If you haven’t yet discovered the Toronto Police Museum and Discovery Centre, you may want to check it out with the kids, because this museum is an absolute hidden gem in this big city of ours.
The Toronto Police Museum & Discovery Centre
This not-for-profit registered charity is built completely from private donations and aims to “expand the community’s understanding of policing in Toronto.”
The museum occupies about 3,000 square feet and is located in the atrium of the Toronto Police Headquarters. It works in partnership with the Toronto Police Service but isn’t a part of it. There are a variety of displays, artifacts, and even police vehicles that kids can climb in and on.
It’s relatively small, but without reading the majority of the signs, we still managed to spend a good 45 minutes in the museum.
You enter the museum via the main doors of the Toronto Police Headquarters. There, you’re greeted by two police officers who will search your bags. They were incredibly friendly and bantered with our kids.
The first part of the museum details the history of the Toronto police. My kids and I found it very interesting to read about how police officers were selected in the past. You’ll have to go to the museum yourself to read up about it (or watch/read Murdoch Mysteries). There are also displays of past police uniforms and vehicles, including a statue of a police officer on a horse.
Midway through the museum is a police motorcycle that my kids loved climbing on to “ride.” They were able to flick the buttons and even pretended to use the walkie-talkie.
Further into the museum is part of a police car that’s also open for kids to climb in and out of. They had a blast driving the vehicle and again, pressing every button available.
Just before the end of the museum is a mock historic police station with a call box outside of it. My kids couldn’t fathom a world before cell phones, much less a world without immediate access to other people. There was even a mock jail with a fake prisoner inside the cell that scared my 3-year-old. The person was quite life-like, and there was even a fake rat inside to complete the scene.
The last part of the museum features a car that had been involved in an accident and a giant billboard that was once publicly-displayed numbering the annual fatalities in Toronto. And a disclaimer: there’s also a display in this section on illegal substances, in case you think your children might be too young for this topic.
Overall, the museum was a pleasant surprise. It seemed like it kept going and going and going – it was definitely much bigger than I had anticipated. If I wasn’t busy chasing my children around the place, I would’ve loved to read more of the signs that were around.
I personally wouldn’t drive all the way downtown just to come here, as it’s not a big enough attraction. But we combined this trip with a stop at the nearby Bulk Barn, which made my husband and I look like heroes to our kids when we let them buy a couple dollars’ worth of candy. In fact, our kids still talk about the Bulk Barn portion as the highlight of the whole trip.
I’d highly recommend bringing kids here if you either happen to be in the neighbourhood or can combine it with another destination nearby. And don’t forget to donate on your way out (or buy a t-shirt at the gift shop). It’s obvious the charity has put a lot of work into this museum, and it’s nice to have such a quaint, local place to visit with our family.
Location: 40 College St., Toronto, ON M5G 2J3
Parking: Street Parking or paid parking lots
Costs: Free! But donations are much appreciated.
Hours: Open 8:30 am – 4:00 pm, Monday to Friday (The website says to call ahead to book, but I think that’s for larger groups.)
Tips & Tricks
- This museum is STROLLER-FRIENDLY and ACCESSIBLE! Ramps everywhere! We love that.
- If you’re bringing young kids, steer them away from the section between the police car and the mock old-fashioned police station. The displays in that area talk about famous crimes that were committed in the past and the details are on the gruesome side.
- Nearby places/fun for kids (within walking distance): Toronto Reference Library (1.4km), Grange Park (1.6km), AGO (1.4km), Eaton’s Centre (750m)
- Combine this trip with a stop at Bulk Barn and your kids will think you’re amazing!
- Where to eat nearby (within walking distance): McDonald’s, Banh Mi Boys, Scaddabush, A&W, Swiss Chalet, Pickle Barrel, and the food court at the Eaton’s Centre
- Be prepared for the gift shop, located inside the HQ across from the museum. All proceeds from the gift shop go towards funding the museum, but prep yourself and your kids if you’re not ready to shell out money for Toronto Police Services paraphernalia.