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TORONTO FOR THE FAMILY

Toronto is the perfect family destination to find water slides, wild rides, nature walks, history talks, great views, science news and animals in zoos. Listed alphabetically are some of Toronto’s Top family attractions:

Black Creek Pioneer Village – Re-creates the Ontario of more than 100 years ago. Watch costumed staff demonstrate skills such as blacksmithing and candle-making or check out farm animals. Self-guided tour takes two to three hours.   For more information go to Toronto Area Ontario Family Attractions

Casa Loma – This majestic 98-room castle has 21 fireplaces, secret passageways, stables with mahogany stalls and more. Casa Loma boasts beautifully landscaped grounds with themed areas, including a rhododendron dell and woodland walk. Self guided audio tour in eight languages included with admission.   For more information go to Toronto Area Ontario Family Attractions

Centreville – A theme park on Centre Island that’s designed to look like a turn-of-the-century Ontario village. The 19 rides include a Ferris wheel and carousel; also an 18-hole minigolf course and the Far Enough Farm. Take the ferry at Bay and Queens Quay to Centre Island.   For more information go to Toronto Area Ontario Family Attractions

CN Tower – The world’s tallest building measures 553.33 metres (1,815 feet 5 inches). Check out the view from the Look Out level, then walk on the glass floor and look down 342 metres (1,122 feet). At the base there’s a complex of shops, a restaurant, simulator games and an arcade.  For more information go to Toronto Area Ontario Family Attractions

Fantasy Fair – An indoor amusement park for kids with 10 full-size rides, including a Ferris wheel and an antique carousel, plus midway games and arcades. To go on all the rides, children must be less than four feet six inches tall. Woodbine Centre, Rexdale Boulevard, east of Hwy. 427, 416-674-5437.

Fort York – One of the bloodiest battles of the War of 1812 was fought here. Kids will enjoy demonstrations of musketry and artillery by costumed staff. Guided tours, also games and activities for kids aged 4 to 10. Garrison Road near Bathurst and Fleet streets, 416-392-6907.

Harbourfront Centre – Theatre, art galleries and music galore. HarbourKids Creative Workshop, a crafts program for children aged 3 to 13; Sundays and most holidays. Tour the Craft Studio at York Quay Centre and see artisan at work, Sundays, holidays and special event weekends; free tours noon to 4:30 p.m. Queens Quay West at York Street, 416-973-3000.

Hockey Hall of Fame – A fun place to learn about Canada’s game. Hockey memorabilia, interactive games and major NHL trophies, including the Stanley Cup. Most interactive games suitable for kids over 4 years, some are better for older kids.   For more information go to Families experience all Aspects of the Game at the "Hockey Hall of Fame", Toronto, Ontario.

Ontario Place – A fun day on the waterfront Children’s Village and the water park are popular for those under 12. Games, rides and more for teens and adults. Mahogany Harbour is a new interactive boat museum. Also on the grounds is Cinesphere, an IMAX theatre.    For more information go to Toronto Area Ontario Family Attractions and see What's New at Ontario Place.

Ontario Science Centre – More than 800 interactive exhibits to get your hands on and your body into. A wonderful place no matter what your age and your level of interest in science. Special programs and exhibits are generally for kids 7 and over.   For more information go to Toronto Area Ontario Family Attractions and Travel News: What's New at the Ontario Science Centre

Paramount Canada’s Wonderland – A theme park with more than 180 rides and attractions, a water park, live entertainment and more. New attractions include the animal show Lights, Camera, Animals featuring Eddie the dog from TV’s Fraiser, the motion simulator film Dino Island II 3D, The Fly roller coaster, and water slides Super Soaker and The Plunge. Children four feet and taller can go on almost everything in the main. Park. Kidzville offers fun for the smaller set.  For more information go to Toronto Area Ontario Family Attractions and Travel News:  What's New at Paramount Canada's Wonderland, Toronto, Ontario

Playdium – High-tech fun including virtual-reality and motion and sports simulation games, batting cages and an IMAX Ridefilm. Geared to kids 7 and over. Pico systems in the Junior players Lounge for those under 7.   For more information go to Toronto Area Ontario Family Attractions

Riverdale Farm – A small farm that’s five minutes from downtown. Recent animal births are posted. Young children can do crafts from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. 201 Winchester Street, 416-392-6794.

SkyDome – Home of the Toronto Blue Jays and Argonauts and the first stadium with a fully retractable roof. A one-hour tour includes a short film on SkyDome construction and a trip to a private SkyBox. Schedule permitting, you may even get on the field! 1 Blue Jays Way, 416-341-2770.

