Toronto Gay Family Summer Guide
Summer and WorldPride have arrived in Toronto! If you're bringing your family with you for WorldPride, be sure to check out our WorldPride Family Guide. Read this guide to learn about places and activities for you and your family outside of Pride events.
Toronto is consistently voted as one of the best and most livable cities in the world. It’s safe, clean, accepting, and welcoming. The entire world knows Toronto has a nincompoop as mayor, but did you know that the people of Ontario just elected premier Kathleen Wynne, an out-and-proud lesbian?
Gays With Kids has compiled a list of the area's most exciting attractions, beautiful neighborhoods, relaxing beaches, and kid-friendly restaurants with outdoor seating areas, among other things. More suggestions? Let us know in the comments below and we'll add to this list. We love feedback!
NEIGHBORHOODS TO EXPLORE
Chinatown (the area near the intersection of Spadina Avenue and Dundas Street West; subway to St. Patrick Station, then streetcar westbound) – exotic fruits and vegetables; fabrics, leather; Chinese, Thai, Japanese and Vietnamese restaurants
Koreatown (Bloor Street West, between Bathurst Street and Christie Street; subway to Christie Street) – Korean food, fashion, acupuncture
The Gay Village (area near the intersection of Church Street and Wellesley Street; subway to Wellesley Station, then walk east) – gay neighborhood, with gay bars, bathhouses, gay-oriented stores. And lots of men!
Greektown (Danforth Avenue between Chester Avenue and Dewhurst Boulevard; subway to Pape station) – Greek food, strolling, people watching, and more Greek food
Cabbagetown (around the intersection of Parliament Street and Carlton Street; subway to Wellesley Station, then bus eastward) – gorgeous Victorian rowhouses, farmer’s market on Tuesdays, 3-7pm; Riverdale Farm; Allan Gardens; lots of gay dad families and lesbian mom families.
Kensington Market (between Dundas Street West and College Street; take subway to Queen’s Park Station, then streetcar westbound) – open-air market (11 am–7pm daily), flea market, foods from all over the world, vintage clothing stores
Entertainment District (area south of Queen Street, east of Spadina Avenue, west of Simcoe Street and north of Lakeshore Boulevard – subway to Union Station, St. Andrew Station or Osgoode Station) – theaters, performing arts centers, home venues of major league sports teams, home of the Toronto International Film Festival, The National Ballet of Canada, Canadian Opera Company, and Toronto Symphony Orchestra.
West Queen West (Queen Street West between Bathurst Street and Gladstone Avenue; subway to Queen Station, then streetcar westbound) – artists, fashion, galleries, antiques, patios, cafés and bars; très gay.
Evergreen Brickworks (subway to Broadview Station; then shuttle bus every 30-45 min. from Erindale Avenue; or subway to Davisville Station, then bus 28A)
Evergreen Brickworks is a former brick factory that has been transformed into an environmental center, community farmer’s market, education center, park and conservation center all in one. The farmer’s market, open on Saturday mornings, contains an open-air covered market specializing in fair-trade or locally produced sustainable products. Delicious prepared foods can be enjoyed while soaking in the atmosphere that often includes live music. Kids will love climbing the paths behind the main buildings through the forests, around the ponds and up the sides of the ravine escarpment.
Riverdale Farm (subway to Wellesley Station, then bus 94 or streetcar 506 east)
Toronto continues to fund and operate a small farm right in the center of the city. Riverdale farm, located in über-gay Cabbagetown, houses an historic working farm with pigs, chickens, goats, turkeys, cows, horses, a donkey, and other farm animals. After visiting the farm, get lunch or snacks to cool off with a visit to the small children’s park with wading pool next door.
A 10-minute ferry ride south of Toronto lie a series of islands including Centre Island, Ward’s Island and Hanlan’s Point. Looking for a small amusement park, fast-food restaurants and petting zoo, look no further than Centre Island. Check out the small permanent community of country-style houses on Ward’s Island.
Clothes not your thing? Head right over to Hanlan’s Point beach, a clothing-optional a.k.a. gay beach right in the center of Toronto!
Rental bikes and quads (bikes designed for three or four people) are available for rent. It takes about 20-30 minutes to bike the full length of the islands. For the more adventurous, try renting a canoe or kayak from Harbourfront rentals right in downtown Toronto and avoid the ferry lines to the island.
The ferry terminal is located about a ten-minute walk south of Union subway station, or a short LRT Streetcar ride away.
Downtown South of the Core
If you have more than a few hours to burn, and the kids are losing patience, wow them with a plethora of fun activities located a five-minute walk west of Union subway station.
Once the world’s tallest freestanding structure, but still the world’s tallest free-standing phallic symbol, there is something for everyone at the CN Tower. From this tower of 1814 ft., visitors on a clear day can see Niagara, New York State, Hamilton, and the entire city of Toronto. The tower has an open-air observation deck, an outdoor edge-walk where participants are harnessed to the tower and defy gravity, a glass floor and an even higher space deck. The CN Tower will not disappoint.
