Aug. 20: The Docks, Toronto ON

It’s Day 232 of my virtual Drive-In-a-Day Odyssey, and the end of a full week in Ontario. It took me barely a half hour to drive from Oakville to The Docks in downtown Toronto. If I hadn’t been driving on a Sunday morning, it probably would have taken twice as long.

The Docks on Polson Pier is an entertainment complex with go-carts, beach volleyball, a nightclub, mini-golf, and a driving range, all within a stone’s throw of Lake Ontario. On weekend evenings, that driving range transforms into what we care about, a two-screen drive-in theater.

That drive-in opened in late spring 2001. In a Toronto Star article about the grand opening, they addressed the loss of older drive-ins over the previous years. “You took something away from people that they didn’t want to be taken away,” said a Docks spokesperson who asked not to be named(!). “It was pure economics. But it was inevitable that they’d come back.”

In 2004, Toronto Life ran an article saying mercurial then-owner Jerry Sprackman was trying to replace everything on the site with a casino if he could get approval. (The article was quoted at length by a poster at TorontoNightclub.com.) That didn’t happen. The article noted in passing that “(t)he movie screen was up at the drive-in before approvals were given or anyone noticed”.

The Star ran what amounted to an update this January, related to a request for a new liquor license. The Docks lost its license in 2005 after noise complaints from neighboring islanders. In 2008, a new company got a license with strict conditions, and now more ownership changes have complicated the issue. If you read the article and take notes, you might be able to figure out the timeline.

When it opened, The Docks was showing movies seven days a week. Now it’s down to weekends, and I was there for its Sunday Carload night. Its listed capacity is 400 cars, but a few years ago they proved you can fit 500 MINIs.

The video of the day comes from The Docks’ Facebook page. Another nice video on YouTube shows a gathering of Volkswagens at the drive-in, but the nicest images don’t come till the end.

Miles Today / Total: 23 / 27637 (rounded to the nearest mile)

Movie Showing / Total Active Nights: Logan Lucky / 146

Nearby Restaurant: Hanging around downtown Toronto, I gravitated to the Real Sports Bar and Grill. The ambiance reminded me of a huge Las Vegas sports book, with subdued lighting and a huge TV screen surrounded by dozens of smaller screens, all playing sports of course. I felt compelled to order chicken wings (sold by the pound) to balance the Molson Canadian beer. It was an experience!

Where I Virtually Stayed: You knew this already – there are a whole lot of very nice hotels in downtown Toronto. For this trip, I got to check an item off my bucket list by staying at the Renaissance Toronto Downtown Hotel, better known as the hotel in the Rogers Centre. Back when it was SkyDome, the new home of the MLB Blue Jays was the first stadium with a built-in hotel, with 70 rooms facing the field. The Jays were on the road, but I still got a room facing the field. It had a mini-fridge and solid wifi; sometimes that’s all I need.

Only in Toronto: The Toronto Islands hold more than noise-hating neighbors. They’re also the home of Centreville Theme Park, a place that was children’s heaven. The islands were hit hard this year by spring flooding and are slowly getting back to normal. For grown-ups, there are bicycle rentals, cafes, a lighthouse, and even a small commercial airport.

Next stop: Mustang Drive-In Theatre, Guelph ON.

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