Welcome to Riverdale:
An easy commute from downtown, Riverdale is a diverse, family-friendly neighbourhood with a colourful, hipster vibe. Studded with independent art galleries, authentic restaurants and locally-owned coffee bars, Riverdale boasts three gorgeous local parks and good schools, making it a magnet for Toronto families with kids. It’s a great place to grow up.
What you'll fall in love with:
Riverdale is the kind of neighbourhood that keeps a walk-up ice cream bar in business – it’s called Sweet Jesus, and it offers up soft-serve with wild toppings like candied bacon and peanut butter drizzle (inspired by Elvis). It’s is just one of many quirky local business that thrive in this community-oriented enclave. Others include the Tiny Record Shop (vinyl only), Boxcar Social (curated world coffees) and The Big Carrot (natural foods co-op, worker-owned). And of course Riverdale is home to the Danforth, which is still the best place in the city to get Greek food.
A little bit of history:
Like many communities in Canada, Riverdale was a small town that boomed when the federal government built the railway in the mid-1800s. Many of the homes in the area were built in the late 1800s as rooming houses for labourers. The City of Toronto annexed the area in 1884 and by the 1950s, the area was well-known for its large Greek and Italian populations. The Danforth has long been known as Greektown, and many of the area residents can trace their roots back to this era.
There are 10 schools in Riverside, including the highly-ranked Pape Avenue Junior Public, which ranked 9.1/10 on the Fraser Institute’s 2015-16 review. Other good schools include Withrow Avenue Junior Public (8.3) and Frankland Community School (7.1). Riverdale Collegiate is the local high school. Riverdale is also home to the prestigious Montcrest School, a private elementary school founded in 1961 and housed in a row of century-old homes atop Riverdale park. Neat fact: The Degrassi series of high school dramas was named after a street in Riverdale.
What you Won't find:
Riverdale is a family-friendly community with big parks, good restaurants and landscaped front lawns. While there are good pubs and late-night eateries along the Danforth (Alexandros serves gyros until 4 a.m.) you won’t find booming after-hours clubs and bumping nightlife – for that you’ll have to take an Uber downtown, just 20 minutes away.
In recent years, the area long known as Greektown has undergone a transformation, welcoming young urban families with children and all of the attendant change. Yoga studios, upscale boutiques and spendy coffee shops have replaced some of the mom-and-pop stores that have defined the area since the Greek and Italian families started calling it home in the 1950s. The result is a vibrant cultural mix, expressed best by the Riverside Eats & Beats street festival, organized by the local Riverside Business Improvement Area every June.
The Danforth isn’t the only place to shop, however. Riverdale is also home to Toronto’s “East Chinatown,” a thriving collection of Chinese and Vietnamese businesses that stretches several blocks down Gerrard Street, from Broadview past Carlaw. The community has been growing there since the early 1970s, and locals enjoy fantastic Dim Sum, Pho and noodle restaurants, plus an array of Asian grocers and retailers. The local branch of the Toronto Public Library is bilingual in Chinese and English, too.
Riverdale is also home to three big green spaces: Withrow Park, Riverdale Park and Jimmie Simpson Park. The sprawling Riverdale Park offers an outdoor hockey rink and tobogganing hill in winter, while the smaller Withrow Park at the centre of the community offers a farmer’s market and Canada Day fireworks in the summer. Jimmie Simpson Park is a dog walker’s heaven, with a second community hockey rink that hosts shinny games all summer long, too.
Riverdale runs from the Danforth on the north end down to Gerrard Street on the south end, and from the Don Valley Parkway in the west to Pape Avenue in the east. Locals are mainly couples, most with children, but lots without. The area draws active community members and boasts a handful of strong community organizations that keep the neighbourhood clean and thriving. Many of the houses in the area were built in the 1800s for working class Torontonians, and these stately Victorian and Edwardian homes have been refurbished by young families moving into the area.
Riverdale on a map
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