Visiting Niagara Falls and Toronto with kids? This 3 day itinerary will help you plan to have a fun filled family getaway to two of the most visited tourist destinations in the world.
This is a late spring to mid fall itinerary for first time visitors to Toronto or for those who want to take relatives/friends around Toronto. If you are coming in winter, see an alternative itinerary at the end of this article. If this is your second trip- here is a complete list of family attractionswithin City of Toronto.
Passes you may consider buying before you start your trip:
- Toronto CityPASS: Saves money and lets you visit 5 best attractions in Toronto. If the weather is inclement, all the places included are indoors (mostly). So you do not have to worry about bad weather.
- Niagara Classic/Wonder/Adventure Pass depending on the season of your visit.
- Also buy all attraction passes online, as this will save time and money.
We also suggest you read our March Break article, to get an idea about the range of family activities and family specific events offered in Toronto. Similar activities are available all year round at almost every attraction.
You may also like to read – Free Things to Do in Summer , Cheap ways to explore Toronto. and Trip to Toronto: Optional 1, 2, 3, 4 Day Toronto Itinerary
If you are in Toronto by late afternoon (~ 04:00 PM)
- Walk the Harbourfront/Waterfront, enjoying the views of Lake Ontario. In summer, Harbourfront comes alive with festivals, free concerts, and so many fun activities. This is FREE. Depending on the time of your visit, kids can go on paddle boats at the Natrel pond or the whole family can enjoy skating in winter.
- Go to Nathan Philips Square. See the TORONTO signage and enjoy lights/festivals/concerts/summer markets or skating.
- If you are visiting in summer – Have a beach time – Visit Woodbine Beach.
- Visit Ripley’s Aquarium.
- You can also enjoy a live family theatre show or go and cheer Toronto home teams.
- Participate in family festivals.
Day 1: Places to Visit Toronto Islands/Ripley’s Aquarium/CN Tower
Stop 1: Toronto Islands:
The best place to visit in Toronto with kids are the Islands. Toronto Islands are three connected Islands, namely Centre Island, Ward’s Island and Hanlan’s Point. The Centre Island features a myriad of delightful activities from feeding birds to a pettting Zoo at Far Enough Farm, splash pads, beach, a children’s garden inspired by Franklin the Turtle, Centerville Amusement Park and a treasure hunting cruise for your little pirate. Since you need to go on the ferry to reach the Islands, you also can enjoy downtown City Skyline views as part of the trip. There are cafe’s and restaurants on the Island.
Time Required: At least 3 hours. Plan for 5 hours. Rent a 4 seat quadricycle and explore the Islands.
Planning: Go early. Take the Centre Island Ferry from Jack Layton Ferry Terminal to get to the first ferry to Centre Island. You may end up queuing for more than an hour, especially on summer weekends, if you are at the terminal after 10:00 AM. Stand in line for the return ferry by 2:00 PM. It is usually not crowded at that time (crowd swells by ~ 4:00 pm).
We suggest you walk/bike the Island, stopping for kids activities in the Children’s Garden, navigate the maze, see Gibraltar Point Lighthouse (Built in 1808, this is the oldest stone building in Toronto and the oldest surviving lighthouse on the Great Lakes), go for a pirate cruise **(adults can enjoy views of Lake Ontario and Toronto Skyline, while kids are busy playing pirates), visit Far Enough Farm and add one or two amusement park rides to keep the kids delighted. There are three blue flag certified beaches on the Islands, so keep a change of clothes handy. (keep in mind – Hanlan’s Point Beach, which is situated on the western shore of Toronto Islands is a clothing optional beach)
**Pirate Cruise: Relocated to 333 Lakeshore Boulevard East, Toronto. The cruise start point is no longer on the Islands. ~ 1.3 km from the Ferry Terminal.
How much: If you are on a budget, most attractions are free, except for Centreville Amusement park rides and the pirate cruise. Admission to the amusement park is free.
Ferry Fare including return fare: Adult: $7.50
Student/Senior (ages 15 to 19; and over 65 ): $5.00
Junior (ages 2 to 14): $3.65
Infant (under 2): Free
Quadricycle Rental:4-Seater Quadricycles $40 deposit; $30 first hour; $15 per half hour thereafter – Maximum riders: 4 adults + 2 children (under 7 years) + 1 infant (under 40lbs) in front carrier.
Where: Ferry Terminal Address: Jack Layton Ferry Terminal, 9 Queens Quay W, Toronto
Stop 2: Ripley’s Aquarium:
Canada’s largest indoor aquarium features one of the world’s most extensive jelly fish exhibits, 65+ year old giant lobsters, sting ray and bamboo shark touch pools and daily live dive shows.Trip Planning: Ripley’s Aquarium is a 15 minute walk (~1.2 km) from the ferry terminal. Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada is located in the heart of downtown Toronto, next to the Rogers Centre and CN Tower at 288 Bremner Boulevard.
Time Required: 2 hours.
Adult – 27.98
Youth (6-13) – 17.98
Child (3-5) – 6.98
Senior (65+) – 17.98
If you want flexibility of entry – Buy anytime tickets for $3 more.
Buy timed tickets online. Buy tickets for ~ 3:00 PM. The Aquarium is not so crowded in the late afternoons/ evenings.
