interactive which you could spend hours and hours of enjoyment. Ohhh….and the water park and kid area (called Kids Village) that were incredible!
So off to Ontario Place we traveled which was not a far drive from our house. Pulling into the parking lot, it was deserted. Only one other car in the lot. As we arrived looking around it appeared to be very similar to what I remember from year gone by. The Cinesphere, the pods over the water, Budweiser stage and the distinctive entrance gates all in place.
Ontario Place is organized into two islands – East and West, connected by bridges to allow for travel between the areas. As we parked closer to the West entrance we were off to explore. Walking up to the entrance and seeing the bridges to traverse, the nostalgia again came back. All the fun times from my childhood with one notable difference, not one other person in sight.
Off to Explore the Inside…..
On the West island – they are currently having a winter light exhibition with art installations throughout the West area. As it was daytime, we didn’t get to experience the full effect of the art however they were interesting to see nonetheless. As we explored the initial area it was a little eerie due to the fact that the majority of the finer details and attractions have been removed leaving only the main building structures. Also the area seemed void of any colour – I don’t know if that was due to the overcast day or the fact that all the buildings and pathways were various shades of white and gray.
During it’s hayday, this area housed the peddle boats, bumper boats, motorized driving school and a soft play area with those foam balls that shoot from air powered guns from what I recall. Now – some Muskoka chairs and a fire pit with some stump chairs.
Wilderness Adventure area
We moved on to the wilderness adventure area next. I remember this area from my youth. This area was themed to northern Ontario forested area taking you out of the city. The gem of this area was the flume ride – probably one of my first thrill rides (Hard to recall back to those early days). Also in this area was an indoor attraction of mazes to run through. Well the flume ride track has been removed and filled in for the most part however you are able to explore the area and see remnants of the former track layout and elements. The kids had fun imagining how the track would make its way throughout the land. This area was super cool to explore and again brought back some great memories.
Off to the East Island
After we sufficiently explored all the West island we headed to the East island. That is where the Kids Village (aka the playground) and the water park area were located. I couldn’t wait to see the area and again reminisce back to the 80’s. This was my favourite area within all of Ontario Place. Walking past the Cinesphere and the boat marina it was all quiet. A few joggers and other people out for a walk. Again, it was eerie and devoid of colour. There is not much on the way from the West to the East island. Other than a few of the old buildings and some painted basketball courts on the pathway with no nets.
As I climbed the final pathway just south of the Budweiser stage, the anticipation of seeing that old area was building. As I crested the top it revealed the vast east area – now a…….Giant – Parking – Lot! Huge disappointment.
Nonetheless, we explored the area. From what I recall, this Eastern portion had the kids playground and water park areas, mini-golf course and various small rides. The only thing left standing is the water-slide tower from their rebuild of the water park in the 90’s. The kids ran across the parking lot to check out the tower. I was concerned of them climbing the tower however the good news is that it’s been fenced off so you can’t get to the top.
There wasn’t much going on within the East island – a couple of other buildings to serve food during concerts and an administration building. Not much time was spent here as it’s mostly pavement. We left via the East entrance to make it back to where we parked the car.
The kids thoroughly enjoyed visiting the grounds of Ontario Place. Lots of places to run, climb and explore. For me it brought back a ton of memories from my childhood and it was neat to recall and share what once was with my kids. It’s sad that a new generation will never have a chance to experience the site like it once was during its prime years. I would recommend this as a place to check out. Nice views and plenty of paths to get in some exercise. From what I read – they are tying to figure out what is next for the Ontario Place site and redevelop the area. I hope whatever they decide, it can help create great memories for everyone who visits.
- Ontario Place
- Located at 955 Lake Shore Blvd in Toronto (just off the Gardiner)
- Paid parking (currently $6 per hour)
- Free admission to the grounds
- Cinesphere still shows movies (Paid) – currently suspended due to coronavirus. Schedule on their website.
- Washrooms available throughout – some closed for the winter.
- Seasonal events – like the Winter Light Exhibition (see map of installations below)
Ontario Place website: http://ontarioplace.com/en/
Interesting piece with a historic look back: https://torontoguardian.com/2016/12/vintage-photographs-ontario-place-prime/