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27 things to do in Toronto with kids this summer

Toronto is a hub for cultural diversity, music, theatre and all-around fun! Hit up these spots for an amazing summer with the kiddos.

by

In partnership with Tourism Toronto

Photo: Toronto Zoo via Facebook

Photo: Toronto Zoo via Facebook

1. Toronto Zoo
There’s tons to do during the summer at the Toronto Zoo, from the Gorilla Climb Ropes Course to Splash Island. But this year, visitors will get to see some baby animals, including an Indian rhino calf, a polar bear cub, lion cubs and the ridiculously adorable giant panda cubs. Cuteness galore! Your family can also spend Canada Day with the Canadian animals at the zoo. Kids can pick up an Xplorers Booklet, which includes fun activities that help kids discover the Canadian creatures at the zoo, at the Parks Canada Front Courtyard Kiosk. A complete booklet earns you a special Parks Canada souvenir. The whole family can also check out special Canadian animal keeper talks and feedings. Free with admission.

When: All summer
More info: torontozoo.com

2. Pets and Me: Explore, Imagine, Create
At the Art Gallery of Ontario’s Kids’ Gallery, your little ones can learn about art while having fun. The Pets and Me exhibition is all about discovering pets from the past—cats and dogs and rabbits, oh my! Families can spend the afternoon checking out the photographs, paintings and sculptures, and kids can try their hand at drawing their own pets (real or imaginary) at the drawing station. Visitors can also take selfies with pet-inspired costumes and props and, if you post them on Instagram with the hashtag #AGOkidsgallery, they’ll appear on a screen in the gallery. Included with the price of admission.

When: All summer
More info: ago.net

3. The Science of Ripley’s Believe It or Not!
Was the world’s tallest man really over eight feet tall? Is it possible to safely swallow a sword? Some things you’ve got to see to believe. This interactive exhibit at the Ontario Science Centre lets visitors experience the science behind the unbelievable. Kids can crawl inside a life-sized model of a giant prehistoric snake, experience perplexing optical illusions and order a virtual insect meal at the Bug Bistro to learn about entomophagy, the practice of eating bugs. Included with the price of admission.

When: All summer
More info: ontariosciencecentre.ca

Photo: Courtesy of Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada

Photo: Courtesy of Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada

4. Snorkel with the stingrays
Animal lovers can get up close and personal with some of the stars of Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada. Kids ages six and up (accompanied by a Ripley’s diver) can swim and snorkel with the stingrays in Ray Bay. Little divers can make a few fishy friends and may even get a kiss from a southern stingray. The cost is $99 per person from April 1 to June 29 and includes admission to the aquarium, a behind-the-scenes tour, a souvenir backpack and towel and photos on a USB. Swimmers must bring their own swimsuits and register in advance.

When: All summer
More info: ripleyaquariums.com

5. Jr. Jays Saturdays
Take me out to the ballgame! The Jr. Jays program makes catching a Blue Jays game extra-special for little fans. During Saturday home games, kids can participate in fun activities on the 100, 200 and 500 levels while parents enjoy the game. Fans 14 and under (accompanied by a parent) can also run the bases like their favourite players after the game. Your Jr. Jay may also be randomly selected to participate in some awesome stadium activities, like being the Jr. Jays Announcer for the bottom half of an inning. Lucky fans can also win prizes and be seen on the video board, so be sure to dress up. Included with the price of a ticket.

When: Saturdays, all summer
More info: toronto.bluejays.mlb.com

6. Dinosaur Gallery
If your little ones love dinosaurs, let them hang out with some prehistoric playmates at the Royal Ontario Museum’s Dinosaur Gallery. With hundreds of specimens to discover, kids can take their pick from unusual dinosaurs to fossilized plants. Little paleontologists can also check out the recently discovered dino Wendiceratops pinhornensis, which lived 79 million years ago and is part of the horned dinosaur family Ceratopsidae. Included with admission.

