*we received some discounts during our stay but the opinions are 100% ours.
We spent 2 weeks in Toronto, in June 2017, during which we managed to see and do a lot of things, which was incredible. This guide will be a long one.
It was summer. We arrived shortly after the flooding, so we were a bit scared. We couldn’t get to the islands as they were closed. It limited us a bit, but not enough. In the areas we spent our days in, everything was perfectly fine and the days were warm and sunny. It rained for 2 days but all the others were perfect. What a lovely summer they have there!
The house is beautiful, clean, comfortable. Steve had a huge stock of stuff for guest use, which was very handy, including capsule coffee (first time for us) and Nutella. There was also lots of spare towels and sheets – so nice to know they’re there, even though we didn’t really need to use them as there is a pretty nice dryer there.
It’s in High Park, which is a pretty awesome neighborhood, with the park itself, Dundas Street with some awesome restaurants, trains, buses, supermarkets, whatever-else have you within walking distance. It’s super quiet and family friendly.
(If you’re new to Airbnb, click here to receive a discount on your first booking – and we receive one too, without any additional cost to you!)
Family friendly things to see and do in Toronto
Ride the Tram / Streetcar
We took it as to get to the center but it’s pretty cool. You need to have the exact price for the trip because the conductor carries no money with him. We didn’t have it. It’d cost us a bit over CAD$ 6 (kids don’t pay) but we only had $20 bills. He let us ride for free. It was nice and we were moved. Coral (5) loved it most and didn’t feel bored once during the 40 minutes we were in it.
It’s the only full sized castle in the Americas and it’s huge! There are many cool things about it, very worth the visit. We received some audio-guide walkie talkie thing that played a recorded description of each place of the castle. It was funny, interesting, and super informative. Some rooms are furnished as it was during the old days, some are used for exhibits. It’s full of stairs so be ready for it and leave the strollers at home.
We didn’t know it’d be so big. It has an underground tunnel that takes you across the road to the other part of the castle.
They even have Escape games there – which we didn’t do, unfortunately, as it must be awesome.
The views from the tower are pretty great too.
We were planning on having lunch at the restaurant, but we didn’t find it so we ate at the café and the food was surprisingly good and not too overpriced! We did find the restaurant AFTER we’d eaten.
It was a fun afternoon. It’s even possible to spend a whole day there, but a half day is enough for small kids.
The kids really wanted to see it so we went. It’s a big aquarium, with tons to see and do. They have touch tanks (shrimps, horseshoe crabs, rays, and sharks), a playground, a café, many play areas, and so many tanks!
We all loved the shark tunnel, although it IS a bit like the NZ one, so nothing new there. The Rainbow Reef is beautiful but 2 places caught us more: the incredible jelly fish zone and the anemone tank. SO BEAUTIFUL! The anemone tank is pretty small, but it’s incredibly colorful. I kept looking at it for a long time. Even the kids loved it. The jelly fishes are incredible, so many super different species and there’s one big tank perfect for photos.
There’s enough there for a full day but we arrived late (first time using the subway there). The good thing is that it’s open until super late, so you can give yourself a nice late lunch before going to see it!
ROM is an amazing museum. There’s so much to see there that we just didn’t get to finish it. We loved the dinosaurs (so many dinosaur skeletons!) and the Canadian history was also pretty cool. The other areas, though, were a lot like the other museums around the world.
OK, there’s a part about the animals with tables filled with stuff and super knowledgeable people explaining it all to whoever wants to hear it. This was probably João’s (12) favorite thing. He and the guy explaining to us had a nice chat there.
The best part of it, and where we spent a long stretch of time, was on the Out of the Depths exhibit. It’s all about the 2 whales found dead in Newfound and Labrador. The whole exhibit is incredibly beautiful and interactive, super sad, but real and full of facts. There’s even one of the whale’s actual heart there. One beautiful thing. Worth paying the price difference there as it’s truly an incredible experience!
It’s only on until 4th of September 2017 so hurry up and go now!
It was really cold inside, though, and one summer sweater wasn’t enough to keep us warm, so bring up a warm jacket. We also tried to eat something at the café (it was around 4:30 pm) and it was closed already, which was a bit weird, but well…
(Ah, OK, no Coral’s favorite part was the little sand tank where she could find some fossil. There was a lady there explaining to the kids what part they’d found and all that. )
The Toronto letters
It’s in Nathan Philips Square. It was summer, so there was no ice-skating, unfortunately. But we still spent a few hours there and it was fun. The letters change their colors and at one point (it was 8 pm, but maybe it happens every hour) it had a little show of color changing and the kids loved it. The letters are big enough for the kids to lay down in them and chill.
The little water fountain in front of the letters…. That was annoying. We tried getting the reflections, but we didn’t manage. It didn’t really matter the angle or where we were, the water falling kept moving the water and it covered the reflection.
I’ll talk more about it next week!
