I’m happy to introduce you to Lisa Goodmurphy from Gone With the Family. I absolutely love her blog where I learn about great, family-friendly activities in all the amazing places she goes—with the kids! Make sure to check out her full bio below to see all the different places she writes and the best ways to follow her.
Toronto is a wonderful, family-friendly city, but like most cities it can also be a very expensive place to visit. This is especially true for families who have to multiply the costs of admissions, meals etc. by the number of members. Fortunately, there are a number of things to do in Toronto that are fun for families but won’t break the bank.
1. Parks/Green Spaces
The municipal government, which would like Toronto to be known as “the City within a Park”, is responsible for nearly 1500 parks within the city. There’s no charge to take the kids to some of the cities great parks to run around and blow off steam. One of the best in the city is High Park, a 161 hectare park located in the city’s west end which boasts hiking trails, playgrounds, picnic areas, gardens and a zoo. The park is easily accessible by transit and is the perfect place to entertain kids for an hour or more with little expense.
2. Ferry to Centre Island
Just a short ferry ride from downtown, visitors can escape the hustle and bustle of the city on the car-free Centre Island. The ferry ride isn’t free but it is relatively inexpensive ($4-8) and for many kids the boat ride is an adventure in and of itself. Parents will also enjoy the fantastic views of Toronto’s skyline on the boat ride to and from the island. Once on the island, families can enjoy bicycle paths, a petting zoo, wading pools, swimming and other activities which are free or inexpensive. Parents should be aware though that there is an amusement park on the island as well so they will want to steer clear if they wish to avoid the kids begging for rides.
3. The Art Gallery of Ontario
The Art Gallery of Ontario (“the AGO”) is located in downtown Toronto and is one of the largest art museums in North America. The AGO has a large Canadian collection as well as many masterpieces of European art, contemporary art and photography. It’s a world-class art museum and it’s one of the most family-friendly galleries we have visited. Families on a budget will also appreciate that entry to the permanent collections is FREE on Wednesday evenings from 6pm – 8:30pm.
4. Riverdale Farm
Riverdale Farm is located in a park-like setting in the downtown Toronto neighbourhood of Cabbagetown and represents what a rural Ontario farm would have been like in the late 19th/early 20th century. Visitors can tour the 7.5 acre farm property, observe the animals and chat with the farmers as they do their daily chores. Homemade refreshments are also available in the Farm Kitchen. Admission is always free at Riverdale Farm which is open year round and hosts a number of special seasonal events.
5. Explore Neighbourhoods
Toronto is one of the world’s most multicultural cities and its neighbourhoods can be a lot of fun to explore with kids. The best known are probably Chinatown, Greektown, Little Italy and Little India and a couple of hours in any of these neighbourhoods can feel like a day trip to another country. Families can stroll the neighbourhoods and soak up the sights and sounds, browse the shops and sample authentic foods while spending far less than they would in malls or mainstream restaurants.
6. Harbourfront Centre
Harbourfront Centre is a not-for-profit cultural centre located on Toronto’s waterfront which provides year-round programming as well as outdoor shows and events during the summer season. Some of the offerings have an associated fee (particularly crafts workshops), however, there are many free events and activities as well. For example, during the upcoming winter season, the Harbourfront Centre will have free skating all winter, free concerts, free holiday movies, a winter scavenger hunt, and a holiday market with free admission, free storytelling and crafts for kids in Miss Lou’s Room. There are numerous festivals and events during the course of the year that will appeal to families as well.
7. St. Lawrence Market
St. Lawrence Market has been thriving in downtown Toronto since 1803 and has recently been recognized by National Geographic as the number one food market in the world. Anyone who enjoys food markets simply must make it a priority when visiting Toronto. It’s absolutely free to walk around and enjoy the atmosphere of delicious sights, sounds and smells and it’s an ideal place to purchase an inexpensive lunch. If you’re lucky then you might even find entertainment there too as it’s a popular place for buskers.
Lisa Goodmurphy is a lawyer living near Toronto, Canada. She left the corporate world to stay home with her two daughters, Katie and Emma (now aged 16 and 9). Badly bitten by the travel bug years ago, Lisa considers herself fortunate that her husband and kids are equally enthusiastic about exploring the world.
As well as writing about her family’s travel adventures on her blog Gone With The Family, Lisa has written for a number of travel websites and is a regular contributor at Travel Mamas as The Spunky Travel Mama. You can also follow her on Facebook, on Twitter as @GoneWithFamily and on Pinterest.
Toronto has amazing things to do for free as Lisa outlines. If you’re looking to do more of the tourist-y things, CityPass offers a steep discount. Visit Toronto’s CN Tower plus 4 other attractions for up to 45% off with CityPASS!
Thanks for the pointers on places to visit. My wife and I have always wanted to visit Toronto, maybe one of these years.
I haven’t been since I was a kid myself, and I don’t think my parents had all these insider tips when we did!
Having spent the first 20 years of my life living only a few hours from Toronto I had the opportunity to visit there quite often. There is definitely a lot to do there. Very busy city and yes, expensive too. I loved going to Canada’s Wonderland. One thing I never got to do was go to the Island.
If you ever make your way back there, it sounds like something to put on the to-do list for sure!
These all sound fun. I love Canada anyway.
I do, too. I haven’t been in a while, though. To give you a timeline: the last time I visited our neighbor to the north I didn’t need a passport. 😡 Thinking about planning a trip sometime soon. It’s really not too far away from Pittsburgh as far as destination cities go.
This is my home town, AND I’m sad to say that there are few things on here that I’ve seen yet.
I think we’re all guilty of NOT being tourists in our own town. Especially when you’re in a big city; there’s always so much to do and you always think you’ll have forever to maybe check it out sometime. Hopefully this leads to some exploration on a bored day!
Nice spots! I have always wanted to go to Canada and Toronto is one of the highlights.
Toronto is such a fun city. I grew up in Detroit so I’d go there quite a bit. Great tips!
Nice! I enjoyed my time when I was there, too. I was the kiddo in the pictures back then, though.
I have always wanted to visit Toronto, it seems so fun!
You really should!
How bad is that I live 90 minutes from Toronto and didn’t know about Riverdale Farm? We’ll be planning a trip 🙂
Haha it sounds awesome! Let me know how it is for sure! I can’t believe admission is FREE…everything like that that I’ve been to is so, so expensive.
#5 is something we spent our last trip to Toronto doing. It was fun just gazing at all kinds of cool one-of-a-kind shops.
I know in real life it’s probably not like this at all, but it kind of reminds me of Epcot in Disney.
I live so close yet so far away! I’d like to get back, I haven’t been in over 10 years.
It’s been quite a while for me, too.
There is so much to do in Toronto it would take us ages to get through it all. We love just walking the streets going into the little shops seeing what they have to offer. Toronto is do diverse and really it’s like being on vacation when you are actually at home. Great post! Mr.CBB
Lisa really is the best! She’s a great writer and always has really interesting content.
Great post! Just wish I would have found it before I traveled there last Fall!