While Drake might have done a lot to help elevate Toronto’s profile, there’s plenty of cool places for families to explore in “The 6ix.”
Here’s six in The 6ix this crack team of travellers and Toronto locals (Conan, 11 and Pippa 9) have personally road tested:
St. Lawrence Market
Dating back to 1803, St. Lawrence Market bustles on the weekend with over 120 vendors selling everything from fruit and veg to specialty cheeses, fresh baked goods and hand crafted jewelry. A short walk from Union Station, the market is a great place to pick up supplies for a picnic or fill up on breakfast. While Pippa swears by the fresh pasta available on the lower level, Conan is all about Carousel Bakery’s famous peameal sandwich – an institution at the market. Looking to discover more? Tour Guys offer a free foodie walking tour of St. Lawrence Market from Tuesday-Fridays.
You can’t miss the outside of the ROM. The modern crystal juts out of the century old building which houses one of the world’s best collection of dinosaurs. If “terrible-lizards” aren’t your thing (and I defy you to be impressed by the gigantic Futalognkosaurus in the foyer of the museum), check out the aquarium, Bat Cave or mummies in the Egypt gallery. The ROM also has a Discovery Zone where younger kids can get hands on digging for dinosaur bones, dress as a knight, or examine fossils up close.
If you’re lucky, during the fall and spring you can have your own Night at the Museum experience. At the ROM Sleepovers, museum experts are on hand for exclusive access to galleries, and take part in PJ karaoke before bunking down for the night by the dinosaurs.
Take a 15-minute ferry ride from the Jack Layton Ferry Terminal to Centre Island and head for some swashbuckling adventure. Pirate Life is part dress up, part boat cruise, part pantomime.
Pirate Life’s scurvy crew are on hand with a treasure chest of dress up vests, scarfs and eye patches (including for the grown ups). They’ll add a moustache or long scar, and after practicing a few hearty “Arrrghs!” you’re ready to set sail. From there it’s an hour ride around the island on the 45-foot pirate ship, The Island Rogue where the crew go on the hunt for treasure.
Make a day of it on Centre Island and pack a picnic. The island is easily walkable, but bike rental is available right by the Centre Island ferry.
Sweet Jesus soft serve parlour has three outposts dotted around the city. Trust us, it’s worth the one-hour lineup to wrap your lips around one of Sweet Jesus’s dreamy creations. The biggest challenge will be deciding what to have. But here are a few suggestions:
Pippa swears by the Banging Brownie. Start with chocolate soft serve, topped with chocolate sauce and caramel sauce (because you can’t have too much sauce), covered in brownie chunks. Krusty the Cone is a carnival dream. Vanilla soft serve served with cotton candy sauce, sprinkles and pieces of pink and blue cotton candy. For Conan, it’s all about The Birthday Cake. Sweet Jesus’s celebratory creation starts with cake batter soft serve, topped with pieces of birthday cake served with a birthday candle on top (natch).
Pause to appreciate the work of art before tucking in (if you can wait that long!) Word of warning: They’re so good, don’t be surprised if your kids demand a repeat visit the next day.
It wasn’t until I was sitting with Pippa in one of the Art Gallery of Ontario’s (AGO) opulent galleries discussing the Greek myth of Electra that I realized you can’t pre-judge whether your kids could be art lovers.
Fortunately, the AGO has plenty of opportunities to engage children in art from a young age. Discover drawing stations throughout the galleries where kids can share stories or draw their own masterpiece. The AGO opened the impressive Weston Family Learning Centre in 2011. The Centre is buzzing with families, especially on weekends, where the free activities include art-making (natch), story telling, costumes, even table tennis.
There’s a great cafeteria in the art gallery (go for the mac and cheese). And if your child is more into Minecraft than Monet, there’s always the promise of visiting the AGO’s well-stocked gift shop to carry them through.
Chelsea Hotel Toronto
After all this fun you need a place to rest your head at the end of the day. The Chelsea Hotel Toronto is all about families. There’s a special check in for kids where they’ll receive an activity pack. The hotel features a games room with old school video games and air hockey, as well as a kid centre staffed by professionals for younger children to dress up, draw or pet the two resident bunnies.
The hotel also runs camps during March break and summer vacation. The Chelsea offers family suites designed to sleep up to six people, stocked with kid’s DVDs, games and XBOX. If that wasn’t enough? The hotel also boasts a 130-foot corkscrew waterslide.
About TravelandHappiness.com guest writer
Amanda Lee is a freelance travel and life writer based in Toronto. Originally from Australia, she’s parent to two budding adventurers. Read more of her writing here.