By EVA VOINIGESCU
When looking for things to do with kids in Toronto, visitors can be overwhelmed with options. Luckily, many of Toronto’s most interesting attractions for adults—museums, galleries, historic sites—also have special programs or areas for children. Many have great group rates, too, meaning family fun doesn’t have to strain your travel budget. Our Toronto experts have compiled this list of 21 fun things to do with kids in the city, all at reliable, long-standing attractions designed to put a smile on a child’s face.
See the list of 21 things to do with kids in Toronto »
1. ART GALLERY OF ONTARIO (AGO)
Four years have passed since Frank Gehry redesigned Toronto’s largest art gallery, but the building still draws crowds as if it were brand new. At the Weston Family Learning Centre, kids will find plenty of things to do, including hands-on drawing and sculpting classes that offer exclusive access to some of the gallery’s collections. Family Sundays happen on the last Sunday of every month from October to March, and bring together a diverse group of kids and parents for innovative in-studio activities. Check out the AGO’s current Family Sundays schedule here.
Art Gallery of Ontario, 317 Dundas St. W., 416-979-6648, ago.net.
2. BATA SHOE MUSEUM
This downtown Toronto museum offers insight into 4,500 years of footwear. Its permanent exhibition, All About Shoes, features a fairy tale-themed section for kids. Weekends feature even more things for kids to do, including treasure hunts in the galleries, opportunities to touch and try on different shoes, and shoe-themed arts and crafts. Different seasons bring different events for kids, especially during the summer and March Break, so be sure to consult the museum’s event calendar to see what’s on.
Bata Shoe Museum, 327 Bloor St. W., 416-979-7799, batashoemuseum.ca.
3. BLACK CREEK PIONEER VILLAGE
What was life like around Toronto in the middle of the 19th century? Kids can find out at this open-air historical museum featuring 40 heritage buildings plus guides in period costumes who explain how people in the region once lived. Beyond tours, there are a variety of things for kids to do, like posing for photos in old-timey garb, making mittens and learning to bake the pioneer way.
Black Creek Pioneer Village, 1000 Murray Ross Pky., 416-736-1733, blackcreek.ca.
4. CANADA’S WONDERLAND
It’s no surprise that the nation’s largest amusement park has plenty of fun things to do with kids, including screaming-fast roller coasters, wet-and-wild exuberance at SplashWorks water park, and a display of 40 life-size animatronic beasts at “Dinosaurs Alive!” Younger kids don’t miss out either, as there are plenty of carousels, mini-trains and tame rides. Before heading to the site just north of Toronto, parents should note that most rides have a height requirement of at least 112 cenitmetres (44 inches) and that the park is open from May to October.
Canada’s Wonderland, 9580 Jane St., Vaughan, 905-832-7000, canadaswonderland.com.
5. CASA LOMA
Toronto’s famous castle on the hill, Casa Loma, took 3 years and 300 men to build. Completed in 1914, the historic manor of Sir Henry Mill Pellatt is a great stopping spot for kids interested in mystery and history. It’s open for exploration for most of the year—check out its turreted towers, stables, secret passages and posh suites—but the gardens are most glorious when they’re in summer bloom.
Casa Loma, 1 Austin Terrace, 647-723-1822, casaloma.org.
6. CN TOWER
Kids will never forget the experience of Toronto’s highest high. Families ascend 112 storeys in a glass elevator to the observation deck, which offers sweeping views of the Toronto region and glass floor that looks onto downtown. Go up another 36 levels to the SkyPod, and you can see all the way to Niagara Falls. Daring adults can also book an appointment for the EdgeWalk, a thrilling open-air walk around the circumference of the tower’s iconic bulb.
CN Tower, 301 Front St. W., 416-868-6937, cntower.ca.
7. FORT YORK
This 19th-century military base is a key part of Torontonian and Canadian history. It’s the site of a major battle during the War of 1812, and features many buildings and artifacts from that period. The national historic site is in the heart of downtown Toronto and is open year-round with guided tours, guard and cooking demonstrations, and even the odd cannon firing.
Fort York, 250 Fort York Blvd., 416-392-6907, toronto.ca/fortyork.
8. GARDINER MUSEUM
Think the country’s largest public collection of ceramic art won’t entertain children? Think again! The downtown museum has loads of things to do for kids, such as drop-in clay classes that let them explore the medium with guidance from a professional ceramic artist. Even more family activities are on the schedule every Sunday. Check out this month’s line-up here.
Gardiner Museum, 111 Queen’s Park, 416-586-8080, gardinermuseum.on.ca.
9. HOCKEY HALL OF FAME
Hockey fans of all ages can take in the huge exhibit of classic hockey memorabilia or imagine a pep talk in the to-scale replica of the Montreal Canadiens’ dressing room. Kids can even test their skills against the pros in the NHLPA Game Time area. Don’t forget to get your photo with the Stanley Cup, the ultimate icon of Canada’s most popular sport.
Hockey Hall of Fame, 30 Yonge St., 416-360-7765, hhof.com.
10. HARBOURFRONT CENTRE
This not-for-profit cultural destination on the shore of Lake Ontario offers plenty of things to do with kids, from concerts to dance performances to appearances from children’s authors. In winter, the site is a big draw for families who take advantage of the sizeable skating rink, which has a gorgeous view of Lake Ontario and the Toronto Islands.