When: All summer
More info: rom.on.ca

Photo: Courtesy of Evergreen

Photo: Courtesy of Evergreen Brick Works

7. Evergreen Brick Works Scavenger Hunt
A truly historic site, the Don Valley Brick Works—now the Evergreen Brick Works—was a former quarry that provided bricks for several Toronto landmarks, including Casa Loma. The site was converted into a city park and an environmentally focused community centre. Families can discover the sustainable site and learn about the history of the Don Valley while participating in a fun scavenger hunt. There are two versions: one for ages three to six, and another for ages seven to 10. The hunt is free, but a donation of $2 to $5 is encouraged. Families can also check out the art galleries, yummy food trucks and farmers’ market.

When: All summer
More info: evergreen.ca

8. Family Sundays at the Gardiner Museum
Sundays are fun days at the Gardiner Museum. From 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., parents and little artists can enjoy an array of family-friendly activities, such as making sculptures out of clay, painting on ceramic tiles and participating in scavenger hunts. The activities are included with admission; kids under 12 visit for free.

When: Sundays, all summer
More info: gardinermuseum.on.ca

9. The miniature train at Toronto Railway Museum
Choo-choo, here comes the fun train! At the Toronto Railway Museum, kids can discover the history of rail transportation in Toronto and experience what it’s like to be an engineer in the train simulator, which lets kids use the brakes and blow the horn. The main attraction in the summer is taking a ride on the miniature railway that loops around the park in front of the museum. Tickets for the museum are $5 for ages 14 and older, and $3 for kids. The train ride is an additional $3 for older guests and $2 for little riders.

When: Museum is open all summer; train rides open weekends in June and daily from July to August
More info: torontorailwaymuseum.com

Toronto_Field Trip

Photo: Field Trip Music & Arts Festival

10. Field Trip Music & Arts Festival
Get ready to dance a day (or two) away with your kids at this music festival, which takes place at Fort York and Garrison Common. It couldn’t be more kid-friendly: Aside from the main stage, delicious food and art-and-design exhibits, Field Trip also features a special kids’ area called TD Day Camp, which is kitted out with a bouncy castle, hula hoops and Ping-Pong tables and will also be the site of performances by Jason Collett & Friends, Kevin Drew & Friends, Basia Bulat and the Regent Park School of Music, among others. Kids under 12 are free when accompanied by an adult ticket holder (there’s a max of two kids per adult). A weekend pass is $125.

When: June 4 and 5
More info: fieldtriplife.com 

11. Muhtadi International Drumming Festival
The only annual festival in North America celebrating drums is sure to entertain the kids and may inspire a little drummer in your family. This year’s theme is South Asian, and performances will include drummers from the South Asian community in Toronto. Kids can try playing different percussion instruments at Drum Village and experimenting with electronic drums at Youth Drum Zone. There’s a beer garden, so parents can have their own fun, too. The event takes place at Woodbine Park and includes delicious cultural food and crafts for sale.

When: June 4 to 5
More info: muhtadidrumfest.com

12. Murder at the ROM
If you and your family love escape rooms, you have to try this scavenger hunt at the Royal Ontario Museum. A curator has been murdered and there are several suspects. It’s up to you and your team of two to six sleuths to follow the trail of clues throughout the museum and crack the cryptic code to solve the mystery. This murder mystery lets little detectives participate but is best suited to older kids (10+). Tickets are $35 per person and must be purchased in advance. The cost includes admission to the ROM.

When: June 4 to June 26 (mainly weekends)
More info: urbancapers.com

 

Toronto_Na Me Res pow wow

13. Na-Me-Res Traditional Outdoor PowWow
This annual powwow at Fort York is a fantastic way to celebrate National Aboriginal Day (albeit a few days ahead of its actual date, June 21) and the summer solstice. Enjoy performances by more than 100 traditional dancers and drumming from seven aboriginal drum groups. Parents and kids are encouraged to participate in the intertribal dances, and there is a children’s activity area where kids (and adults) can make a craft based on a theme (last year, everybody made banners with clan designs). The grand entrance takes place at noon, and there will be a free feast that features traditional foods like bison stew and wild rice salad at 4:30 p.m. There will also be bannock, tacos made with fry bread, hot dogs and more to purchase throughout the day (proceeds pay for the cost of holding this free event).

