From the most intrepid of daredevils to the quietest of bookworms, bright summer days bring out the playfulness in us all. To make this the best summer yet, Where Toronto offers 15 exciting ways to craft your own fun in the sun.
More then 200 attractions and 65 rides test the truly adventurous at Canada’s Wonderland. This first-class amusement park is home to the Behemoth—the country’s tallest and fastest roller coaster with open-air seating and a blood-curdling 230-foot drop. If riding the rails isn’t your thing, try thrill rides like the toe-curling Drop Tower and stomach-wrenching Psyclone. For more subdued, tot-friendly amusements, head to Kidzville and Nickelodeon Central—kids will get a kick out of Dora’s Dune Buggies and Scooby Doo’s Haunted Mansion. Cool down at Splash Works, a 20-acre water park with twisting slides like the Super Soaker and the Plunge. Adults $51.99, seniors and kids $29.35.
Raise the bar with a skyscraping visit to the CN Tower, North America’s tallest building. Proudly standing at 553.33 m, this monolithic structure offers a panoramic view of the sprawling metropolis that’s not for the faint of, well, height. Test your nerve 113 stories above the ground on the glass floor—at only two and a half inches thick, it’s like walking on air—or venture up to the Sky Pod, the world’s highest observation deck. Adults $21.99, seniors $19.99, kids $14.99, kids 4 and under free.
Ontario Place is a one-stop action and adventure spot for the whole family. Three man-made islands along the waterfront are chock full of amusing diversions, including the Wilderness Adventure Ride and Soak City, Toronto’s only downtown water park. Embark on a mission to save the last living T-Rex on earth in Escape from Dino Island, the newest journey for the park’s 30-seat motion-simulator ride. Adults $33.50, seniors and kids $17.75.
Summer wouldn’t be complete without a visit to the Toronto Zoo. See the special Sharks at Stingray Bay area, where bamboo and nurse sharks plus cownose and southern stingrays swim freely in a salt-water pool complete with a waterfall. Get up close and personal with birds, goats, ferrets, prairie dogs and other animals at the Kids Zoo or get the inside scoop with a daily Meet the Keeper talk, where you can learn all there is to know about elephants, gorillas and more. General admission adults $21, seniors $15, kids $13, kids 3 and under free.
An innovative and interactive space at the Royal Ontario Museum is sure to bring out the paleontologist in everyone. The Galleries of the Age of Dinosaurs house more than 120 dinos in the Michael-Lee Chin Crystal, including the ferocious Tyrannosaurus rex and a colossal 27-metre-long barosaurus named Gordo, the largest dinosaur on display in Canada. For something a little more out of this world, head to the Teck Suite of Galleries: Earth’s Treasures to view the Tagish Lake meteorite—the only one of its kind in the world! Adults $22, seniors and students (age 15 to 17) $19, kids $15, kids 3 and under free.
The Ontario Science Centre offers kids a peak into the world of espionage with the interactive Science of Spying exhibition. Your mission, if you so choose to accept it, is to penetrate the Osteck organization, evade its surveillance and neutralize all threats while having fun along the way! Learn the basic skills required of all modern-day spies, like cracking a safe, developing a disguise and discovering the latest in secret agent technology. Adults $18, seniors and students (age 13 to 17) $13.50, kids $11, kids 3 and under free.
Perched atop a hill, Casa Loma reigns as Toronto’s only majestic castle. The former estate of Sir Henry Mill Pellatt—a prominent financier in the early 20th century—is a gold mine for curious kids with sophisticated suites, secret passageways, stately towers and a 245-metre underground tunnel. Tour the château’s elegant gardens or visit the mahogany stalls in the stables. Adults $17, seniors and students (age 14 to 17) $11, kids $9.25, kids 3 and under free.
Young artists can find inspiration at the Art Gallery of Ontario, where more than 73,000 works are housed. Kids can appreciate the twisting grand spiral staircase designed by Frank Gehry as well as a mesmerizing 180-metre-long glass facade along Dundas Street West that houses Galleria Italia, a sculpture salon shaped like the hull of a boat. Tap into your creative spirit at a drawing station, where kids can pick up a pencil and unleash their artistic potential. Adults $18, seniors $15, kids $10, kids 5 and under free.
