• A family vacation in Toronto

20 Things to do in Toronto on Family Vacation

Lots of families from Ohio pack up and drive all the way to the beach, some 18 hours, once every summer. My family went to Gulf Shores Alabama as a kid and then when we got older started going to Myrtle Beach. While I was home from India this year, I told my parents we should try something different, a new idea for vacation within driving distance from Ohio – Canada! Toronto, in fact. It was only 6.5 hours from my house in Lexington, Ohio. 

– A family vacation in Toronto –

I think the reasons mid-western families go south are that 1) it’s familiar 2) it’s hot 3) we miss the ocean. Plus, if you haven’t been to Chicago or NYC, you might think going to Montreal or Toronto sounds scary or like it’d get too confusing trying to get around. Toronto is the 4th largest city in North America, but honestly you can’t tell because it’s so spread out. In case you’re curious the top 3 in population are Mexico City, NYC, and LA.

We went for 3 days and 3 nights and had a blast. There is so much to do in the city and there’s even a beach for SUP and boating/fishing on Lake Ontario. That’s a good way to talk your dad into going!

Going to Toronto is great because it’s an international trip and you get to see lots of cultures all in one place. Stats say that 50% of people in Toronto are born outside Canada, with over 130 languages spoken in Toronto. There is a Little Italy, Little Portugal, China Town, Little India and more international markets and huge museums with artifacts from all over the world to explore.20 Things to Do in Toronto5

Things to do on a family vacation in Toronto

(Prices on everything will be in Canadian dollars as the exchange rate is always changing.)

1. The ROM

A family vacation in Toronto

The Royal Ontario Museum was a very cool place to stop by. We only stayed two hours because it was such a gorgeous sunny day to be outside. It’s open 10 am to 5:30 pm and later on weekends. Absolutely worth a visit with artifacts from all over the world. For the you do have to pay extra than the general admission ticket.

Price: Tickets for adults at $17 and $14 for children, although they have discounts on Fridays.

Getting there: 100 Queens Park. It’s on the intersection of Avenue and Bloor, easily walkable if you’re staying on that side, or you can take the metro to the museum stop.

2. CN Tower

A family vacation in Toronto

The is the 2nd tallest building in the world at 447 meters high and shows great views from the city. We went at night and it was pretty cool. You can eat up there but we just had a look and went back down.

Price: $35 for adults, $25 for children for general admission

Getting there: 301 Front St W. Most likely you can walk here from your hotel.

3. St. Lawrence Market

A family vacation in Toronto

The was ranked by Nat Geo as the best in the world. I did expect it to be a bit bigger! It was really cool, easy to see it all, and partially indoors. The thing to try is the peameal sandwich which is a Canadian specialty (get the honey mustard on it). I’ll tell you which places we tried later in the article.

Price: free to enter

Getting there: 92-95 Front Street East. Take the metro to Union or King Station on the University line and you can walk from there.

4. Evergreen Brick Works

A family vacation in Toronto

A family vacation in Toronto

A family vacation in Toronto

See where Toronto was built, literally. The bricks for most of the major buildings came from here. You can have lunch, rent a bike, take a hike and bring your dog along. It’s also called or Weston Quarry. A local told us this is her favorite place in the city.

Price: free to enter

Getting there: 550 Bayview Ave. Take the green metro line out to Broadview then walk to your left to a bus stop where a neon shuttle will pick you up for free and take you, every 30 minutes. 

5. Eat International food

We tried all kinds of restaurants! You can get EVERY nationality of food here. I’ll share just some of the places we tried.

