Toronto with Kids: A Perfect Family Day
The perfect day in Toronto with kids requires a whole lot of energy, so it is good to get an early start. You and your family will participate in some classic activities, ones that hundreds of thousands of Canadian children have experienced before you. This includes placing your hand on the big metal ball at the Science Centre – or watching someone else do it, if you are too scared – and saying "No!" to the kids as they roam in and out of the stores at The Eaton Centre, one of the city's main tourist attractions. In between, you'll eat at child-friendly restaurants with strange names and perhaps tumble down a water slide, ice cream in hand. Best get going. There are only so many hours in a day for your best family vacation to Toronto.
There is nothing like a sugar rush to get kids going in the morning and this is the place to get it. OK, so it is a little cheesy to dig into eggs and bacon at a place called Pickle Barrel, but we've all been through it and you should too. They have a kid's menu but, really, everything at this popular chain is kid-friendly: the decor, the desserts, and the meals themselves. You can choose the best location online and reserve a table if you like. Treat the kids to a milkshake if they are especially well behaved. If not, pour more fruit onto their plates – you can usually substitute bad food for good food at no charge.
After breakfast, head to Eaton Centre. There are not many cities of more than 5 million people that can boast a plain old shopping mall as one of its leading tourist attractions, but this is the case in Toronto. At one point or another, you will be visiting the Eaton Centre. It is arguably the reference point for downtown Toronto. And let's be honest. It's just a mall. But it is great for the family because there is The Gap, Banana Republic, game stores and sport stores. True, most of its stores can be found elsewhere in the city. But, if you're with the kids, the Eaton Centre is big, busy, and noisy, so you will fit right in and they will have plenty of things to do, look at and buy.
220 Yonge St
Toronto, ON M5B 2H1 Canada
Mon-Fri 10AM-9PM, Sat 9:30AM-7PM, Sun 11AM-6PM
If you are in Toronto during the summer months – and the chances are more than likely that you will be – then Canada's Wonderland is a must for the kids. Located north of the city, it is easily reached by public transport, so there is no need to brave the busy highways. As the name suggests, this is an amusement park with all the usual bells and whistles: splash park, live shows for the kids, rides and lots of junk food. You can easily spend the entire afternoon here, mingling with your kids' favorite cartoon characters, but exactly how much cotton candy and ride-spinning can the family endure? Half a day is perfect. Arrive early to avoid the lines. This is truly one of the best Toronto family vacation ideas!
9580 Jane St
Vaughan, ON L6A 1S6 Canada
$19.99 & up
Next, it's time for some educational fun. There is hardly a child in Eastern Canada whose hair has not stood straight up at the Ontario Science Centre. Literally. It is here where we were told to place our little hands on a giant metal sphere and then a few seconds later ... zap! We were hit with enough static electricity to make our hair stand up, much to the amusement of the crowd. Known as the Van de Graaff generator, this is where the parents usually want to head first for old time's sake. Just about everything at the Science Centre is meant to be touched. The little ones will love the cave walls and the rainforest exhibits, and try getting them out of KidSpark, where kids eight and under are encouraged to splash, create and poke a range of contraptions. The Centre is a "must do" when visiting Toronto with kids.
Ontario Science Centre
770 Don Mills Road (at the corner of Eglinton Avenue East)
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
For the evening, this pasta-centric eatery may be an international chain, but it's also a local tradition. Children have loved the Old Spaghetti Factory for much of the past four decades. They love the chicken dippers, cheesy sticks and, not surprisingly, lots of spaghetti dishes. This longtime family favorite is located within walking distance of most major hotels. It is the perfect place to wind down after an exhausting day – and there are salads and other healthy fare available if the kids are completely carbed-out! There are more trendy places than this to enjoy a meal, but why mess with a classic? This Toronto favorite is kid-friendly with decent food and close to where you need to be at the end of a very long day.
The Old Spaghetti Factory
56 The Esplanade
Toronto, ON Canada
Sun-Thu 11:30AM-10PM, Fri-Sat 11:30AM-11PM