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50 things to do with kids in and around Toronto 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.

50 things to do with kids in and around Toronto this summer

Photo: iStockphoto

It’s summertime and the living is FUN! Celebrate all that the season has to offer by exploring the cultural hub of Toronto and its surrounding areas. With everything from live shows and thrilling rides to tasty bites and role-playing adventures, there's something for everyone in your family.

So save yourself a few hundred refrains of "I'm bored" by planning a season your kids won't soon forget! We've found 50 of the most exciting things to do in and around Ontario's capital —scroll down to see them all.

gaming room Photo: Courtesy of The Rec Room

The Rec Room

Prepare for sensory overload! Located steps from the CN Tower, Rogers Centre and Ripley’s Aquarium, The Rec Room is a rare play space that caters to both adults and kids. The big draw for little ones is the 80-plus arcade games—everything from racing games to roller coaster simulators and everything in between. (Note: Like at all arcades, your kids will likely walk by shooter games, too.)

When you’re all gamed out—or you’ve run out of credits on your pre-loaded card—sit down for a bite to eat at The Rec Room’s restaurant, THREE10, where you’ll find delicious Canadian-inspired cuisine, 20 beers on tap for mom and dad, and a surprisingly tasty, but still accessible, menu for little ones. (Hello, mac and cheese with bacon strips and a side of roasted broccoli with Parmesan!)

Afterwards, older kids can enjoy a game of ping pong while their parents play pool. If your kids are 10 and up, wrap up the visit with The Rec Room’s virtual reality experience.

When: Year round More info: therecroom.com

Toronto Zoo

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There’s tons to do during the summer at the Toronto Zoo, from the Conservation Carousel to Splash Island, a giant splash pad where the kiddies can cool off.

Stop by the Parks Canada Front Courtyard Kiosk on your way in, where kids can pick up an Xplorers Booklet, which includes fun activities that help kids discover the Canadian creatures at the zoo. A complete booklet earns you a special Parks Canada souvenir.

When: All summer More info: torontozoo.com

Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) Exhibit: T. Rex: The Ultimate Predator

If your little ones love dinosaurs, let them hang out with some prehistoric playmates at the Royal Ontario Museum’s T. Rex exhibit. The ROM invites visitors on an astonishing journey of discovery about everyone's favourite dinosaur.

Experience more than 40 models and casts, many full-sized and towering, large-scale video projections, interactive experiences, and plenty of hands-on activities for kids of all ages, providing a fun and engaging adventure — all grounded in the latest scientific research.

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Included with admission (and get a 15% discount when you show your PRESTO card).

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

50 things to do with kids in and around Toronto this summer Photo: Courtesy of Evergreen

Weekend Nature Play at the Children’s Garden

Relax under the Pavilions or bask in the setting sun in the Children’s Garden at Evergreen Brick Works. Sit back with an ice-cold drink, grab a delicious bite to eat and make the most of those warm summer evenings. With play and stewardship-based opportunities for kids of all ages, there will be many activities to enjoy with the whole family.

When: Saturdays all summer, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. More info: evergreen.ca

LookOut Level

The CN Tower’s updated main observation level offers an eye-opening, mind-blowing new perspective on the most spectacular views in Toronto with the CN Tower’s two floor-to-ceiling panoramic Window Walls. And that’s not all: in 2018 a newer glass floor replaced the old one (which was installed in 1994!), giving visitors a vertical, two-tier view. Are you brave enough to look straight down?

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When: All summer More info: cntower.ca

The bluffs at Bluffer's Park Photo: Bluffer's Park

Explore the Scarborough Bluffs

Spanning 15 kilometres and reaching a whopping 300 feet above Lake Ontario at its highest point, the sprawling Scarborough escarpment almost feels like an exotic locale.

There are 11 great parks to explore and plenty of hiking trails (pack a bag to collect garbage along the way), but our favourite is Bluffers Park. It’s the only beachfront spot and a perfect place to have a picnic, veg out or fly kites.

When: All summer More info: toronto.ca

FunworX Indoor Playland at Bingemans

Tired of the summer heat? Head on over to FunworX, an indoor playground at Bingemans located in Kitchener, Ont., about a 90-minute drive from Toronto.

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Kids can choose from activities such as a ropes course, an arcade and a three-level play structure. Then, they’ll want to hang out at Bingemans Big Splash, a huge waterpark which boasts a wave pool, slides of all intensities and a toddler area for the small set.

