Trvlbees

Things to do in Toronto with kids

In this Toronto Guide Travelbee, Amanda Blakley, travel journalist & editor at Crumb, lets you in on her recommendations as a local of things to do in Toronto with kids.

Toronto, like many great urban centers, is a city of neighborhoods. People always comment on how diverse our culture and citizens are – and it’s true. Toronto is definitely a melting pot. You can have an authentic dim sum breakfast in Chinatown, a Bangladeshi curry for lunch in Little India and follow that up with a proper Italian feast (in one of two Little Italy’s no less!). There are just so many things to do in Toronto with kids.

Things to do in Toronto with kids, trvlbees amanda blakleyTravelbee, mom and travel journalist Amanda Blakley

Our weekly Toronto tends to stay within a small radius, however we love to use the weekend as an excuse to be explorers and adventurers in our own town. Becoming parents has definitely helped us to appreciate our city through a new lens. It’s amazing how many things there are to do in Toronto with kids.

 

WHAT TO DO

1. Evergreen brickworks 

A former quarry and brick factory in the geographical center of our city is now home to this Eco-friendly, community and cultural center. This charity devotes their days to restoring the local flora and fauna in an urban environment. Visitors can enjoy the naturalized ponds, gardens, market, gourmet restaurant, greenhouse and programming – all on site.

Things to do in Toronto with kidsEvergreen brickworks

We usually go on Saturday mornings to hit the Farmer’s market for local fare, fruit and produce, as well as some delicious snacks made-to-order by various vendors. After we’ve stocked up on necessities, we grab our favorite coffee from Cafe Belong, browse the greenhouse for new plants or visit the children’s garden for some nature play. They recently introduced workshops for families that we plan on checking out – foraging for wild edibles caught our interest.

Things to do in Toronto with kidsWorkshop Evergreen brickworks

2. Ward’s Island 

Just off the Toronto harbour lie the beautiful Toronto Islands, a cluster of three Islands. All are just a short boat or ferry ride from downtown. Wards Island is residential and has rows of beautiful colonial homes, a beach and our favorite little eco restaurant called The Island Cafe. Here they incorporate some of their homegrown produce into their dishes. Fun fact: The islands comprise the largest urban car-free community in North America.

Things to do in Toronto with kids, family friendly restaurantsThe Island Cafe

3. St Lawrence market

This is a fun destination any time of year. With 120 specialty merchants carrying everything from spices to seafood, meat, produce, cheese and delicacies – it’s our top choice to hit when prepping for a dinner party or to grab an interactive lunch.
Tip: Hit any of the large cheese boutiques and sample your way around their offerings. It’s one of our favorite things to do at the market.

Things to do in Toronto with kidsSt Lawrence market

4. The Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO)

A must-visit Toronto cultural institution. A recent Frank Gehry overhaul of the building has made this an architectural gem as well as a fine art emporium. There is a children’s den downstairs that is stocked with all kinds of art supplies, costumes and books.

Things to do in Toronto with kids, MOCAAGO

5. Kensington Market 

An eclectic and diverse neighborhood densely packed with independent grocers, fishmongers, fruit stands, butchers, bakers and the like. Located in the downtown core, it is certainly a colorful feast for all the senses. There are tons of amazing little cafes, juice bars, vintage clothing boutiques, independent coffee shops, record stores and innumerable ethnic cuisines. Kensington is also known for its light-hearted Rastafarian culture. Great things to do in Toronto with kids – for sure!
Be sure to check out Pedestrian Sundays when the roads are closed to cars the last Sunday of every month from May to October.

6. ROM (Royal Ontario Museum)

This is one of our favourite museums with the kids. The place to enjoy art, world culture and natural history. It is one of the largest museums in North America and the largest in Canada.

Things to do in Toronto with kids, ROMROM (Royal Ontario Museum)

7. Trinity Bellwoods Park 

If Central Park had a scruffy, hipster little brother, this would be him. In the summer it is so densely packed with picnic blankets and merry-makers you’ll be lucky to find a square-inch. However, you’ll be glad when you do, as the people watching and mood is contagious.

Things to do in Toronto with kids, Trinity Bellwoods Park playgroundTrinity Bellwoods Park playground

8. Terroni

A Toronto institution, Terroni is a chain of Family run Italian trattoria’s and Osteria’s. They have more in common with chic Napolese eateries than your run-of-the-mill-Pizzeria. Using only the freshest ingredients imported from Italy, delicious (rare) Italian wines, house made pastas and wood-oven pizzas, they are ever so kid-friendly (those Italians sure know how to embrace and celebrate the joy of the famiglia). Our favorite location is in Summerhill and in the spring/summer and early Fall we love to sit up on their rooftop patio. The views of the city are top!

Things to do with kids in Toronto, Terroni rooftop terraceTerroni rooftop terrace

9. Moca

The brand new Museum of Contemporary Art is an amazing stop for anyone with kids of any age. The main floor has a gorgeous cafe and permanent display of interactive works by Andreas Angelidakis. Like life-sized padded building blocks where kids can build mega forts, obstacle courses and climbing gym.

