Riverdale's Withrow Park
Withrow Park is a large, multipurpose park located in Toronto's Riverdale neighborhood. Located just a few minutes walk south of the Danforth, it boasts an off-leash dog area, a fenced and dog-free children's playground and summer wading pool, a clubhouse for indoor classes and community group use, plus plenty of outdoor space for sports and recreation including tennis, tobogganing, hockey, baseball and soccer.
Frequently busy with both locals and visitors, the park's design is a perfect fit for the family-friendly, dog-friendly, healthy-living vibe of the Riverdale neighborhood. Found between Carlaw Avenue and Logan Avenue, the park is tucked just far enough off the major arteries that it's easy to get to, but isn't swamped with the sounds of city traffic. Of course that also means you can miss it if you don't know it's there!
With convenient park amenities such as washrooms, water fountains and plenty of benches - both for picnics and plain old sitting - Withrow Park is a great place to relax or get active, or both! Pockets of naturalized areas and gardens add to the charm of this centerpiece of the Riverdale area.
Sports and Recreation
Withrow Park has facilities for both organized and pick-up sport available all over the park. These spring, summer and fall activities are great for kids, teens and adults who want to get outside and have some fun. City of Toronto Parks, Forestry and Recreation also runs a variety of house leagues for kids at the park.
There are two public tennis courts at the north end of the park open from April to October. Use is limited to half an hour turns, and you can claim your spot in line by hanging your tennis racquet on one of two pegs that represent the courts.
In spring and summer ball hockey takes over the ice rink with the Withrow Ball Hockey League leading the charge. They have games there from April to June/July for children and teens.
The south-west corner of Withrow Park has a soccer field with a small washroom facility and a set of bleachers. Great for pick-up games, this area is also used by the city to run House League Soccer for youth.
Baseball Diamond/T-ball Diamond
There is a large baseball diamond in the center of the park, down the hill from the soccer field. Near the north end of the park, there's a smaller diamond next to the fenced-in children's play area.
The Wading Pool
Only open in the peak of summer, the wading pool is a shallow pool for children located within the fenced-in area at the north end of the park. Great for cooling off, the wading pool is a popular spot on even mildly warm days. No dogs are allowed inside this area and parents need to keep an eye on their children as they use the wading pool.
About Parks and Rec Permits
Use of many Parks and Rec facilities can be exclusively booked by special permit. For more info about permits visit the online version of the Parks and Rec FUN Guide or call 416-392-8188.
Winter Sports and Recreation
Although some areas of the park close for the winter months, the outdoor ice rink is open from approximately early December to the end of February. Located slightly east of the center of the park, the ice rink is enclosed with boards and has a small building with change rooms beside it. There is no skate rental or snack bar though, so you'll have to bring your own gear and hot chocolate in a thermos.
To find out when ice time is available, visit the City of Toronto's Leisure Skating webpage, call Withrow Park directly at 416-392-0749, or call the general info line for all available ice time in Toronto at 316-338-RINK (7465).
Another fun winter option in Withrow Park is tobogganing. The hill from the soccer field down to beside the baseball diamond may not be high enough to thrill teenagers and adults, but smaller children and their families should enjoy the easy slope. If you're looking for something more challenging, Riverdale Park East on Broadview Avenue has a much more serious tobogganing hill.
Withrow Park is as much a family destination as it is a place for sports. There are several pieces of playground equipment scattered throughout the park (although last time I was there the tetherball pole was lacking, well, a ball), but the real playground is right at the northern edge of the park along McConnell Avenue.
Unlike most park playgrounds, the Withrow Park children's area is fenced in and dogs - even leashed ones - are not permitted inside. The off-leash area of Withrow Park is far away anyway, but the fence and no-dog rule gives added comfort to parents who are nervous about dogs or children who aren't used to dealing with them.
Inside the playground are swings, climbing equipment, a sandbox and a wading pool that's usually open from June to August. Connected to the Withrow Park Clubhouse, the playground has easy access to washrooms and there's a fountain just outside the fence.
Just to the east of the fenced playground is a small t-ball diamond and all over the park are pockets of open space for other games.
The Withrow Clubhouse
The Withrow Clubhouse is on the north side of the park, connected to the enclosed playground and wading pool. Along with providing washrooms to the general public using the playground, the Clubhouse is used by the city to hold youth classes in both the arts and fitness. In the past the Withrow Clubhouse has been home to classes such as jazz, ballet, tai chi, yoga, hip hop and karate.
The city also runs house leagues in T-ball, soccer and slow-pitch from the Withrow Clubhouse, with the T-ball field just to the east of the building.
