50allangardensI first tried visiting Allan Gardens during its annual Christmas Show. However, my promise of “poinsettias” didn’t work on my house full of boys. So the next time, my pitch was better prepared. At the mere mention of “turtles,” we were off to explore the historic Allan Gardens Conservatory.

The City of Toronto-operated six greenhouses (located in between Sherbourne and Jarvis streets and south of Carlton Ave) are home to 16,000 square feet of plants from around the world. Each house has a different theme (and temperature) with paths weaving in and around palm trees, cacti and seasonal blooms. For us, the ponds with fish and turtles were hands-down the biggest hit for our kids in TOw.

The permanent collection is tweaked seasonally for annual Flower Shows. This month they are planting thousands of spring bulbs in the “Cool House,” culminating with the Easter Flower Show. There are also summer and fall displays.

Oh, and by the way, the Christmas Show is not just about poinsettias (although there are more than over 30 varieties on display.) The first Sunday of December is the show’s grand opening with horse-and-wagon rides, carollers and a visit from Santa. Plus there are extended hours during the holiday weekends to enjoy the gardens by candlelight.

Open year-round. All free.


Getting there: Allan Gardens Conservatory is located on the south side of Carlton Street between Jarvis and Sherbourne Streets. On TTC, take the Carlton streetcar or Sherbourne bus. Driving, there is limited free parking off Horticultural Avenue west of the greenhouses. Paid street parking is $2.25/hour.

Low-down: Open daily (365 days) from 10 am to 5 pm. Free admission and wheel chair accessible. The six greenhouses are linked. The main entrance is on the east side into the glass and iron domed building. There is an entrance in the back (west side) along Horticulture Ave where the small parking is located. This leads into the turtle pond area. Info for the history buffs.

Hands-off: A good reminder to kiddos that this is not a spot to dig in the dirt or touch (or pick!) plants (especially in the cacti room.) Stick to the path. There are lots of benches when a break is needed.

Potty time: Yes, in the domed building. Women’s washroom has the baby change table.

In the hood: There is a very small (and sad) playground to the south of the greenhouses. Head to the immediate west to explore the new Allan Gardens Playground. (Stay tuned for the full review.) Allan Gardens has an off-leash dog area. Less than one kilometre east along Gerrard Street you’ll find the Children’s Book Bank and the Parliament Street Library branch. Riverdale Farm is another kilometre east (and north.)


Allan Gardens
19 Horticultural Avenue
Tel: 416.392.7288