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The Bentway Skate Trail is Toronto’s Best New Addition

Toronto’s anticipated new skating trail opens tomorrow – and it’s a great thing for the city on many fronts.

The Bentway has transformed the land under the forever-controversial Gardiner Expressway near Fort York into your next great date spot, an affordable family fun day, and one of the best examples of public space use Toronto has seen as of late.

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The city’s new, year-round public space project kicks off with the opening of its anticipated skate trail. While the skate trail will be longer in the future, the first leg of the celebrated project is open to the public come tomorrow (January 6), complete with an opening party and special events throughout the weekend. This first leg stretches 220 metres from Fort York, east of Strachan, to Bastion Street, near June Callwood Park, and represents a figure eight.If all goes according to plan, the trail will eventually run from Strachan Ave. to Spadina Ave.

The initiative goes beyond the skating rink, and will feature performance spaces, gardens, areas for markets and a dog park. It’s worth noting that, while the actual skate trail is complete, the extreme weather conditions have affected the construction of the site, and as a result, not all of the design elements surrounding the trail are in place.

Aside from infusing the otherwise drab underbelly of the Gardiner with life and purpose, the initiative reflects an inspiring example of reimagining a major public infrastructure to create community spaces in high-density areas. With things like free skate rentals on Monday night, it also makes for an accessible family-friendly activity that won’t break the bank. Not to mention, it provides a solid excuse to emerge from hibernation and work off some of those Netflix binge calories.

Today’s media event included brief remarks from The Bentway CEO Julian Sleath, Toronto Mayor John Tory, and Philanthropic Leaders Judy and Wilmot Matthews. It also featured an ice-breaking performance from the Toronto Ice Skate Group, followed by an open skate for (incredibly brave) media and guests.

Tomorrow’s highlights include musical performances, Ice Breaking demonstrations (a unique hybrid of breakdancing and freestyle ice skating by the Toronto Ice Skate Group), art installations, food and drink, music from popular Toronto DJs, pop-up curling, and free admission to Fort York National Historic Site. On Sunday, the rink will host the Mayor’s Skate Party from 1-4 with Mayor Tory and members of the Toronto City Council (hopefully, John has mastered the art of layering). The family-friendly event will feature complimentary skate rentals and hot chocolate.

Ongoing programming throughout the winter will include the Beats and Bents Friday night skate parties with a rotating cast of DJs and the Strongbow Lounge on weekends, where you can enjoy Stongbow Apple Cider and other Molson Coors products. The spot will also see a curated food truck program throughout the season.

Like other public rinks, it will remain open until mid-March. By summer, the space with feature a green Amphitheatre, a multi-use walking and biking trail, a public market, an open-air gallery and designated space for festivals and special exhibitions.

Erin Davis

Erin is a Toronto-based actor, writer and queen of the side hustle. When she’s not writing the day away in a face mask, she’s taking in the city’s vibrant arts scene, doing a red carpet interview or brunching with her leading ladies. Follow me: @erinnicoledavis