While the winter months in Toronto are filled with snowbound activities such as skiing, ice skating and sledding, visit the city during summer and you’ll have a different experience entirely. From aquariums and zoos to one of the world’s great natural wonders, Culture Trip has selected some of the best family-friendly activities when it warms up in Canada.
Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada
Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada, in Downtown Toronto, is home to 20,000 species of underwater dwellers, with more than 135,000sqft (12,542sqm) of interactive underwater exhibits. It also features North America’s longest underwater viewing tunnel. Kids can immerse themselves in the colorful world of giant lobsters, jellyfish, sharks and exotic fish from fresh and salt waters from around the world. The aquarium also offers the chance to interact with four species of stingray in its Shoreline Gallery.
Toronto Zoo, the largest in Canada with more than 5,000 animals, is always a thrill for the little ones. Award-winning exhibits display a wide variety of global species, found in the African savannah, the Great Barrier Reef and the Arctic.Those who want to experience everything can stay the night at the Wild Tails family campsite. Enjoy dinner with an evening of zoo exploration, and after-hours access to the African savannah and Canadian domain regions, before sleeping under the stars.
Toronto Islands and Centreville
Kids will love taking the short ferry ride from Queen’s Quay Terminal in Downtown Toronto to multiple interconnected islands, located approximately 0.6mi (1km) offshore. Explore the Toronto Islands by foot, or you can rent bikes, kayaks or canoes. There’s also a boating marina, various nature paths and large grassy fields for picnics. Don’t leave without visiting Centreville Theme Park – home to a range of fun-filled rides and a petting farm, where you can interact with 40 different species of farmyard animals and exotic birds.
Black Creek Pioneer Village
Brewery, Market, Museum, Historical Landmark
Just north of Toronto, Black Creek Pioneer Village is a dynamic, open-air, historical experience for visitors of all ages. Especially fun for children, the site recreates village life in 1860s Ontario, offering theatrical re-enactments, artisan demonstrations and historical interpreters in full regalia. Encounter a range of 19th-century artefacts as you step inside heritage buildings including a general store, a church, a water-powered gristmill and a one-room schoolhouse. Kids can get up close with a range of animals in the village farm.
Ontario Science Centre
From the hair-raising electrical ball to the steamy rainforest simulation, the Ontario Science Centre offers engaging and interactive exhibits for children of all ages. Here, they can spend a whole day trying out hands-on learning experiences centered around concepts such as technological innovations, biology, physics, space travel and meteorology. Live science demos and shows are also performed regularly, including the Energy Show!, in which kids can discover the world’s ultimate source of power. For an immersive entertainment experience, be sure to check out Ontario’s only IMax dome theater, which calls the center home.
No summer is complete without a visit to Canada’s Wonderland in Vaughan, just outside of Toronto. This attraction is home to over 70 rides, including the legendary Behemoth and Vortex coasters, as well as the 20-acre (8ha) Splash Works water park. For kids, Planet Snoopy and KidZville offer a series of brand-new kid-friendly themed rides. Once the whole family has worked up an appetite, take advantage of a wide range of dining and drinking options, with everything from pizza and coffee to Canadian sweet treats, BeaverTails.
Niagara Falls, just a 90-minute drive from the city, is a great day trip from Toronto. Take the family right to the heart of the action on a Maid of the Mist boat tour experience or Journey Behind the Falls tour, or soar to the top of the Skylon Tower for unobstructed views of the falls and the surrounding area from above. Other popular family attractions here include two indoor water parks, the Niagara Skywheel and Bird Kingdom – a multilevel rainforest home to hundreds of tropical birds.
Kidstown Water Park
During summer, there’s no better place to beat the heat than at Kidstown Water Park in Scarborough. The only water park operated by the City of Toronto, it offers free aquatic activities for young children including a tipping bucket, spray rings, squirting aquatic animals and a wading pool. With a large grassy area to picnic on, Kidstown is open from mid-June until the Sunday of Labour Day weekend. Hours for leisure swim times vary, so check the website before visiting.
Watch concerts, dance performances, author readings, films and an array of kids’ shows every weekend and on evenings throughout the week at the Harbourfront Centre. There’s also a range of craft and design, as well as sailing and powerboating courses, suitable for all the family. The waterfront is home to canoe and kayak centre, a music garden and a souvenir shop created by artists-in-residence, which sells a range of one-off gifts. The Harbourfront Centre is open year round and is located on the shores of Lake Ontario.
Go to a food festival
Toronto is a foodie paradise, and spending a day at one of its many food festivals is a great way to experience its culinary diversity. Winterlicious – a premier prix-fixe food event – is a popular choice during the colder months while its sister festival, Summerlicious, invites you to try the city’s best restaurants at affordable prices during summer. Popular past events include Taco Fest Toronto, Food Truck Fest, Toronto Pizza Fest and vegan festival – Toronto Vegandale Food and Drink Festival.
Constructed in the early 1900s as a residence for Canadian soldier and financier, Sir Henry Mill Pellatt, Casa Loma is a gothic revival-style mansion that caused him to lose his millions. The 98-room castle, now one of Toronto’s major landmarks, invites visitors to experience the elegance and splendor of the Edwardian era while admiring its well-kept grounds and magnificent setting, with impressive views of the city. A multimedia audio guide and viewing of a Sir Henry Pellatt documentary are included in the ticket cost. A cafe and gift shop are located on the castle’s lower level.
Hit the beach
You might not know it, but Toronto is home to lots of beaches, offering the perfect escape from the busy city on a hot day. Among its most visited spots are Sunnyside, Woodbine, Cherry and Kew beaches, all of which are easy to access and have lifeguards on duty throughout the summer. Bluffer’s Beach – a long, sandy stretch at the foot of the Scarborough Bluffs – has great views as well as hiking trails, bike paths and picnic areas.
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