Parks and Playgrounds in Toronto
It was stupid, but we only visited it on our last day, when it rained. It was cloudy when we arrived, but it started raining pretty heavy after an hour or so. It’s a nice playground, there are a few walks around the area, a nice path to cycle around, and some small kiosks selling the necessary. It wasn’t close to where we were and that’s why we left it for the last day, when we’d have a car.
It’s a nice place to spend a day, there were people having birthday parties there too, families with their picnics, people exercising, kids having fun. It was a nice day, even in the rain.
We only stopped there because Coral (5) was having a bad day. It’s a small playground, but with table tennis tables and nice shadowed areas to rest. It was full of little kids, and there were many kids toys – actual toys, like little pianos, Lego Duplo, plastic trucks, etc) that made Coral happy again. We spent an hour there and it was one nice peaceful hour, though the older kids got bored.
It’s the biggest park in Toronto and it was pretty close to the house we were renting, so win-win. I only passed through it coming or going somewhere but while Melissa (13) was having her hair dyed, Angelo took the younger kids there and they had fun. There are playgrounds, lots of trees, green areas, and even a small zoo. It was early summer so there were many babies – adorable! I mean, have you ever seen a capybara baby?
Where to eat in Toronto
It’s a mall, but it’s got a huge food court. So many options! We had sushi, poutine, and ice cream. Haha. It wasn’t the best meal we’ve had but it was easy to accommodate everyone’s wants and needs, so worth it!
A great place to look for food. We walked around every time we felt hungry but didn’t feel like cooking (every day). There are cheaper options as well as some pretty cool expensive stuff. Shop around or just enter the first place you cross!
It wasn’t the prettiest or the best place, but the donuts were OK and it was SO CHEAP, so cheap… I believe we bought 4 donuts and a soda and we paid something like 3 dollars.
Good burger, nice service. We liked it, but it’s not something we’re dying to get back to.
I don’t know people who dislike chocolate, and I believe it’s pretty difficult to make bad chocolate (though they do exist). This one was good, a bit pricey, but worth the money. It wasn’t the best chocolate ever, but it was better than the ones we buy at the supermarket.
I didn’t visit it, but Angelo and the 3 younger kids did. Fun place, not to good service, but the ice cream was good, they said.
It’s a Subway style fast food restaurant. It was a lot better than any Subway we’ve ever been to. The tomato soup was delicious. This is one that I’d like to revisit, but we hadn’t seen it since.
We stopped there because it was that or Nando’s and we decided to go local. It was a good burger, the portions are big, service was fine. It’s fast food style, but the fun about it is that they offer peanuts for free. Haha, I love it. What we didn’t know is that it’s a USA chain, not a Canadian one.
It was the supermarket closest to home. Small, but it had everything. On our first day shopping, we didn’t have any quarter coin and the lady at the cashier offered one of hers so we could get a cart. Lovely first impression. We went back there often. It’s not the cheapest, but it’s not expensive either.
We spend around 3 hours there – so much stuff! We had to buy some underwear for the kids and some tees for Angelo, but we ended up buying lots of candies, bubbles, and chalk. It’s a great thing that we can’t buy too much because we can’t carry it.
I wanted a smaller camera, and we decided to try a mirrorless. We visited the shop, had a long talk with the knowledgeable attendant and decided on our new camera. They’re pretty good there and even answered the questions the kids asked. The price was the same as Amazon, so we decided to the shop.
We went just to see it. The last time we entered an Ikea, it was in Madrid in 2006. The kids were impressed with the size and the variety of stuff there.
We used the subway most of the time. It was fine, we paid straight into a box and went inside. Nobody ever checked it. They didn’t charge us for either of the kids, which was a great thing and makes things cheaper than taxis.
It was easy enough to use, and we were given a pocket metro map. Pretty cool!
We called an Uber to go from the house to the train station only. It was trouble free.
We used one when we went from the airport to the house. They charge a bit more when we’re using the vans, which made things more expensive but still, the driver was super nice, told us about the neighborhood, where to eat, how to get to the metro station and all. We liked it!
We rented the car for the weekend to go to Niagara Falls. It was nice to have a car and to just drive around, without worrying about the time and all else. It was nice to have a car for a change. We rented with Budget. It was the cheapest we found, and the weekend deal was a great thing.
Melissa (13) had her hair dyed in this salon. We went there, talked to a girl, but when we arrived, other lady came to do the job. She was more experienced, did a wonderful job, but charged $100 more than the original quote. Melissa has a long hair, had her hair bleached and then dyed in 3 different colors, plus a cut, so it was probably a fair price but it was way too expensive for us.
OMG, so many squirrels! They’re all around, crossing streets, running over the cables, trying to open trash cans, on the roofs, hanging on the branches, everywhere!
They’re adorable! We saw brown, black, and gray ones. All of them, adorable.
But with the exception of the little High Park Zoo, we didn’t see any other animal around – well, dogs.
We surely had fun in Toronto and it is one of our favorite Canadian cities! There was so much more to see and do!
It’s a shame the islands were closed, but we had fun and filled all of our days with something.
If you wish to see a list of everything we thought about doing in Toronto, subscribe to our newsletter and gain access to it all!