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How to Spend a Family-Friendly Day Out in Toronto
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How to Spend a Family-Friendly Day Out in Toronto

Picture of Sahar Aman
Staff Writer
Updated: 9 February 2018
Toronto is an exciting place for families to spend quality time together. With so many great options for parents (or grown-up kids) with small kids or big ones, there’s never a shortage of things to do. Here are some fun ideas for a family day out in Toronto.

Museums

There are so many great museums to visit in Toronto. Kids never get tired of Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada, and because it’s an indoor venue it’s perfect for all seasons. The colourful fish, glowing lights, and hands-on sections are fun for little ones and grown-up kids. The Art Gallery of Ontario runs Family Sundays from late-fall to spring, the event features interactive and innovative activities inspired by the collections. Visitors of all ages can explore the galleries and even play in the Dr. Mariano Elia Hands-On Centre.

Bata Shoe Museum’s permanent collection, All About Shoes, has a fairytale-themed section for kids, and the museum often has treasure hunts in the galleries and arts and crafts over the weekend for children. At Ontario Science Centre there are hands-on exhibitions on everything from geology to the human body, and their KidSpark programming has lots of interesting topics for children up to eight. Kids will also love the dinosaurs and Egyptian mummies at the Royal Ontario Museum. In their dedicated kid zone, the CIBC Discovery Gallery, young ones can dig for fossils, and play dress up.

Ontario Science Centre | © OTMPC
Ontario Science Centre | Courtesy of OTMPC
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Toronto Light Festival

Winter evenings may be cold and dark, but here’s something the whole family will want to bundle up for: the Toronto Light Festival has returned to the Distillery District for 2018. The idea behind this free winter spectacle is to entice people out of their homes and experience the city in new ways. Local and international artists have come together to make illuminated creations that appear to magically float in the sky. Distillery District is easily accessible for families by public transport and comes with the peace of mind of pedestrian-only cobble streets. There’s mulled wine for you and kid-friendly menus at Mill Street Brewpub and El Catrin Destileria.

Toronto Light Festival, 55 Mill St, Toronto, ON, Canada

Illuminated installations | Courtesy of Toronto Light Festival

Illuminated installations | Courtesy of Toronto Light Festival

Young People’s Theatre

Young People’s Theatre (YPT) put on shows throughout the year for young audiences. The first of it’s kind in Canada, YPT, is Toronto’s oldest not-for-profit theatre company and a national producer of theatre for youth. The company produces classics of children’s literature, and new works that address contemporary issues. Their 2018 season includes Secret Garden (ages six and up), Risky Phil (ages nine and up), Selfie (ages 13 and up), and Salmon Girl (ages five to 10).

Pictured (L-R): Natalia Gracious and Jake Runeckles in The Secret Garden; Set Design by Teresa Przybylski; Costume Design by Anna Treusch; Lighting Design by Lesley Wilkinson | Photo by Cylla von Tiedemann
Pictured (L-R): Natalia Gracious and Jake Runeckles in The Secret Garden; Set Design by Teresa Przybylski; Costume Design by Anna Treusch; Lighting Design by Lesley Wilkinson | Photo by Cylla von Tiedemann / Young People’s Theatre

Family cooking classes

Family mealtimes are a tradition that should be treasured and encouraged, what better way to cultivate the practice than by having a fun day cooking together? President’s Choice Cooking School family classes include recipes and ingredients, and are structured in a way that will let you cook together and eat together in an enjoyable environment. At the moment you can choose from themes like weekend breakfast, Mexican favourites, or French food for kids.

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Frogs! exhibit at Royal Botanical Gardens

Up until April 15, 2018, your family can immerse themselves in the fascinating world of frogs and their wetland homes at Royal Botanical Gardens. The amazing exhibit features live animal demonstrations and activities for visitors of all ages. There will also be special dedicated programming dedicated for families over the weekends, events for little ones, as well as interactive presentations.

Royal Botanical Gardens, 680 Plains Rd W, Burlington, ON, Canada, +1 905 527-1158

Discover species such as gliding frogs | Courtesy of Royal Botanical Gardens

Discover species such as gliding frogs | Courtesy of Royal Botanical Gardens

Cineplex Family Movies

A day out at the movies is always fun on the weekend, but the cost can quickly add up. That’s why families should take advantage of Cineplex Theatres amazing deal. Every Saturday morning at 11am, families can watch a movie for only $2.99 per ticket. The best part is a portion of the ticket proceeds go towards supporting Free the Children.

Winter at Ontario Place

The winter festival at Ontario Place is a free event and has various winter-themed activities, including the Winter Light Exhibition where visitors can experience 12 beautiful exhibits created by local artists. The world’s first permanent IMAX® has re-opened and will be showcasing programming that can be checked out throughout Winter at Ontario Place. With movies, bonfires, snow-covered hills, skating, and an island covered with fairy lights, the whole family will be mesmerized.

Ontario Place, 955 Lake Shore Blvd W, Toronto, ON, Canada, + 1 416 314 9900

Winter Fields - Tonya Hart | Courtesy of Winter at Ontario Place
Winter Fields – Tonya Hart | Courtesy of Winter at Ontario Place

Family fitness

Spend the day checking out exercise classes or doing activities that get you moving as a family. The warmer months are perfect for some friendly family rivalry over a game of volleyball over in The Beaches, or grabbing a ferry to Centreville Island. At Toronto Islands you can hire some bikes, have a picnic, and visit some of the various attractions. During the winter choose from indoor activities, Boulderz Climbing Centre has roped climbing and bouldering for all levels, they also have climbing walls designed specifically for little (and big) monkeys.

Ice skating

This is always such a wonderful way to spend time as a family. Toronto also has some fantastic ice skating locations with good options for food and drinks close by. At Nathan Phillips Square in the heart of downtown, you can do ice skating alongside other planned seasonal activities, and likewise at Harbourfront Centre’s ice rink by the lake. If you want something more picturesque, Grenadier Pond in High Park is a lovely spot, as is the Colonel Sam Smith Skating Trail and the unique locale of Bentway Skating Trail below the Gardiner Expressway.

Harbourfront Centre – Natrel Rink | © Brian Medina
Harbourfront Centre – Natrel Rink | © Brian Medina

Volunteering

Volunteering as a family is a wonderful way to empower children and show them that they can make a positive impact on the world. There are many ways to get involved and Toronto has lots of child-friendly volunteering; cleanup operations, fostering rescue animals, helping out elderly neighbours or at the local soup kitchen are just a few ways to get started.