15 Family-Friendly Things to Do in Ontario
It’s been 10 months since we drove across 5 provinces under sunshine, rain, and snow to reach Stratford, Ontario; where we would call home for the following 10 months. It was a rushed journey, one that we didn’t get to slow down and enjoy the beautiful gems this country has to offer. It was a week of driving that only intensified our hunger to travel the country and savor it’s natural wonders, soak in the culture each town brings, and connect with the beautiful people that call this country home.
During our time in Southwestern Ontario, we made it our mission to explore as much of Ontario as we could as weekend warriors! Here are our 15 of our favorite, family-friendly experiences, in no particular order (including a handful of free activities *):
1. Stay in Haliburton Highlands
Visiting the Haliburton Highlands was our very first road trip we took after arriving in Ontario last winter; and it’s one that we’ll all remember forever. From getting up close and personal with the sled dogs, resident Moose, and a private visit with wild wolves at Haliburton Forest – to hiking through a maple sugar bush set in a winter wonderland we quickly fell in love with the area. You can read about our entire experience here:
2. Drive through the African Lion Safari
African Lion Safari is a drive-through wildlife park dedicated to the conservation of declining wildlife species. It is home to over 1,000 exotic birds and animals that roam freely throughout seven distinct game reserves. While on our self-guided tour, we felt completely safe as the park staff are equipped with trucks stationed throughout the reserves. Certainly a highlight of our day at the African Lion Safari, was our close encounter with one of the beautiful female white lions in Timbavati Lion Country. Read the full experience here:
3. Chase Waterfalls in Hamilton *
One of the first day-trips we took was a visit to three of Hamilton, Ontario’s waterfalls, something the city is well-known for. View a full guide to the water falls, including a search listing grading them easy – difficult to access, here.
4. Build a Beach Fire *
Until our very first beach fire pictured below, we had never had the opportunity to dig our toes into the sand while roasting hot dogs over a camp fire. It quickly became one of our favorite things to do, and we would retreat to our favorite spot almost weekly.
5. Compare Niagara Falls in the Winter and in the Summer
I’ll never forget our first trip to Niagara Falls – The kids seemed to enjoy the puddles on the sidewalk just as well, but to view the infamous, powerful horseshoe falls is certainly a bucket list worthy trip. It was particularity neat to see them in late winter, while there was snow on the ground, and again in the summertime. In the photos below they may not look too different because of the mist rising up from the falls, but it was definitely a great experience!
6. Visit Storybook Gardens
Located in London, Ontario, this park is FULL of activities and play opportunities! We were lucky enough to explore the entire park, which truthfully doesn’t happen often with a two year-old and a three year-old (at the time). We owe this to bringing our collapsible wagon and pulling the kids for many of the parts they would otherwise walk, to conserve a little energy. The park is comprised of eight themed areas, we began with “Pirates Island” and the “Frog Pond.” Both areas were at the far end of the park, which seemed to work out nicely as we made our way back to the exit as we explored. Read more about our stay in London here:
7. Be a Tourist in Ottawa
If a visit to Canada’a capital city isn’t on your bucket list, it should be! Our 3-day family adventure in Ottawa was certainly one for the books, and our only complaint is that we couldn’t stay longer! There are some trips that you can plan spontaneously. You can fly by the seat of your pants and still manage to see all there is to see, not so much in Ottawa. Instead, I highly recommend you have an idea of where you want to go and a decent schedule of what to see and do. You can check out our guide and itinerary here:
8. Explore Bruce Peninsula
After spending three days in Bruce Peninsula, Ontario, it’s truly hard to describe the beauty and peacefulness of the area – even while traveling with the kids! It’s especially difficult to choose just one or two highlights, so here are a few:
- Staying at Lions Head Beach Motel & Cottages
- Touring the Fathom Five National Marine Park by boat with Tobermory Wave Adventures
- Enjoying ice cream at The Sweet Shop in Tobermory
- Visiting the Parks Canada Visitors Centre in Bruce Peninsula National Park
- Playing in Sauble Falls
- Stumbling upon beautiful, road-side sand dunes
- Treating ourselves to the “Best Butter Tarts” at Big Tub Bakery
9. Visit the Hamilton Warplane Museum
Our son, Greysen has been fascinated by airplanes since he was a year old, so visiting the Canadian Warplane Museum was a very special experience for him – and us! The museum is home to dozens of air crafts flown by Canadians and the Canadian military from the beginning of World War II to present. Many of these planes have been preserved and are currently in flying condition; like the Arvo Lancaster, a 4-engine bomber built in 1945, that we were lucky enough to witness fire up and take off! One of our favorite parts of visiting the museum, was seeing the kids sit inside the cockpits and tour the interiors of these amazing pieces of history! Read about our experience in Hamilton, Ontario here:
10. Have a BBQ Picnic in the Park *
Packing up a picnic lunch has been something we have really come to enjoy and intentionally make the time to do a couple times a week. Between a single burner camp stove or a fire pit stand found in many local parks, we’ve grilled up some pretty tasty meals and enjoyed time together outside at the same time!
