Toronto with Tweens: A Perfect Family Day
First of all, if you've never been to a Tim Horton's, you absolutely must go during your family travel in Toronto. Of course, those of you who have patronized Tim's won't even question why this is on the list. This is THE ubiquitous Canadian coffee chain, but the most central is on Yonge Street in downtown. Here you can fuel up for a day in Toronto with tweens with their signature aromatic, robust coffee. Your tween should be plenty happy to select from an extensive assortment of donuts, pastries, and muffins. Or grab a family box of Timbits (donut holes) and quickly be on your way.
Tim Horton's, 33 Yonge Street, Toronto ON, M5E 1G4, 416-913-5755.
Next stop on your best family vacation: the Hockey Hall of Fame. Sure, technically it's a museum but one unlikely to elicit groans from your tween. Even if he or she isn't an avid hockey fan, the Hockey Hall of Fame is a marvelous foray into the sport's history. It is exceedingly youth-friendly, with interactive exhibits and several media displays throughout. Visitors can also try their own hand at shooting the puck into the net. Your tween can amuse herself either by giving it a go or by laughing hysterically at her parent's feeble attempts. Either way, it's a safe environment for your children to tour themselves if they prefer to do so.
Dedicated hockey fans can't miss the all-hallowed Stanley Cup in all its silver glory. Whether your family are hockey fans or not, this visit simply has to be on any list of things to do in Toronto with tweens.
Hockey Hall of Fame, Brookfield Place, 30 Yonge Street, Toronto, ON M5E 1X8, 416-360-7765. Hours vary according to season, check website. Admission: Adults: $15; Children 4-13: $10; Under 3: Free
The PATH is Toronto's ingenious series of enclosed pedestrian tunnels linking several of downtown's major sites. But this is not merely a trek through a tunnel. The PATH boasts over 1,200 stores and services so you can window-shop while passing through. If your tween is getting a little testy, halt that blood sugar drop and stop for a quick snack. If you don't stop it should only take you about fifteen to twenty minutes to get to your next destination: the CN Tower. But if the walk is too much, or one of your party members is unable to make the distance, the PATH also links you to the subway system. Take the train to Union Station and exit to Front Street to get to the CN Tower. A TTC Day Pass is only $10 for unlimited rides.
There are a couple ways you can approach your visit to the 1,815 ft tall CN Tower, based on your budget. Depending on the specific package you opt for, a ride to the top of the world's tallest free-standing structure will cost you anywhere from $23-$35. Take comfort in knowing tweens still qualify as children, and 12 and under tickets can be as low as $15. Variations in price reflect add-ons like the movie or the motion theater ride. CN Tower, 301 Front Street West, Toronto, ON M5V 2T6, 416-868-6937. Hours vary according to season, check website.
At the very least, splurge on the elevator ride to the CN Tower's Observation Deck. The 360-degree deck has both indoor and outdoor viewing areas, the latter of which is particularly thrilling on an exceptionally windy day. But what will really make this a memorable trip for your tween is the glass floor. Some tiptoe across it tentatively, while the bold
lie down and have someone take their picture to prove that they conquered this landmark of Toronto. With tweens, one-of-a-kind experiences usually make the biggest impression. So if your budget allows, extend your time up top and have lunch in the tower's 360 Restaurant. It is a formal dining experience, so expect to pay a little more than usual for lunch. But to be fair, you are shelling out more for the experience of eating in a revolving restaurant than for the food or service.
A better and more economical choice is probably the tower's other restaurant, Horizons. Sure, it's stationary, but that doesn't change the fact you are sitting in a room with the best view of the Toronto cityscape. Not only is it more affordable, but it also has a kid's menu. So if your nine-year-old turns her nose up at anything that doesn't come with fries, order Horizons' reasonably priced Canadian "Classic" Chicken Fingers and stop complaints before they start. Next up on your family vacation in Toronto with tweens is Casa Loma. Yes, it's true - Toronto has its very own castle, and no kid's vacation in Toronto would be complete without a visit! Casa Loma was the home of Sir Henry Pellatt, a fantastically wealthy Torontonian. Admission is a little steep but it's worth it, especially if the weather is decent enough to traverse the castle's grounds as well. Adults pay a little over $20, but your tween is only half that. Take the subway to Dupont and then walk the couple of blocks over. Heads up - there are a lot of stairs leading up to the structure itself. This is a surefire hit in terms of things to do in Toronto with tweens, because Casa Loma's building reflects the eccentricities of its owners. Tunnels, winding staircases, private stables, and bizarrely constructed commodes are a delight to traverse. The gardens are gorgeous and fragrant in the summer; following a fresh snow in the winter the outdoors are icily beautiful. A short movie screens repeatedly if you and the kids are looking for a history lesson, but if they just want to go off and explore you can do the castle sans tour guide.
Casa Loma, 1 Austin Terrace, Toronto, ON M5R 1X8, 416-923-1171, Hours: 9:30AM-5PM, daily
Since you likely spent a little more on lunch at the CN Tower, save some money by visiting a classic Canadian fast-food joint, like Swiss Chalet or Pizza Pizza. If you're really exhausted, both deliver. It's been a long day as you traversed Toronto with tweens, which is why you might consider staying at Toronto's Delta Chelsea Hotel. It's centrally located downtown and kids under 18 stay for free. There's a magnificent indoor pool with a 130-ft water slide, and babysitting is available for kids up to 12. Then parents can slip away for an hour or so to relax in the hotel's Monarch's Pub. We'll leave it up to you to figure out how to explain the babysitting part to your tween.