We arrived in Toronto in the middle of a summer day and, not wanting to lose a single moment, headed to explore the sights right away.
We had got Toronto City Pass online which is a great deal if you want to see all the 5 attractions it offers – it does save money and time too. It includes tickets to Casa Loma, CN Tower, Ripley’s Aquarium, Toronto zoo, Royal Ontario Museum.
As it was already afternoon, we chose the least time consuming attraction from the list – Casa Loma – a medieval castle from the 20th century. The castle features a museum and a restaurant. Both impressed us in their own way: the museum had a variety of interesting exhibits reflecting the life of the rich family 100 years ago and the restaurant was having a high end party: ladies with flawless hairdos and bright makeup in splendid dresses and on high heels, men in smokings with gel in the hair – they made a striking contrast with the colorful and diverse crowd of tourists roaming around. We barely finished our excursion in the castle when the visitors were invited to leave.
On our first afternoon we just brushed the rim of the huge Toronto, and that was without entering the downtown. Next day though we had a private city tour, courtesy of a local friend, so we were lucky enough to see the city from a local’s perspective. We drove the whole day through the city, disembarking from time to time at the beach or street food stalls when the baby was getting bored in her car seat. The downtown heights of toronto impress and the variety of the city is interesting to observe. There are sleek skyscrapers heading up so high you can only see the top through the roof window but at the same time you will spot ugly houses, dirty and in a miserable state. There are nice parks, beaches, beautiful views from the hills, e.g. from Casa Loma castle but you need to drive everywhere. The distances are too big for feet, public transportation is not always convenient if you don’t live in the downtown and as for the bike, I don’t know how cyclists survive on those hills and in such a dense traffic. Yes, the traffic is crazy in the downtown, finding a parking spot as well, but that’s the problem of most megalopolises.
Baby friendly Ripley’s aquarium
Both baby and us were totally mesmerised and amazed with all those various species of fish and other sea creatures. On the half way though the baby got hungry and impatient, so I asked the staff where I could feed her and they showed me the nursing room which is conveniently situated in the middle of the building. A small lockable room with a rocking chair. What else do you need?
CN tower – the iconic building of Toronto. Too iconic to miss it.
Of course, there are queues but they move fast. Inside, you need to come through all the circles of shopping hell: a gif shot, a photowall, it was annoying. The tower experience was great though. We took a look from both platforms, including the upper one which was +12$+tax and didn’t regret – the view of the skyscrapers, the bay and the rest of the city from above is something.
The glass-floored elevators is a wonderful invention and the lift guy doesn’t just occupy the space – they tell you interesting things about the tower too.
When you come back from the sky, there is a nice playground area for kids. Even our one year old enjoyed it. And we could relax a little bit. In turns of course.
Forget it if you don’t have a car or live nearby. Ok, Uber or taxi might be an option for you. But from our place of staying in Toronto (30 km away) it would have taken 1,5 hour by 3 or even 4 means of transport to get to the Toronto Zoo instead of 30 min by car. We didn’t think twice. The zoo is nicely arranged in zones, each dedicated to different regions of the Earth. The territory is huge and the 4 hours we had was not enough to see it all. Again, the backpack carrier was a life saver – our little one was napping behind the daddy’s back or looking around curiously. When she was getting tired of sitting there, we were letting her out on a lawn to stretch a little bit.
She was not walking yet by herself but benches were great to hold on or climb them. What we didn’t like and it seemed a bit odd on such a huge territory, was that the voliers were not spacious enough for many animals. The bear obviously suffered being kept in captivity – he was walking back and forth following the same steps, so that the steps were imprinted deeply in the ground.
We loved the lions’ area though, the animals were lying and kept like the real kings and queens of the animals.
But of course, the highlight was the giant pandas who were temporary guests of the zoo at the time. So we went to see them first. The way to their bamboo-stuffed cage lead through a pavilion with a ton of information about these Chinese guys.