Toronto Zoo – The zoo has 5,000 animals in areas that closely recreate their natural habitats. African Savanna brings together the plants and animals of Africa. The Savanna Bush Trail provides interactive activities, while the Safari Lodge has an overhead view of a watering hole.  For more information go to Toronto Area Ontario Family Attractions

Wild Water Kingdom – Dolphin Bay is a water playground for kids up to 6 years old. Taller children can go on rides, including water slides and Caribbean Cover. There are also batting cages, minigolf, bumper boats and an arcade. For more information go to Toronto Area Ontario Family Attractions

MUSEUMS

Art Gallery of Ontario – One of North America’s largest public art museums exhibits works by historical and contemporary artists from around the world. Kids will like the Henry Moore sculptures and marvel at the modern and pop-art pieces. 317 Dundas Street West, 416-979-6648.

The Bata Shoe Museum – The collection has pieces of footwear dating back 4,500 years. Check out the Star Turns exhibit, which has shoes work by Madonna, Elton John and Diana, Princess of Wales. 327 Bloor Street West, 416-979-7799.

The George R. Gardiner Museum of Ceramic Art – The 2,000-piece collection includes pre-Columbian pottery dating back to 3000 BC. 111 Queen’s Park Circle, 416-586-8080.

Gibson House Museum – The 1851 home of former politician David Gibson. Activities re-create life as it was in rural 19th-century Ontario. The new Discovery Gallery has hands-on activities for kids. 5172 Yonge Street, 416-395-7432.

McMichael Canadian Art Collection – Works by the Group of Seven as well as contemporary Canadian, First Nations and Inuit art. North of Hwy. 400, exit at Major MacKenzie Drive, west to Islington Avenue, 905-893-1121.

The Pier – Dedicated to all things nautical. Kids will love the Discover Zone, where they get to explore a shipwreck, try on costumes and more. Older children can race with a champion on a rowing machine. 245 Queens Quay West, 416-338-PIER.

Royal Ontario Musuem – Galleries feature exhibits on art, social history, archaeology, natural history and more. Kids will want to see the dinosaurs, the new Discovery Gallery and Dynamic Earth: Inco Limited Gallery of Earth Sciences.   For more information go to Toronto Area Ontario Family Attractions and Royal Ontario Museum - Current Exhibits and Events, Toronto, Ontario

Toronto Police Museum – Interactive displays and exhibits of police and crime memorabilia, including vehicles and items related to infamous criminal cases. 40 College Street, 416-808-7020.

OUT OF TOWN

African Lion Safari - See 1,000 exotic birds and animals roaming free in large game reserves. Visit the new Discovery Centre and learn about wildlife conservation. Kids can cool off at the Misumu Bay water play area. For more information on this attraction go to Southwestern Ontario Family Attractions

FAMILY DINING – From low-key to high tea, Toronto offers a variety of restaurants for families. Among those not to be missed are:

East Side Mario’s, The Eaton Centre, 416-597-9797. Everyone’s Babbino is made to feel at home at this New York-Italian eatery in The Eaton Centre. Activity packs keep everyone happy before the arrival of the food-pizza, cheese cappelletti, a burger or chicken nuggets with fries. The dessert menu causes its own brand of 3-D excitement – it’s on a View-Master.

Frankie Tomatto’s, 7225 Woodbine Avenue, Markham, 905-940-1900. For parents with children old enough for an all-you-can-eat buffet, this is one where folks line up at the door. There are 10 seating areas and 14 separate buffets or food stations, each with a different specialty: antipasto, soups, barbecue for meats and vegetables, pizza, even a gelato bar.

Hard Rock Café, SkyDome, Entrance by Gate 1, 416-341-2388. Guitars, Gold records, costumes, leather jackets – if a rock star owns one, it’s probably here. And if that isn’t enough, the restaurant looks out over SkyDome’s playing field.

Movenpick Marche, 42 Yonge Street, BCE Place, 416-366-8986. You carry your own tray and pick up your own food, but that is where the similarity to a cafeteria ends. Marche is a series of food stations where kids can see it all: a salad being assembled, a pizza crust getting sprinkled with toppings. There is a small play area for kids whose attentions are no longer on their meal.

