Last summer, I attended a conference in Toronto, Canada. We had the afternoon off, so several of us decided to check out the waterfront near the CN Tower. Instead of just seeing boats and walking along Lake Ontario, we discovered a beautiful garden full of paths and flowers. I’d never have guessed there was something like this so close by—within ½ a mile or so, I’d say. One of the very interesting things about this garden is that it is based on a piece written by Johann Sebastian Bach, and each of the sections of the garden is named after one of the movements in the piece. Thus, the name of the garden is simply the “Toronto Music Garden”, and even if you’re not crazy about Bach, the pretty flowers and paths are good reasons to visit the garden.
To get to the waterfront, from the CN Tower, head downhill towards the waterfront. Sooner or later, you’ll come to the sidewalk that goes along Lake Ontario. Turn right onto this promenade. If you want specific directions, from the CN Tower head west down Bremner Blvd. At the first intersection, turn left down Rees Street and walk under the Gardiner Expressway. Keep walking on Rees Street until you have crossed Queens Quay W; then turn right and begin walking along the waterfront. You’re not really along the waterfront here, but there are some docking areas that lead out to the lake that touch this part of the sidewalk. Continue walking along here past two “Wave Decks”; odd-looking modern art docking areas that look something like waves (I guess). Along here you get some great views of the CN Tower sticking up above the other buildings. There was also a three-masted schooner in this area when we visited, but I don’t know if it makes its home there, or if it was just visiting. You’ll have to check it out for yourself.
Just after the second wave deck, turn left along the waterfront and then enter the music garden through a small path on your right. Or, continue just slightly farther and take one of the numerous pathways leading into the park. Either way, the garden is located between Queens Quay W and the lake, so you can explore it however you wish. The park is based on Bach’s Suite No. 1 in G Major for Unaccompanied Cello, BWV 1007, and each movement of the piece is represented in the park. The first part that you will come to (after crossing a large section of green grass) is No. 5, Menuett (sorry, they aren’t in order, and you’re actually starting at the far end of the garden). This was one of my favorite sections, because of the large arbor (small pavilion) that is here. It was handcrafted out of ornamental steel, and is remarkably graceful looking. I also liked how the sun created shadows on the floor of the pavilion, making interesting designs and patterns.
Next, move on to No. 6, Gigue. This is the last movement in the piece, and the garden is composed (sorry, no pun intended) of large grass steps leading down to a kind of stage. This whole section of the garden is much like an amphitheater. Continue up towards Queens Quay W and you will next enter No. 4, Sarabande. This garden is in the shape of an arc, and is full of conifer trees. A stone pathway leads in a spiral towards the center of this garden. At the center is a small pool enclosed by pretty ivy and a “dark” feeling of being in a conifer forest. I really enjoyed this part of the garden.
Go back to the main path, and walk towards the waterfront. After you reach this, turn right and you will soon be able to enter what seems to be the centerpiece of the park, No. 3, Corurante. This has a couple of cool spiral paths that lead towards the center of the garden. At the center is a maypole, which I gather is used some times of the year, and other times is just for decoration. Along the paths are many kinds of wildflowers, which makes this a pretty area if you like the slightly “overgrown” look to your garden.
If you keep walking, you will soon come to the next part of the garden—Prelude (No. 1). This was probably one of my favorite parts of the garden, simply because of the elegance of the landscaping, pathways, and flowers. It was obviously a mature garden, but it wasn’t overgrown like the Corurante section and it had more unique flowers than some of the other sections. I also liked how the hackberry trees blended with the flower beds to make a more forest-like scene. I could have spent more time in this section, and I wish I had better pictures, but they turned out all blurry for some reason. Probably I was hurrying because some of the children wanted to go down the path, not wait for me to take a picture!
The last section of the garden that you will come to is Allemande (No. 2). In some ways, this is an extension of the Prelude section, except that there are more bushes and birch trees here instead of well-tended gardens and hackberry trees. At any rate, it is still very nice, and worth strolling through. At this point you can continue down the promenade towards the Toronto Island Airport, or you can turn around and go back. I’d guess it’s another ½ mile or so to the airport and the small park just beyond where you can stroll along a promenade that has great views of Toronto Island, the boats going through the water on your side of the island, and the planes and other machines (helicopters, etc.) taking off.
For those of you who are fascinated by the CN Tower, the music garden offers some great opportunities to take pictures of the tower with beautiful foregrounds. I’ve seen pictures of everything from the Gigue to Menuett to the maypole in the Courante section in the foreground, with the CN Tower behind. Also, if you’re a lover of music, formal and informal performances are often held in the garden, especially in the Gigue amphitheater and under the trellis in the Menuett section. Weddings are also often held here. The park itself is also wheelchair accessible, so strollers could also get down the paths.
Fees: None (except for parking–that’s expensive in this part of town!)
Would I go 100 miles out of my way for this?
Thursday Thu Aug 17 60%
Chance of a Thunderstorm
Showers and thunderstorms early. Lows overnight in the upper 60s.
Friday Fri Aug 18 30%
Chance of Rain
Showers in the morning, then cloudy in the afternoon. High near 75F. Winds SW at 10 to 20 mph. Chance of rain 30%.
Saturday Sat Aug 19 20%
Cloudy skies. A stray shower or thunderstorm is possible. High 74F. Winds WSW at 10 to 15 mph.
Sunday Sun Aug 20 10%
Generally sunny despite a few afternoon clouds. High 79F. Winds SSW at 10 to 15 mph.
Monday Mon Aug 21 0%
Partly cloudy skies. High near 80F. Winds SW at 10 to 15 mph.