Toronto has so much to offer for visiting families. That made it a challenge when we we were trying to decide which things to do in Toronto with a toddler during a weekend visit. We focused on attractions that had direct appeal to our 2-year-old son and gave us a flavor of the city.
1.Visit Centreville Amusement Park
Centreville is an amusement park located in the Centre Island of Toronto. You can take the public ferry or private boat for the 10-15 minute ride.
The park has an old village like setup and is small enough to navigate easily with a toddler. Most of the rides are toddler friendly though
older kids seemed to be having a blast as well. We had fun going on the old fashioned, low tech rides as a family.
Our son, Little D, loved being on rides by himself which at 2, is a rare occurrence. With trains, cars and boats, it was a dream come true for our vehicle obsessed toddler. If your kids enjoy rides, you may consider getting the day pass or you can purchase individual token in batches of 25.
Besides the amusement park, there is a petting zoo and large park area for picnics by the water so you can make a day out of a trip to Centre Island.
2. Visit Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada
Having opened in the summer of 2013, this is one of the newest attractions in the Toronto downtown area. Even if you’ve been to other Ripley’s aquariums the one in Toronto makes its mark with a gallery dedicated to Canadian waters.
The giant, colorful exhibits were mesmerizing to both adults and kids. The dangerous lagoon where we could watch sharks and sting rays in an underwater tunnel while on a moving walkway was a highlight for Little D.
The play area about half way through the aquarium gives the kids a break from being an observer and an opportunity to be a part of the action. The fish-themed slides, water play tables and touch tank offer entertaining ways to introduce kids to concepts of marine life.
The aquarium is open until 11pm which makes it a great option if you’re looking for something to do after dinner. The place was full of life and packed with families when we visited after 7pm on a Friday night.
With ticket prices around $30 Canadian for adults, this is one of the more expensive activities in the city. Visiting after 7pm gives you a $5 discount.
3. Take a Cruise on Lake Ontario
Since Toronto is located close to Lake Ontario, taking a cruise was the best way to see the city’s skyline. Being out in the water and taking in the change of scenery can be very entertaining for toddlers. Little D's favorite part of the cruise was seeing planes take off and land at the regional airport in the harbor with the backdrop of Toronto’s skyline.
We took a 45 minute cruise on Mariposa Cruises from Toronto Harbor. With beautiful views of the water and outdoor dining options, the harbor front area is a fun place to explore even if you don’t plan on taking a cruise.
The cruise also takes you around Toronto Islands where a lot of land has been reserved as conservation areas for wildlife. This was surprising to us as we didn’t expect the islands so close to downtown Toronto to be so large and uninhabited.
The tour guide was casual and informative. It was good opportunity to get our Toronto related questions answered by a local.
4. Explore Ethnic Neighborhoods in Toronto
Home to millions of immigrants from all over the world, Toronto is one of the most diverse cities in North America. The best way to experience this cultural melting pot is to explore ethnic neighborhoods around the city.
You are likely to find several neighborhoods of interest spread throughout the city so it helps to narrow down the list of choices.
Little India on Gerrard Street, the oldest Chinatown which extends from Spadina Avenue and Dundas Street, and Little Portugal on Dundas West were our picks for exploring.
We narrowed them down solely based on the food we wanted to try. This was also an opportunity to introduce Little D to new flavors and learn about his food preferences.
The leisurely walks as we stopped to sample food and browse grocery stores were the perfect pace for our toddler.