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AMUSEMENT PARKS ON TORONTO’S WATERFRONT

This presentation on Toronto’s most loved lakeshore attractions is full of nostalgia.

There are four parts to the presentation on the history of amusement parks along Toronto’s waterfront. These can be presented together in one longer talk, or broken down and delivered separately.

THE TORONTO ISLANDS have been a getaway for the Toronto area for hundreds of years. Hundreds of years ago, the aboriginal people in the Toronto area used the islands as a getaway. European settlers soon caught on, and by the 1860s there were hotels and recreation spots on the islands. By the 1920s, Hanlan’s Point featured an amusement park, boat rentals, and a stadium where Babe Ruth hit is first professional home run. The 1950s saw a swath of demolition cut its way through the homes on the islands, and residents fought to stay. In recent decades, the islands have become a “park across the harbour”, and have been enjoyed by generations of Torontonians.

Amusement_Parks_3SUNNYSIDE AMUSEMENT PARK opened in the 1920s and lasted until the Gardiner Expressway was built in the 1950s. The Palais Royale was part of Sunnyside Amusement Park, and became one of the great musical hotspots in Toronto during the Big Band Era. The Sunnyside pool was also very popular. Both of these remain today. However, the actual amusement park itself was demolished when the Gardiner Expressway was built. Today, all that we have of one of Toronto’s most cherished recreational spaces are the memories of those who were lucky enough to visit it.

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THE CANADIAN NATIONAL EXHIBITION (CNE) opened on its current location all the way back in 1879. It’s changed dramatically over the years, and many of the buildings that were one time favourites are now lost. However, as early as 1904, one visitor to the fair penned a review lamenting how the Canadian National Exhibition wasn’t the same old fair that he remembered having visited shortly after it had opened in 1879. This presentation will show you how much “the Ex” has changed over the generations, and how it’s still a beloved Toronto tradition.

Amusement_Parks_1ONTARIO PLACE was the “youngest” of all of these attractions, but many families still have fond memories of visiting over the years. For those who have visited Ontario Place, memories of the water park, the amusement rides, and the pods hanging out over the water are an integral part of growing up in Toronto. Many remember outdoor concerts at the Forum, which eventually became today’s Molson Ampitheatre. Then, of course, there were the IMAX shows at the Cinesphere. Built in 1971, the Cinesphere was ahead of its time – it was the first permanent IMAX theatre constructed anywhere in the world. And, of course, IMAX itself was a revolutionary form of film that was also invented in Canada. Take a look back at the fun history of Ontario Place, and relive the its old slogan “It’s all yours!”

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