11 Places You Must Take Your Kids to in Toronto

When you’re planning that visit to Canada there is a distinct possibility that you might end up eating pao bhaji on the streets of Brampton or idli-dosa in a strip mall lining the wide avenues of Mississauga. While all that’s well and good, make sure your visit to connect with long-lost rellies includes several forays into Toronto. It is, after all, rated one of the most child-friendly cities in the world. Take it from me: with two boys in the under-eight demographic, rain or shine, winter or summer we’re never short of things to do.

Here’s a list of some of our favourite locations:

Spin atop Toronto’s tallest tower

I’ll start with the most obvious: CN Tower, it’s the Burj Khalifa of Canada and actually was the tallest structure in the world for some time after it was built in 1976. Its tall, spike-like top, which emerges like a needle from a dome, acts as a compass for confused Torontonians or outsiders navigating their way through the city. Pop into the revolving restaurant at its top, which spins around one time every 72 minutes. If you pay attention to where you were when you first enter it, you can check and see if the old motor is still functioning at speed. On a clear day, they say the view from the observation deck extends 100 miles out. And if your child is or was at all obsessed with Frozen’s Elsa, the tower’s floor is all glass — and can apparently hold as much weight as five hippos, that’s about 7,500 kgs on average. Every year WWF Canada organizes a fundraising challenge, inviting the city’s fittest to scale its 1,776 steps and claim a kind of marathon-title. If you happen to be in Toronto in April, sign up!

Soak up some lakeside sun and sand

Do you have an outdoor enthusiast? Toronto is filled with parks but during the summer it is Lake Ontario’s precious beach spots are the perfect places to set up camp for an afternoon’s excursions. The city may not have a direct link to the sea or the ocean but the lake, which licks the southern shores of the city, makes up for it. In the Huron language, Ontario actually means the Lake of Shining Waters. And under the summer sun, the expansive water well (is is actually the smallest of the five Great Lakes but you won’t know that) glimmers. Beaches to visit include Sunnyside (on the west side) and the much larger Beaches area on the east side. If you’ve got the time, venture further into the east and take in the sun and sand (the water is pretty cold even on a hot, hot day) at Scarborough Bluffs.

Get inspired in the company of skateboarding buffs

If you’ve got kids who are speeding down alleyways on skateboards, you’ll have to make time for a visit to the C.J. Skateboard Park, whose founder will tell you that skating brought new meaning to his life. The park, which is located in Etobicoke in the city’s west, offers private lessons as well as group lessons.

Enter the online chambers of gaming wizards

Have you got a gamer on your hands? I’m not sure where India is in the world of gaming competitions, but Cineplex, Canada’s largest cinema-exhibition space has a host of entertainment options for kids entering their gaming years, including live day-time broadcasts of gaming tournaments. Keep an eye out on programming on the company’s website.

Get inspired by natural history and build your Canadian trivia bank

The Royal Ontario Museum is a must-visit. Your child may not become an archaeologist because of a visit to its child-friendly second-floor space but the kids do enjoy dabbing at purple sand and finding parts of a barely-hidden dino fossil. In addition to a bunch of Canada-specific interactive exhibits, the museum also has an exciting bat-focused learning area, which includes a mini walk through a bat-infested tunnel (not real) and a centre where children get introduced to hides and skin types.

Introduce your little one to the world of film

Toronto International Film Festival: If you’ve got a potential filmmaker in the family, you’ll want them to enjoy at least a day in cinema paradiso. The Toronto-based festival has a full calendar of programming, which includes an exciting slate of films and classes geared specifically for children. You’ll have to check out the calendar for this one, and if you want your little one (kids have to be eight and older) to get more than a passing dose of film magic, you can enrol your little ones into a day-long or week-long camp here. The kids international film festival takes place over most of April and is jam-packed with films from everywhere.

Descend into the labyrinth of scientific wonders

The Ontario Science Centre. This is probably one of the most interactive science centres in the world. Every floor on it is full of interactive exhibits, allowing children to explore everything from light, sound and speed to the contours of the brain. Take your time to go through the centre, which rests on the city’s north-eastern edge.

Oxidize your child’s brain with green ideas

High Park. A visit to Toronto isn’t really complete if you haven’t visited the city’s greenest space; this city’s version of Central Park or Lodhi Gardens. In the summer months you’ll see cherry blossoms . The southern edge of the park, which extends about two kilometres north to south in west Toronto, close to the upscale boho Bloor West Village. Inside you’ll find a small children’s zoo where the city’s resident llamas are the biggest attraction, a darling castle-inspired play area created by parents and children in the mid 1980s and called the Adventure Playground. The park has a large and beautiful lake that is home, during the summer months, to a variety of ducks, geese and swans. The park has a restaurant, tennis courts, a public pool, a baseball diamond and soccer fields. And if your little ones are even smaller, there’s a sand pit, slides and a climbing gym, as well as a wet pool on the northern end of the park.

An amusement park catered to the younger lot

This next place is a haven for little ones and can keep kids until the age of 12 pretty happy. Centreville Amusement Park is on Toronto Island, which is located a short ferry’s ride from Queen’s Quay. The island has a garden and lots of picnicking spots. For an additional entry or per-ride fee visitors can enter the actual amusement park, which has a number of fun rides, a ferris wheel, boating on the lake and lots of food and ice cream to everyone’s appetite satiated. Those looking for something more in the variety of Six Flags, will have to venture some kilometres out of the city’s territory to visit Canada’s Wonderland, a regular amusement park more appropriate for teens, tweens and adults alike.

Find the master builder in your child

And for those who dare are obsessed with building using blocks, Toronto’s Legoland is, in fact, in Vaughn, a suburb of the city and can be accessed fairly easily off the city’s north-bound highway. It’s not huge but a place where you can spend two or there hours (Masterbuilder room features the recreated city of Toronto) before, naturally, passing through the centre’s shopping store.

Feed your child’s literary imagination

On a much-too-hot summer’s day, you may want to spend a few hours indoors exposing your kids to the best of age-appropriate theatre. Young People’s Theatre or YPT as it is better known, has a continuous roster of entertaining shows that are fun for the whole family. The summer season’s schedule hasn’t yet been released but if you happen to be in Toronto during May, the Wizard of Oz will be playing. Keep an eye out for new listings.

That place that caters to multiple childrens’ interests

As the name suggests the Harbourfront rests by the shores of the city’s great lake. The Harbourfront Centre stretches across a series of building and public spaces, and during the summer there is continuous outdoor programming, much of it catering to children. You’ll have to see what is going on during a given week or weekend but there is always sure to be something. I’ve been there when they have had circus acts and comedy performances and live music and dance performances.

This article was written by Sonya Fatah

Sonya Fatah is a writer and documentary filmmaker based in Toronto, Canada.

Check out 9 more must visit places in Toronto here.

Originally published at www.mycity4kids.com on May 17, 2016.

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