Stop 3. CN Tower:
CN Tower is an iconic Toronto landmark. Experience the ears pop as you travel on the glass-fronted elevators in 58 seconds to the Glass floor level of the CN Tower. Learn about all the engineering feats that were achieved with the construction of CN Tower. View 342 m straight down as you walk on the glass floor. Enjoy the strength of the breeze as you walk Outdoor SkyTerrace and go up to the top most level, Skypod which is situated 447 m above ground level.
Ask about the wait times to reach the top before you go inside. If the answer is 60 minutes, it is better not to visit at that time. You might end up waiting for 2.5 hours inside the tower, after the security check, just to get to the elevator. The lines are especially long on summer weekends.
If you are visiting during days with shorter daylight hours, visit CN Tower as the second stop in the itinerary. Ripley’s Aquarium is open till 11:00 PM on most days. But it does close early on select days. So make sure, that on the day of your visit, it is open late, so that you can visit CN Tower before Ripley’s. Or you may visit CN Tower as first stop in the morning on Day 3. Be there, when the Tower opens for the day (~09:00 AM).
Adult(13 – 64): $35.00
Child(4 – 12): $25.00
This fee does not include Skypod. $12 extra for Skypod.
Approximate Time required: 2 Hours.
Day 2: Visit Niagara Falls:
Niagara Falls is ~ 90 minutes drive from Toronto. Try to start your Niagara Falls drive from Toronto at around 08:00 AM, so that you can be at the Falls by ~ 10:00 AM. A detailed itinerary is given here – One Day Trip to Niagara Falls.If you are on a budget, free places to visit are also listed in the article.
If you do not have your own transport: Planning a Trip to Niagara Falls.
If you are crossing over from United States through Niagara Falls, visit Niagara Falls on Day 1 or Day 3 (on the day you return).
Day 3: Toronto Sightseeing
Dedicate this day to get an overview of Toronto and to visit some of Toronto’s famous landmarks, and neighbourhoods.
Take a city sightseeing tour. The tour takes you through downtown and will give the whole family a good overview of downtown Toronto.
Approximate time: ~ 2hours for sightseeing tour not including the attractions visit.How much:
Adults $36.15, Seniors (65+) $32.79, Students (with valid student ID) $32.79
Children (3 – 12) $19.34, Family (2 adults and 2 children under 12) $100.88
The hop-on hop-off sightseeing ticket is valid for up to 48 hours. You can make Day 3 itinerary on Day 2, and visit Niagara Falls on Day 3, if you are leaving from Toronto on Day 4.
If you are not leaving Toronto on this day/or depending on the time you have left to spend in Toronto, get down at CityPASS Attractions (if you bought the pass) like Royal Ontario Museum (~ 2.5 hours visit) and Casa Loma (~1.5 hours) or choose your own family friendly attractionsthat catches your interest like Hockey Hall of Fame (~1 hour), St Lawrence Market(Taste/shop for authentic local/Canadian food), Kensington Market, or even China Town.
If you have tweens/teens with you, you may also visit Queens Park and go on a free tour of Ontario legislature Building to get a free Ontario history lesson.
Other places you may include in Day 3:
Only Toronto Downtown Attractions were included in this itinerary. The following places (except for Canada’s Wonderland), though in Toronto, are not in downtown. Consider visiting, if you have your own transportation. You need at least half a day for either Toronto Zoo or Ontario Science Centre and a full day for Canada’s Wonderland.
1. Toronto Zoo:Toronto Zoo is located an ~ 35 minutes (light traffic) from downtown. Enjoy a visit to the largest zoo in Canada and 3rd largest zoo in the world. With over 5000 animals from Polar Bears to Pandas to Grizzly Bears to Rhinos, Toronto Zoo visit is a low cost option to see a variety of animals of the world.
2. Ontario Science Centre: The Science Centre is located an ~ 15 minutes (light traffic) from downtown. Explore the interactive, hands-on galleries that feature exhibits that range from astronomy to geology. Discover hundreds of interactive exhibits, daily science demos, planetarium shows and learn something new as part of your vacation.
3. Canada’s Wonderland: You may consider visiting Canada’s Wonderland if you have teens with you. You will need to plan for a full day. Spread over 330-acres, Canada’s Wonderland is home to more than 200 attractions, 70 rides including 16 rollercoasters, and Splash Works, a 20-acre water park. Canada’s Wonderland features North America’s largest variety of coasters including Canada’s tallest and fastest coaster – Leviathan, Canada’s longest wooden coaster – Mighty Canadian Minebuster and Canada’s first inverted coaster – Flight Deck.
Canada’s Wonderland is located in Vaughan – 9580 Jane Street, Vaughan. ~ 40 minutes from Downtown Toronto.
If You are visiting in Winter:
Day 1: If the grounds are free of snow, take the Ferry to Wards Island (part of Toronto Islands), The idea is enjoy the waterfront scenery on a low budget and this provides a short Lake Ontario trip. Comeback on the same ferry. There are no sightseeing cruises by Toronto companies during winter, other than the ones during special days like Santa Claus Cruise. All attractions except the Far Enough Farm are closed (you will have to walk to get around ~ 20 minutes to the Far Enough Farm). Select cafe’s are open.Also remember that, it will colder on the Islands.
Follow rest of the itinerary.
Where to Stay?
For up-to date information on family entertainment in Toronto, see here.