allan gardens toronto

Toronto at 4am: Allan Gardens and the Palm House

Allan Gardens in Cabbagetown is gorgeous during the day. Take a walk through on a sunny summer afternoon and an eclectic mix of characters, from dog-walkers to jugglers and freestylers, will unfold before you.

Unfortunately, the roster of this eclectic mix has a tendency to change drastically come nightfall, and for this reason, Allan Gardens does not have a reputation for being the best place to be hanging out after dark.

Reputation aside, and encouraged by the discoveries we had made on our last sleepless adventure, my friends and I decided to do just that. We hung out in Allan Gardens well after dark, with the hopes of bringing the beautiful side of Allan Gardens to light, in the absence of daylight itself. Who really knew what Allan Gardens looked like at 4am? Maybe we would see something new, something unexpected.

After an evening of sushi, tea, and several heated rounds of Settlers of Catan, we wandered into Allan Gardens and tried not to have any expectations.

Allan Gardens Benches

A lack of expectations left plenty of room for delightful surprise. Nary a soul was in sight. In the darkness and quiet the park took on a whole new aesthetic, and it wasn't necessarily creepy. I would describe it as peaceful, more than anything.

One of the more noticeable observations can be seen in the leading photo - how different the Allan Gardens Palm House looked at 4am, compared to when we'd taken a picture earlier that evening at 9pm. A Victorian-era indoor botanical garden housing all manner of tropical plants and flowers, the Palm House was closed when we got there, due to the ongoing city strike. Not that it would have been open at the time of day that we visited, anyway.

No matter. Our intent was to enjoy the sights from the outside.

Back of the Greenhouses

From behind...

Front View from the Palm House

...looking down the front...

Back View from the Palm House

...down the back...

Skyline from the Palm House

...and out at the brilliant city skyline.

The entire time that we were there, we never saw anyone dodgy. There was plenty of privacy, and room to sit around and talk quietly. Often the spookiest things we saw were things conjured up by our own overactive, caffeine-fueled brains.

Towards dawn, as we filled up on food at The Lakeview, I considered the things I had seen (food for thought, indeed). While it's good to be wary, it's never a good idea to jump to conclusions. People need to understand that it's all a matter of perception and, in many cases, imagination. After all, even the most harmless things (like children's kites) can seem entirely different with a few more shadows here and there.


Want to really know Toronto? I would urge anyone with a preconceived notion of any neighbourhood to take multiple perspectives into account. Try to see things differently. It never hurts to be open-minded, and new sides of Toronto will open up for you to discover, if you do.

Once a month I throw my circadian rhythm for a loop and explore the city from around 2am to sunrise. Sometimes I have a plan, sometimes I don't. All-nighters don't get much better than this.

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