When: June 18
More info: toronto.ca

Toronto-Junction-Summer-Solstice

14. The Junction Summer Solstice Festival
Make the most of the longest day of the year by hanging out in Toronto’s Junction neighbourhood. From noon until midnight, there will be plenty for families to do, including checking out buskers, musicians and stilt walkers, participating in kid-friendly art workshops and exploring the area’s laneways on a guided tour. Kids can get their faces painted and try out a “walk-on-water ball”—a human-sized hamster ball that kids can climb into).

When: June 18
More info:
 thejunctionsummersolstice.com

15. CHIN Picnic
Take the kids to the largest free multicultural picnic in the world, right in the heart of Toronto. CHIN Radio was the first multicultural and multilingual radio station in Ontario, and the CHIN Picnic is a celebration of the diverse cultures in the city. The event includes foods from around the world, games for kids, traditional dancers, fireworks and live performances from local and international artists. This year’s event is combined with Taste of Little Italy, so guests can sample veal sandwiches and other yummy Italian foods.

When: June 18 to 19
More info:
 toronto.com

Photo: Courtesy of Solana Cain

Photo: Courtesy of Solana Cain

16. FringeKids Club at the Fringe Festival
Calling all theatre geeks! This year, take the whole family to Toronto’s Fringe Festival and catch a show. FringeKids Club is a special place for kids to play and watch kid-friendly performances. Located at the George Ignatieff Theatre, the club also offers free activities and bouncy castles for young thespians ages three to 12. FringeKids shows are only $5, and this year’s offerings include a puppet adaptation of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream and the hilarious comedy Pirates Don’t Babysit!

When: June 29 to July 10
More info: fringetoronto.com

Photo: Salsa on St. Clair

Photo: Salsa on St. Clair

17. Salsa in Toronto
Salsa in Toronto started out as a local two-day event called Salsa on St. Clair and quickly grew into one of the largest Latino-themed cultural celebrations in Canada. Salsa on St. Clair (July 9 and 10) is one of the main events of the festival of salsa dancing and Latin American culture. Bring your appetite and enjoy some pupusas, tacos and empanadas packed with fiery flavours. Wear comfortable shoes and be ready to get your groove on with dance lessons and live music. This year’s entertainment includes a Cuban salsa band, Venezuelan folk dancers and a Zumba instructor. Free.

When: June 30 to July 17
More info: salsaintoronto.com

18. Canada Day at Harbourfront Centre
Celebrate Canada’s birthday at Harbourfront Centre. You and the kids can enjoy live music, check out the history exhibit and sample tasty foods from all over the world. Famous children’s performers Sharon and Bram will be there—we bet you’ll enjoy their performance as much as the kids do! The fun ends with a colourful fireworks show. Free.

When: July 1
More info: harbourfrontcentre.com

Photo: Courtesy of Jim Orgill

19. Redpath Waterfront Festival Toronto
Celebrate Canada Day weekend by the water at the Redpath Waterfront Festival. There’s something for everyone! Little sailors can check out the fleet of tall ships and their crews, including the largest Viking ship built in modern times. (Ship deck tours are $15 for ages 10+, $10 for ages six to nine, and free for kids ages and under.) The Royal Canadian Navy will also be joining the fun, and kids can test their skills on the free navy-themed obstacle course. Dog lovers can check out the Ultimutts Stunt Dog Show, where pups will perform cool tricks like tightrope walking. There will also be tons of artisanal goods, such as handmade jewellery, and yummy foods like churros and ice cream from local bakers and chefs. Free.

When: July 1 to 3
More info: towaterfrontfest.com

20. Canada Day at the AGO
Spend Canada’s birthday at the Art Gallery of Ontario with the opening of the Canadian exhibition The Idea of North: The Paintings of Lawren Harris. Canadian artist Lauren Harris was a founding member of the Group of Seven, and his landscapes explore the Canadian identity. There will be kid-friendly activities like button-making and a Harris Kids’ Activity Guide to help explore the exhibition. Visitors can also join a Canadian Collections Family Tour. A family pass is $49 for two adults and up to five kids.

