We’ve spent the last six months doing our best not to go outside whatsoever unless absolutely necessary. But now that the nice weather is here, we can’t wait to get outside and explore. It’s such a wonderful way to spend time as a family, away from work and devices and distractions. Plus, it teaches our city slicker kid how important it is to connect with nature. Since we’re new to this city, we have a lot of super fun and interesting places to check out. Last weekend our explorations took us to Riverdale Farm in Toronto. What a gem!
Riverdale Farm is a fully operational facility right in the middle of the city. The farm opened in 1978 on the site of where the Toronto Zoo was located for 80 years. The zoo animals were moved to their current home in Scarborough in 1974, and the property went through significant change prior to reopening as Riverdale Farm. Only a few buildings remain from the Zoo days, with many other buildings being moved from other homes in Ontario or built anew. The barns and facilities are fully operational and you can wander through and get a great sense of the sights and sounds and smells of a farm. (Since I grew up in the country, I found these smells nostalgic and not at all stinky. My husband and daughter did not tend to agree.)
The grounds are extensive and include a butterfly garden, a duck pond, and lovely walking trails taking you down through the swampy, tangled pond area. There’s even some of the original buildings from the Zoo still hidden around the site.
There’s all kinds of on site activities including chatting with the farmer on the daily chores. Could be egg collection, animal feeding, cow or goat milking, horse grooming and mucking out the stalls. A little bit of country in the middle of the city! The farm also hosts a Farmers’ Market in the summer on Tuesdays from 2-7 pm. What a wonderful way to spend an afternoon!
Riverdale Farm is located just east of the Don Valley Parkway. There’s no parking on site, but lots of street parking is available, or you can get there via bus or streetcar. There’s a small cafe and washrooms on site, with lots of picnic areas scattered throughout the site to have some snacks or take a rest.
The farm was nearly lost to Toronto residents in 2011, when City Council voted to close the farm in order to cut costs. The farm is currently seeking new financial partners and in 2013, received a significant donation from the W. Gordon Weston Foundation to cover operational costs until it can establish a sustainable self-funding model. Losing this farm would be a tragedy for the city. To help, you can make donations to the farm on site or online.
Riverdale Farm is open year round daily from 9 am to 5 pm. Admission is free (but you really should donate!) Enjoy and let me know if you liked it as much as we did.