This iconic facility covers 155 acres of land on the Toronto waterfront. It opened in 1971, and featured an amusement park, an IMAX theatre, concert and pavilion spaces. However, due to the lack of revenue the park was forced to close down in 2011 to begin revitalizing it to a year round attraction.
As a kid, I always loved spending the day here and when it closed I remember being so frustrated and confused. When I was biking past one day when I must’ve been 13 or so, I thought it would be kinda cool to just go in and see what’s become of the place. I recall looking at one of the gates and thinking, “Could it really be this simple?” I then locked up my bike in some trees and hopped over the gate, and began running towards the water slides. Prior to this, I had never really visited or explored practically any abandoned compound, and the vacancy of it was unimaginable. I remember inspecting every single building and tugging at every door handle, utterly fascinated. Eventually I got spooked, and I left in a hurry.
I would return almost a dozen times more in the following weeks and then years, infiltrating the site sometimes alone, sometimes with a friend of mine. We climbed in almost all the waterslides, up onto the water tower drop bucket, in the catwalks above the theatres and in the log slide, ducking and dodging past security.
Every time we seemed to find something new, and every time we would have to find new ways to get in and out safely. Unfortunately I didn’t get the chance to photograph the post-apocalyptic looking park back when it wasn't under redevelopment, I only started properly documenting the adventures this year, when I started exploring the complex once again.
As I was biking downtown yet again last month, I noticed that the east end of the site had been opened up for Taco Fest. Intrigued, I slipped in past security and made my way towards the festivities walking with my I’m supposed to be here
stride. Once I reached the roof of the Atlantic building, I was overwhelmed with joy and to make everything that much more epic, rain began pouring from the sky.
After snapping a few photos of the storm clouds, I starting heading down all the various walkways. Just when I thought I had seen everything, I tugged at yet another door that said, “Authorized Personnel Only,” and I knew I was in for something special. Inside was a vast series of long and skinny mech rooms which I cautiously explored. Eventually I came across a door which led into an incredibly dark room. Gingerly lowering myself down a decrepit ladder, I found myself in an abandoned theatre. Despite wanting to set up my tripod and take proper long exposure photos, I was inside of a pitch black room at night on my own while it was pouring rain outside, and I was feeling a little bit terrified. So I booked it out a new set of doors, and began walking back towards the festival.
Once the rain stopped, I reached Taco Fest and weaved my way through the crowd eventually coming up to the door that led to the underbelly of the log slide ride. When no one was looking, I quickly bypassed the lock and climbed up to the top of the structure, setting up my camera.
I then sat there for an hour taking pictures while the party raged on right in front of me. The view was pretty spectacular, and the DJ was absolutely killing it.
By now it was pretty late, and I figured that I should start heading home. However, I figured that I’d push my luck and attempt to do something that I had always dreamed of. I sneaked over to the entrance to the IMAX theatre, and despite the drizzle of rain that still lingered, I managed to climb up the outside of the spherical structure using the beams that wrapped around the meshy exterior.
A few days later, a friend of mine invited me to come shoot a timelapse from the new park that was open to public use on the east end of Ontario Place. Wanting to go back and shoot the inside of the Atlantis Pavilion during daylight, I happily accepted and biked down once again to explore the compound. After casually chatting to some workers, they allowed me to “go look for some stairs” somewhere in the off-limits part of the abandoned venue. I spent a half hour furiously shooting every hallway and room, ignorantly refusing to acknowledge the asbestos warning signs.
Once I finally left, I found myself on the field in front of the Molson Canadian Amphitheatre stage while a band was doing a practice session. After a minute of shooting, a security guard started running towards me. After talking for a few minutes, she delete my photos of the stage and let me go. Now that my fun had been ruined, I met up with my friend and we shot some time lapse during a spectacular sunset.
I finally felt like I had done the place justice, yet as I was unlocking my b e to go home, my eye caught one last thing...
Aside from a few spots that are going through construction, the old days of graffitied waterslides and creepy pioneer dolls in Ontario Place is now over. Much of the park is now open for public use, and sneaking in isn't even necessary with the creation of Trillium Park and the William G. Davis Trail. It's well staffed and the few bits that are still off limits are well monitored. That being said, I highly recommend stopping by the park, it's definitely worth the visit!
Thanks for reading, hope you guys enjoy!