Toronto, in Ontario, is the largest city in Canada, futuristic and multicultural: it is estimated that over 35% of the population is of extra-European origin. Despite the size and the number of inhabitants, people move around slowly, on foot or by bike, so it really people (and kids) friendly.
Our stay in Toronto was incredibly short: 3 days to take our son to Niagara Falls as a special treat, and to meet up with a dear old friend I had not seen in 20 years. All in all our stay very far too short to visit to do justice to the city, but at least we got a wee taste of it: enough to make us want to go back for more, in particular the Distillery District that everyone raves about.
Toronto’s harbourfront is all brand new… an area that has been recently renovated and is enjoying a true revival, thanks to careful urban planning planning and the help of a couple of knowledgeable architects. This neighborhood on the shore of Lake Ontario is a real gem, and is best enjoyed on foot, stopping here and there to make the most out of the many free events sponsored by the municipality. There is even a special “outdoor” concert hall with 1300 seats. In the area, you can also find theatres, art galleries, museums and restaurants. From the piers, you can take ferries to the bay islands, as well as scenic cruises.
Simcoe Wave deck
The Simcoe Wave deck is located by the harbour and looks like a wavy wooden walk bridge with seven levels of different heights. It is located between the lake and the pavement.
The idea behind it is to remind of the movement of the water, but the best part of it is that, between a wave and the other, there is a very smooth wooden part that doubles as a slide: you will see dozens of kids having fun, there.
Nearby you will also find two large statues (a bear and a dog) that children can climb.
The Old Town is the historic neighborhood of Toronto, where the city was born. Its beauty lies in the fact that it is full of low-rise buildings (three floors at the most) while all around you can only see skyscrapers. The main streets are Front, King and Queen Street, where you can find some interesting buildings: the covered St. Lawrence Market (where you can sample local delicacies), the triangular Flatiron Building and St. James Cathedral. Of these attractions kids will mostly like the market, especially because it’s the right place to buy nice souvenirs..
The Chinese neighbourhood of Toronto is one of the largest of its kind, and not everyone will like it. Some will find it very colourful and full of life, other dirty and full of cheap goods of very low quality. Kids will surely like to see the “unfamiliar” signs, the strange foods, the mysterious herbs on sale. For sure, it’s the best place in town to eat authentic Chinese food. Still I would only recommend it if you have never seen a Chinatown before.
Museum: Hockey Hall of Fame
his museum is nt only for kids: it’s a must if you are fond of ice-hockey, which happens to be Canada’s national sport. Plan to spend several hours to visit it. This museum offers to kids and adults alike, under one single roof, the core sanctuary of ice-hockey history. I would not know which room to recommend, but I am sure everyone will like the trophy room. There are also interactive games to enjoy. It is located at 30 Yonge Street.
Yorkville is a delightful little area full of fancy stores, large green areas and tiny delicious and affordable restaurants. Here the average price per square foot for a home is the highest all over Canada. We went at night, thanks to my friend Mary-Ellen, who had the idea to combine food with some entertainment for our son. Why? The answer is simple: Yorkville Rock! It’s a massive glacial stone from the Lake Region, disassembled, removed piece by piece and then put back together again in Yorkville. People meet and sit on it, and kids can run and climb it. Ask Stefano what his favourite Toronto attraction is: he will say the Rock
Toronto Harbour Cruise
A nice way to see the city from a different perspective is a short Toronto Harbour Cruise, which lasts about 1 hour. As you leave the pier, you sail towards the quiet and green bay islands, and then return towards the city and its skyscrapers. You will surely notice the incredibly tall CN Tower: you can tell your kids that you can ride an elevator to the top (but then you will have to take them) and show them the dome of the Rogers Centre, It is the home of the baseball team Toronto Blue Jays. If there is no game, there are concerts, there. Many operators organize bay cruises at different times of the day: we went in the afternoon and regretted it. The best time is at night, when the skyline is all lit up!
A breathtaking view over Toronto, recommended only if you are not scared of heights…nope, two views, because you can admire Toronto from two different levels. In one of them the floor is made of see-though Plexiglas. Kids will love it, both for the height (114 storeys and over 340 metres) and the view. La CN Tower is the symbol of the city and is always very crowded. Your best bet is to buy your tickets online.
You simply can’t visit Toronto and skip Niagara Falls, located at the border between Canada and the USA. To get there you can either rent a car, use public buses or trains, or take a guided day-excursion. Because our time was limited, we opted for the day excursion – and the experience was not bad at all. We had three full hours at the Falls and, because the boat trip to the falls was included, we were lucky to be able to skip the line and board the boat for the Hornblower Niagara Cruise. You sail as close as possible to where the falls hit the flat water: the noise is thunderous and there are splashes all over. We got soaked despite the fact that we were given a fancy red plastic ponchos.
We also had enough time for a walk to the panoramic point where the water starts to fall and a hot-dog. On our way back to the city the bus stopped at a local wine cellar for wine tasting and then again at a little historic town called Niagara-on-the-Lake, where we enjoyed a short stroll and a delicious ice-cream.