Step into another world in the 19th century by visiting Black Creek Pioneer Village. This heritage museum is a welcome alternative to screaming at the kids "Get some fresh air!" You can collectively breathe in a simpler time. There are 35 restored buildings from the 1860s, showcasing dying arts such as milling, quilting and hearth cooking. The butcher, the baker and the candlestick maker prove how modern life may be busier than ever, but in may ways, we have it good. Every week there are kid's programs that involve tours, baking, and during the holidays, even chestnuts roasting on an open fire. Literally.
Open from May to September, visiting the Toronto Islands is a must for a sunny day. Pack a picnic and an empty water bottle to fill up at one of the many fountains around the island. Once you take the ferry to Centre Island, play some frisbee or rent bikes (tandem bikes are available for families that like to embrace their inner nerds). There is mini golf on the island, but most people choose to bring their favourite ball of choice to blow off some steam. Small children will love Centreville, which has a mini zoo, pony rides and lots of rides, even for those who have not hit the usual height requirement. Under four and a half feet? No problem here!
The CN Tower is the ubiquitous symbol of Toronto. Yet it is much more than the world's tallest towering building. It provides the terrific perspective of the city, with a glass floor that can bring out acrophobia in anyone by being 1/3 of a kilometre above ground. The CN Tower's range of attractions and exhibits includes a digital animation program (Thrill Zone, which allows visitors a virtual bungee jump), a laser tag game, nightclub, 300-seat cafe, award-winning 360 restaurant (with the world's highest wine cellar!), shops, and a Simulator Theatre, which mimics air flight. Pay an extra $12 to go up in the Skypod, which will give you a more private experience of the incredible view.
High Park is Toronto's version of Central Park in New York. Toronto's largest 161 hectare public park has been the jewel in Toronto's park system with historical buildings, amazing hiking trails, a free zoo and playgrounds. A park highlight (for the adults) is Colborne Lodge, which is one of 10 historic sites operated by the city of Toronto. Colborne Lodge is a monument to John and Jemima Howard, the couple who founded High Park. This house, built in 1837 still has some original paintings of early Toronto. High Park is a walker's or runner's delight with pathways connecting the park's various natural habitats, picnic areas, ponds and landscaped gardens. There are 7 kilometres of asphalt trails, but your kids will probably want to get their miles at the Jamie bell Adventure Playground.
There are a lot of things that your kids may find overrated, but zoos are not one of them. Running from one group of animals to the next may just be their perfect day. Toronto Zoo impresses as one of the largest zoos in the world, with a sprawling 710 acres to house animals from every continent. Animals are divided into "zoogeographic" regions: Indo-Malaya, Africa, the Americas, Australasia, Eurasia, Canadian Domain and the Tundra Trek. Tropical animals are given the appropriate climates indoors (because Toronto doesn't have too many tropical days) while the outdoor creatures are given naturalistic environments. The zoo is easily accessible by car or TTC, with $10 parking payable at admission.
Formerly the SkyDome, this breathtaking facility is home to the Toronto Blue Jays and right in the heart of downtown. The Rogers Centre has the world's fastest retractable dome, which can help keep unexpected rain from dampening your day. Watching a ball game with the kids is a quintessential North American parenting experience. Prep the family by memorizing the official Blue Jays song. The refrain is "Okay (okay) Blue Jays (blue jays) Let's (let's) play (play) ball," so it will be perfect for kids who love to parrot. If you come before the game, consider participating in a Rogers Centre tour, at 11am, 1pm or 3pm.
Admit it: ever since your kid saw Finding Nemo, life hasn't been the same. While we can't promise talking fish at this new attraction in the heart of downtown Toronto, we can promise almost everything else. Feel like you are underwater in North America's longest underwater viewing tunnel with a moving walkway. Watch jellyfish float and expand to a musical track, as if they were an underwater symphony. Let your kids get handsy with horseshoe crabs, sharks and stingrays. You can see over 15,000 forms of aquatic life, some of which are way bigger than your children. Gain an appreciation for all that is under the sea, right in the heart of downtown Toronto.
Visiting the Ontario Science Centre is a great way to connect with your inner Bill Nye, the Science Guy. Even kids who don't seem keen on science will be enthralled by over 800 interactive exhibits. This museum of science is designed to spark curiosity and even spark you with high-voltage electricity to make your hair stand on end. Visit a simulated rain forest, examine a real human brain and take a visit to the Moon and Mars. During the week, this can be busy with a lot of school trips, but it is definitely a great time for the kids, who are even taught to make their own short films by taking scenes of objects. Bring the kid who likes to ask the question "Why?" He or she will get a whole lot of answers.
You may be thinking: once you have seen one dinosaur, you have seen them all. Think again: The Royal Ontario Museum is not to be missed. You also literally cannot miss it. The main entrance reopened in 2007; a stunning piece of architecture resembling a crystal by David Libeskind. Inside, the spacious grounds include featured exhibitions of world-renowned art, dinosaur bones that will dwarf your tallest friend and even a Ming tomb. Kids are welcomed with open arms with a "Hands-on Gallery of Biodiversity" on Level 2. Parents can finally stop saying "Don't touch that!" and kids will eat through some of their energy by crawling in and out of a fox's den. Do also make sure to take the little ones to the Bat Cave, which has a simulated natural habitat with a dramatization of bats.
Canada's Wonderland is wonderFUL, even if your kids are used to being unimpressed. From ferris wheels to roller coasters, entertainment shows to a water park, it will be difficult to fit the experience into a single day. Canada's Wonderland has 330 acres and is home to some stomach dropping rides, like one of the world's tallest and biggest coasters: Leviathan. On its website, this 306 foot roller coaster is rated a 5 for "aggressive thrill." For the less thrill inclined, stick to the lower numbers on the scale, like the 1 or "low thrill" swan lake. Small children can enjoy the Planet Snoopy area with rides especially for them. On hot days, Splash Works Water Park spreads water slides and a lazy river across 20 acres of Wonderland's grounds. Other attractions include live entertainment, putt-putt golf and the nightly Starlight Spectacular light show.