When: July 1 to September 18
More info: ago.net

Photo: Courtesy of Harbourfront Centre

Photo: Courtesy of Harbourfront Centre

21. Ritmo y Color: The Streets of Mexico
This Harbourfront festival showcases the best of Latin American arts and culture. Come admire colourful murals, sample delicious Mexican cuisine and enjoy theatre, dancing and live music. Families with older kids will want to stay out later on Friday to catch Mexican musical group Centavrvs as they rock the concert stage with their mix of Mexican rhythms and electronic beats. Free.

When: July 15 to 17
More info: harbourfrontcentre.com

22. Taste of the Danforth
Taste of the Danforth is Canada’s largest street festival. Located in the heart of Toronto’s Greektown on the Danforth, the event is a celebration of the fun flavours of Greece and summer in the city. Visitors can snack on souvlaki and spanakopita, enter contests and enjoy live music and traditional Greek dancing. There will also be tons of kid-friendly activities, such as face painting, games and sports. Free.

When: August 5 to 7
More info: tasteofthedanforth.com

pan-festival

23. Pan American Food Festival
Feed your kids’ bellies and minds at this annual festival that highlights food from the 41 countries that make up the Americas (North, Central and South America and the Caribbean). This year’s featured country is Ecuador. Aside from the delicious fare, there will also be musical performances and a parade that features costumes from 20 Pan-American countries. Plus, there’s plenty of fun designed specifically for kids—last year kids had fun crafting and playing in a “World Cup” soccer game, where the little ones got to play on the teams of different countries.

When: August 13 to 14
More info: panamfoodfest.com

CNE-1

Photo: Canadian National Exhibition

24. Canadian National Exhibition
Visiting the CNE is a classic end-of-summer activity, and this year’s Ex features all of the kid-friendly favourites you’d expect, including Kids’ World, Kiddie Midway and President’s Choice SuperDogs. But if you’ve got a little science-and-tech fan at home, when you’re done scarfing down extreme food combos (and maybe some Tiny Tom Donuts), you’ll want to make time for the Innovation Playground in the Enercare Centre, which runs from August 19 to 21. Here, you’ll be able to check out cool new products like wearable technology and 3-D printers, try your hand at creating tech in maker spaces and even meet with young inventors competing in the Emerging Innovators Pitch Competition. A family pass is $56 (for two adults and two kids up to age 13).

When: August 19 to September 5
More info: theex.com

25. Sweetery Toronto Food Festival
Get ready to indulge your sweet tooth at Toronto’s first sweets-only food festival. The second annual Sweetery Toronto Food Festival aims to bring sweet things and sweet people together at David Pecaut Square, with macaroons, doughnuts and pastries galore, plus tons of activities. Last year’s festival had piñatas filled with candy that kids could take a swing at and a scavenger hunt to find the best sweets on offer. Sounds like a sweet deal! Free.

When: August 20 to 21
More info: sweeterytoronto.com

Photo: Courtesy of Evergreen

Photo: Courtesy of Evergreen

26. Wild Blueberry Festival
Come taste, learn about and celebrate North America’s favourite berry at the Evergreen Brick Works’ free Wild Blueberry Festival. Guests can tickle their taste buds with blueberry-themed foods and drinks, such as blueberry pie, blueberry lavender gelato and blueberry soup. The Children’s Garden will be full of kid-friendly activities, such as First Nations storytellers, blueberry bush planting and a blueberry scavenger hunt. There will also be live music and cooking demos from a chef on the main stage. Free.

When: August 23
More info: evergreen.ca

Photo: Courtesy of Toronto BuskerFest

Photo: Courtesy of Toronto BuskerFest

27. Scotiabank Buskerfest
Come see Toronto’s best buskers at North America’s largest street performer festival. There’s tons of entertainment for the whole family! Laugh at the comedians’ jokes, gaze in wonder at the contortionists, believe in the impossible as magicians perform their tricks and dance like nobody’s watching when the musicians play their tunes. The festival also includes face painting, balloon twisting and special workshops for kids. This year, the festival is taking place at Woodbine Beach, so kids can enjoy the sand and water, too. Admission is by donation at the entrance, as well as at each performer’s act.

When: August 25 to 28
More info: seetorontonow.com