Four days in Toronto with kids

posted in: Blog, North America | 17
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Sarah and Jess in Toronto by the signJess, aged 15, writes: We have just returned from a break in Toronto, Canada, where we spent four days discovering the city. We did everything from bus tours to cycling, and really loved our time in the city. There was a lot to see and do, the people were friendly, it was unusually clean for such a big city, and the attractions were very well done. Here are our highlights of the trip and what we’d recommend:

What to do

The family on the Toronto Islands after taking a cycling tourJess writes: My favourite part of our trip to Toronto had to be the island cycling tour. We met our friendly and knowledgeable guide Mina early in the morning and were quickly armed with bikes and helmets. Soon, we found ourselves cycling downtown to the port, where we took a ferry to the Toronto Islands. We spent the morning cycling around the islands, and learning about their history. I particularly enjoyed visiting the beach, listening to ghost stories, and seeing the lighthouse. This was especially interesting as it was only built six metres away from the seafront, but sediment deposition means that it is now inland. We all had an excellent time – the islands were gorgeous, the stories were fascinating, and the cycling wasn’t too strenuous. Despite not being used to cycling on roads, we all felt very safe. It was a wonderfully tranquil morning.

Casa Loma, in Toronto,
Casa Loma was spectacular

Brian says: One of the highlights of our trip was visiting Casa Loma, a huge medieval looking mansion surrounded by beautiful gardens and a fountain. The gothic exterior with its two towers in completely different styles makes it look a bit like a fairy tale castle.
We began our visit with the very interesting 20 minute newsreel type film about the life of Sir Henry Pellatt, the financier who spent millions building Casa Loma then was forced to leave in 1923 after going bankrupt. We really enjoyed looking at the film posters on the walls downstairs showing the many movies shot there, and there was also a TV screen showing some clips (e.g. X-men, Chicago, Cocktail etc) with captions letting you know which room had been used for that scene. We then took an excellent audio guide of the nearly hundred rooms, the most beautiful ones for me being the Round Room and the Conservatory. We then climbed up the narrow steps to the Norman tower, which gave stunning views of the city in the distance. We were there for about two and a half hours, and hadn’t seen everything we would have liked to (especially the secret tunnels) as we just ran out of time. It might be a tourist trap, but Casa Loma is definitely a must-see when you come to Toronto.

Read more about Casa Loma here, in a full blog post by Sarah.

Ripleys Aquarium, in Toronto,
Ripleys Aquarium was a must-visit!

Robert, aged 12, writes: Ripley’s Aquarium is one of the most popular, if not the most popular, tourist attraction in Toronto with so much to see and do for both kids and adults. There are loads of different creatures to look at including jellyfish, sharks, turtles and an octopus. Throughout the aquarium were loads of interactive things to play or touch. There was a section when you could feel how cold the water is for the fish, customise your own jellyfish or even feel some baby sharks. Some of the creatures were incredible to look at especially the ones in the tunnel – I loved watching the sharks swim over my head. Over all I had a really fun time and there was really something for everyone. There’s even a play area for younger kids.

The Eaton Centre, Toronto,
If you like shopping, you need to visit the Eaton Centre!

Jess says: The Eaton Centre is the busiest shopping centre in North America, so we knew we had to give it a try. The Centre contains a range of shops (varying from high end to ones you may see on the high street) and we enjoyed walking around and finding chains which we don’t have in the UK. We exited the complex with books, t-shirts, and trousers, and generally had a nice, relaxing time traipsing the stores.

Robert writes: One of the tallest, most symbolic buildings in Canada is the CN tower which can be seen from nearly all the city and even further away.

View from the CN Tower, Toronto
View from the CN Tower

Classified as one of the modern wonders of the world, the tower stands at 1,815 feet so the views are amazing. We went up the first viewing point which was great, you could see the whole city. You could pay extra to go up a few extra floors but it seemed pointless to me as it is the same view. One floor down were two glass walkways on which you could sit, jump or even lie on while looking down at the roads directly under your feet.

Robert on the glass floor at the CN Tower
Robert on the glass floor at the CN Tower

I found the whole experience very enjoyable, but it was just another view which I’ve seen a lot of – and there were so many great things to do in Toronto that it wasn’t my favourite.

The spectacular Horseshoe Falls at Niagara
The spectacular Horseshoe Falls

Sarah writes: It’s hard to tell you how wonderful our visit to Niagara Falls was without referring you to our full post on it (which you can see here!). It was, honestly, the most fantastic day and we cannot recommend it enough – it’s unlike anything else we’ve ever done.

The Falls are majestic and beautiful, a real wonder of the world. And it doesn’t mater that Niagara is really busy, because all the people who are there simply want to enjoy what you do – extraordinary waterfalls!
I have never seen The Falls from the US side, but my husband assures me that the Canadian side, with the Horseshoe Falls, is far better. I can believe it. We experienced our trip from different angles – a helicopter above, a boat riding on and going down to see the Falls at the level at which they gush past. All were well worth doing.
We hired a car to get to Niagara and it took around two hours. We left early in the morning and would recommend that. It really was a wonderful day.

What to see

View from the Toronto Islands
The views from the islands were amazing!