11. Snowshoe in Laurel Conservation Park
Laurel Creek Park is located within minutes of Waterloo and Kitchener, and open year-round making it a great place to check out any time of year. This day was a total blast! We bundled up the kids, sat them in their little sleds and pulled them along an easy loop-trail designated for snowshoeing and cross-country skiing. The park is gate restricted and there are fees for park entry and snowshoe rentals. You can view more information here.
12. Visit Historic St. Jacobs & Waterloo *
Just a six minute drive from the farmers market you’ll find the heart of St. Jacobs Village. A walk along King Street North is the perfect way to explore the area, and just a 5 minute walk from one end to the other. Here you’ll discover a number of very unique shops, from Venture Forth Bicycle Tours, a bicycle rental shop in an old train car, to a pottery studio inside of an old concrete silo. We started off our tour of the village at the Eco Cafe, serving organic, fair trade, direct trade and Rainforest Alliance coffee. The cafe is a great place to sit back and relax, watch coffee beans roast, view local artists work, and watch your kids play in a dedicated colouring & puzzle area. For more of this memorable experience, check out:
13. Play at Bingeman’s Big Splash Waterpark
Bingemans Big Splash Waterpark is part of a huge resort including the waterpark, FunWorX Indoor Playland (which we have visited previously and really enjoyed), and camping resort. We were pleasantly surprised that the area made for smaller children, “Spray’n’Play” was huge and featured geyser jets, controllable water flows, three children’s slides, net walk, water umbrella, 1200-gallon tipping bucket and more. Us parents didn’t even feel the need to sneak off one at a time to check out the large slides, we all got to have a blast together! In addition to the Spray’n’Play area, we swam in the wave pool and lazy river, and enjoyed an ice cream treat. Check out ou
14. Spend the Day at Clovermead Adventure Farm
Clovermead Adventure Farm in London, is definitely one of our favorite family-friendly attractions we’ve visited to date, there is no shortage of activities to enjoy for every age, all day long!
One of the very first things we noticed when we arrived was the attention to detail throughout the entire property. With a rustic, vintage feel, there has been so much thought put into each structure and activity. Old farm equipment and tools adorn rustic barns, signs with clever sayings on them point you in the right direction, even a real vintage fire truck has been transformed into a water pumping play structure. You can read more about our experience here:
15. Take Your Kids on a Wagon Ride *
We did a lot of this, and packed our wagon with us everywhere – we still do! We took a lot of day trips to nearby areas in Southwestern Ontario and many times we didn’t know what to expect, so this collapsible wagon came in handy countless times and the kids loved riding (and falling asleep) in it!
Thank you for taking the time to read about our favorite experiences in Ontario! We’ve had an incredible time exploring here, and with so much more to explore, we look forward to spending more time here in the future. Until then, we are off on our next journey as we travel across Canada from east coast to west coast! You can follow our daily updates on Instagram.