How to spend 1 perfect day in Toronto with kids

View of Toronto city center from across the lake

What can you see and do with a day in Toronto with kids? We visited Toronto with a toddler and a 4-year-old: these are our favourite things to do in Toronto with kids, favourite family friendly hotel and Toronto with children highlight.ย 

Until the moment it entered my window-seat field of vision, Ontario had been, for me, the stuff of dreams.

I first learned its name on the Risk board, along equally evocative names such as ‘Kamchatka peninsula’ and I could hardly believe that now we were only minutes away from landing beside its shores.

Toronto airport was now in sight and the waters of Lake Ontario were shining in the late afternoon sun, as if beckoning to us!

Toronto wasn’t our final destination.

Our first home exchange home was waiting for us in Montreal, but thanks to convenient airfares we were lucky enough to be able to plan a day in this incredible city.

We had about 2 day there and we decided to spend one day in Toronto City and one day visiting Niagara Falls, nearby.

You can read about our day trip to Niagara Falls from Toronto here. In this post, we look at our day in Toronto with kids!

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Where to stay in Toronto with kids: our hotel

We got to Pearson international airport in the evening and we immediately got a cab to out hotel.

We don’t often stay in big hotels, as a family, but for Toronto, we made an exception and booked a room at the Eaton Chelsea Hotel, Canada’s largest hotel right in the centre of the city, between Gerrard street and Yonge street.

We found the hotel online and we were attracted the the many family friendly facilities.

A good hotel is key to a successful city break with kids and this one ticked more boxes that we could dream of.

The site promised a kids’ playroom, a children friendly pool and family rooms and a very child friendly, warm atmosphere is exactly what welcomed us on arrival.

The Eaton Chelsea has a vast, luxurious lobby complete with bars, restaurants and fluffy sofas.

Cranky children and fancy hotels are not often a good match and it was with some apprehension that we joined the line of air hostesses checking in ahead of us.

But our fears were misplaced.

As soon as we joined the line, the reception staff came to us with a present for the kids: each of them got rubber duckies and a book, a precious possession they are still fond of and that made the check in procedure pleasant and straightforward!

The hotel was all we had hoped for and provided us the perfect base for our urban adventure.

You can find info and prices of this hotel here and you can check what we look for in a good family hotel here.

We got to Toronto in the evening, so our first expedition out was for FOOD.

Toronto has an amazing food scene and our central location made us spoilt for choice.

Walking down Yonge street, skyscrapers towering over us, we could choose between fine dining, burger joints, sandwich bar and watering holes popular with the after work crowd.

Venturing into the smaller side streets, the choice widened, with ethnic restaurants to quit all tastes. In our time in Toronto, we sampled several places, including Mr Green jeans, in busy Eaton Centre, where we had a juicy and very generous burgers (and lovely dessert).

One day in Toronto with kids: itinerary

Morning strolling around Toronto City center with kids

Toronto is a big city but it is possible to get the first glimpse of some of its main landmarks on foot.

Toronto city waterfront skyline in late afternoon/Depositphotos

The next morning, we ventured into the bright sunny day and started following the shiny top of the CN tower, visible ahead of us, towering over all other buildings.

The tower is indeed very impressive and on a clear day the views from its top deck promised to be amazing but being short on time in the city, we decided to skip the long queue.

The sign telling us it would take at least two hours to get to the lift spoke straight to our hearts.

The kids would never accept such a long wait and we were better off enjoying the tower from below, trying to catch its reflection in the nearby buildings!

It turns out, catching reflections of the tower got the kids busy for a while: we got some good ones and it was a fun way to get them to walk without complaints!

Toronto CN tower from below

The tower is part of a wide complex that includes the Rogers centre, the big Toronto stadium that boasts a fully retractable dome roof (we saw it opening later in the day: the kids couldn’t believe their eyes!).

Football and baseball are played in the stadium and while there was no match on, we could still feel the unmistakable buzz of the sports enthusiasts visiting their sports temple.

From there, it is just a short walk to the pier and ferries to the islands, which is whereย we spent the rest of the day and ended up being where our fondest Canadian memories were built.

Good to know! The ferry crossing is super easy and great fun for kids. The crossing is short and the views of Toronto wonderful – one of our favorite moments of our family day in Toronto!

Lunch and afternoon Centre island, Toronto’s most family-friendly attraction

The queue at the pier was long but swift and in less than 10 minutes we found ourselves aboard a ferry across lake Ontario, on the short ride to centre island.

The cheerful crowd of families with cooler bags and shorts told us we had picked the right destination: the island is a family paradise!

The main attraction for the kids there was the theme park Centreville amusement parkย .