Royal Ontario Museum
It was a very hot day, the museum was promising to be cool and we still had to use our City Pass. But we almost missed it. At the door we were met by a very polite but strict guard who wouldn’t let us in with the baby backpack. That’s right – it’s written in the rules that backpack carriers are not allowed in the museum.The problem was though that our daughter didn’t really like sitting in a buggy at that period of time. We tried to convince the guy that this device couldn’t do any harm but he was adamant and sent us to the buggy rentals. We hesitated, discussed it between ourselves and decided that we wouldn’t take that risk and wouldn’t go in at all. Meanwhile the guard called his supervisor who decided to let us in. Later we saw another family with a backpack carrier. We were glad to have got the chance to make it to the museum. We were impressed by various exhibitions, especially by the large collection of dinosaurs’ skeletons, one of the biggest dinosaurs meets you right at the entrance hall.
The museum is also very family friendly: there are nursing rooms, changing pads in the toilets, a great play area and a nice restaurant with high chairs and a good variety of food.
Toronto is home to another wonderful family friendly activity – Salsa Babies dance classes. I had come across their site a while before the trip and made sure we make it to one of their classes. It was a wonderful experience. Even if you’ve never danced you still can join Salsa Baby classes. That was not my case. I had danced salsa for almost 7 years and I fancied the idea to try dancing with the best partner – my baby, dangling in a sling in front of me. That’s a great means to combine your love to dancing and you little one who want to be inseparable with mommy. We visited a Salsa Baby class in Ottawa too where my little partner fell asleep right away and slept through the whole class. This time it was not the case. She just wouldn’t go in the sling, was running away and wanted to nurse. What could I do? Kids are so hard to convince sometimes. We did manage to dance for some time but then gave up and headed to the nearby park to cool off. Still, I did enjoy the class and I’m very happy and grateful we could participate.
Toronto Public Transport
Torontonians are lucky enough to have a subway which is a big relief in such a huge city. The design is simple, nothing fancy. The metro train doesn’t have any borders between the cars and resembles a huge snake which swallows and spits out the passengers at the frequent stops. There are buses too which seem to be used by the lower socio-economic groups. Inconveniently, you cannot get any change for your tickets, so to use a bus you need to have coins or buy tokens beforehand at a subway station or just pay them as much as you have in banknotes. The most convenient way to move around Toronto is driving.
We couldn’t but visit this natural wonder being just 1,5 hour drive away from it. And it was fantastic. Probably the most magnificent thing I’d ever seen. When you stand in front of these masses of water, constantly moving and roaring, you feel that power, and you can just stand there in awe and watch forever. Beautiful and breathtaking.
Of course, there is a whole industry grown upon the Falls’ waters – with so many visitors and easy accessibility it just couldn’t be otherwise. Snack bars, restaurants, boats which carry you and bury in the thick foam of the falling water and bring back wet and maybe happy, sky rails to see the roaring waters from above and close, casinos to spend the rest of your money etc. – everything you can indulge in. We didn’t use any of them except a snack bar which was overcrowded – they could definitely pop up more eateries. Actually, we regretted we hadn’t taken any sandwiches with us – the park around is a wonderful place for a picnic. And we saw huge picnics – family coming with pickups and unloading and unloading and unloading grills, portable fridges, meat, veggies, uncountable water bottles etc.
Suddenly, my baby got hungry and, as she had stopped eating solids in busy places during this trip, that meant she wanted to breastfeed. I headed to the nearest restaurant and when explained our need, they just let me in to their staff area where we could sit in comfort and discreetly do what we had to do. It was a great opportunity to change the baby too. I enjoyed the understanding and baby-friendly approach in this country many times.
It is hard to predict how your holiday will go, especially with a baby, even more so when it’s hot outside and you are on a visit of a megalopolis with its traffic jams, loud sounds, crowds and other exciting things, but along all the challenges, there are a lot of entertaining opportunities as well. You need to invest some time in planning. Things like transportation, eating, sleeping, and entertainments are what you have to consider. And where to change the baby, of course. Fortunately, Toronto is quite baby-friendly and in many public places you will find changing facilities. Especially in malls – they have all you need: changing pads in both male and female toilets, family rooms, even (breast)feeding rooms, high chairs in the eateries.
Need more tips? Read how to travel with a baby and enjoy it.