Great Reasons that Toronto is Perfect for Families | Cleveland East Side Moms

Great Reasons that Toronto is Perfect for Families

by | Oct 30, 2018 | Travel

Our 5th wedding anniversary could have been a pretty dismal event.  I had ear surgery at the end of June, lost my job a few weeks later, and was thick in the middle of starting a consulting company and getting this website rolling.  I am pretty sure I’ll forever be thick in both of those endeavors, but I didn’t really understand that then.  My husband and I were attempting to plan something special just for the two of us.  This was about 3 weeks after I lost my job and I was exceptionally overwhelmed.  My surgeon forbade flying for 6 months post-surgery without approval, so if we were going anywhere, we knew we’d have to drive.  To be honest, I wasn’t all that interested in planning a getaway.  Nothing appealed to me, and the whole idea of planning a trip away from the kids when I was so stressed about, well, everything, was a non-starter.


My husband, however, felt very differently.  He was insistent – we were going away, just the two of us.  He would plan it because it was absolutely happening.  It was impossible to say no to that!  We picked Toronto as our destination together, and he basically did the rest of the planning.  Growing up in Cleveland with relatives in Buffalo, I’d been to Canada plenty of times, but my husband had never been to Canada and neither of us had ever been to Toronto.  It’s a city I’ve always meant to visit, I’d heard great things, but it just never seemed important enough to visit when so many other great destinations were just a flight away.   Toronto is a quick 4.5-5 hour drive from Cleveland, easily doable for a weekend trip.


One of the neater things about going to Toronto is that it’s a super quick and easy to take a detour through Niagra Falls (which, by the way, is only a 3.5 hour drive from Cleveland!).  We stopped at the falls for lunch on our way there and WOW have they cleaned that place up since I was there last!  So much of the Canadian side of that city is absolutely stunning, with hardscaping and landscaping everywhere. Niagra Falls is definitely an area I’d like to go back to as an adult, but for this trip, we settled on a couple hours for lunch and a few quick pictures by the falls.


Guys, this trip was AWESOME.  Toronto is definitely a place I’ll visit again, but next time I go, I’ll take the kids too.  And here’s why.


Niagra Falls is an easy detour on the way to Toronto or back (or both!)

There’s LOADS to do and see in Niagra Falls.  As I write this, my kids are two and four, so half of our trip planning involves thinking through ways to minimize public meltdowns.  A change of scenery has always been really effective at that for us, and plus you get to show your kids one of the Seven Wonders of the World in the process.  In my world, this is a huge win!


Em & JM at Niagra Falls


The diversity in Toronto is unlike anywhere I’ve ever been.

Truly.  We spent our first night in Toronto at their Oktoberfest and it blew us away.  People of all shapes, colors, sizes, ages (well, over 19 since TKOKT is a Canadian drinking event!) – it was incredible.  And very unexpected.  And beautiful.  The rest of our time in Toronto mirrored that Oktoberfest – diversity everywhere.


Em & JM - Toronto Oktoberfest 2018



Toronto is clean.  Very clean.

If you’re used to Cleveland, or even Chicago or New York, Toronto will blow your mind.  There’s no gum anywhere.  The streets are clean, there’s no litter, no potholes.  Even the construction sites are somehow cleaner.  I don’t understand how they do it, but they do.  The city sparkles.



Toronto is an incredibly walkable city.


I felt safe everywhere I went, and there were very cool things to see that kids would really love.  We particularly loved the fountains – this dog one was our favorite!  We found it by walking from our AirBnB over to the St. Lawrence Market, which is very similar to Cleveland’s West Side Market, except MUCH bigger and with a lot more diversity in offerings.  If you need an interesting gift for a friend or a specific kind of cheese that is only made in Holland on the third Tuesday of November, this is your place.




The food in Toronto is out-freaking-standing.


I was a little spoiled here because my husband got us dinner reservations at Alo for our anniversary dinner, but everywhere else we ate was equally outstanding.  I loved everywhere we ate, from the unbelievably excellent ramen restaurant to the traditional woodfire grilled pizza joint, everything we tasted was totally excellent.  (Editor’s note:  Please don’t go to Toronto and try to stick with a Whole30 diet, you will miss out on so much goodness!)



Chinatown is fascinating.


This goes hand in hand with the food comment, but just walking around Chinatown was really awesome.  Yes, my favorite part was the yummy restaurant where we ate dinner on Friday night (see above), but the shops and little bodegas full of unusual produce and goods would be really interesting for anyone, especially kids.



The Toronto Aquarium is one of the coolest aquariums I’ve ever been to.


It’s not your run-of-the-mill look at the fish aquarium – this place is legit incredible.  It was pretty crowded when we were there, but the layout makes it seem less so, as everything sort of twists around.  There’s LOADS for kids to do and see, including the traditional areas where you can touch starfish and small crabs.  There’s a ‘stingray experience‘ area where one family was feeding the creatures, and all the other museum guests could stand and watch as the beasts realized what was happening and mobilized from the farthest corners of the tank.  The coolest part is the moving walkway towards the end of the museum that goes through a tunnel in the huge tank – adults and kids alike stare in awe at the world of water surrounding you.  It’s the only aquarium I’ve ever been to where my thought leaving was “Yep, I’d do that again.”  My children would LOVE this place, and my husband and I would genuinely enjoy returning.


Shark at Toronto Aquarium


CN Tower is totally worth the ticket price.


My ears got a thorough test going up that elevator (I figured an elevator can’t be as bad as a plane, right?), but I’m SO glad we did that.  The views from that tower are stunning, the elevator ride is equal parts terrifying and thrilling, and the glass floor is not to be missed.  If you’re especially daring (and meet the age/height/weight/health requirements), you can do a edge walk too.  We passed on that one, but I can see it being an activity our sons would happily try once they qualify.  Riding the elevator in the CN tower is another kid-friendly activity that little ones will love exploring – I can see the glass floor panels being especially enthralling!


CN Tower View, Toronto, CA



Toronto has one of the best theater districts in the world.


They come in only behind New York, London, and Greece for theatrical reputation and therefore get some of the top shows in the world.  Cleveland’s isn’t too shabby either (we’re top 10 in the US!), but with Chicago also in the Top 10 in the world, I think it’s pretty awesome that we Clevelanders have 3 top theater districts within a 6 hour drive of us!  For the record, Toronto is closer than Chicago!


We will definitely be making future trips to Toronto with our whole family in tow.  Have you been?  What do you like best about the city?  Please share – we’d love to hear suggestions for future trips!  You can comment below or DM us on Instagram or Facebook!

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