Here’s what to see and do in Toronto, in any weather!
Toronto is a lot of things: it’s exciting, it’s multicultural, there’s always something happening. But known for excellent weather? I would argue, no. Between city-shuttering snowstorms and summer humidity that curls even the straightest of hair, the climate in The Big Smoke can be a little…challenging.
Never fear! Many of Toronto’s wonderful family-friendly attractions operate regardless of what is happening outside, and we’ve collected five of the best bets for all-weather fun.
Ontario Science Centre
A snow day for the rest of the city proved the perfect time to visit the Ontario Science Centre. We spent the entire day wandering the extensive exhibit space, pushing every button, reading all the signs, and doing every activity (twice if we felt like it) and a particularly leisurely time in the rainforest pavilion in the Living Earth gallery to warm our chilled bones a bit. Other hits were the “mountain” climbing wall and KidSpark, where the kids could do big people stuff (go grocery shopping, shingle a house, make a music video) on a scaled downsize.
Museum of Illusions
The Museum of Illusions is a relative newcomer on the Toronto scene. The people we chatted with all mentioned that they are meaning to visit and I was effusive in my encouragement to “Go!” It is a small museum, about an hour will give you enough time to see all the mind-bending illusions and snap some super cool pictures for the ‘gram. I’m sorry I can’t share my video from the vertigo-inducing Vortex Tunnel, but the woman who entered behind us was taken by surprise at the stomach-dropping feeling when she walked into the tube of spinning lights and let fly some words that made my kids howl with laughter, so you’ll just have to imagine it.
Hockey Hall of Fame
We had some consternation when it was discovered I had removed my son’s [dirty] hockey jersey from the suitcase before travelling, not thinking he had planned specifically to wear it to the Hockey Hall of Fame. Luckily, all was forgotten (if not entirely forgiven) once we were in the cathedral of Canada’s favourite sport. There are hundreds of items of player memorabilia on display, plus the chance to have an on-ice shootout, play goalie, even sit in the sportscasters’ seat or do colour commentary from up in the box. Under the impressive stained glass-domed ceiling of the Esso Great Hall, my boys shyly pressed kisses on the Stanley Cup and ogled the massive championship rings in Lord Stanely’s Vault. The Hockey Hall of Fame is in the PATH pedway system, which means you can easily stay inside a climate-controlled environment and travel to and from it without facing the outdoors.
Looking Glass Adventures
While escape rooms are riding a wave of popularity and seem to have proliferated unchecked, finding one geared towards families can be tough. That sweet spot of accessible to kids’ problem-solving skills but sufficiently difficult to hold the attention of adults is hard to find. So despite some incessant begging to “just TRY mom!” I hadn’t found an escape room to take the kids too. Happily, we found Looking Glass Adventures on Danforth to strike just the right balance. The group we were part of had a pretty even mix of big and little, so we decided to divide into a kids’ team (with token adult for safety and reading) and a grown-ups’ team. We headed into our respective not-too-scary rooms and the clue solving race was on! No, I don’t want to mention who won.
Royal Ontario Museum
The worst part of a visit to the Royal Ontario Museum is deciding what to see, because you can’t possibly see it all in one visit. Choose a handful of galleries to explore, then enjoy the adventure in beautifully climate-controlled bliss. I let each boy choose one exhibit (Bat Cave and “Japanese stuff”) so we could devote some time to what they wanted to see rather than rushing through everything. If you are visiting over a school break and what to do more to combat the brain drain that sometimes accompanies these times, visit the learning activities section of the ROM website for age-appropriate enrichment activities.
Deciding where to eat when you have literally thousands of options in the city can be tough, I know. Three we enjoyed were Pizzeria Libretto for modern Italian food that made me sad my stomach had limits to what I could cram in…I wanted all the things; Hothouse for inventive sandwiches and yummy pasta (always a surefire bet for my guys); and Fran’s Restaurant—a dinner style restaurant with massive milkshakes and burgers plus an all-day breakfast menu.
The Chelsea Hotel has positioned itself as one of the top hotels for families in Canada. Aside from a location that makes it easy to get to anywhere in the city, the amenities for families are thoughtful and fun, making a stay in Toronto in any weather a great bet. The second floor is where the magic happens: a kids’ club (complete with toys, activities, even bunnies to see) a teen lounge with video games, a pool table, and arcade games, and the real kicker: the splash zone which houses a pool, hot tub and waterslide that is open select hours—check the website for seasonal specifics. Other than the 2nd-floor family fun zone, other touches I liked were the VIK (Very Important Kid) check-in desk and the kid-friendly food choices at the Market Garden restaurant.
The author was a guest of Tourism Toronto and the Chelsea Hotel. Neither of these facilities reviewed or approved this article.