From moccasins and cowboy boots to ivory padukas and grass socks, the Bata Shoe Museum has it all—and not just for viewing either. Tots can try on zany footwear during Saturday Shenanigans and Paint-a-Clog Sundays. Visit the museum’s latest exhibition, Bound for Glory, which celebrates the Vancouver Olympic games in 2010, to see footwear worn by some of the world’s greatest winter athletes, including the 1928 gold-medal-winning skates of Norway’s Sonja Henie. Adults $12, seniors $10, kids and students $4 to $6, children 5 and under free.
SPORT HOT SPOTS
Travel back to 11th-century Spain to enjoy the sport of a bygone era. Watch an authentic display of classic equestrian skill and antiquated pageantry at Medieval Times Dinner and Tournament. Within a 1,400-seat arena, cheer on one of six gallant knights competing in a tournament of epic battles, sword-fighting and jousting while you enjoy a four-course feast with your fingers. Adults $62.95, kids 12 and under $43.50.
Root for the Toronto Blue Jays as they swing for the fences at the Rogers Centre. On Jr. Jays Saturdays, pint-sized baseball fans can meet the players and run the bases after the game. Enjoy a one-hour guided walking tour of the stadium with the Rogers Centre Tour Experience, which introduces visitors to the Blue Jays Hall of Fame, a renovated museum area, a press box and a luxury suite.
Rink rats can learn all there is to know about their fave sport at the Hockey Hall of Fame. Interactive and engaging areas like the NHLPA Be A Player Zone and Pepsi Game Time test the skill level of enthusiasts of all ages. Don’t leave without having your photo taken with the Stanley Cup in all its splendour. Adults $15, seniors and kids $10, kids 3 and under free.
Set out on an urban safari with Toronto Hippo Tours. Hop aboard Harry, Happy and Henrietta—three amphibious vehicles that are a cross between a bus and a boat—for a fully narrated jaunt featuring some of the city’s most significant landmarks, including the Hockey Hall of Fame, Ontario Place and the Toronto Eaton Centre. Once your journey on land is over, the bus transforms and splashes into Lake Ontario for a tour of the waterfront. Adults $38, seniors and students (age 13 to 17) $33, kids $25, kids 3 and under $3.
Play Robinson Crusoe for a day on the Toronto Islands, a cluster of 17 islets including Centre Island, Ward Island and Hanlan’s Point. Explore the countless walking and biking trails, beaches and wading pools, or visit Centreville Amusement Park (page 37) on Centre Island to take a relaxing ride on an antique train or ferris wheel. Ferries depart from Bay Street and Queens Quay West to Centre Island. Call 416-392-8193 for ferry information. Centreville full-day ride pass $29.50 for individuals four feet and over, $21 for others; $90 for a family pass for four.
Situated along Lake Ontario, Harbourfront Centre is the place to be when temperatures rise. Take in a nautical adventure—tour a visiting tall ship or Coast Guard vessel and meet the crew. Plus, shop for one-of-a-kind wares at the International Marketplace and nosh on cosmopolitan cuisine at the World Café located on the 10-acre site. Visit the nearby Toronto Music Garden, a grove of swirling trails and wandering paths that hosts a series of free classical concerts on Thursdays at 7 p.m. and most Sundays at 4 p.m. Or, simply enjoy the pristine view of the lake with a stroll along the boardwalk, day or night.
BONUS! Satisfy grumbling stomachs at six kid-friendly eateries.
1. Go wild in an Amazon-inspired setting at the Rainforest Café, complete with animated jungle characters, erupting volcanoes and a cascading waterfall. Between simulated thunderstorms, devour dishes like flying dragon pepperoni pizza and paradise pot roast.
2. Fuel the whole family with filling dishes at The Pickle Barrel. Satisfy hunger with such yummy pickings as barbecue chicken, ribs, burgers, hot dogs, wings and deli sandwiches.
3. The Old Spaghetti Factory offers classic Italian fare in a fun, colourful dining room. Order up a plate of noodles—try the spaghetti and meatballs or macaroni and cheese. Buon appetito!
4. Alice Fazooli’s keeps toddlers in tow with colourful puzzles and connect-the-dot games that pack the kids menu while you choose from offerings like pizza, pasta, steak and grilled chicken to fill their tummies.
5. Experience the sights and sounds of Richtree Market Restaurant, where youngsters can watch food like omelettes, stir fries, pizza and more being made right before their eyes. Save room for a frosty treat from the ice cream bar, like sweet scoops of vanilla doused in chocolate sauce.
6. Top your cone at Summer’s Ice Cream (101 Yorkville Ave., 416-944-2637), where 24 varieties of house-made ice cream, plus yogurt and sorbet are on offer.