There are a lot of reasons why living in and around downtown Toronto is great for kids: Easy access to rec centres, tons of parks and so many street festivals. But one source of entertainment that we’re in short supply of is big, multi-level indoor playgrounds. So when I heard that just such a space was opening up a short drive away from me, I was thrilled.
But more excited than me was my toddler. While she’s only two, she loves tackling tall play structures and zipping down slides. So a few weeks ago we decided to check out Happy Kingdom and see what she thought of it.
What is Happy Kingdom?
Located inside Nation Experience at the Stock Yards Village (St. Clair and Keele), Happy Kingdom may not be around the corner but it’s a lot closer to downtown Toronto than most other big, indoor playgrounds (many of which seem to call Vaughn home). The Stock Yards also offers plenty of free parking and is located on a dedicated streetcar line, making it transit-friendly.
Happy Kingdom is technically made up of two parts: An arcade room that features 135 different games and Ocean Ball, a 4000-square foot indoor playground.
While at first glance Ocean Ball might seem a bit smaller than some other indoor playgrounds, it’s smartly designed and packs a ton of features. It’s spread over three levels and has multiple slides, a rocket-shaped climbing structure and a trampoline area. Then there’s the ball pit, which features thousands of yellow and white balls as well as a ball-drop bucket, which randomly empties ontp some unsuspecting kid (or parent).
My toddler loved all of it. She eagerly climbed through the play structure and explored its many nooks and crannies. She particularly loved what I dubbed “the racing slides,” on which she could race her friends (and her parents).
Since my daughter is on the small side, I usually follow her through any play structure. Sometimes this is tricky to do, but not at Happy Kingdom. While I did end up with banged-up knees, I was able to get through every tunnel and level change with ease. Well, maybe not “with ease;” by the time we left Nations, I felt like I’d just completed a cardio routine.
If your little one isn’t quite as adventurous as mine, they might enjoy the toddler corner, which features shorter slides, a playhouse and ride-on toys.
What else is there?
Happy Kingdom is just a one part of Nations Experience, a 155,000 square foot space that once housed a Target. While the playground is what attracted me to Nations, most people come to buy groceries. With a focus on foods from around the world (hence the name), Nations sells fresh and packaged goods that you might not find at your local Loblaws.
There’s also a very impressive (and tasty) food court located just outside of Happy Kingdom. It offers everything from pizza to a salad bar to dim sum. I loved the fresh-squeezed juice while my toddler liked that she could have sliced fruit and fries. There’s also plenty of seating and yes, you can exit Happy Kingdom, eat lunch and then play some more.
Does it do birthdays?
Yep. Happy Kingdom has dedicated space for your little one’s special day and offers a variety of packages that include food, drinks and access to the playground. For more details, give them a call at 416-767-5888.
Any tips for checking out Happy Kingdom?
Go early. The playground opens at 10 am each morning (with the arcade opening at 11 am). We got there on a Saturday at around 10:10 am and we were only the second family there. Things started to pick up around 11 and by noon, it was busy. While it wasn’t packed – my daughter never waited more than a few second to go down a slide – the potential for chaos was clearly developing.
Also make sure to bring socks (if you forget, you can pick up a pair for $2). Shoes, along with coats and diaper bags, are to be stored in the cubbies that line the entryway to the playground.
But if you can, leave the stroller at home. They aren’t allowed in the playground and have to be parked outside of it.
Finally, do plan on staying for lunch. Besides being delicious, the food is reasonably priced. And because Nations has plenty of background noise, no one will care if your child gets a little fussy.
So what is this going to cost me?
Playground prices vary depending on when you go. Monday-Friday it’s $13.99 for your first kid, with any siblings costing $12.99. If your child is under 38 inches, one adult gets in free, while any additional adults cost $2. If your child is over 38 inches, every adult costs $2. (Despite this pricing structure, kids over 38 inches are still supposed to be supervised by an adult.)
On the weekend, your first child costs $16.99 with subsequent kids costing $14.99. Again, if your child is under 38 inches, one adult gets in free, while any additional adults cost $2. There are also monthly and annual passes available.
I know, it’s kind of confusing and it’s not cheap. But Happy Kingdom is loads of fun and for us downtowners, it’s way closer than Vaughn.