Looking for turn of the century history in modern Canada? Feed your kids some culture at Toronto’s Castle, Casa Loma! Learn why you might want to add Casa Loma to your next Canada vacation from this TravelingMom who knows the ropes for exploring 80 old stone rooms in three stories with elementary school age boys.
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Exploring Casa Loma with Kids
Discovering new places is one of my family’s favorite things to do on vacation. On a trip to the Blue Jays stadium in Toronto, Canada, we added on some time at Casa Loma, Toronto’s Castle.
From afar, Casa Loma truly looks like a majestic castle on the hill. Its turrets, towers and rose-colored roofs look like it’s right out of a fairy tale.
We spent our morning wandering through and learning about this historic site in Toronto with our boys (ages 6 and 8). I offer up these observations if you find yourself ready to tackle Casa Loma.
What is Casa Loma?
While the stonework suggests otherwise, this castle was never actually royal. Casa Loma was built for a Canadian financier, Sir Henry Pellatt, and his wife, Lady Pellatt.
Now a museum, Casa Loma was built before the First World War. It was one of North America’s largest private residences. With three stories and more than 80 rooms, it oozes history and architectural grandeur.
Don’t miss the outer buildings, garages and gardens!
We found an impressive “secret” underground tunnel that connects the once heavily-used horse barn to the main building. It houses carriages straight out of the early 1900s. My boys loved checking out the “old time” cars and talking about how different they are compared to our van.
Where is Casa Loma?
A full-size mansion in mid-town, Casa Loma is located at 1 Austin Terrace, Toronto, Ontario.
It was about a three mile drive from our hotel, the Toronto Marriott City Centre Hotel.
Our main reason for visiting Toronto was to watch the Blue Jays. The Marriot is next to the Blue Jays stadium, a great location for baseball lovers. And it is close enough to other Toronto attractions like Casa Loma to make it a great choice for any family visiting Toronto.
Read about another TravelingMom reviewed hotel in Toronto.
TravelingMom tip: Consider driving instead of walking from downtown Toronto. Casa Loma has on-site parking for a fee. We found it fairly easy to navigate and park.
How long is the tour?
Casa Loma only offers self-guided tours. My family of four spent half a day walking through all of the floors, eating lunch and enjoying the outside grounds. History buffs could stretch Casa Loma to a full-day experience, but for our school-age boys, about four hours was perfect.
TravelingMom tip: A handheld audio device for the self-guided audio tour is included in the admission price. Take one for each member of your group. They are to be held up to your ear and work best individually. Allowing both of my kids to have their own also avoided the brotherly fights!
Is the castle stroller friendly?
Traveling with a first-grader and a third-grader, we did not have a stroller and I was thankful we did not.
Casa Loma has lots of staircases and narrow hallways on the second floor. Other families struggled to navigate with their strollers. Some gave up and left the stroller with coat-check. There are areas of this castle that do not allow strollers at all.
TravelingMom tip: If you have a baby or toddler, I highly suggest using a front or backpack carrier for your little one. It will allow you to better access to all of the areas, including the underground tunnels of Casa Loma.
Are there activities specifically for kids?
The quick answer to this is No. We didn’t find any arts and crafts or kid-designed activities at Casa Loma.
This isn’t to say that the castle isn’t kid-friendly, it just doesn’t provide extras to entertain. My boys enjoyed discovering all of the rooms with their audio guides. But for toddlers and preschoolers, we didn’t think there was a big draw.
TravelingMom tip: Add a few pencils or pens to your bag. While there isn’t an authorized scavenger hunt, my kids LOVE to check things off a list. Giving them pens allowed them to make notes on the brochure, checking off exhibits as we saw them.
Is Casa Loma convenient to other activities in Ontario?
For my family of four, Casa Loma served as the midpoint of our Canadian vacation before saying goodbye to Toronto and heading to Niagara Falls. We found that Toronto and Niagara Falls can be perfectly combined for extra fun!
Read more about another TravelingMom’s stay at Niagara Falls.
TravelingMom tip: If you are adding on Casa Loma before or after a Niagara Falls vacation, DON’T book any tours for your travel day. We found the traffic to be heavier than expected. If we had planned our Niagara Falls cruise on the same day it would have added unneeded stress.
Would Casa Loma be good for multi-generational travel?
Having only explored Casa Loma with my kids (both school-age) and husband, I can’t specifically say yes or no. However I can offer observations. Part of why our day went so smoothly was because everyone in my traveling party was easily able to walk on their own and navigate stairs independently.
Babies, younger kids and grandparents who struggle with climbing might want to skip this attraction. However, if we were to visit again, we would absolutely include my Mom who loves architecture and doesn’t have mobility limitations.
TravelingMom tip: If you’re traveling with both youngsters and seniors, visit first thing in the morning. The grounds were not too hot to enjoy the walk and you can begin to explore the museum before the mid-day crowds.
TravelingMom tip: Don’t miss the Conservatory. One of my favorite rooms in the whole house, the Conservatory has great light, windows and is easily accessible for any family members not exploring the tunnels or second floor.
Are there dining options?
Casa Loma had two restaurants for lunch, the Liberty Café found in the basement and the Terrace Grill located outside on the first floor.
We neglected to research dining before we visited Casa Loma. If we has, we would have eaten at the Terrace Grill since it was a beautiful day and the seating overlooked the grounds. However, we stumbled upon the Liberty Café first and when little boys are hungry, you feed them.
The Liberty Café is located near the gift shop in the basement and served a limited menu where we ate some combination of chicken nuggets and fries. The food wasn’t anything to covet, but we filled our bellies.
TravelingMom tip: If you want to eat at the Terrace Grill, it’s important to know that it’s only available in the summer months. The Liberty Café in the lower level is open year-round.
What’s the highlight of Casa Loma?
My favorite part of our day at Casa Loma was the sweeping views of the city of Toronto seen from the roof. From the third floor, there was an option to continue on for special views of the city. We felt it was definitely worth waiting in line to climb up the narrow staircase to enjoy that sight as a family!
Asking my kids, their favorite parts included navigating the dark tunnels and secret passages, discovering what movies were shot at Casa Loma (hint: look for the X-men poster), checking out the vintage cars and of course… the dead animal rug!
Overall, we enjoyed discovering Casa Loma, learning about its history and wandering through the grounds. This was a great activity for my family as my kids were interested in the self-guided tour and enjoyed feeling like junior explorers.
TravelingMom tip: Tickets can be purchased just for Casa Loma (open daily except for Christmas), or as part of the Toronto CityPASS which grants admission to some other popular tourist attractions like the CN tower and the Toronto Zoo. Families interested in more offerings in downtown Toronto should check out 48 hours of family fun in Toronto.
TravelingMom tip: If your family is made up of museum lovers, consider walking across the street from 1 Austin Terrace to Spadina Road to the Spadina Museum. This is a gorgeous 55-room restored home from the early 20th century with even more Toronto history.