Congratulations Toronto, we did it! We are now officially in Stage 2 of Ontario’s COVID-19 re-opening framework. On Monday, Premier Doug Ford announced that as of Wednesday, June 24, Toronto, along with Peel Region, would join the bulk of the province in Stage 2. Here’s what that means for Toronto families.
Splash Pads & Outdoor Pools
It’s the news that many of you have been waiting to hear: Splash pads and pools can now officially re-open. While full details will be released by the city later this week, the current plan is to have most splash pads and outdoor pools operational by this weekend and have supervised wading pools open as usual on Canada Day.
If you’re worried about COVID-19 and public pools, take comfort in the fact that, according to the Centre for Disease Control, the virus doesn’t appear to spread through the water. However, physical distancing is still recommended, and will actually be required by the City of Toronto.
One of the city’s best splash pads can be found over on the Toronto Islands, which will finally re-open to the public on Saturday, June 27. To help with physically distancing, only 5,000 ferry tickets will be sold for each day, and it’s recommended that you purchase those tickets in advance. Centreville Amusement Park, Far Enough Farm and all play structures will all remain closed, but washrooms will be open, along with pathways, gardens and beaches. For more information, or to buy your ferry tickets, visit this page.
And speaking of beaches, City of Toronto beach lifeguards are now back in action. Though technically allowed since Stage 1, we’re including swimming beaches on this list since the city only started re-opening them last weekend. As of June 22, daily lifeguard service returned to six sandy spots, giving families more outdoor recreation opportunities. For details on where you can safely take a dip in Lake Ontario, as well as what other facilities are available, head here.
Restaurants & Patios
What splash pads are to kids, patios are to adults. While restaurants still can’t offer dine-in service, they can now serve food and drinks outdoors, so long as they follow a list of rules, including keeping at least two metres of separation between tables and having no more than six patrons at a table. The city is allowing some establishments to expand their patios onto sidewalks and roadways in order to boost capacity, but we suspect that it still might be hard to grab a seat. Because of that, we recommend making patio-time a date night activity instead of a family affair.
Cultural & Educational Attractions
“Establishments primarily engaged in preserving and exhibiting objects, sites and natural wonders of historical, cultural and educational value,” can once again welcome guests, so long as they follow such rules as having timed entry, control visitor numbers and flow and keep all interactive exhibits closed. Re-opening plans have so far been announced by Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada (this Friday), the Toronto Zoo (this weekend for members) and the Art Gallery of Ontario (July 2 for members, July 23 for everyone). We expect more attractions to announce their plans soon, providing families with a few more entertainment options.
Outdoor Sports & Recreation Facilities
If your kids love go-carting, mini-golfing and paintballing, we have good news for you: This low-contact, outdoor activities can resume operation. Training for team sports can also start back up, so long as all participants keep at least two metres apart from each other. However actual games, as well as sports that don’t lend themselves to physical distancing, are still off-limits. Also off-limits are changing/locker rooms and showers.
You can stop looking at those YouTube videos on how to cut your kids’ (or your) bangs because hairstylists are officially back in business! But be prepared for some differences, such as having to wear a mask (and yes, that applies to kids as well). It may also be harder to get an appointment as most salons will need to operate at a reduced capacity to accommodate physical distancing.
Also, if you’re a parent in need of some “me time,” take note that manicures, pedicures and hair removal services can now also resume operations (though sorry, facials aren’t available until Stage 3).
Sherway Gardens, Yorkdale and the Eaton Centre are just a few of the shopping centres that plan to open on June 24. However, things will be a little different and not exactly kid-friendly. Seating for food services is prohibited, there may be rules around where and how you can walk and as always, masks are recommended. As well, every kid’s favourite bribe—the coin-operated kiddie ride—is still off-limits.
It’s officially okay to get those family photos done. In-studio services are allowed, so long as non-household members stay two or more metres away from each other.
Earlier this month, the Toronto Public Library rolled out a curbside pick-up and drop-off program at over 65 of its branches. Under Stage 2, patrons still can’t touch any books, but libraries are able to open up and offer certain services, such a computer usage. As of publication time, it’s not clear how and when the TPL plans on offering those services but keep an eye on its website for more details.
City-Run Recreation Centres
Toronto’s 152 rec centres can now re-open their doors however, don’t expect the same range of services as before. Access to gym equipment, as well as most indoor physical activities, isn’t allowed. But the spaces can be used for more physical distancing-friendly purposes, such as CampTO, the city’s modified summer camp program.
Indoor pools can also now welcome swimmers back however, it’s not yet known when the city will re-open them.
Unfortunately, water slides, wave pools and waterparks aren’t covered by Stage 2, nor are amusement parks and rides. All of those attractions can be found in Stage 3, which also includes indoor dining, movie theatres and yes, playgrounds.
It’s not clear what exactly needs to happen for the government to give the thumbs up to Stage 3. But it’s safe to assume that we need to keep those COVID-19 infection numbers on a steady decline and to do that, we need to keep up the physical distancing, wear a mask when appropriate and wash our hands.