When: All summer More info: bingemans.com/funworx/

Movie Nights at the Mississauga Celebration Square

Grab a blanket and some snacks because the Mississauga free Movie Nights are back. From nostalgic throwbacks to blockbuster hits, this year’s Movie Nights line-up includes Dinosaurs, Wizards and Superheroes. Take in some family-friendly flicks like Clifford the Big Red Dog (June 16) and Shrek 2 (June 23) every Thursday evening through September first.

Start with dinner at one of the best Italian restaurants in Toronto first.

When: May 26 to September 1, 8 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. More info: mississauga.ca

Carousel at Centreville Amusement Park Photo: Courtesy of Centreville Amusement Park

Centreville Amusement Park

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A trip to the island is a rite of passage for any Toronto kid. If the ferry over wasn’t exciting enough (plane buffs, look up! There’s lots to take in from nearby Billy Bishop City Airport), Centre Island has over 30 rides and attractions like spinning tea cups, a log ride, bumper cars and a classic carousel.

Don’t fret about food; there are plenty of tasty options. After all, what’s an amusement park without some deliciously unhealthy snacks?

The miniature train at Toronto Railway Museum

Choo-choo, all aboard the fun train! At the Toronto Railway Museum, kids can discover the history of rail transportation in Toronto (featuring restored locomotives including an original more-than-50-year-old GO Train), 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 during 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 $20 for an individual pass and $60 for a family pass (which comes with 12 train ride tickets included!)

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When: Museum is open all summer; train rides operate from late-June to October (Wed - Sun 12 - 5pm) More info: torontorailwaymuseum.com

Little girl dressed as a pirate looking out a telescope Photo: Courtesy of Pirate Life

Pirate Life

Shiver me timbers! Book a ride on a pirate ship with the Pirate Life experience, where children’s theatre and a boat cruise come together to form something truly wonderful for kids aged 3 to 11 (though pirates of all ages are welcome aboard). You’ll start getting into character by dressing up in provided costumes and pirate tattoos.

Then, hop aboard the ship for an hour-long interactive show with kids deciphering maps, blasting bad pirates with water cannons and hauling up loot. (They’ll even get something to bring home as a souvenir!)

When: Daily, late-June to August; weekends, September to October. More info: piratelife.ca

Kingdom Quest at LEGOLAND Discovery Centre

As if LEGOLAND wasn’t already a dream destination with its LEGO-themed rides, play zones and 4D cinema, this summer, check out Kingdom Quest.

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The captured Princess needs your help! Hop aboard your chariot on the Kingdom Quest ride to rescue her. Be warned; there are beastly trolls and sneaky skeletons lurking. Can you zap them all to save the Princess?

Kids (accompanied by an adult) must be able to walk unassisted to the ride

When: All Summer More info: legolanddiscoverycentre.com

Family Sundays at the Gardiner Museum

Sundays are fun days at the Gardiner Museum. From 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., parents and young artists can enjoy an array of family-friendly activities, such as making sculptures out of clay and decorating ceramic tiles. The activities are included with admission; kids under 18 visit for free. (Get your tickets for 20% off when you show your PRESTO card!)

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

kids running the bases Photo: Courtesy of Toronto Blue Jays

Jr. Jays Sundays

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Take me out to the ballgame! The Jr. Jays program makes catching a Blue Jays game extra-special for little fans. During Sunday home games (Fan Appreciation Day, October 1), kids 14 and under can participate in fun activities on the 100, 200 and 500 levels while parents enjoy the action.

After the game, fans (accompanied by a parent) can also run the bases like their favourite players. Your Jr. Jay could 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. All activities included with the price of a ticket.

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

Outdoors @ the Shaw ​​

Looking for a weekend getaway? Niagara-on-the-lake is where it's at this year. Outdoors @ the Shaw has a lot to offer for the whole family, from theatre performances to concert series and magical experiences lasting all summer long.

Catch a performance of A Year with Frog and Toad (June 12 to July 24), based on the beloved children's series by Arnold Lobelat, then enjoy some live music and dance at the Festival Theatre Gardens.

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Celebrate the Shaw festival’s namesake, G.B. Shaw, at the Victorian-themed fair on the Shawground with art, song and a few surprises spanning from GBS’s era to that of his contemporaries. The Shaw Express will take you directly from Toronto to Niagara.