10. The Drake sky yard 

A hipster-hangout in the west end of the city. The Drake is a much lauded boutique hotel, restaurant, bar and self-proclaimed, “hotbed for culture”. We love eating on the rooftop patio in the summer. Now that this neighbourhood has become gentrified the hipsters are all procreating. This makes it one of many kid-friendly hang-outs in the hood.

11. Advice from a Caterpillar

Our go-to shopping destination for all the best in children’s gear. This concept store features collections from some of Europe and Scandinavia’s best known children’s brands as wel as yet-to-be-discovered labels. The styling and curation of the actual boutique is inspired, therefore it’s hard to leave without buying a baby gift for a friend or something for your minis.

12. Casa Loma 

A majestic castle in midtown Toronto. How magical? The castle was built in the early 20th century, by a prominent Toronto financier, who built it for his wife. The castle now stands proudly as a museum and venue atop a hill looking down upon the cities humble servants. It is truly one of the cities most noteworthy hidden gems. Grab a coffee or snack at the cafe and wander the grounds, check out the stables or just sit by the fountains while your kids play medieval make-believe.

Family friendly Toroto guideCasa Loma

13. The Beaches 

It’s easy to forget that Toronto is on the water, if you spend your daily life (as we do) in midtown. Thanks to the beautiful Lake Ontario, we have a lakefront that stretches the length of the city and beyond. The Beaches is a neighbourhood to the far East of the city that is built around – you guessed it – a series of beaches. In the summer we bring some shovels/buckets and a beach blanket so our boys can play in the sand and splash around in the shallow water. Afterwards we always grab lunch at Tate’s Bakery – a chic and healthy cafe and bakery on Queen St East with comfortable booth seating and cheery interiors.

Things to do in Toronto with kidsThe Beaches

14. Konjiki Ramen

To get a true sense of the variety of cultural backgrounds and neighbourhoods in Toronto, you must venture beyond the city core. Konjiki Ramen is a Japanese transplant (a small Tokyo chain of restaurants with this one Toronto brick and mortar) located in a northern suburb of the city. Their ramen is more than worthy of the long subway ride.

WHERE TO STAY

Strolling the beaches, discovering musea or simply relaxing in the city park – there are plenty of things to do in Toronto with kids. Where to stay? Here are two family friendly hotels.

  • The Hazelton Hotel in Yorkville, a luxe neighbourhood full of high-end boutiques and eateries. This is also a great location on the subway line and easy access to downtown and uptown. Their indoor pool is always a hit with our swim-obsessed kids and in the warmer months, there is no better patio for people watching than Hazelton’s. The stylish restaurant is located on the main level of the hotel.The Hazelton also shows that eco and luxury can easily go hand in hand with its many eco-friendly practices. It has a green roof to reduce carbon dioxide emissions and urban island heat effect, one of the first among the city’s hotels. The restaurant qualifies as one of the best places to eat in Toronto. Chef Mark McEwan uses organic, seasonal and locally-sourced ingredients whenever possible.

The Hazelton

  • The St Regis, Canada’s first SR property and a beautiful base to explore all that downtown has to offer. Their family programming is thoughtful and creative (our boys loved making their own Canadian-themes stuffed animals) and their rooftop restaurant is chic as can be with incredible city and lake views. The St Regis has a heart for sustainability and therefore offers several programs aiming to reduce our environmental footprint. Guests are given the options to forgo housekeeping and enjoy locally sourced food in the restaurant.

Family friendly Toronto guideSt Regis

WHERE TO SHOP

  • Narwhal Boutique – fashionable contemporary designer mom wear
  • 6 By Gee Beauty – vacation wardrobe and gifts
  • Mellah – Moroccan rug shop

Things to do in Toronto with kids6 By Gee Beauty 

WHERE TO EAT

  • Parallel – this is an amazing Israeli restaurant & Cafe in a random commercial zone at Dupont and Dufferin. Their homemade tahini (sesame butter) and pitas certainly make it worth the trek.
  • Dailo – a cool dining place!
  • Flock – a casual dine-in or take-out restaurant by one of the cities beloved chef’s, Cory Vitiello. Serving craveable rotisserie chicken and inventive salads.
  • Bar Isabel – a fashionable cafe on the College street strip serving up Basque favourites in an architecturally beautiful interior. Go for morning coffee and pastries followed by evening tapas and wine
  • Buca – with several locations around the city (each with a unique twist and menu) this is THE place for high-end Italian

HONORABLE MENTIONS

Coffee is a Toronto pastime and preoccupation – as the city is teeming with great cafes and baristas churning out steaming cups of goodness. Here are some of our faves:

  • East end: Hailed Coffee, Odin, The Rooster, Dineen Outpost
  • West end: Contra, Sam James, Creed’s, Milky’s, Tucana, Early Bird, Tokyo Smoke, Baddies
  • Midtown: Ezra’s Pound, Creed’s, Boxcar Social, Bar Central, Cafe Belong

Treats – there is no shortage of amazing and instagrammable places to get a sweet fix. Our kids love these spots for a special treat:

  • Rosen’s Cinnamon Buns
  • Bang bang for ice cream sammies
  • Sweet Jesus for crazy cones

Drinks –

  • Bar Raval
  • Pretty Ugly
  • Maison Selby

Family friendly Toronto guideRosen’s Cinnamon Buns