Community groups also make use of the Clubhouse and some events in the park are centered around it.
- If you'd like to find out more about using the clubhouse or what's taking place there, call the Withrow Clubhouse telephone number, 416-392-0616
- For a listing of the City of Toronto Recreation Programs and Sports Leagues using the Withrow Clubhouse this year, consult a printed FUN Guide for Toronto/East York or the online version of the FUN Guide
The Off-Leash Dog Park
Like most off-leash dog parks in Toronto, Withrow Park's off-leash area has no actual fence to keep the dogs contained. Instead the Withrow dog park is bordered by naturalized areas, a small hill, the south end of the ice rink, and a semi-circle of large logs that divide the off-leash area from the nearby baseball diamond.
A fair size, the dog park might not have the straight-away room for larger, faster dogs to get to their full speed, but there's enough room for your average game of fetch and for socializing. Oh, and there's a picnic table to help humans with their socializing while they're there.
A garbage can and a green bin just for dog waste are right at the edge of the area, so it's easy to clean up after yourself and your pet. Just up the hill towards the soccer field there's a water fountain with a dog bowl feature at the bottom.
Because the area has no actual fence and is so close to where someone could easily be hitting a baseball around - a tasty, tasty baseball - it's important to have verbal control of your dog if you're going to let them off lead. But the proximity really shouldn't be too much of a problem, and in all Withrow's off-leash area is a great place to spend time with your canine companion in the Riverdale area.
Gardens and Nature
Withrow Park is primarily an active recreation park, with its many sports facilities and structured play areas. But small pockets of naturalization exist throughout the park, as do a number of floral gardens.
One garden in the park is maintained by the Riverdale Horticultural Society. It sits just south of the tennis courts and is marked by a plaque. Other ovals of flowers and bushes appear along the paths through Withrow Park, many near benches were you can sit and simply enjoy the view.
The main naturalized area in Withrow Park is right around the off-leash dog park. It provides a partial border for the dogs while also providing roosting places for birds. Most of the wildlife in Withrow Park are the "standards" you see everywhere - sparrows, robins, squirrels and the like - but you can still catch glimpses of cardinals, goldfinches and more if you keep your eyes open.
Events in Withrow Park
The Withrow Park Farmers' Market
The Withrow Park Farmers' Market began in 2007. Running on Saturdays from May to October, the market focuses on organic food and sustainability in production.
Dusk Dances is an outdoor summer dance festival that performs in Withrow Park, usually in August. Tickets are pay-what-you-can, and the crowds often get very large.
• For details on the current season, visit DuskDances.ca
Wondering what happened to Shakespeare in the Rough?
For over a decade Shakespeare in the Rough brought the bard's plays to Withrow Park with no stage and no set. Unfortunately the company's last performance was in 2006.
• For more about the closing of SITR and other outdoor Shakespeare companies, see the 2007 Toronto Star column "Wherefore art thou, Shakespeare?" by Richard Ouzounian
How to Get to Withrow Park
The park is a few minutes walk south of the Danforth between Logan Avenue and Carlaw Avenue. The north end is bordered by a small street called McConnell Avenue and the south end runs behind the houses on Bain Avenue.
Taking the TTC to Withrow Park
The quickest way by transit is to take the subway to Chester Station and walk east to Logan or to go to Pape Station and walk west to Carlaw before walking south. You can also take the 506 Gerrard Streetcar to Logan or Carlaw and walk north, but it's a longer walk. You can take the 72 Pape bus up Carlaw to the corner of Riverdale Avenue then keep walking north, but frankly it's probably not worth waiting for the bus if you can't see it coming.
Driving to Withrow Park
This is made a bit tricky by all the one-way streets in Riverdale including both Carlaw (south only north of Riverdale Avenue) and Logan (north only north of Gerrard Street). Still, there is sometimes free street parking to be had in the neighborhood. If you'd rather pay then mess around trying to find a spot, there's a Green P lot at 670 Pape, just south of the Danforth on the west side. If you park at the south end you can walk out onto Harcourt Avenue, and you'll only have to walk two blocks west before you can see the north-east tip of the park.
Cycling to Withrow Park
Taking a bike to Withrow Park is easy. Jones Avenue, the next major street east of Pape, has a dedicated bike lane that runs from the Danforth all the way down past the bike lane on Dundas East to Queen Street. You can cut west from Jones over to Withrow Park using the contra-flow bike lane on Strathacona Avenue. Another option is to take the Don Valley Trail to Riverdale Park East. At the north east corner of that park is Hogarth Avenue, a signed, shared bike route that goes east to Logan.