Toronto With Kids
Toronto is one of the most livable cities in the world, with many families residing downtown and plenty of activities to keep them busy.
Always check what's on at the Harbourfront Centre, a cultural complex with shows and workshops for ages 1 to 100. On any given day you could find a circus, clown school, musicians, juggling, storytelling, or acrobat shows. Even fearless kids' (and adults') eyes bulge at the 1,465-foot glass-elevator ride up the side of the CN Tower, and once they stand on the glass floor, their minds are officially blown.
Kids won't realize they're getting schooled at the ROM, with its Bat Cave and dinosaur skeletons, and the Ontario Science Centre, with interactive exhibits exploring the brain, technology, and outer space; documentaries are shown in the massive OMNIMAX dome. Out at the eastern end of the suburb of Scarborough, the well-designed Toronto Zoo is home to giraffes, polar bears, and gorillas. Less exotic animals hang at Riverdale Farm, in the more central Cabbagetown: get nose-to-nose with sheep, cows, and pigs.
Spending a few hours on the Toronto Islands is a good way to decompress. The Centreville Amusement Park and petting zoo is geared to the under-seven set, with tame rides, such as the log flume and antique carousel. Alternatively, pile the whole family into a surrey to pedal along the carless roads, or lounge at the beach at Hanlan’s Point (warning: clothing-optional) or Ward’s Island (clothes generally worn). The Canadian National Exhibition (CNE), aka "the Ex," is a huge three-week fair held in late August with carnival rides, games, food, puppet shows, a daily parade, and horse, dog, and cat shows. Kids can also pet and feed horses at the horse barn or tend to chickens and milk a cow on the "farm." But the mother of all amusement parks is a half-hour drive north of the city at Canada's Wonderland, home of Canada's biggest and fastest roller coaster. In winter, ice-skating at the Harbourfront Centre is the quintessential family activity.
Young sports fans might appreciate seeing a Blue Jays (baseball), Maple Leafs (hockey), Raptors (basketball), or Toronto FC (soccer) game. To take on Wayne Gretzky in a virtual game and see the original Stanley Cup, head to the Hockey Hall of Fame.
Intelligent productions at the Young People’s Theatre don't condescend to kids and teens, and many are just as entertaining for adults. The TIFF Kids International Film Festival takes place in April, with films for ages 2 to 13. Teens and tweens who aren't tuckered out after dark might get a kick out of a retro double feature at the Polson Pier Drive-In, right downtown.
For the latest on upcoming shows and events, plus an overwhelming directory of stores and services, go to the website Toronto4Kids (www.toronto4kids.com).