08/16/2012 07:21 EDT | Updated 10/16/2012 05:12 EDT

Planning a Staycation? Five Great Summer Outings in Toronto

In Toronto, Canada, when the temperature rises during the brief summer, I love to get out and enjoy some of these off-the-beaten track outings. Whether you're looking for a fun family activity, a great group outing with friends, or a romantic evening with someone special, Toronto has just the thing for you!

AP File
Reporters lean back, 1,168 feet over Toronto's downtown, while participating in a media preview of the new EdgeWalk attraction on the CN Tower Wednesday, July 27, 2011. Participants are strapped into a harness as they walk along a walkway around the CN Tower. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Darren Calabrese)

In Toronto, Canada, when the temperature rises during the brief summer, I love to get out and enjoy some of these off-the-beaten track outings.

1) Berry picking at Whittamore's Farm

A great summer outing is to visit this farm that is set up to allow you to pick your own berries and vegetables straight from the field. It is great fun to go out into the fields and pick to your heart's content. I particularly like picking raspberries. There are a number of different things you can pick, such as strawberries and peas. Check their website to find out what is available. Your picked produce is weighed on the way out and it is fairly inexpensive. I bought 10 pounds of green peas for only $20 and left very happy. Note that they don't weigh you, so you might take a few nibbles as you pick, despite the big signs at the cashier that proclaim No Eating! With all the different nationalities of people who come to pick it is a veritable United Nations of berry picking.

Tips for picking raspberries: you know a raspberry is ripe when it is a reddish color and comes off in your hand when you go to pick it. If you have to pull too hard to get it off the plant, it is not ripe. Another tip is to avoid the very dark red ones, they are over-ripe and can end up a mushy mess in your picking box. They offer picking boxes for sale for only $1 at the farm, and a rope to tie the box around your stomach to keep both hands free for picking.

2) The Guild and Scarborough Bluffs

Scarborough is not known for its beauty as a city -- it is mainly a suburban agglomeration east of downtown -- but it has an astoundingly beautiful coastline on Lake Ontario called the Scarborough Bluffs. The high sandy peaks that lead down into the blue waters of Lake Ontario are remnants of a much larger lake that existed during the glacial periods. One of the nicest places to see the bluffs is at the Guild Park, also known as Guildwood Park.

Here there is an added bonus, as the park is home to a great collection of architectural remnants -- parts of 19th century buildings that were relocated to the park from downtown Toronto. Most of the architectural remnants reached the park in the 1970s when numerous beautiful bank buildings in downtown Toronto were demolished. In the park you can wander around Greek-revival marble columns and arches and carved reliefs, among many other architectural features. A forested path leads to the bluffs where you can take in great views of the water.

3) Sugar Beach

One of Toronto's newer parks, Sugar Beach, is east of the main waterfront area in downtown. It is next to the Redpath Sugar factory, and the design plays off this delightful association. Pink umbrellas and white beach chairs sit on an artificial beach of light pink sand overlooking Lake Ontario. It is a fun design, and you can also walk along a boardwalk to another little park called Lower Sherbourne Commons with its artificial river. A very relaxing, enjoyable place to spend a couple of hours.

4) Kayaking Lake Ontario

Another beautiful, relaxing outing is to go kayaking in Toronto's harbour. You can rent a kayak or canoe at Paddle Toronto. You can rent a single or double kayak, which I prefer over the canoe -- they are easier to steer and don't take much (if any) previous skill. With the canoes you have to know what you are doing or take a lesson. It's great to take an outing into the Toronto Islands and see a spectacular view of the city skyline. It can be a bit pricey, but you can buy a book of coupons to use for several outings at a reduced rate.


5) The Leslie Street Spit

The Leslie Street Spit is in the far east side of Toronto's waterfront. It is an idyllic point of land jutting out into Lake Ontario, and the long road along the spit is a favorite for rollerbladers, walkers and cyclists. It is beautiful, with wildflowers, trees and ample wildlife, including many varieties of bird, cute little bunny rabbits and even a small colony of coyotes (rarely seen, and no danger to the average visitor!). Such a pastoral natural setting against the blue of the lake is a dreamy outing from the city. Most of the land is actually created through landfill, and dumping of cleanfill along the spit still occurs, growing the size of the spit every year. Along the spit you can enjoy views of downtown Toronto and the harbour.

This article was originally published on Joel Garten's blog: The Beauty of Life.

Be sure to check out Joel's travel tips for Venice and Florence!