When: All summer More info: shawfest.com

Drag Brunch at Glad Day Bookshop

There’s regular brunch and then there’s Drag Brunch. Happening every Sunday at the world’s oldest LGBTQ bookstore (which also happens to be a restaurant serving up kid-approved brunch classics like grilled cheese, scrambled eggs, bacon and English muffins), enjoy delicious food and boisterous performances by Erin Brockobic and her crew of drag guest stars.

This is a welcoming and accessible space for all ages, so don’t shy away from bringing the whole family—grandma and grandpa, too!

When: Every Sunday More info: gladdaybookshop.com

apple farm festival Photo: Chudleigh's Farm

Summer Nights

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Treat the kids to a wild night of live music, delicious food, wagon rides and apple cider with a night at Chudleigh’s Farm. Beginning June 3, this fun weekend adventure will take you right into the fall!

When: June 3 to September 17 More info: chudleighs.com

Pick-Your-Own at Downey’s Farm

Feel like spending time in nature while getting fresh produce out of it? This 25-year-old farm located just north of Brampton lets you pick your own fresh seasonal produce.

Go strawberry, raspberry and apple picking, then visit the play area or the farmer’s market. At Downey’s there is no shortage of fun things to do for the little ones, from a corn maze to a chicken show, slides, wagon rides, mini-golf and so much more. Stop by the farmer’s market for some freshly baked pies and some jams and cheeses before leaving.

Click the link below for more details on which produce is available for picking.

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When: All summer More info: downeysfarm.com

Cirque du Soleil Kurios Photo: Courtesy of Cirque du Soleil Kurios

Cirque du Soleil Kurios

Escape to a steampunk universe with Cirque de Soleil’s latest feast for the eyes. Cabinet of Curiosities brings the signature Cirque style of performance but makes it better, with jaw-dropping acrobatics, poetry, artistry and humour. The show runs from April through July at Ontario Place. Purchase your tickets online for a 10% off discount with your PRESTO card.

When: April 14 to July 10 More info: cirquedusoleil.com

Pedestrian Sundays in Kensington Market

It’s no cars allowed one Sunday a month throughout one of Toronto’s most eclectic neighbourhoods. Full of delicious eats and intriguing shops, Kensington Market is always a fun stop, but pedestrian Sundays offer a particularly unique cultural experience of streets filled with the sights and sounds of a bustling marketplace, artists, buskers and entertainers.

Hot tip: Stop for coco bread wrapped around a Jamaican beef patty to enjoy while you take a stroll.

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When: May 29 to October 30 More info: kensingtonmarketbia.com

salsa on st. clair Photo: Angela D'Souza

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.

Today, Salsa on St. Clair remains one of the main events: bring your appetite and enjoy some pupusas, tacos and empanadas packed with fiery flavour, and be sure to wear comfortable shoes to get your groove on with dance lessons and live music. This year’s entertainment includes salsa dancers, a costume parade and a tropical-themed art exhibition, all for free.

When: July 8 and 9 More info: salsaintoronto.com

Kidsfest at the Toronto Fringe Festival

Calling all theatre geeks! This year, take the whole family to Toronto’s Fringe Festival and catch a show. Kidsfest is a special place for kids to play and watch kid-friendly performances. Located at St. Vladimir Institute (620 Spadina Ave.), the club offers shows for kids 4+ and tickets are only $5. This year’s offerings include the comedy Boy Vs Fly and a show by the incredible TiBert le Voyageur.

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When: July 5 to 16 More info: fringetoronto.com

Man pulling fresh buns out of the oven Photo: Courtesy of Taste of Regent Park

Taste of Regent Park

Wednesday nights are where it’s at this summer. The downtown green space known as the Big Park celebrates food and culture with its weekly farmers’ market that features pay-what-you-can meals made by local caterers.

Volunteers cook up woodfire-baked treats that you can munch while perusing the vendors. There’s a theme each week, plus kid-friendly activities like games and face-painting, as well as a rotating roster of performances. Pack a blanket because—weather permitting—they’ll also play a family-friendly outdoor movie. Check the Regent Park Film Festival page for full details and movie listings.

When: Every Wednesday evening from July 5 to September 6 More info: fredvictor.org

Beaches Jazz Festival

So, your kids like to get down to "Baby Shark" more than jazzy standards? No sweat. This free, month-long festival is all about community-building and promises fun for the whole family.

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With different stages set up across a slew of venues and parks along Queen Street East, there are internationally acclaimed acts and local performers all covering different styles of jazz, including the classics, acapella, big band, ska and swing. Visit local shops and enjoy dinner on a patio while you take it all in.

