Though Toronto can feel like an urban jungle where children have a hard time finding space to play, there is an easy fix: a trip south to the Toronto Islands. So on your next family outing, pile the kiddies into the car or onto the subway to escape to a different world, one where the abundant nature and wildlife will make you feel like you’ve found a rural paradise.
Once you’ve reached the foot of Bay Street, grab a hot dog, say goodbye to the city, and hop onto any one of the three ferries that cross Lake Ontario to the Toronto Islands. For a day filled with entertainment, Centre Island is your best bet, with Centreville Amusement Park only a few minutes from the ferry dock.
Thrill your whole family with a wet and wild log ride, or enjoy tamer adventures floating on the gentle waters in electric swan boats. In between your explorations, you can take in a round of mini golf or go for a relaxing ride on the miniature railway. Make sure you plan for an entire day, though, as there is plenty more to explore on the three adjoining islands if you rent bikes.
Your kids won’t be able to hide their grins at the Franklin Children’s Garden, which is based on the popular Franklin the Turtle books. Later, climb the towering Gibraltar Point Lighthouse and feel your child’s sweaty hand squeeze yours as you learn about its mysterious–and possibly–haunted past.
To cool off after all that activity, take a dip in the refreshing waters of the lake at one of 11 designated swimming beaches. Once you’ve toweled off, reward your children’s adventurous spirits with a sandwich or ice cream cone from any of the islands’ restaurants, or have a relaxing picnic on the beach as a family.
As with any adventure, yours on the Toronto Islands must come to an end, but don’t worry about saving your ferry ticket from before — it’s free to catch a ride back to the city. Stand on the back deck and feel the wind whipping through your hair as you watch the sun set and say goodbye to the islands — until next time.
Photograph by Chris Lee