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Toronto’s 5 Best Attractions for Families

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Toronto is bursting with attractions for families. Located on the shores of Lake Ontario, a visit can include shopping and dining in diverse neighborhoods, visiting major attractions and museums, browsing one of the world's best food markets, and attending a world-class theatre performance or a professional sporting event.

The CN Tower in downtown Toronto - Attractions for Families

The CN Tower in downtown Toronto

Can't Miss Attractions for Families in Toronto

For families visiting Canada's largest city for the first time, I recommend the CN Tower, the Toronto Zoo, the Royal Ontario Museum (known as the “ROM”), the Ontario Science Centre, and Centre Island. Anyone visiting for a week or more will have time to hit them all, but a weekend visit will require some hard choices.

CN Tower

The 1,815-foot-tall CN Tower dominates Toronto's skyline. This is one of the city's best known attractions for families and a must for first-time visitors. Kids will want to ascend to the top as soon as they catch sight of it. It takes just under a minute for the glass front elevator to whisk them up to the Look Out Level on the 113th floor. One floor below the top is the famous Glass Floor, which my kids take great pleasure in standing on—probably because it makes Mom's heart skip a beat.

A revolving restaurant on the 114th floor serves a nice meal with breathtaking views across the city during the 72 minutes it takes for one revolution. The newest attraction at the tower is the Edge Walk—a tethered, hands-free walk on the outer ledge 116 stories from the ground for thrill-seekers over the age of 13. The mere thought of it is enough to send shivers up my spine.

Ontario Science Centre

My kids have always loved the Ontario Science Centre. This interactive science museum has 10 exhibition halls (including Space, Living Earth, and the Science Arcade) and over 600 activities to be explored. Demonstrations by staff scientists are an important part of the centre's programming. Kidspark is an area designed specifically to engage the imaginations of children 8 and under. One of the most popular attractions for families at the centre is the IMAX theatre. There, a giant dome screen and wrap-around sound immerses theatre goers in a thrilling film.

Sleeping polar bear at the Toronto Zoo - Attractions for Families

Sleeping polar bear at the Toronto Zoo

Toronto Zoo

The Toronto Zoo, considered one of the world's finest, is open to visitors year-round. The zoo is also one of the world's largest with over six miles of walking trails. This makes it rather difficult to cover it all in one visit. The zoo is organized geographically so my family generally picks the regions that we want to see the most and visit them first.

The Toronto Zoo offers a wide range of attractions for families beyond just viewing animals. Some of our favorites are the camel and pony rides, the Conservation Carousel, the zoomobile, and the Discovery Zone children's play area.

The newest attraction is the Gorilla Climb Ropes Course. There, visitors safely swing, crawl and balance more than 30 feet above the ground. The zoo welcomed a polar bear cub to its family a little more than a year ago, as well.

Greeted by a dinosaur in the lobby of the Royal Ontario Museum - Attractions for Families

Greeted by a dinosaur in the lobby of the Royal Ontario Museum

Royal Ontario Museum

The Royal Ontario Museum is among the world's leading museums of natural history and world cultures. There are over 30 galleries in the museum including an Egyptian gallery with a coffin and mummy. You'll also find a Bat Cave, a gallery of Biodiversity, and the Americas gallery featuring a shrunken head from South America. T

The Royal Ontario Museum also offers an extensive program of activities for families called RomKids. For a limited time, visitors can take in the Ultimate Dinosaurs augmented reality exhibit. My 9-year-old daughter, Emma, and I recently attended the exhibit, even though we don't have a particular interest in dinosaurs. We were blown away by the details and how much fun it was. A dinosaur lover will go absolutely mad for this exhibit.

Centre Island

Just a short ferry ride from downtown Toronto is Centre Island, boasting 600 acres of parkland. It includes the Centreville Theme Park, bicycle paths, boat rentals, a children's garden, a petting zoo, wading pools and restaurants. Centreville is a family-oriented park with more than 30 rides and attractions perfect for younger children who aren't quite ready for heavy-duty thrill rides. The ferry runs year-round but attractions are only open from May to October. Getting there is part of the fun and there's a spectacular view of the Toronto skyline from the ferry.

It doesn't matter the time of year, Toronto is a fantastic destination for families. It's also a city that you'll want to return to and explore some more. So don't worry if you don't make it to all five of these attractions on your first visit. There's always next time!

Have you visited Toronto? What attractions for families would you recommend to a first-time visitor to the city? Let us know in the comments!

All photos by Lisa Goodmurphy.

About Lisa Goodmurphy, The Spunky Travel Mama

Lisa Goodmurphy is a lawyer turned family travel writer and a mom of two daughters. She grew up in small town Northern Ontario and now resides near Toronto, Canada. Badly bitten by the travel bug years ago, she considers herself fortunate that her family is equally enthusiastic about her mission to explore the world—one trip at a time. Lisa shares her travel adventures on the blog that she founded in 2011 and now contributes to many online media publications as well. You can read about her family’s travels on her blog, Gone with the Family, on Google+ or on Twitter as @GoneWithFamily.

Comments

  1. We were in Toronto in 2010 and went to Centre Island. We had a gorgeous day and I would recommend it to anyone. You can take bicycles over as well.

    • Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says:

      Jan – Ooh! I want to rent a bicycle to explore Toronto and Centre Island when I visit Toronto this summer!

  2. What fun for kids! Mine would love the Royal Ontario Museum, but the polar bear is adorable too.

  3. Lisa, the Spunky Travel Mama says:

    Jan – Centre Island is wonderful, isn’t it? Truly an escape from the hustle and bustle of the city!

  4. Lisa, the Spunky Travel Mama says:

    Colleen – we go back to both the ROM and the Toronto Zoo over and over again and never get tired of either. I can’t wait to go back to the zoo in the spring when the new pandas arrive!

  5. Lisa, the Spunky Travel Mama says:

    Travel Mama Colleen – you should definitely have Centre Island on your list for June!

  6. Love all of your suggestions, Lisa! So many great family-friendly attractions in Toronto. Centre Island is still my favorite place to go whenever we get back east for a visit.

  7. Lisa, the Spunky Travel Mama says:

    Thanks, Claudia! I had a difficult time limiting it to 5 choices – Toronto has so many family-friendly attractions!

  8. Jane Schneider says:

    Casa Loma. Definitely Casa Loma Castle. Kids (and frankly, not just them) love castles and anything that looks like out of the Harry Potter books where every corner could be a secret passageway. They even held the world premier there because it looks so much like Hogwarts! And also another tip – I always go with my kids to Toronto Islands, it’s a perfect day out and so close to the city. Make sure you bring your camera as the views of the skyline are spectacular. There is a small pet ZOO as well.

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