When: July 6 to 30 More info: beachesjazz.com

Afrofest

Get your kids moving to the rhythm of over 45 live performances by bands from across the globe. Afrofest, which takes place in Woodbine Park, is celebrating its 34th year with a three-day party promoting African music and culture in Toronto. This year, budding fashionistas can also check out a fashion exhibit and contest.

Head over to The Children’s Creative Village where kids can enjoy games, story-telling and art-based activities throughout the day.

When: July 7 to 9 More info: afrofest.ca

Toronto Outdoor Art Fair Photo: Courtesy of Toronto Outdoor Art Fair

Toronto Outdoor Art Fair

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In its 62nd year, Nathan Phillip Square fills with white tents and plays host to over 400 contemporary artists selling jewelry, paintings, photography and sculptures.

If you’ve got a burgeoning Monet on your hands, you won’t want to miss the family-themed activities like kid-focused colour and collage workshop and a special program for young art buyers (with donated pieces ranging from $10 to $20). The musical performances will have your whole crew dancing along to the beat.

When: July 7-9 More info: https://torontooutdoor.art/

A sign that says "TACOS" Photo: Courtesy of Taco Fest

Taco Fest

What kid doesn’t love delicious food folded into a tortilla? With over a hundred varieties of fillings, you’re sure to find something to excite your tastebuds at this three-day festival. Looking for something sweet? You won’t want to miss the waffle taco from Booyah, which features huge scoops of ice-cream stuffed into a folded waffle. Yum!

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When: July 16 to 18 More info: thetacofest.ca

KidZfest at Canada’s Wonderland

Visiting Wonderland with the fam is a no-brainer, but from July 23 to August 7 the theme park goes from awesome to extra-awesome thanks to a special, kid-themed celebration. Tiny thrill-seekers can take in live entertainment, foam pits (!) and dance parties along with surprise special guests.

Past guests have included the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Bob the Builder, Paw Patrol and Marvel Superheroes!

When: July 15 to 30 More info: canadaswonderland.com

Taste of the Middle East

Teach your kid what a jalab is or treat them to some grilled halloumi at this drool-inducing festival of food coming back to Toronto for three days this year with musical performances from the hottest acts in the Arabic music scene. And don't forget to peruse the handmade jewelry and art, perfect to stash away for future gifts (or treat yourself!).

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When: July 14 to 16 More info: tasteofthemiddleeast.ca

A scene from the Anne of Green Gables ballet performance Photo: Courtesy of Canada's Ballet Jorgen

Anne of Green Gables – The Ballet

Take a trip to Green Gables with Anne of Green Gables – The Ballet, a playful, colourful and evocative production that will transport audiences to early 20th century Atlantic Canada.

Based on the beloved Canadian novel by Lucy Maud Montgomery, this ballet performance follows the adventures of Anne Shirley, an orphan girl sent to live on a farm in the fictional town of Avonlea, Prince Edward Island. The ballet performance is coming to the St. Lawrence Centre for the Arts in Toronto for four nights only so grab your tickets now!

When: Now until Feb 2024 More info: canadasballetjorgen.ca

TD Festival of South Asia

Experience what North America’s largest South Asian mainstreet marketplace has to offer. This July, the Gerrard India Bazaar will take over Gerrard Street between Coxwell and Greenwood with mouth-watering regional delicacies, traditional musical instruments, arts and cultural exhibits, clothing and jewellery sidewalk sales, and so much more.

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When: July 29 to 30 More info: gerrardindiabazaar.com

Eva's Chimney food truck Photo: Courtesy of Canadian Food Truck Festival

Canadian Food Truck Festival

With over 30 food trucks showcasing their best and most diverse dishes in Woodbine Park, it’s easy to indulge at this foodie festival—and you get to know it was for a good cause, with some proceeds going to the SickKids Foundation.

On top of eating delicious food, attendees can enjoy free music, take in some pretty intense eating competitions and party hard at the kiddie-sized midway. The festival also sets up shop in Burlington, Pickering and Brampton over the course of the summer (dates and times at the link below).

When: Aug 4, 5 p.m. to 10 p.m.; Aug 5, 12 p.m. to 10 p.m.; August 6 and 7, 12 p.m. to 8 p.m. More info: canadianfoodtruckfestivals.com/toronto

Jerk Fest

While you savour Jamaican patties and jerk chicken, your little ones can hang out in the Kid Zone with face painting, balloon characters, inflatable rides, rock climbing, midway rides and more.

