Toronto is Canada’s largest and most diverse city and offers its visitors a true taste of metropolitan living. With a thriving arts and culture scene and countless unique neighbourhoods and markets to visit, Toronto can take you from Little India to the beaches of Lake Ontario in a single day. Here's some reasons why you should plan to visit Toronto with kids.
Toronto offers everything from Broadway musicals to diverse foodie experiences to Canada’s largest museum of world cultures and natural history. Toronto’s distinct neighborhoods each offer a unique experience. Be it Chinatown, St. Lawrence Market or Yorkville, a full day can be spent in just one place enjoying all the food, attractions and vibe that each location has to offer.
In the heart of downtown resides the tallest freestanding building in the Western hemisphere, the CN Tower. Kid-friendly, the top of the tower will give you beautiful aerial views of both the city of Toronto and Toronto Island. For the more adventurous, you can do the Edge Walk which is a hands-free walk almost 400 metres high. There is also a revolving restaurant for anyone looking to grab a bite that offers a more formal ambience rather than food on the go.
Toronto Island offers a wonderful and family-friendly day trip away from the busyness of the city. With departures from the heart of downtown, a short ferry ride will take you to one of the largest urban car-free communities in North America. There, you will find a children’s amusement park, miniature railway, swimming beaches, and loads of sport activities such as beach volleyball happening all summer.
‘The Beaches” (or commercial district of Queen Street East) is a neighbourhood that offers families the unique feeling of visiting a beach town within the city limits of Toronto. Lined with several independent coffee shops, restaurants and stores, you can enjoy a day of eating, shopping and swimming on the beach. It’s great for strollers as it has a long boardwalk across the entire stretch of beach and can also make the perfect chill-out location to watch the sunset while enjoying a delicious ice cream cone.
With over a million visitors per year, the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) is Canada’s largest world cultures and natural history museum. The building itself looks like a work of art given its unique architectural design and has interesting galleries and exhibits that change all year. With loads of kid-friendly activities, both parents and children can have a fun time here.
If you are looking to take a quick two-day trip, think about visiting the Niagara Region. (Don't be tempted to do it in one day - with small kids this is far too stressful.) You can enjoy the wine country near Niagara-on-the-Lake as well as the world-famous Niagara Falls which are truly magnificent. The roar and the spray of the water is so intense it will make for life-long memories even for extremely young kids. If it’s all a bit of a sensory overload for your children, then kick back and partake in the delicious fudge, countless restaurants, cafes, pubs.
For the shopaholic, Toronto offers tons of shopping experiences. Originally focused on boutique stores, Queen Street West now offers a mix of boutique, chain and alternative shopping options, restaurants and pubs. While most stores are kid-friendly, the location draws a unique mix of people from the homeless to Bay Street investment bankers so avoid the après work crowd. Other great shopping options are Eaton Centre and Yorkville (the latter for more high end shopping).
As almost 50% of Toronto residents are born outside of Canada, Toronto offers a truly diverse mix of cuisines to suit any palate. Some great eating neighbourhoods include Little Italy, Little India, The Danforth and Yorkville. Also, don’t forget to check out St. Lawrence Market for one of Canada’s largest indoor markets with plenty of food and drink options in the surrounding area.
Remembering that Canada is a seasonal location, winters can be particularly harsh in Toronto. Summer is when the city really comes alive with street performers, summer festivals and great weather to enjoy walking the diverse neighborhoods.
The public transportation system is well developed and whether you choose the subway or bus, you can easily navigate the city. Taxis are generally easy to find and relatively affordable. If you are looking to get out to the outer boroughs and cities, the GOTransit train allows for easy movement between downtown Toronto and surrounding areas.
Toronto offers everything from budget to 5-star hotels, serviced apartments and boutique hotels. Staying centrally near the financial district will allow for easy access to ferry terminals, the subway and GO trains. Some good options downtown include the Novotel on the Esplanade (right next door to St. Lawrence market), Intercontinental on Front Street and, if in the market for a luxurious stay, try the Fairmont on Front Street.
For more family holiday ideas in Canada, see the suitcases&strollers story Vancouver.
By Saba Hasanie