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Carol Neshevich is a a freelance writer and mom to three busy boys, aged 3, 7, and 10. She has lived in the Beaches since 2005. While she prefers to call her neighbourhood The Beaches, she holds no ill will towards any fellow Beachers who believe it should be known as The Beach.
Here’s what Carol has to say about her neighbourhood.
Why I Love My ‘Hood
Whether they call it The Beaches or The Beach, most Beachers can agree on one thing: this neighbourhood is an absolute wonderland for families with kids.
Fabulous parks and playgrounds, great schools, shopping on Queen Street East, outdoor ice rinks, community centres—the list goes on. The Beaches has all the amenities parents of young kids need, and everything’s within walking distance.
Plus, it’s got a friendly small-town vibe, despite being just a short streetcar ride from the hustle and bustle of the downtown core.
While there tons of amazing places to go with kids in the Beaches, these are just a few of my family’s personal faves:
1. Kew Gardens playground (aka “Castle Park”)
There are several terrific playgrounds in The Beaches. But if a Beach parent says, “Let’s meet at the park,” chances are they mean the playground at Kew Gardens Park, known to all in the neighbourhood as Castle Park.
This park has several different play structures (including the big castle) that appeal to everyone from toddlers to tweens, as well as an awesome wading pool that’s open throughout July and August.
2. Beaches Library
This historic Beaches Library building is lovely to look at from the outside, and the friendly librarians inside make it a joy to visit.
The kids’ section on the main floor is stocked with great books for children of all ages and has lots of cozy spacing for reading, and the library offers many terrific organized programs for babies, toddlers, preschoolers, and school-age kids.
3. Ed’s Real Scoop
We all scream for ice cream—and this is particularly true at Ed’s Real Scoop! Scrumptious homemade ice cream and gelato on homemade waffle cones…need I say more?
4. The Fox Theatre
First opened in 1914, this “old-school” repertory movie theatre is a neighbourhood treasure.
The Fox features family-oriented movies every Saturday and Sunday afternoon, and having your birthday party at The Fox has become a popular option for kids in the neighbourhood: you can book the theatre on a Saturday morning and invite the whole class to watch your favourite movie with you!
The Pizzaville at the Beach Mall (1971 Queen Street East) is not your average pizza chain location!
The super-friendly franchise owner, Siya, has purposely made his location into a perfect place to take your kids for an enjoyable lunch out. He knows his regular customers by name, cuts the pizza slices into bite-sized pieces for the little ones, and always has the TVs in the dining area tuned in to Treehouse or YTV at lunch time for those young diners who may want to veg out and watch cartoons while they eat, especially if they’ve just spent a rambunctious morning at the park.
6. Bizzy Bee Playcentre
Upstairs from Pizzaville in the Beach Mall is another neighbourhood treasure: Bizzy Bee Playcentre. Ideal for ages 6 months to 6 years, Bizzy Bee is a fun place to hang out and play, especially when it’s too cold or rainy to go outside.
They’ve got all the classic toys, a ball pit, costumes to dress up in, and various arts and crafts supplies. Drop-in prices are very reasonable, and they even have babysitting services if you want to drop your child off for a couple of hours so you can do some uninterrupted shopping or get a haircut.
7. The actual beach (of course!)
The best part of the neighbourhood is the beach itself. What kid doesn’t love to play in the sand or throw rocks in the water?
When the weather is cool, it’s fun to just stroll along the boardwalk; and when the weather gets hot, you can go for a refreshing dip in the Blue Flag-certified lake water. Lifeguards are on duty throughout the summer months.
The Beaches is on the far east end of Toronto, the last stop on the border with Scarborough. It’s bordered to the south by Lake Ontario and two popular city beaches: Woodbine Beach and Kew Beach.
At the turn of the 20th century, it was a popular summer resort destination for Torontonians, with summer cottages, hotels, and a amusement park with log-flume ride. (Bulldozed long ago.) Today, The Beaches retains its summer-by-the-sea persona year-round, with its waterfront boardwalk and parks, small shops and restaurants lining Queen Street, quiet residential side streets, and—with exception during The Beaches Jazz Festival—delightfully sleepy demeanor compared to more downtown enclaves.
And, for the record: The City of Toronto officially designates it The Beaches, though it won’t say so on city signage, for fear of inciting riots!
Read more in our growing Why We Love Toronto for Kids series.
PHOTO: FOX THEATRE