Built like an old town, complete with replica steam trains, a farm and western-style post office, the park has rides for all ages, most of them accessible also to little children.

our children on car ride in amusement park Toronto

Centreville amusement park, on centre island, was what our kids loved the most about our stay in Toronto thanks to the ferry ride, the beach and of course the many rides of the amusement park, also suitable for little kids

The many restaurants offer from burger to pizza and the ice cream shops dot the place.

As well as the park, the island has access to the lake, in the form of a beautiful beach.

On this gorgeous days, families were swimming and dipping in and out of the water.

The strong sun made me think of joining them, but all it took was to dip a toe in the water to change my mind: used to the Mediterranean, I classified lake Ontario as ‘freezing cold’ and retracted, defeated, to its beautiful golden shores!

Dinner in Toronto

After the long say sightseeing and playing, we needed an easy dinner and this is when the fantastic Toronto food scene came into its own.

Staying in the city center meant we had an endless choice of places to choose from and we noticed with pleasure that everywhere seemed well equipped and open to serving small kids.

Our choice fell on a Japanese restasurant and their delicious miso soup was the tonic we needed to have a restful night before the exciting destination we had in store for our second day: Niagara Falls!

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19 thoughts on “How to spend 1 perfect day in Toronto with kids

    • Marta says:

      I think we might have been there at the same time! I just read your post about Niagara Falls (you have amazing photos!) and we were there just days before you. Incredible family holiday, we had a great time

  1. Dave Midgett says:

    QEW highway is nearby to Toronto so after lunch head up to TO.. The best hotel for your trip is the Hyatt Regency Toronto which is a stones throw from the Theatre.

  2. Holly says:

    We haven’t been to Canada yet but it’s high on the list for a big Canada/US adventure in a couple of years. It was going to be our next big trip but a family wedding means we’re back to Europe first in the new year. We always hear so many good things about Canada though. Thanks for linking up too. You are being featured on next week’s link up so keep an eye out next Sunday ๐Ÿ˜‰

  3. anna says:

    I agree Toronto has loads of food choices!!! Love the map you have. Will send it over to friends who are planning a trip to Canada soon.

    • Marta says:

      I have to be honest: after two weeks in self catering accommodation (=me cooking the same old boring Italian stuff), the kids screamed for a succulent burger, so we didn’t go any further than that ๐Ÿ™‚ But I hear Toronto is great for food, so without little people in tow it shouldn’t be difficult to find more adventurous meals!

    • Marta says:

      I have to be honest: after two weeks in self catering accommodation (=me cooking the same old boring Italian stuff), the kids screamed for a succulent burger, so we didn’t go any further than that ๐Ÿ™‚ But I hear Toronto is great for food, so without little people in tow it shouldn’t be difficult to find more adventurous meals! I heat sushi there is great: not really local either, but seems to get a lot of votes even from locals

  4. Vanessa says:

    Big kids will love Toronto’s Distillery District – there are Segway tours and tons of cool food shops, including chocolate, cheese, and sushi!

  5. Laura says:

    It must be a really incredible view from the top of the CN Tower. I haven’t been there yet, but I’d love to check it out. I’ve heard so many amazing things about their food.

  6. Alli says:

    I don’t blame you for not taking a dip – it would be too cold for me too and I live in Toronto, hehe! It was really great reading about your time in TO! Hope you had a great time in Niagara as well!

    • Marta says:

      if a local thinks it’s too cold, then I feel a lot better! Niagara was great, thank you: I just wish we had more time – we literally had a glimpse of Toronto and then it was time to leave, we should absolutely come back!

  7. Megan | Traveling Nine to Fiver says:

    My aunt moved up to Toronto recently and I definitely need to plan a visit. I’d love to explore around the lake. I hear paddle boarding is great there as well. Not sure how cold the water is if you fall in though.

    • Marta says:

      Considering how cold it was in summer, i would expect it to be pretty chilly but it’s so beautiful I think it’s definitely worth it! We only had two days in the city but if you have time for a proper visit, it’s a city with loads to do

  8. Mar says:

    yep center island seems like is a kids paradise, maybe even adults, who doesn’t like a bit of amusement in their park? I was in Toronto so long ago, as a student, and I still remember it was a cool city

    • Marta says:

      You are right about the adults! We thought it would be a day just for the kids, but ended up being fun: the lake is just fabulous and the view of the city so cool!

  9. Jenna says:

    I love Toronto, especially the Toronto Islands! We didn’t visit the amusement park, but I can see where it would be a great spot for families! The CN Tower is great as well–looks like a fun trip!

  10. antonette says:

    Wow – two hours to get to the top? That’s insane! I love Toronto and can’t wait to go again, hopefully sometime soon ๐Ÿ™‚

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