Named after a Royal Navy cruiser, Ajax is a town in the eastern part of the Greater Toronto Area and a popular suburb for commuters. For travellers, it is so much more than this, as the laid-back town sits right along Lake Ontario, has numerous walking trails and has a rich culture.
Many people visiting Toronto don’t often venture out this far east, but Ajax is definitely a holiday must, especially for those wanting to spend some time outside of the bustling city. These are the 15 best things to do in Ajax.
1. Walk along the waterfront
The 740 kilometre Waterfront Trail stretches from Niagara-on-the-Lake east to Brockville, passing through Ajax along the way. The trail runs right along Lake Ontario, offering some spectacular views.
The Ajax portion of the trail runs through some beautiful parklands, including Rotary Park, the Ajax Waterfront Park and Paradise Park. It is also linked to the Trans Canada Trail, which is longest recreational trail network in the world.
While enjoying The Ajax portion of the trail, be sure to wander around Veteran’s Point Gardens and to enjoy the views from Lion’s Point. End the walk by relaxing at Lakeside Park.
2. Head to the beach
Paradise Beach sits along the Waterfront Trail, but it is an attraction all on its own. It is the town’s main beach area and is a great place to spend a sunny day.
The beach is public, although there are many cottages in the area, some of which are owned by well-to-do Torontonians. Still, it is a friendly strip of waterfront that is great for the whole family.
The beach is backed by Paradise Park and its grasslands, trees and picnic tables. There are also benches close to the water where visitors can sit, relax and take in the scenery.
3. Look at art
There are many spots throughout Ajax that showcase art by local artists, including the Town Hall and the Village Community Centre. There are also a number of pieces that can be seen outside.
Take a walk around the town and look at some local art in parks, on buildings and at the entrance of many structures. There are even pieces along some of the town’s trails.
Be sure to gaze at the mural on the exterior wall of the entrance to the Village Community Centre, the abstract metal sculpture at the Ajax Town Hall and the giant ‘Solar Sail’ at the Ajax Operations Centre. Also a must is the Totem Pole at Duffins Trail Head and interactive sculpture at Lion’s Point.
4. Go gaming
One of the biggest attractions in Ajax is the Ajax Casino, which boasts 900 slot machines. But it also has so much more than that, like electronic blackjack, baccarat and roulette.
The entire casino is completely electronic, with points being converted into cash when you leave. They also have weekly promotions, like draws for points or cash.
The casino is open every day of the year 24 hours a day! There is even a restaurant onsite that serves up breakfast, lunch and dinner.
5. Shop for handicrafts
The Pickering Markets is the best place in town to shop for local handicrafts. The sprawling indoor market is not actually in Ajax, but just to the west of it in Pickering.
There are over 500 vendors at the market selling everything from antiques to homemade pastries. Pick up a painting, a sculpture, a candle, a silver pendant or even a diamond ring.
After walking around and browsing at all of the stalls, sooth your muscles with a massage. You can also fill your belly on delicious eats like roasted chicken, sushi, ice cream and tacos.
6. Surround yourself with nature
In addition to the parks along the Waterfront Trail, Ajax is also home to the Greenwood Conservation Area. Nature lovers will be in heaven exploring this area of town.
The Greenwood Conservation Area is home to forests, grasslands and a network of hiking trails. The trails are marked with signage that not only lead the way, but also tell hikers of the wildlife and heritage of the area.
Go hiking or cross-country skiing along its trails, or enjoy a picnic lunch. It is even possible to go fishing along the creek, which is filled with rainbow trout.
7. Be a Viking
If you have ever wanted to be a Viking for a day then you can at BATL (Backyard Axe Throwing League). This backyard hobby was turned into a dream by founder Matt Wilson and happens to be just minutes away from Ajax in neighbouring Pickering.
BATL offers indoor axe throwing, as well as having a licensed bar and a kitchen. Walk-ins are welcomed Friday evenings from 6 to 9pm, as well as on Saturday and Sunday afternoons.
Be a Viking for a day and throw an axe at a target, while being coached by staff along the way. It is both a thrilling and stress-relieving experience, and many find themselves hooked after even just one go.
