Activities to share with your family in fabulous Toronto!
Toronto is considered one of the most family-friendly cities in North America. Safe, polite and clean, it’s easy to explore and has dozens of attractive family venues, easily accessible by its excellent transit system.
The provincial capital of Ontario, it is the largest city in Canada — home to 5.5 million residents (making it the fifth most populous city in North America) enjoying life on the northwestern shore of Lake Ontario. The CN Tower defines the city’s skyline, soaring 553.3 metres (1,815 feet) into the sky and recognized as the tallest tower in this hemisphere.
Toronto is a major scene for theatre and arts, so cultural performances are a popular activity for families here. There are more than fifty ballet and dance companies, six opera companies, two symphony orchestras and dozens of theatres. Each summer, the Canadian Stage Company presents an outdoor Shakespeare production in Toronto’s High Park, and Ontario Place is home to the world’s first permanent IMAX movie theatre. One of the world’s largest street festivals — Scotiabank Caribbean Carnival — takes place annually in mid-July and attracts over 1 million people.
The Royal Ontario Museum has a staggering number of galleries, with some particularly interesting to children. The Bat Cave is a fun, mildly scary adventure for the 10-and-under crowd, and kids love the rooms of dinosaur sculptures. Even the sprawling museum cafe downstairs seems to have been designed with families in mind, offering plenty of highchairs and lots of menu options for children. The Ontario Science Centre has plenty of appeal too, with hands-on exhibits and an on-site IMAX theater. Children will love peering through the glass floor at the CN Tower, straight down to the street below, while the adults take in the panoramic view over Lake Ontario.
One way families can make their own discoveries about Toronto’s culture and history is to take a City Walks guided tour. These walking tours are great for families and you can bring your dog along for the fun. There’s also a Bus and Boat city tour that includes a ride on a double-decker through the downtown core and finishes with a scenic boat ride through the beautiful lagoons and canals of the Toronto Islands.
Get out there
City squares, public parks and the harbour… Toronto outdoors is meant for family activities. The Toronto Islands have acres of park space easily accessible by ferry. This tiny archipelago has picnic spots, nice stretches of beach, quad bike rentals, a petting zoo and a kid’s amusement park. It’s a great family destination on a sunny afternoon. Centreville is a 10-minute ferry ride to Centre Island and a merry playground for kids and teens, with rides and attractions in a laid-back atmosphere.
Water-lovers will enjoy the view of the Toronto skyline from one of the schooners that cruise during the summer months. These big sailboats are kid and pet-friendly, so Fido can come right along.
The Harbourfront Centre is a stunning outdoor concert facility that seats 1,500 under its glass roof, with an additional 3,000 perched on the lawns on Lake Ontario’s edge. It’s the home to a summer program offering music every weekend from Canada Day to Labour Day. In winter, families can ice-skate outdoors here for free — just bring your own skates or pay to rent some.
Take the family to explore Scarborough Bluffs, unique in North America for the remarkable geological record of the great ice age embedded in the layers of sand and clay. Eight miles long and rising, in places, to 60 metres (200 feet) above Lake Ontario, the bluffs contain fossil plants and animals that were deposited by the advancing Wisconsin Glacier 70,000 years ago. Plan to spend at least half of a day there.
Toronto is home to the Hockey Hall of Fame, and represented in seven major-league sports, so families can always find a game or match to attend at Air Canada Centre, Rogers Centre, Ricoh Coliseum, or BMO Field.