Visitors can cool-off in the Ripley’s Aquarium located nearby. From northern ecosystems to tropical waters, the aquarium is fun and educational, and much larger than it seems. There is a children’s play area in the center of the aquarium where parents can sit and chat while watching their kids burn off pent-up energy.
Across the street from the aquarium is the Roundhouse and Steam Whistle Brewery. Formerly used to turn train cars around beside the train terminus at Union Station, the Roundhouse is now a museum and, yes, active brewery. Grab a cold one and watch your kids ride the miniature train outside the Roundhouse. What a treat!
If your timing is right, catch a Blue Jays baseball game at the Rogers Centre (formerly Skydome) located directly beside the CN Tower. The retractable roof covering a stadium that houses 55,000 of the world’s quietest fans will astound even the most experienced sports fans.
Discover your inner animal at the Toronto Zoo. This massive zoo located in north eastern Toronto has every imaginable animal organized into pavilions and along beautiful walkways. Check out the panda bear exhibit; the cutest animals next to the koalas!
The Toronto Zoo is located on the Rouge River Urban Wilderness Park, the largest natural environment park in an urban area in North America. By car, 40 minutes from downtown Toronto at Sheppard Avenue East and Morningside Avenue.
Locals say you can walk a kilometer without seeing a soul in this massive urban park. We don’t know if that is true anymore, but High Park is still a great urban family retreat. Toronto’s second, smaller zoo is located here, next to a massive wooden children’s fort. At the top of the park are tennis courts, playing fields and a restaurant. If your kids are a little older, Shakespeare in High Park is fun too.
Located a short 30-minute drive north of Toronto, in the city of Vaughan, Canada’s Wonderland is Canada’s premiere amusement park with rides, games, food and an outdoor concert venue. Check out Leviathan, a roller coaster that boasts speeds of 125 km/h with an 80-degree drop. Canada’s Wonderland is located at Highway 400 and Major Mackenzie Drive.
Even some Torontonians are unaware that Toronto sports some of the cleanest and unspoiled (read, not commercially developed) beaches and waterfront in the world. That’s right, you can swim Lake Ontario right in Toronto!
Be sure to bring drinking water, sun protection and snacks, as there are few restaurants near either set of beaches. For those looking for snacks such as ice cream, take the five-minute walk from the eastern beaches boardwalk north to Queen Street where there are many restaurants and grocery stores.
Eastern beaches run for several kilometers from Ashbridges Bay Park in the West to the water treatment plant at Victoria Park Avenue in the East. There is a boardwalk that runs the entire distance. An Olympic-sized pool is open to the public right on the beach at the corner of Woodbine Avenue and Lakeshore Boulevard East.
Feeling sporty? Your family can try a pickup game of volleyball in one of 125 beach volleyball nets right on the beach.
Either take the Queen Streetcar to Woodbine and walk south 5 minutes to the lake, or take a car, but keep in mind that parking can be tough.
Western beaches run for several kilometers from about Jamieson Avenue to the Humber River. There is children’s play equipment along the boardwalk that runs the entire length of the beaches. Sunnyside Pool is open to the public right on the beach also. Bring your beach toys!
For those willing to walk to the western end of the beach, there is a pedestrian bridge spanning the Humber River. Just beyond the Humber River lies a low-tech but highly efficient water treatment nature reserve where butterflies abound. Kids will enjoy walking the elevated walkways around the reserve.
Located in Vaughan Mills Centre, a massive shopping plaza about 30 minutes north of Toronto, Legoland is both fun and educational. Looking for a safe place to zone out while the kids entertain themselves? This is it. Located at 1 Bass Pro Mills Drive at Highway 400 and Bass Pro Mills Drive.
Skyzone is an enormous place for indoor trampoline jumping. You can watch while they jump. Or, if your kids don’t need supervision, you can join in the fun. Make reservations online a few days ahead.
Voted the number one food market in the world by National Geographic, the St. Lawrence. The south market located on the south side of Front Street East at Jarvis Street, is a permanent market with over 120 fresh fruit and vegetable, cheese, meat and fish vendors. There are a number of prepared food shops and restaurants as well. Many famous chefs come to the market and their pictures adorn the walls of several establishments. The vendors in the south market are family friendly. Ask for samples, particularly from the cheese vendors. Your kids will think they are in heaven.
If you or your kids like massive shopping malls, go to Eaton Centre, one of Canada’s largest, downtown on Yonge (pronounce as: young) Street with stores of practically every major retailer; but if you prefer to be outdoors, choose (expensive)Yorkville (around Yorkville Avenue; subway to Bay Station), where you can find high-end clothing stores such as Hugo Boss, Gucci, and Burberry; you’ll probably spot some celebrities as well.