7 hidden gems in Toronto for families

The city is full of cool and unusual spots for your family to geek out over—if you know where to look!

By Jaclyn Law

People walking in water park in Toronto Sherbourne Common, Photo: Courtesy of Waterfront Toronto

In partnership with Tourism Toronto

1. Sherbourne Common One of Toronto’s newest parks, Sherbourne Common is both fun and functional. The award-winning public space combines art, architecture, landscaping and engineering to create a relaxing, family-friendly urban oasis on Toronto’s waterfront. Explore the Common’s skating rink/splash pad, playgrounds, green spaces and urban sculpture garden, or follow the 240-metre water channel through the park. Formerly an industrial area, Sherbourne Common now does double duty as a park and a stormwater treatment facility—the pumping station is tucked beneath the park’s pavilion.

Building near CN Tower Toronto Music Garden, Photo: Taxiarchos228

2. Toronto Music Garden This intricate and elegant garden, tucked away at the waterfront west of Harbourfront Centre, was designed by cellist Yo-Yo Ma and landscape designer Julie Moir Messervy, in collaboration with city landscape architects. Its six areas—Prelude, Allemande, Courante, Sarabande, Minuett and Gigue—reflect the movements of Bach’s Suite No. 1 in G Major for unaccompanied cello, BWV 1007. It’s a fun playdate for both music- and nature-lovers. To learn more, join a free guided tour or rent a hand-held audio player ($6, available at the Marina Quay West office) with narration by Ma and Messervy. And from June to September, enjoy Summer Music in the Garden, the annual free concert series featuring artists from a wide range of musical traditions. Concerts take place on Thursday evenings and Sunday afternoons, weather permitting (call 416-973-4000 to check).

Playground in High Park High Park Jamie Bell Adventure Playground, Photo: Alex Laney

3. High Park One of Toronto’s largest parks offers plenty of kid-friendly fun, and it’s just a short walk from High Park subway station. The mini-zoo features llamas, peacocks, buffalo, emus, wallabies and more, and Grenadier Pond is home to tons of birds, including ducks and geese. Children helped design the fabulous, castle-like Jamie Bell Adventure Playground—a must-visit for playtime. High Park’s beautiful gardens and Japanese cherry trees are also popular attractions during the spring and summer months. Wander the hiking trails, visit the nature centre, use the sports facilities, refuel at a café or relax at one of the park’s many picnic areas. Admission is free and the park is always open, while the zoo is open daily from 7 a.m. to dusk.

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Allan gardens building in Toronto Allan gardens, Photo: Jameskennedylives

4. Allan Gardens Allan Gardens, a historic park located a few blocks east of College subway station, is a breath of fresh air in the downtown core. Let the kids loose on the playground, and then visit a Toronto landmark: the Allan Gardens Conservatory, which is over a century old, and a great spot for your family to discover all kinds of plants. Its six greenhouses span more than 16,000 square feet, and they’re filled with tropical plants from around the globe, including palms, orchids and banana trees, plus other plants like cacti, succulents and jasmine and more. The conservatory hosts seasonal flower shows and is open year-round, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is free.

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A model of a train next to buildings Railway Museum, Photo: ValeStock

5. Toronto Railway Museum All aboard for a visit to the Toronto Railway Museum, located right downtown in the John Street Roundhouse, just south of the CN Tower. Dedicated to preserving the legacy and experience of Toronto’s rail transportation, the museum has a collection of restored locomotives, train cars and railway structures, and exhibits also include conductor uniforms and railway artifacts. Kids will have fun checking out the engineer’s simulator and riding the miniature train, available from April to October (separate ticket required). The museum is open from noon to 5 p.m.: Wednesday to Sunday from Sept. 3 to June 15 and seven days a week from June 16 to Sept. 2. A new Roundhouse Park tour launches in summer 2019.

Kids standing on bridge above pond Evergreen Brick Works, Photo: Mike Derblich

6. Evergreen Brick Works Evergreen Brick Works is a community environmental centre near Toronto’s Don River Valley. It’s a beautiful and engaging place to learn about sustainability while spending time outdoors. Your family could easily enjoy a day here, playing at the Children’s Garden, joining in on a scavenger hunt, sampling treats from the Street Food Market, visiting the quarry garden (home to turtles, fish and birds) and more. A variety of single-day camps are also available to sign up for throughout the year (call 416-596-1495 x252 for more info). Depending on the season, you can go hiking, cycling, ice skating or fat biking. Join a free site tour to get a deeper look at the centre’s sustainability features.

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Various figurines and dolls in front of a house Leslieville’s Tchotchke Doll House, Photo: Daniel Otis

7. Leslieville’s Tchotchke House This eye-catching home, located at 37 Bertmount Ave. in Toronto’s Leslieville neighbourhood, is unlike any other Toronto attraction, with its huge collection of toys and dolls piled high in the front yard. The owner started the display more than 20 years ago, after her husband passed away, and the wild stuffed-animal-covered house is sure to be the talk of your family trip. After you’ve had a peek, take a walk around Leslieville—you’ll find many boutiques, cafés and restaurants. Hungry? Grab a bite at Lady Marmalade or Leslieville Pumps General Store & Kitchen, both beloved spots for brunch and lunch.

This article was originally published on Mar 15, 2019

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