January 17th, 2017
Photo Journal: Winter Family Fun in Toronto
Take a look at all the fun that you can have with your family this winter in Toronto.
As winter approached, my family and I were looking for an easy getaway where we could bond and have some fun. We wanted a destination that offered plenty of outdoor fun, activities that would keep all of us entertained, and good food. Most people we know would have headed south to find sunshine on a beach, but, instead, we went north to Canada and family-friendly Toronto.
I loved the idea of exploring a new city, my 13-year-old son Aidan was excited at the thought of visiting another country without changing time zones, and my hockey-happy hubby, Ken, was dreaming of ice rinks. On top of that, the great exchange rate makes it seem as though the whole of Canada is on sale for Americans, and Toronto is only 90 minutes from 60% of the United States, including my New Jersey home, making a visit across the border a no-brainer.
Keeping Warm in an Underground City Tunnel
Since we were spending a long weekend in Toronto, I was able to co-pack all three of us in a single roomy trunk, using packing cubes to keep our belongings organized. Then we hopped a quick Porter Airlines flight to Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport, and it took just five minutes to get from the airport to downtown via a cool new pedestrian tunnel with moving walkways (a kid pleaser literally right out of the gate). Actually, that’s another great part about visiting Toronto in the winter: Nearly 20 miles of underground passages, called The PATH, let you dodge the weather whenever you want to warm up.
Hitting the Ice
Of course, part of the joy of visiting Toronto in winter is that the locals really know how to embrace the cold and snow. There are dozens of free, public outdoor skating rinks, including Nathan Philips Square, right in the heart of the city in front of City Hall and the Instagram-worthy rainbow TORONTO sign. My son and I rented skates and slowly glided around the rink as a light dusting of snow started to fall, and not one but two schools of class trips took to the ice around us. We really felt like true Canadians, and my son fit right in with the silver-bladed kids.
Visiting the Hockey Hall of Fame
To warm up, but keep the wintery feeling going, we decided to focus on another Canadian family favorite pastime: ice hockey. The Maple Leafs play there, and we couldn’t manage to wiggle tickets for the perennially sold-out team. Instead, we headed for the next best (and way more affordable) thing, the Hockey Hall of Fame, where all three of us were able to try our scoring and blocking skills on a simulated rink. (I’m proud to say that I outscored both of the men in my life with my newfound hockey skills.) And we all were all equally star-struck seeing the Stanley Cup in person.
Later, an outdoor stroll brought us to The Distillery District. Filled with independent shops and galleries year-round, the district morphs into a charming European-style holiday marketplace in winter and it even has family rides and performances. My always-hungry teen loved the hot drinks and cool eats of the snow-dusted outdoor market, including a stand that served melting Raclette (a Swiss cheese) over roasted potatoes. That reminds me of another family-pleasing, not-to-be-missed Toronto specialty: poutine, which consists of fries topped with cheese curds and beef gravy (trust me, it’s winter comfort food nirvana).
We worked off the calories by exploring some other family-friendly attractions. Among them were the Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada, which counts sharks galore, stingrays, and glowing walls of jellyfish among its myriad swimmers. With a teen in tow, I was able to take advantage of their evening hours that stretch all the way to 11:00pm nightly. We also loved the Royal Ontario Museum with its fascinating natural history displays. My family hit the floor, literally, of the special Dale Chihuly glass exhibit to get this shot of the kaleidoscope ceiling. Finally, we headed north again, this time just north of the city, to check out another family favorite, The Ontario Science Center, where we learned about “wild weather” before heading out in the snow again for a good old-fashioned snowball fight.
We found that in Toronto we came for a cold-weather getaway and left with the warm memories of a great family vacation. What about you? Have you been to Toronto? If so, what are some of your favorite spots to visit in the city and its surrounding areas? Share your two cents in the comments, below.
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