Chinese at (328 Wellington St). This was our big dinner out as it’s a little bit pricey. There were 3 of us so we ate quite a lot! We tried their famous starters: chicken Cheung fun, steamed spinach, Chinese celery dumplings, and Taro & turnip cake. For mains we had the bakes soy cod with green beans, the very famous duck with Chinese pancakes, and the beef tenderloin. The beef was so tender and the duck was delicious. I know Ben was really bummed to miss this meal! We don’t usually eat “real” Chinese food so most of the dishes were totally new to us. We liked it all, although the textures took some getting used to. For dessert we tried the passionfruit & pineapple coconut pudding and rice donut. We loved the pudding. The chef here, Chef Lee, is a judge on chopped and very famous.A family vacation in Toronto

A family vacation in Toronto

A family vacation in Toronto

A family vacation in TorontoItalian at (221 Ossington Ave or other locations). The rice balls (arancini) were better than the pizza in my opinion, and they were delicious. The pizza was really good but I guess I don’t get what all the fuss is about with this famous place. It’s real Italian style, and tasty but nothing to go nuts over.

A family vacation in Toronto

A family vacation in Toronto

Canadian at  at St. Lawrence Market. We had the most scrumptious juicy turkey sandwich outside the market and tried the burger with peameal bacon.

A family vacation in Toronto

Canadian at . at St. Lawrence Market. We tried the peameal sandwich here which is probably the most famous place to have it.

A family vacation in Toronto

Polish on the street. Go ahead and get a hotdog or Polish sausage from anywhere between 3-6 bucks on the streets.

A family vacation in Toronto

Canadian/American at (chain restaurant). We wanted a good burger but all the famous little joints were packed for the Pan Am games, so we went here to a popular chain restaurant. The food was great.

A family vacation in Toronto

Local beer at . My parents tried the one on tap, the Mill Street Pilsner. One of the famous beers we saw in Toronto was Steamwhistle which we had at other places.

Chocolate at in the Distillery district. They had gelato, homemade chocolates, and nuts. My parents bought the spicy pecans and they were so good.

 6. Kensington Market

Vintage shopping and food from all over the world can be found at . Everyone on my Instagram said to go, but we just didn’t have enough time! It’s one of the things we wish we had done. Everyone says to check out the “Pedestrian Sunday market” there.

Price: free to enter

Getting there: Kensington Road. From University metro, take the Dundas streetcar west, and get off at Spadina.

7. Shop Queen Street West

A family vacation in Toronto

A family vacation in Toronto

Surprise, surprise this is the first thing we did. We had some beer between shopping at the famous Horseshoe Tavern and looked in shops like LUSH, Lululemon, American Apparel, Urban Outfitters, lots of boutiques and hipster shops, and coffee shops. Man, the 90’s are so in style!

Price: depends how much of a shopper you are ;)

Getting there: Queen Street West. You can walk from most places downtown or take University metro to Osgoode.

8. Visit the Beaches

A family vacation in Toronto

A family vacation in Toronto

A family vacation in Toronto

” was great to walk around in the early morning. We were meant to have a SUP class but got stood up. Bummer! But we still enjoyed seeing the area and to be honest, the water was a bit too cold anyways. There were so many cute dogs being walked! Perfect people watching place, if you’re a creep like me.

Price: free

Getting there: we drove, jumped on the Gardiner Expressway to Lakeshore Blvd, about 15 minutes. There was a lot of street parking.

9. Grab a drink where the Rolling Stones play

A family vacation in Toronto

on Queen West is pretty famous and the Rolling Stones do surprise performances. The Police, Ramones, and Conway Twitty have all played here.

Price: typical

Getting there: 370 Queen West. You can walk from most places downtown or take University metro to Osgoode.

10. Shop & in Greek Town

A family vacation in Toronto

is easy to hit up on your way out to Brick Works (#4 on this list) because it’s just near Broadview metro stop. We walked around here after we got off the shuttle from Brick Works. There are loads of restaurants and shops.

Price: free

Getting there: Danforth Ave. You can take the green line out to Broadview.

11. Check out City Hall

A family vacation in Toronto

A family vacation in Toronto

A family vacation in Toronto

City Hall or Nathan Phillips Square tends to have a lot going on. We were there during the Pan Am games, so stumbled into a couple of concerts. Check out to see what’s happening while you’re in town.

Price: free

Getting there: You can probably walk. It’s at the Osgoode stop on the yellow (University line) at Queen Street and University intersection. 

