Ontario Place is a cultural, leisure and entertainment center located on the shores of Lake Ontario in Toronto, Canada. The park has something to offer to visitors of all ages and most Torontonians, I’m sure, have had an adventure or two here. Open for over 30 years, Ontario Place is an important and fun part of Toronto.
Ontario Place was opened in May 1971. At that time it included the world’s first permanent IMAX theater, the Cinesphere, a W.W.II & Korean War Destroyer, the H.M.C.S. Haida, a concert theater, the Forum as well as a marina and several restaurants. At the time, Ontario Place was considered a work in progress and over the last 30 years additions and improvements have been made almost yearly.
The park was built on three man-made islands on the waterfront, utilizing a public space which at that time was underdeveloped. It was intended to be a showcase for the Province of Ontario that would replace the Government of Ontario building at the Canadian National Exhibition grounds. Construction took an estimated 1.5 million person hours and cost 29 million dollars.
Here is a list of some of the major additions made over the last three decades:
- 1973: Waterplay area introduced along with an Alice in Wonderland themed mini golf course
- 1978: Canada’s first waterslide opened in August
- 1978: The West Island reflecting pool was filled in with concrete and a refrigeration system to furnish an ice skating rink
- 1979: the rink was opened in summer as a roller rink offering a unique hangout for post disco-era teens
- 1980: the government constructed an ambitious display to specifically feature northern Ontario called Ontario North Now
- 1980: bumper boats introduced
- 1981: 70mm film festival introduced at the Cinesphere making use of the theater for non-IMAX films for the first time
- 1982: Future Pod features displays and exhibits in technology, communications and energy
- 1984: a massive reconstruction of the west island saw the introduction of the Wilderness Adventure Ride, a fully automated flume ride complete with 40 foot splashdown
- 1991: the Festival Stage was built to add an important venue for children’s programming close to the Children’s Village
- 1992 Bungee jumping made a brief appearance at Ontario Place
- 1993 Ontario North silos were revitalized by a talented group of designers whose efforts resulted in the Megamaze; a series of mazes
- 1994: the largest silo was refitted to house SeaTrek, a motion simulator ride built by Simex of Toronto
- 1995: demolition of the old Forum to make way for the Molson Amphitheater
- 1996: expansion of the waterpark continued with the demolition of the old waterslides making way for Rush River Raft Ride, a 5 person raft experience that winds its way down an 8 story tower and hillside
- 1997: waterpark developed with 2 new waterslides, the Pink Twister and Purple Pipeline
- 1998: Aquajet Racers introduced, these miniature versions of race boats allow for the thrill of go kart racing on the water
- 2000: introduced heat to the water slides allowing for earlier and later use of the waterslides in the waterpark.
- 2000: Simex introduced a new simulator ride entitled MARS
- 2001: South Beach volleyball complex introduced
As you can see from the above list, there are loads of things to do at Ontario Place. During the summer the park is host to several festivals, concerts and fireworks displays. There are several play areas for kids, my favorite from childhood being the waterpark. There are places to stroll, to lounge, to eat and to learn. The park is often host to different educational displays throughout the year.
The best time to visit is during the summer. The grounds and most of the attractions at Ontario Place are open from 10 am-6 pm in the early summer (mid-May to mid-June), from 10am-midnight during summer months (mid-June-August). Some attractions are open at other times of the year depending on special events. The only feature open year round is the Cinesphere and listings can be found in any of Toronto’s main entertainment guides.
To get to Ontario Place, your best option is to take the TTC (the streetcar). Parking is available, but why take the chance of having to drive around for hours and paying the high price. From Bathurst Subway Station, take the Bathurst 511 streetcar to Exhibition Place. During the summer months it runs every few minutes. Simply wait until the last stop (about 20 minutes from the subway) and then it is a ten minute, clearly marked walk to the entrance.
The 2002 Season Pass costs 39$ and includes access to most attractions as well as daytime IMAX films. Unfortunately, prices for the day pass were not available at the time of writing and will be published later in the spring.