Harbourfront Centre, 235 Queens Quay W., 416-973-4000, harbourfrontcentre.com.
11. HIGH PARK ZOO
A family day trip to one of Toronto’s biggest parks, High Park, must include a stop at the free zoo. This charming part of the park lets kids see and interact with bison, llamas, deer and other animals. The zoo is open all year round, from 7 a.m. to dusk.
High Park Zoo, centre of High Park, across from High Park subway station, highparktoronto.com/zoo.
12. RIVERDALE FARM
If you’re looking for a smaller-scale and more central animal experience than the Toronro or High Park Zoos, check out Cabbagetown’s quaint Riverdale Farm. Kids can play with goats, chickens and sheep while touring the quaint turn-of-the-20th-century grounds.
Riverdale Farm, 201 Winchester St., 416-961-8787, riverdalefarm.ca.
13. MEDIEVAL TIMES
A display of pageantry like nothing else Toronto has to offer, Medieval Times encourages young and old to discover their inner knight during a night of feasting and festivities. Dine as they did in 11th-century Spain while you cheer knights on horseback who joust right before your eyes.
Medieval Times, 10 Dufferin St., 1-888-935-6878, medievaltimes.com.
14. NATHAN PHILLIPS SQUARE
The public meeting place directly in front of Toronto’s City Hall is a year-round hot spot for civic events including concerts and art shows. In winter, watch the heart of downtown light up for the season with thousands of holiday lights, or take a spin around the popular skating rink (skate rentals available).
Nathan Phillips Square, 100 Queen St. W., 416-338-0338, website.
15. ONTARIO SCIENCE CENTRE
This sprawling complex aims to make all things scientific come alive for kids. There are hands-on exhibitions on topics from geology to music to human anatomy, and an Imax theatre screening gorgeous, grand-scale documentaries (see the schedule here). KidSpark, with programming for children under eight, ensures everyone can get in on the learning.
Ontario Science Centre, 770 Don Mills Rd., 416-696-1000, ontariosciencecentre.ca.
16. ROGERS CENTRE TOUR EXPERIENCE
Home of Major League Baseball’s Toronto Blue Jays, the Canadian Football League’s Toronto Argonauts, and some of Toronto’s biggest concerts, the Rogers Centre is a major attraction for locals and visitors alike. Young sports fans will love getting a behind-the-scenes look at the stadium with the Rogers Centre Tour Experience, which includes guided access to the press box, Blue Jays hall of fame, a luxury suite and more. Who knows? You may even run into a favourite player.
Rogers Centre Tour Experience, 1 Blue Jays Way, 416-341-2770, rogerscentre.com.
17. ROYAL ONTARIO MUSEUM (ROM)
With more than six million artifacts reaching back thousands of years, the ROM is one of Canada’s preeminent institutions for the exploration of natural history and world cultures. It’s also a blast to visit with children, who love the dinosaur and prehistoric mammal skeletons, Egyptian mummies, sparkling gemstones and more. The CIBC Discovery Gallery offers even more things to do with kids, like dig for dinosaur bones, rub fossils and dress in costumes. The Schad Gallery of Biodiversity helps to teach families about the relationship between humans and nature.
Royal Ontario Museum, 100 Queen’s Park, 416-586-8000, rom.on.ca.
18. TORONTO ISLANDS
If the ferry ride across Toronto Harbour wasn’t exciting enough, there’s ample fun when kids disembark from the boat! In the warmer months, the Islands offer beautiful views and wide-open recreation space for picnics, bike rides and canoe trips. Families will also fall for Centreville Amusement Park on Centre Island, which caters to little ones with an antique carousel, pony rides and much more. It all adds up to an idyllic day trip.
Toronto Islands, board ferries at 9 Queens Quay W., 416-392-8193, toronto.ca/parks/island.
19. TORONTO ZOO
With over 5,000 animals and 10 kilometres of tree-lined trails, the Toronto Zoo is the ultimate outdoor experience for kids who love animals. Organized by continental ecosystems like the African Savanna and Arctic Circle, Toronto’s wildlife park features all sorts of familiar and exotic beasts. Watch the polar bears take a dip, crane your neck to greet the giraffes, delight in the chimpanzees’ monkeyshines and more. You can even meet the zookeepers to learn straight from the experts how the zoo’s animals spend their days.
Toronto Zoo, 361A Old Finch Rd., 416-392-5929, torontozoo.com.
20. YONGE-DUNDAS SQUARE
Smack in the middle of downtown Toronto you’ll find Yonge-Dundas Square, a convenient meeting place with easy access to excellent shopping (at the Toronto Eaton Centre), restaurants, cinemas and more. From spring through fall it also hosts numerous public gatherings—from lunchtime concerts to weekend-long festivals—and it’s always a great spot for sitting back and watching the crowds walk by. Things to do with kids are detailed on the Square’s website, which has a complete schedule of upcoming events.
Yonge-Dundas Square, 1 Dundas St. E., 416-979-9960, ydsquare.ca.
21. YOUNG PEOPLE’S THEATRE
Long renowned as a producer of entertaining and educational programming for young audiences, this company produces classics of children’s literature as well as new works dealing with contemporary issues. Attending a YPT performance is a veritable right of passage for many Toronto schoolchildren, so don’t miss this locally cherished institution when you visit.
Young People’s Theatre, 165 Front St. E., 416-862-2222, youngpeoplestheatre.ca.