8. Go to the races
Since 1969 the Ajax Downs has been showing live Quarter Horse Racing and it still does today! Spend a Sunday watching live horse races on the track or on one of the 70 viewing screens.
Ajax Downs features a full 6-furlong oval racetrack as well as over 800 slot machines. Plus off-track betting is offered in the viewing area year round.
Live races take place between May and October, but it is open all year. It even has a restaurant that is open 24-hours a day.
9. Cycle around
There is a 140 kilometre network of cycling trails within Ajax that are fantastic for cyclers of all levels. Some of the trails are off-road, some are paved paths and others are shared lanes.
Hire a bike in town and enjoy cycling around; along the waterfront, through the city centre and in the Greenwood Conservation Area. It is a great way to see Ajax and enjoy the fresh air.
You can reach pretty much any part of Ajax by bicycle, taking in the sites and enjoying the scenery. There are even cycling events that take place each year, like TrailFest and the annual Falcon Fondo event.
10. Play golf
Avid golfers will not be bored here, as there are some great places to play golf in Ajax. In fact, there are four golf courses right in the town, as well as a few others in neighbouring areas.
Deer Creek Golf Club is arguably the best of the bunch, what with its two courses that are known all over the province. The 27-hole course is divided into three nines, while its par 71 championship course is often used for tournaments.
There is also the 18-hole course at the Annandale Golf & Curling Club and the Riverside Golf Club’s 9-hole course. Those that want to golf with their kids should be sure to go to the family-run Carruther’s Creek Golf and Country Club.
11. Enjoy the outdoors
Go hiking, mountain biking or fishing at the Heber Down Conservation Area, which is located east of Ajax in neighbouring Whitby. The conservation area has two terrain units; a valley formed by a creek and the glacial Lake Iroquois beach.
The western part of the area is the valley, while the eastern part makes up Lake Iroquois beach. Explore the entire conservation area and enjoy the outdoors.
The area has quite a lot of history, as it was used by horse thieves as a layover spot in the late 19th century. There is also an abandoned railway bridge that was built in 1910.
12. Shop till you drop
There are many shops in Ajax, but the best place to shop till you drop is at the Pickering Town Centre. It is easy to spend an entire day here, and even stay into the night.
The shopping mall has over 200 shops to choose from, including known international brands like The Body Shop, H&M, Swarovski and Miniso. There are also Canadian favourites like Roots, La Senza and Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory.
The mall is also home to restaurants and fast food chains, offering a wide range of options. Afterwards, enjoy a movie at the onsite cinema or have fun at the virtual reality arcade.
13. Spend the day indoors
Not sitting around in a hotel room, but at the Ajax Community Centre. This large facility has so much to offer, making staying indoors a great option.
The centre features squash courts, an indoor pool, a fitness centre and a wellness studio. It even has four arena ice pads.
The community centre also has an outdoor area that boasts a skateboard park, basketball court, tennis courts, football fields and a cricket club. No matter what time of year it is or what the weather is like, it is possible to have fun here.
14. Be a kid again
Or take your kids to be kids at Endless Fun; a massive indoor playground. It is open every day except for Tuesday, with children under one and older than 15 being able to play for free.
Endless Fun features a three level play structure complete with slides, mazes and a spider climb, amongst other things. There is also a padded area just for toddlers.
Parents can play too, or they can enjoy a coffee at the onsite snack bar. It also serves snacks like grilled cheese, granola bars, rice crispy squares and pizza!
15. Hit the slopes
This can be done in the Oak Ridges Moraine, which is just 20 minutes north of Ajax. Visit in the winter and hit the scenic slopes no matter what ski experience you have.
Dagmar Resort features 18 runs with various terrains, as well as having four lifts, two magic carpets and two jump lines. There is also a cosy lodge where skiers can enjoy a hot chocolate or a beer.
The larger Lakeridge Resort has 23 runs that range from novice to pro and accommodates both skiers and snowboarders. The resort is also open in the warmer months for mountain biking, hiking and climbing.