12. Distillery District

things to do in toronto distillery district

things to do in toronto distillery district

things to do in toronto distillery district

This was my favorite part of Toronto! is a brick lane with old buildings full of vintage treasure and boutique shops. We loved SOMA chocolate and Mill St. Brewery and all the shops were very cool and trendy although expensive.

Price: free

Getting there: Mill St. We took a taxi here but you could walk from the Union Station stop, although it’s quite far, maybe 35 minutes. You would pass St. Lawrence market on the way.

A family vacation in Toronto

A family vacation in Toronto

13. See a Show

We considered seeing Kinky Boots but it online only found tickets at $350 per person so we didn’t go. They have 4 theaters playing shows and options were Motown, Newsies, Phantom of the Opera and more. It’s a big “thing to do” in Toronto, but I guess we should have planned ahead more.

Price: in my experience, it was quite expensive

Getting there: There are four theatres so you’d have to buy tickets, then look up the theatre on maps.

A family vacation in Toronto

A family vacation in Toronto

14. Sports!

There wasn’t anything going on while we were there, but our hotel was right outside the Air Canada Center where the Toronto Maple Leafs play hockey. You could also catch a Blue Jays baseball game at Rogers Centre (which also has concerts).

Price: I’m not sure the best place to book sports in Toronto

Getting there: Air Canada Center is just of the Union station metro stop, you can’t miss it and the Rogers Centre is on 1 Blue Jays Way.

15. Hockey Hall of Fame

If you’re really into hockey, this is worth a mention although we aren’t huge Hockey people and didn’t go to the  on this trip.

Price: according to the website it’s $18 for adults and $12 for children

Getting there: 30 Yonge St. We passed this on our way walking to St. Lawrence market. You can walk from downtown or take the metro to Union or King and walk from there.

A family vacation in Toronto

A family vacation in Toronto

For the kids: 16, 17, & 18. Casa Loma, Science Center, and Zoo

I’ve put these together because we didn’t go for a variety of reasons, although they are famous attractions in Toronto. Casa Loma is a mansion you can tour, the Science Center we were advised was best for children, and I’m not crazy about Zoos. You can find more information about all of these on the . Just because I didn’t go doesn’t mean they aren’t great options, especially for kids!

19. Take a Street Car

The 501 street car “red rocket” is a famous way of getting around the city. It goes along Dundas Road. We took this to get out to Ossington. You can ask your hotel for a metro map or print one online and you’ll see the getting around is very easy and you can walk almost everywhere if you’re not into taking street cars or metros.

A family vacation in Toronto

20. Stay Downtown

There are SO many hotel options downtown, even a Holiday Inn, that you can surely find something in your budget. Driving to Toronto from Ohio was easy and the Highways are really organized with a HOV lane for 3+ people. Even with the Pan Am games we didn’t get into any bad traffic. Parking is expensive so it’s best to leave your car rather than take it out and pay over and over, or valet so you can have multiple take outs with no extra charge. We stayed at both the Le Germain Maple Leaf Square and the Four Seasons; you can read reviews on those links.

BONUS!!!

If you’re coming from the US back to Ohio, you can stop at Niagara Falls on your way home. I’ve written an article to explain how to get to Niagara Falls.

 

This is a collaboration with the Toronto Tourism board. I was provided passes by the tourism board for the ROM, CN tower, and some transport. I was also invited to eat by Luckee. All opinions are my own.

 

2017-07-03T15:45:11+00:00

About the Author:

Rachel Jones left a career in nursing and lived on the beaches of Goa, India for the five years. Now she lives in Mexico where she gives advice on the 40+ countries she’s visited in the last 10 years. She’s the author of two India travel e-books: Guide to India and Insider’s Guide to Goa. Her blog, Werkenntwen, like its name, is a contradiction combining off-beat adventurous places with glamorous and bespoke travel. Werkenntwen has been featured in ELLE, Marie Claire, Grazia, and Cosmopolitan magazines. She’s a writer for Bravo TV.