Medieval Times Dinner & Tournament, Exhibition Place, Dufferin Gate.  There aren’t a lot of restaurants that encourage, no, require children to shout at the top of their lungs, but this is no speak-only-when-you’re-spoken-to establishment. It’s a huge arena with the audience divided into cheering sections, each showing support for knights who joust on horseback vying for the queen’s favour. There are no utensils, so it’s eat-with-your-hands kid heaven – eat garlic bread, soup, roast chicken and potatoes, pork ribs and turnovers. The menu is free of dairy, eggs, peanut oil and nuts. No high chairs.  For more information go to Toronto Area Ontario Family Attractions

Nickels, 25 Woodbine Down Street, Etobicoke, 416-213-9000. It’s the nifty ‘50s all the way at Celine Dion’s family restaurant. From the vintage Wurlitzer at the door and black and white checkerboard tiles, to red vinyl seating and bobby-soxer uniforms, the atmosphere is complete. The first restaurant opened in Montreal in 1990 – with Celine’s mum sewing the original pink waitress uniforms – and Ms. Dion and her partners now have 45 of these restaurants in North America. The kids’ menu includes Montreal smoked meat sandwiches, pogo and fries, spaghetti, chicken fingers and more. Celine’s favourite dessert, a many-layered chocolate cake, makes a great-shared finish to a meal.

The Old Spaghetti Factory, 54 The Esplanade, 416-864-9761.  An attraction in itself, The Old Spaghetti Factory offers families a glimpse into Toronto's by-gone era when this area was the Boardwalk.  Artifacts and antiques compliment the wholesome Pasta dishes sure to please the whole family.  Enjoy a family meal in the replica Toronto Railway Car, which were built east of The Old Spaghetti Factory in 1902.  Fresh salads or soups and sourdough bread and spumoni ice cream are included in meals.  Bottomless ice tea, coffee or tea are also included.  Children's meals, for those under 12 accompanied by a parent, include milk, juice, soft drink and ice cream.  For more information go to www.oldspaghettifactory.net.

Pickle Barrel, Atrium on Bay, 312 Yonge Street, 416-977-6677. With kids in tow, you’ll likely be seated in a cheery section complete with huge pickle-people murals to inspire junior artists. The children’s menu is one of the most extensive we know of in the city, ranging from French toast with bacon through to a corned-beef sandwich, and chicken nuggets – 11 selections in total.

Planet Hollywood, 277 Front Street West, 416-596-7827. Join the lineup, and watch your little ones place their hands in the palm prints of Arnold Schwarzenegger and Demi Moore, just to see if they measure up. Inside, watch them gape at the dead alien from Independence Day, Fred Flintstone’s duds or the white guitar from Wayne’s World. By the time they’ve finished staring at all the neato stuff, they’re bound to be hyped for the food. The children’s menu has five items, including cheese pizza, quesadilla and the must-order chicken fingers, made with Cap’n Crunch breading that no one can resist.

Rainforest Café, Scarborough Town Centre, 300 Borough Road, 416-296-8100 and Yorkdale Shopping Mall, 3401 Dufferin Street. A familiar concept to those who’ve visited one before, but if you haven’t been to a Rainforest Café, get ready! Lineups can be long (call ahead to check on waiting times or make a reservation). The half-hourly thunderstorms – complete with crashing thunder and lightning – constantly falling curtain of rain, animatronic elephants flapping their ears and gorillas shaking saplings, and even live parrots seal the deal with the kids. There’s a retail area for browsing, complete with a talking tree that dispenses environmental wisdom. Menu items include bow tie pasta, burger, ad Three Amigos, three mini hot dogs, all with chips. Dessert is coconut pudding, or a sundae.

Shopsy’s TV City, 284 King Street West, 41-6-599-5464. Way cool, way way cool. This popular restaurant to the Shopsy’s on Yonge Street, has hit on the perfect solution for the before-the-food-comes fidgets: 11 booths and tables are equipped with Sony PlayStations, Trinitron monitors and a good selection of game disks. In fact, Shopsy’s may have nailed down the surefire way to get kids to give up dawdling: no games until that plate is clean! On the menu, it’s hamburgers and chicken fingers, but venture into the main menu for cheese blintzes and potato latkes.

Studio Café, 21 Avenue Road, Four Seasons Hotel, 416-928-7330. It’s a very fancy place – Versace fabric tablecloths under glass – but for kids with good manners it’s first-class Four Seasons treatment all the way.

Wayne Gretzky’s, 99 Blue Jays Way, 416-979-PUCK. Number 99 might be out of the game, but he’s not out of the restaurant business. Aspiring NHLers will thrill at the wealth of Wayne memorabilia, which for many families merits a walkabout. On balmy days, head for the huge rooftop patio. For minor leaguers: grilled cheese and fries, pizza, burger and fries, and spaghetti and meatballs all for $5.99.

The Fish House, 144 Front Street West, 416-595-5051. With bright, colourful interior punctuated by giant fish. Kids get a pirate hat to wear while they munch on shrimp or halibut with chips, junior steak, pizzas and more.

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