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This year’s musical guests haven't been announced but last year included R&B performer Brian McKnight, soca artist Alison Hinds and reggae vocalist Maxi Priest, so get ready to have the whole family jamming to the beats of the islands.

When: August 10 to 13 More info: jerkfestival.ca

Vegandale Food Drink Festival

Hey vegans (and anyone who’s vegan-curious), we’ve got you. Being plant-based is getting easier and easier, and this veggie-loving festival is a great way to show your little ones that Meatless Monday doesn’t have to be a bore. In fact, it can be darn delicious.

With a multitude of vendors, including well-known vegan restaurants from all over, serving up hot food, drinks and desserts, no one is walking away from here hungry. Yum!

When: September 23 More info: vegandalefest.com

Canadian National Exhibition Photo: Courtesy of Canadian National Exhibition

Canadian National Exhibition

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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. Visit Kids’ World and catch talented dogs doing tricks in the President’s Choice SuperDogs area, play a game of pinballs or enter a robotics competition at the Gaming Garage.

If you take the GO Train to Exhibition GO Station, you won’t have to worry about parking. Advance admission passes are $20 for ground admission and access to all shows and exhibits at the CNE. See you on the midway!

When: August 18 to September 4 More info: theex.com

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).

Aside from the delicious fare, you can expect some amazing musical performances. Plus, there’s plenty of fun designed specifically for kids—in past years, kids got to craft and play in a “World Cup” soccer game, representing different national teams.

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When: July 4 More info: panamfest.com

woman in a big wheel PHOTO: Courtesy of Toronto BuskerFest

Scotiabank Buskerfest

Come see Toronto’s best buskers at North America’s largest street performer festival, where there’s tons of entertainment for the whole family!

Learn the basics of busking at the interactive Be A Busker Zone, laugh at the comedians’ jokes, meet some of the most influential Torontonians, gaze in wonder at the contortionists and believe in the impossible as magicians perform their tricks.

The festival also includes fun rides and bouncy castles, and with its Woodbine Park location kids can enjoy the sand and water, too.

When: September 1 to 4 More info: torontobuskerfest.com

Voyage to the Deep: An Underwater Adventure

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This interactive exhibit at the Ontario Science Centre brings to life the mythical world of Captain Nemo and the real wonders of ocean exploration. Based on Jules Verne's classic novel, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, this interactive exhibition takes you on an exciting ocean adventure—perfect for families and kids ages 2-10.

Search for sea creatures, explore the lost world of Atlantis, examine Captain Nemo’s Cabinet of Curiosities full of amazing marine specimens and more.

When: Until Sept 4 More info: ontariosciencecentre.ca

Audience watching a performance at the Redpath Waterfront Festival Photo: Courtesy of Redpath Waterfront Festival

Redpath Waterfront Festival Toronto

End your summer with a bang at the Redpath Waterfront Festival. There’s something for everyone! Little sailors can check out the fleet of tall ships and their crews and marvel at Theodore TOO Tugboat, the 65-foot working replica of the original TV character.

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There’s plenty to do on land, too, whether you’re taking in live music or participating in Indigenous cultural activities with Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation, Moccasin Identifier and Indigenous Tourism Ontario. Make a day of it; there will be tons of yummy eats to choose from at the Billy Bishop Airport Picnic Lounge.

When: September 16 and 17 More info: towaterfrontfest.com

Future Now at the Bata Shoe Museum

A museum but for shoes? Yup. Located in Toronto, this space is home to a collection of over 14,000 shoes and shoe-related objects spanning multiple historical eras.

The museum’s new Future Now: Virtual Sneakers to Cutting-Edge Kicks exhibition is sure to blow away your little sneaker fanatics. The futuristic exhibit features 3D printed shoes, sneakers made from recycled material and, wait for it, footwear created for the metaverse!

When: Monday to Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Sunday, 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. More info: batashoemuseum.ca

Escape the Ghost Ship

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If you and your family love escape rooms, you have to try this floating escape room at the Toronto Harbour. Escape the Ghost Ship is an adventure that takes place on an actual cruise! On the cursed ghost ship of Barnacle Beth, to be accurate.

In order to secure the ship, you and your team of six must solve puzzles and locate Beth’s lost treasure before the curse claims its next victim. The game is designed to be family-friendly, but due to its spooky theme and the challenge level of its puzzles, it is recommended for older kids (12+). Tickets are $49 per person and must be purchased in advance.

When: July and August More info: escapetheship.com/toronto

This article was originally published on Jun 20, 2022

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