Toronto families have no shortage of kid-friendly, live entertainment options. But while these shows—think Sesame Street Live, The Wiggles and Disney On Ice—are sure to create smiles, they can be pricy and the big venues that host them can put your little one far from the action. And then there’s the big question: Is your kid ready to sit for an hour, or longer, and watch a live performance?
Thankfully Toronto has somewhere that lets you easily answer that question. As I found out firsthand, the Lower Ossington Theatre (100 Ossington Avenue) is the perfect venue to introduce your kids to live theatre. And its reasonable ticket prices and small size make it the kind of place you’ll want to bring your family back to again and again.
I stopped by the LOT a couple of Saturdays ago to catch a performance of the Elmer The Patchwork Elephant Show. Joining me was my very busy two-year-old daughter. While she loves music and dancing, I was a little worried that maybe she wasn’t quite ready for a live show. When, after entering the theatre, she made a dash for the brightly decorated stage, I found myself wishing that I’d brought my toddler carrier, like another mother had.
But then the house lights went out, the stage lit up and a herd of singing felt elephant puppets appeared before us. She was mesmerized. At least for a little bit; during the play’s non-musical moments, she was a bit more active than I would have liked. Thankfully our 11am show was only about a third full and offered general admission seating. We’d managed to snag seats in an empty row, with another empty row behind us. It was the perfect setup for learning that my daughter isn’t quite ready for one of those big, flashy Air Canada Centre shows.
What does the LOT show?
The LOT recently released its 2018 lineup and this year its family-friendly programming includes Willy Wonka The Musical, Joseph and the Technicolor Dreamcoat and The Wizard of Oz.
If your kids love Moana, they might like Once On This Island The Musical, a tale about a fearless girl who happens to call a tropical island home. And if you’re looking for a special Christmas outing, the LOT will also be staging a live radio play version of It’s A Wonderful Life.
For a full listing of events, visit the LOT’s Facebook events page.
What’s the theatre like?
The LOT is a small space, which means that pretty much every seat offers a clear, unobstructed view of the stage. However, the front row might be a little too close for some.
Its small size means there’s no subtle way to sneak out to use the washroom (or remove a crying child) however, if you do have to leave the theatre, you will be allowed back, at least during children’s shows.
While the LOT might be small, it’s very professionally run, with shows starting on time. Be sure to get there 15-10 minutes ahead of curtain time.
Also note that strollers are not allowed in the theatre, which is located up a long, winding staircase (and sorry, there’s no elevator).
What’s the snack situation? What about souvenirs?
The LOT’s concession stand sells pop, water and a small variety of snacks including chips and nachos. (And yes, there are alcoholic drinks available.) Technically you’re not supposed to bring in outside food or drinks but when I was there, I saw families visibly breaking that rule and staff looking the other way.
While the souvenir selection depends on the play, your wallet will be glad to know that it’s generally modest. At Elmer, there was a small selection of Elmer-related books.
Where can we park?
The LOT doesn’t have its own dedicated parking lot. While you can sometimes snag parking right on Ossington (including immediately in front of the theatre), there are a couple of lots located a little further down the street, just north of Queen St. W.
Is there anywhere nearby to grab something to eat?
While Ossington is packed with restaurants, many aren’t exactly kid-friendly. Thankfully La Cubana, located just steps from the LOT, is happy to severe your little ones pork sandwiches and fun drinks like a raspberry lime rickey.
A little further away, at Dundas and Ossington, is the historic, and very family-friendly, Lakeview Lunch. It offers a kids menu and some of the best milkshakes in town.
Want somewhere on Queen St. W.? Try Café Neon, which offers lots of seating space and a wide variety of brunch items.
If you want to make your trip to the LOT The Best Day Ever for your kids, take them to Bang Bang, located across the street from the theatre. This ice cream shop offers dozens of flavours that can be served on cookies, cinnamon buns and bubble waffles.
And if you want to find more upcoming Toronto theatre shows for kids, visit Help! We’ve Got Kids.