Having three children six and under can make vacations and travelling difficult for our family. Not only are we on a budget, but we also don’t find it relaxing to chase three kids around an unknown place for an entire week. We have adopted the policy that a day trip is often the more relaxing and enjoyable option for our family, for now at least.
There are so many wonderful gems within an hour from Toronto that are a perfect way to spend a day as a family, and are easy on the budget. Bonus: you get to go home and sleep in your own bed at the end of the day! Here are just a few of the ones we’ve found.
1. Chinguacousy Park Brampton
The DMB Chinguacousy Park is one of Brampton’s most beloved parks, full of fun activities for the entire family. A summer day can be spent visiting the farm animals, mini-putting, enjoying time at the garden and greenhouse, and cooling off at the splash pad.
2. Springridge Farm Milton
Easily one of our favourite family farms, it’s easy to get lost in the fun at Milton’s Springridge Farm. There is no shortage of things to do at Springridge. Our family typically enjoys the bumpy wagon ride, a run up the hill to enjoy the gorgeous Escarpment Lookout, playtime in the giant sandbox, and some time spent feeding the farm animals. We also enjoy eating lunch at the cafe and shopping at the gift shop.
3. Emerald Lake Puslinch
A hidden gem that many Torontonians don’t know about, Emerald Lake is much more than a place to park your trailer. Day-trippers will love the water park experience on serene Emerald Lake. The water park features a 200-foot water slide, 3400 square foot splash pad, and a gorgeous spring fed quarry.
4. Halton County Radial Railway Milton
A favourite spot for train buffs, the Halton County Radial Railway (HCRR) is deceiving when you drive past it while travelling along Guelph Line. Don’t judge a book by its cover, because once you enter in the HCRR you will realize all you’ve been missing. Our family loves riding the antique trains and stopping at the ice cream shop in the woods (also inside of a train). The trains wind and weave through thick and lush forest; bug spray is a must!
5. Heart Lake Conservation Brampton
If you told me twenty years ago that I would recommended Heart Lake as a must-see spot I wouldn’t have believed you, but Heart Lake Conservation has undergone a revival in recent years. For outdoorsy families this is the perfect place to adventure for the day, activities include: hiking, treecaching trails, fishing, swimming, and a medicine wheel garden. A recent addition includes Treetop Trekking and zipline, an instant hit for families with older kids.
6. Toronto Zoo Scarborough
An obvious hit for many families living in the GTA is the Toronto Zoo, but some of us need reminding! There is no shortage of fun to be had at the Zoo. This year the endangered Amur Tiger will be at the Zoo, a perfect way to teach your kids about endangered species. Make sure to bring lots of water, because you’ll be doing a lot of walking with limited shade.
7. Ostrich Land West Lincoln
I am not kidding, there is a place called Ostrich Land, and it’s less than 90 minutes from Toronto. Families can enjoy a guided tour, have the opportunity to see Ostrich chicks, feed the yearlings, and get an up-close view of the adult Ostriches. Families can also book an ultra-unique Goat Yoga experience! Important notes: Ostrich Land is open on weekends only, only accepts cash, and bathrooms are not wheelchair accessible. Check the website and call for details.
8. Centre Island Toronto
Centre Island has undergone a revival since my own childhood memories. Today families can visit the Theme Park (get ready for some nostalgia), Far Enough Farm, and enjoy food at one of the many food outlets on the Island! Centre Island is a guaranteed hit for families looking for a lot of fun and adventure.
9. HMCS Haida Hamilton
A Canadian National Historic Site, Hamilton’s HMCS Haida is a fun and educational experience for families. Considered Canada’s most famous warship, there is a lot to see and explore aboard the ship, and so much to learn about Canadian history. If you are new to Hamilton, consider stopping at some other sites as well, including any of the awe-inspiring Hamilton waterfalls, or tour Dundurn Castle.
10. Spencer Smith Park Burlington
Anytime I visit Burlington’s Spencer Smith Park I feel like I’ve left the country and am on a relaxing family vacation. There is so much to do and see in Burlington’s Downtown, but Spencer Smith Park is a must-see. Families can enjoy the park and splash pad, watch model boat racing at Rotary Centennial Pond, and walk along the Burlington Pier for an amazing view of Lake Ontario.
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