Toronto has no shortage of family-friendly fun. There are urban farms, aquariums where you can pet sharks, and interactive museums. This itinerary can be used as child-enchanting supplement to other plans—visiting both Centre Island and the Ontario Science Centre in 1 day is near impossible. (I recommend the island only if the weather’s agreeable.) Otherwise, the Science Centre is a great space to let the wee ones unleash some of that rainy-day energy.
1. Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada
There are 1.5 million gallons of water at the base of the CN Tower. No, about it's not Lake Ontario I'm referring to, but Ripley’s Aquarium. Some 20,000 water-dwelling critters (including mesmerizing jellyfish, giant sawfish, Pacific octopi, blue lobsters, and nine species of shark) call this home. A trip through the Dangerous Lagoon is as close to scuba diving as you can get without getting wet. A moving sidewalk carries the whole family through an underwater tunnel as 400-pound sharks circle above.
2. John Street Roundhouse
This preserved roundhouse was where locomotives would be flipped around after arriving in Toronto. The space is now an arcade shared by three different entities—the Rec Room, the Toronto Railway Museum, and the Steam Whistle Brewery—containing both kid- and adult-geared fun, from VR zombie games to leisurely replica locomotive rides. Parents might want to trade off minding duties and pop into Steam Whistle for the 30-minute tour, which brings you across catwalks above the brewhouse and includes a few samples of beer.
3. Centre Island
Every part of visiting the Toronto Islands is a delight. Even the getting there is fun. The antique ferries take 15 minutes to reach Centre Island, offering postcard-worthy views of the city along the way. Families with kids 12 and under will enjoy the sandy beaches and Centreville Park, an amusement park meant to entertain, not terrify. Most of the rides are of the old-school variety: Ferris wheel, pony rides, a carousel, a log ride, bumper boats, and even a petting zoo. For the older set there’s plenty to explore in this 600-acre park, whether by land (rent a bike or quadracycle from Toronto Island Bicycle Rental) or by water (kayaks and canoes can be rented at the Boat House). While older children might be ready to brave the waters around the island, it’s recommended that novice paddlers confine their boating to the lagoons. There's tons to see inside these serene spaces, including herons, turtles, and swans.
This farm is sacred space to many. Whenever you visit, you’ll find kids here, many of them locals, learning about farm life, interacting with chickens and rare-breed piglets, and cuddling bunnies. Sound bucolic?
5. Ontario Science Centre
If the weather’s a write-off, skip Centre Island altogether and trek up to the Ontario Science Centre; there’s a subway and bus transfer involved, but it’s worth the journey. When it opened in 1969, this was one of the world’s first science museums, and it remains a top spot to dazzle curious minds. KidSpark is a learn-through-play space designed to delight children under 8. Other exhibits are out of this world (there’s a planetarium), while some delve into natural wonders (the simulated tornado is a crowd-pleaser). Let the kids run wild in the Science Arcade, a hands-on area where youngsters can test pulleys, play with magnets, and solve puzzles.
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