Trip Planning Tips for a Toronto Vacation
Casa Loma castle in Toronto.
Casa Loma castle in Toronto.
Toronto skyline at night.
Toronto skyline at night.

If you’ve read my story on the best way to spend seven days in Toronto, I hope you’ll take advantage of some more advice from a local mom on how to travel and where to stay in our favorite city in eastern Canada.

Toronto Family-Friendly Places to Stay

Toronto has accommodations to suit every taste and budget. If you don’t plan to rent a car, you will have easier access to many attractions if you select a downtown hotel. The websites listed above can assist in your search. Here’s a small sampling of a few of downtown Toronto’s finest hotels (all offer baby-sitting and kids programs or scheduled activities):

•  Four Seasons Hotel 416/964-0411: Ultra luxurious hotel in the heart of stylish Yorkville shopping district. Ranked one of Canada’s 10 Best Hotels by Forbes Traveler in 2008. Check their website for weekend and summer time family packages.

Westin Harbour Castle 416/869-1600: Most spectacular view of Lake Ontario and Toronto Islands. Ask for south side room and enjoy. The Westin Prince is cheaper, but also 11 kms from downtown.

SkyDome Hotel 416/341-7100, 800/932-2198: Luxury hotel for the ultimate sports fan. Some rooms have windows overlooking the stadium’s field.

Fairmont Royal York Hotel 416/368-2511: Classic city castle hotel with regal lobby and elegant rooms looms over main railway station and downtown shopping district; Gold Floors with complimentary breakfast are an excellent family value.

Student Housing Open to Families in Summer: Looking for a less expensive alternative? Here’s a cheap sleep available May through the third week of August. At the University of Toronto at Scarborough (416/287-7356) student residences, rates start at $100 CDN (about $89US) per night for a six-person townhouse, or $90 CDN (US$80) for a four-person townhouse. Since there are only 81 furnished townhouses with single or twin-bedded rooms, you have to book early. Each house has its own entrance with bathroom, living room and kitchen, and bedding and linens are supplied. Parking is free, there are laundry facilities, and there is also convenient public transportation.

Students at the Neill-Wycik Cooperative College (800/268-4358; 416/977-2320) in the heart of downtown run a student-owned and operated hotel where student staff and supervisors gain skills and work experience while offering 24-hour front desk and concierge access, in-room telephones, internet terminals, breakfast cafe and a 23rd floor roof deck barbeque with a beautiful view of the city. Family rooms, at $65 CDN (about $58 US) accommodate two adults and two children in four single beds. Shared bathrooms/kitchens.

    Toronto Sightseeing Resources

    One of the best sources of information about Toronto or T.O. as it’s called, for both locals and visitors, is the events and attractions website: This extensive, easy-to-navigate site provides up-to-date information about hotels, restaurants and attractions. There is an excellent “Just For Kids” option provided in the “Attractions” menu. Another good site geared more to visitors and featuring many hotel and attractions packages is Tourism Toronto at Toronto Tourism.

    Toronto Savings Options

    Toronto is a participant in the CityPass Program which includes admission to six popular (and recommended by me) family attractions:  Royal Ontario Museum, CN Tower, Casa Loma, the Ontario Science Centre OR the Toronto Zoo and Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada. You’ll pay just one price, with discounts for children, reflecting a 43% discount — substantial savings off individual tickets. Plus you have nine days to use all the tickets and each ones gets the family to the head of the line.

    Toronto is a theater lover’s bargain, too. With a bustling theater scene ranking just behind New York and London for its quantity (not quality) of big “Broadway” style productions, your family is sure to find something worth seeing. And, despite the popularity of these shows, dinner theaters, and comedy supper clubs, you can often find a last minute, half-priced ticket at the T.O. Tix Booth in Dundess Square at Yonge Street, opposite the Eaton Centre. For interesting theater/hotel combo packages (often themed to families when, for instance, “The Lion King” or “Lord of the Rings” is in town), visit

    Weather in Ontario

    I think the best time to visit Toronto is from June through August when the weather is usually warm and sunny. September is often lovely, and less busy, but many of the summer attractions close for the season after Labor Day. During the chilly winter, visitors will be pleased to see how many indoor and weather-proof attactions are available.


    For our neighbors from the United States, Canada is a great bargain. One Canadian dollar is equal to about 73 cents US.

    Getting Around

    All attractions mentioned in this article are accessible via public transit (although travel time to some – the zoo, McMichael Gallery – may be long and cumbersome for small children). For detailed information on subway, bus and streetcar routes, contact the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) at 416/393-4636.

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