Jess writes: Aside from Niagara, the best views on this holiday had to be on the ferry from Downtown Toronto to the Toronto Islands. During our cycling tour, we took a ferry from the port to Hanlan’s Point, and the view was simply stunning. We had a clear, close up view of the Toronto skyline, the water shone in the sun, and there was a small breeze in our hair. It was truly lovely; very serene and tranquil. It made our visit to the islands even more special.

The City Sightseeing Toronto bus tour is another way to see the sights. The two hour journey takes you all around the sights of Toronto, giving lots of information. There was also a real guide, as opposed to listening through headphones and hearing the same annoying music again and again! The only negative of this was it could be difficult to hear the guide due to the microphone static. The trip was very pleasant, though traffic meant we moved quite slowly.

Where to eat

Evas Chimney Cakes in Toronto
The food at Eva’s was so delicious!

Brian says: We ate some delicious food on our Canadian holiday, but Eva’s Original was one of the standouts. My sweet toothed daughter had found out about this before our visit, and it took us about 20 minutes to get there from our hotel downtown, but it was really worth it. Eva’s bake traditional Hungarian chimney cakes fresh on the premises. They look delicious enough all by themselves, but we added some extra calories by each having chimney cones which are filled with delicious vanilla soft serve ice-cream. I chose a cone that had been baked with coconut flakes, and a chocolate sauce topping. It was huge, but delicious, so I managed to finish it. We then saw that a couple at the table next to us were sharing one. Eva’s Original was a real treat, and I would love to go back again one day.

Jess writes: Kensington Market is very different to the rest of Toronto, as it is filled with vintage clothes stores and hipster places to eat. I would have loved to explore had we had more time, as there was lots to see and do. We had lunch at a waffle shop which was a bit of a let down, but I know that there were many other places to go to which looked nicer.

A delicious Beavers Tail pastry
The Beavers Tails were so delicious!

Sarah says: We found the BeaverTails stall down by the waterfront in Toronto. Quite honestly they were utterly delicious and it is lucky they don’t seem possible to get in London, as I would galumph my way through them and become far too vast! Put it this way, we got one each and the couple sitting opposite us, shared theirs…
They are basically pastries with toppings on, but that doesn’t sell them well enough! They are huge, the pastry (fried!) is delicious and the toppings – whether chocolate hazelnut or nutella are utterly decadent. A real holiday food!

Jess writes: In conclusion, we all had a lovely time in Toronto. Paired with an excursion to Niagara, it was a holiday with something for all the family. The atmosphere was friendly, it was easy to navigate, and there was lots to do. I definitely recommend a visit.

Disclosure: We were fortunate enough to be given a CityPass to try out when we were in Toronto. This meant we got free entry into a number of attractions and, as importantly, that we skipped the queue – particularly brilliant for the CN Tower and Aquarium! We genuinely thought the CityPass was fantastic as it gave you freedom to do what you wanted, when you wanted – but the company had no input into our decisions of what to do, or what we wrote in this post. The CityPASS costs around £55 per adult and £37 per child.
We were also very fortunate that Toronto Bicycle Tours provided us with the bicycle tour of the Islands, including bike hire and ferry crossing, on a complimentary basis. This usually costs around CAD 90 per person (around £54). However, they also had no input into this post and all our thoughts, as usual, are our own.

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17 Responses

  1. A bicycle tour sounds like a frat way to explore more of the city and keep fit too!

  2. Your daughter is nearly as tall as you are! My parents honeymoon was spent in Niagara Falls – I must visit there, and Toronto, soon!

  3. I am going for Eva’s alone…. 😀 No seriously, Toronto is very firmly on our list. This post will come in really useful, thank you! 🙂

  4. I love the fact that Robert was rather underwhelmed by the view. Sounds like the sort of thing my own son would say! Great post. I’m now more determined than ever to visit!

  5. Those Beaver Tails look and sound amazing, but you’re quite right – definitely only for a holiday food treat! Glad you enjoyed your Canadian trip, we’re saving up ours for when the kids have left home (and we can afford it!)

  6. Toronto looks amazing! The City Pass seems a great way to explore – we would definitely hit the aquarium !

  7. Sarah Feinberg

    Sounds like a great trip! I can’t believe you didn’t go to the Shoe Museum, though! Definitely one of my favorite places in Toronto 🙂

  8. You covered so much ground in such a short amount of time. I love the look of Eva’s and the bike tour sounds amazing

  9. These chimney cakes look delicious! I remember trying them in Romania. Now as far as Toronto is concerned, it is a dream trip of mine! It looks like an amazing combination of beautiful urban and natural landscapes. The cycling tours btw are my favorite way of exploring a city!

  10. Why did you have to show me the food?! Now I’m craving the Beavertails pastries. I think my favourite parts that you went to would be the cycling tour of the islands and Casa Loma. I didn’t actually realise there was a medieval mansion in Toronto. I’ve been wanting to visit Canada and Toronto will be on the list now

  11. We were in Toronto years ago before the kids. We need to make a trip and explore the city on a cycling tour. The citypass sounds like a good investment as well. Eva’s Hungarian chimney cakes loons delicious.

  12. I need to go back to Toronto and do some more exploring. Casa Loma does look pretty cool too.

  13. Amazing! A lot of great ideas and the CN tower glass floor is simply fun. I know it’s not exactly a spot but there are already a lot of things to see and do along Queen Street!! The view from the Toronto island back to the city skyline is stunning! @ knycx.journeying

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