WHAT'S IN IT FOR YOU? This walk includes a different way to enjoy Trillium Park + a great Light exhibition + plane spotting.
What a lovely evening stroll we have with the new edition of Ontario Place’s annual winter event. Renamed Lumière (oui, oui, in French, with the accent!), it now takes place in Trillium Park on the east side of Ontario Place, every night from dusk to 11pm until May 7, 2023.
Formerly called Winter Light Exhibition, free admission, free parking, until May 7.
Good news! Ontario Place has long tried to position itself as a winter attraction. I vaguely remember a Wonderland with snowflakes projected on the ground. In December 2017, they launched their Winter Light Exhibition featuring creators of light installations that could be admired for free while strolling the paved paths.
During COVID, the event metamorphosed into a drive-through tour. Fun, but much less inclusive. Last year, they charged $80 per car to view the installations. This year, not only is the free pedestrian format back, but they also provide a free parking section.
To get there, take the east entrance to Ontario Place at the traffic lights on Ontario Place Boulevard. Near the park gate, a sign pointing to the left directs you to the free parking lot. Access to Trillium Park by public transportation is still not ideal, requiring a 15-minute walk from Streetcar 509.
With the end in mind…
Those thinking of visiting Lumière without kids will be happy to know that there is a very nice bar on the 28th floor of the Hotel X Toronto, right across Trillium Park, north of the Lake Shore. You can have a cocktail there every night from 5pm. Drinks don’t come cheap but we pay for a spectacular view. Valerie's Japanese menu is also available Wednesday through Sunday, in the bar and at their restaurant.
You might want to bring a change of coat and shoes and trade in your parka and hiking boots after your walk before heading to the chic bar.
The Lumière Experience
We can explore the light installations along the 1.3 km of paved paths in Trillium Park. You can easily extend the stroll by going further into the Ontario Place site. The loop I did, shown on this map, is 2.4-km long.
Between now and May 7, the weather should be relatively mild but the air is often colder by the lake on windy evenings. Plan accordingly. Campfires can be counted on to warm up on Fridays and Saturdays. Arriving around 7:30 pm, we got to better distinguish the planes landing on the Toronto Islands. A mere 15 minutes later, the light installations started to pop in the dark.
To get the most out of the outdoor exhibition, I recommend you read prior to your visit the descriptions of the art on the bilingual website ontarioplace.com. Many of the installations are interactive and require visitors to take the time to get up close and listen. I confess I did not have the patience to read the signs by each art display and realized afterwards that I missed out on the full experience.
As a fan of the Nuit blanche event, I recognized the feeling of anticipation as we wandered from one work to the next. The creations of innovative artists are never far from each other.
Nate Nettleton's Disco Wall, set against the backdrop of downtown Toronto, gets the ball rolling!
It's followed by Lauren Pirie's Correspondence, with its large, inflated arms embracing the bridge that joins the two slabs carved into the Canadian Shield. They are engraved with giant moccasins by artist Philippe Côté, who has created many indigenous murals in Toronto. They are part of the Moccasin Identifier Project created in 2017 for the new Trillium Park, the moccasins symbolizing the First Nations' respectful relationship with nature.
Beyond the bridge, the view widens. To our left, the downtown core. In front of us, the planes landing at Billy Bishop Airport. To our right, the architectural work Aeolian Soundscape by John Nguyen and his colleagues, not far from the beautiful Flora Arcana by Thadea Decora and her team. (Be sure to move in front of each panel to activate the chime sounds!)
Work #8 Luxonous (actually closer to the water than shown on the map of the exhibition) is more interactive than you might think. Visitors speaking into a microphone trigger a unique audiovisual cycle in the installation. A little further back, the camera in The Light Within installation sends back a pixelated image of participants on a ping-pong wall.
Sofia Escobar's Bioluminescent Being is reminiscent of a deep sea jellyfish. At the edge of the lake, Jungle Ling's red Ghost Canoe catches our eye. Take a closer look. It is made of plastic containers found on the shores of Lake Ontario.
Continuing the walk along the paved waterfront path, one passes the beautiful installation Umbra Transit by Melissa Joaquim (a Dora recipient for her stage designs). Visitors will want to read the instructions for this interactive work and the next, Tonya Hart's Golden Hour (in front of three benches), to better enjoy it.
Further on, Sabine Spare and Mikhail Moosa's The Numerology of Mushrooms is quite playful. Participants are invited to sit, one at a time, on the central log to connect to the meditative circuit.
A short detour into Ontario Place
Continuing on beyond, you arrive at Ontario Place, the 155-acre provincial site that has been much talked about lately.
Opened in 1971 with its iconic Cinesphere (the big ball designed to rival the one at Montreal's Expo 67), the provincial closed its attractions in 2012, no longer able to justify the yearly cost of $20 million when attendance had fallen from 2.5 million when it opened to about 300,000.
In November 2022, the province announced plans to allow a developer to turn one third of the site into a luxury spa and water park complex while preserving the Cinesphere, its tripods, Tritium Park and the trail that circles the site.
To educate oneself, one can read UrbanToronto's account and consult other sources such as the Globe and Mail article which notes that the province is committing to cover the more than $350 million cost of building an underground parking lot with this project.
Since then, there has been a tight battle between the pro and con camps and the seduction operation by Therme, the Canadian arm of the Vienna-based firm which wants to invest in the project, continues, recently offering the promise of increased development of public natural spaces. To be continued...
Completing the tour
Back in Trillium Park, you can complete the tour. Among other things, take the time to stop at each column of the Bitbrainz Bloom Promenade. As you approach each one, you will be charmed by a different sound bubble.
I also liked Allochory, a conifer cone actually made out of shovels by the clever team Collective Memory.
If you want to end the evening with a drink at the bar of Hotel X Toronto, head across Lake Shore West. Admire the hotel's beautiful reception and then take the elevator to the 28th floor. From there, you can walk down the stairs to the lounge with a stunning view of downtown.
Be sure to return to your car by 11 pm, the time Lumière closes.
This post is a complement to local author Nathalie Prézeau's walking guide: Toronto BEST Urban Strolls. You already own this book? Check Nathalie's WEEKLY WALKS calendar available on her site www.torontourbangems.com/calendar. It's free, easily printable by season, and it includes page references which should help you enjoy urban walks year-round.
Nathalie's guides are available in Toronto’s major bookstores, on torontourbangems.com/shop and amazon.ca or indigo.ca. We also deliver or contact the author directly at email@example.com to arrange for a pick up with a discount at 299 Booth Avenue, in Leslieville.