13 Comments

  1. Mel August 26, 2015 at 5:10 am - Reply

    Wow, you fit in a lot of stuff while you were here! It’s easy to take a lot of this stuff for granted when you live here, but I guess a lot of people are the same way about their hometowns. Good call on Libretto, it’s one of my favourite places to eat :)

    • Rachel Jones August 26, 2015 at 11:55 am - Reply

      Hey Mel, yeah I am the same way back in Columbus Ohio, I havent explored at all!

  2. Elen August 26, 2015 at 8:19 am - Reply

    I live in Buffalo so get to Toronto quite a bit. Although it’s a big city, I’ve always found Toronto disappointingly soulless. Maybe because of its rapid and massive growth? And I’m not American, so I’m not just being prejudiced against Canada I’ve taken visitors from NZ there too, and they’ve agreed that it feels flat, but I still can’t quite put my finger on what it is!

    • Rachel Jones August 26, 2015 at 11:56 am - Reply

      That’s interesting Elen. I have been in India so long, and haven’t visited big cities only than Asian ones in a while (in Honolulu which doesn’t really count) so, I loved it but idk if I would feel the same had I come from the western world to visit!

  3. Renuka August 27, 2015 at 1:02 pm - Reply

    Cool ways to enjoy Toronto. It’s certainly one of the cities I’d love to explore in America.

    How have you been, Rachel?

  4. rakhi August 31, 2015 at 11:26 am - Reply

    @ Rachel Jones

    Goodness, you fit in a ton of stuff while you arrived! It’s anything but difficult to underestimate a ton of this stuff when you live here, however I figure quite a few people are the same path about the places where they grew up. Great approach Libretto, it’s one of my most loved spots to eat :)

    regards
    rakhi

  5. silky sharma February 24, 2016 at 11:58 am - Reply

    The St. Lawrence market was ranked by Nat Geo as the best in the world. I did expect it to be a bit bigger! It was really cool, easy to see it all, and partially indoors. The thing to try is the peameal sandwich which is a Canadian specialty (get the honey mustard on it). I’ll tell you which places we tried later in the article.

  6. Lucy James February 24, 2016 at 1:05 pm - Reply

    @ Rachel Jones
    i like Evergreen Brick Works. your photos are really good. after reading your article i can’t wait to explore toronto. thanks for sharing wonderful blog.

  7. jessicaray4 March 1, 2016 at 2:42 pm - Reply

    That is intriguing Elen. I have been in India so long, and haven’t went by enormous urban areas just than Asian ones in a while (in Honolulu which doesn’t generally tally) in this way, I cherished it yet idk in the event that I would feel the same had I originate from the western world to visit!

  8. Martina Cruz March 8, 2016 at 4:06 pm - Reply

    O..Hi again.. First of all ..Thanku so much for sharing such a lovely pictures of yours… I just want to ask one thing, as u mentioned “Eat International Food” at No-5 spot.. is it really exist… and when it’ll be coming this year… want to visit here !!

  9. April Yap March 8, 2016 at 7:40 pm - Reply

    I am now planning to go to toronto because of this article, very convincing article!!! haha

  10. Annabel March 28, 2016 at 11:41 am - Reply

    I live in Buffalo so get to Toronto a considerable amount. In spite of the fact that it’s a major city, I’ve generally discovered Toronto disappointingly cruel. Possibly on account of its fast and gigantic development? Furthermore, I’m not American, so I’m not simply being partial against Canada I’ve taken guests from NZ there as well, and they’ve concurred that it feels level, however despite everything I can’t exactly put my finger on what it is!

    Regards
    Annabel

  11. Sneha Meena April 13, 2016 at 6:00 pm - Reply

    Hi,

    That is fascinating Elen. I have been in India so long, and haven’t went to enormous urban communities just than Asian ones in a while (in Honolulu which doesn’t generally check) along these lines, I adored it however idk on the off chance that I would feel the same had I originate from the western world to visit!

    Regards,
    Sneha Meena

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