What to do with a 4 year-old in Toronto this weekend?
February 15, 2013 7:13 AM   Subscribe

My wife and I are taking care of our out-of-town niece, who is a month short of her fourth birthday, this weekend (and possibly our nephew, who is six months younger). We don't have kids of our own, so we're kind of clueless about how to entertain children that age. What are some fun and not-too-expensive kid-friendly things to do in Toronto this weekend?

My first thought was the Science Centre, but it's likely to be packed (given that it's Family Day weekend) and maybe she's not old enough for it (I haven't been there since the early '80s)? She also seems to be in the "pretty easy to entertain" phase of her life, given that the only advance request she's made is a ride on the subway (or "underground train," as she calls it). Any thoughts or advice would be greatly appreciated!
posted by The Card Cheat to Human Relations (13 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I always recommend Allan Gardens. No admission and no lineups. It's out of the cold, architecturally interesting, full of pretty flowers and interesting plants like banana trees and giant cacti. Plus has a couple of small goldfish ponds (where I've seen a turtle).

Not so much a "run wild" place as the science centre but it could be part of the day's mix.
posted by bonobothegreat at 7:27 AM on February 15, 2013

The Science Centre has a tyke section now, so it's friendly for all kids. But -- yes. It's going to be a zoo. As would be the Zoo, or the ROM. CN Tower is crazy expensive.

Being the off-season, might Black Creek fit the bill? Not as busy as the other usual suspects?
posted by Capt. Renault at 7:28 AM on February 15, 2013

Oh -- Black Creek is closed. It didn't used to be that way, did it? Sorry. Nevermind.
posted by Capt. Renault at 7:30 AM on February 15, 2013

I can second the fact that the Science Centre is definitely not too grown up - we have a family membership and our 16-month-old loves it. There is a TON of stuff for the little ones. It does get crazy on long weekends, but it's also a safe place for kids to run around and burn off energy.
posted by barnoley at 8:08 AM on February 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

The first car on the older subway trains has windows looking straight ahead.

If it's not too cold Riverdale Farm might make for a nice outing.

The ferry to the islands and back can be dramatic on the right winter day and gives a nice view of the city. It will be cold.

Harbourfront has some fun free activities on family day and outdoor skating. It will be crowded too. Also some pet themed activites nearby.

The TIFF Lightbox has some family events happening.

If you're here Monday there's a Drumming Workshop at the Gardiner museum.

Finally if you're staying with friends/family there might be some local events in nearby parks etc. that will be smaller in scale. We had couple flyers come home from my daughter's school (and much of the above was lifted from them).

Every big event will be a madhouse. The earlier you get out the less crowded places will be.
posted by samhyland at 8:25 AM on February 15, 2013

The ROM has a bunch of Family Day weekend activities planned.
posted by mayurasana at 8:26 AM on February 15, 2013

I'm just trying to figure out how your nephew is six months younger than your niece.

(I suppose they could come from different families...)
posted by zadcat at 8:27 AM on February 15, 2013

Yeah, my niece is my sister's daughter and my nephew is my brother's son. He's already been taken on the first-car-of-the-subway ride and it BLEW HIS MIND, so that's definitely on the agenda. Thanks for the suggestions thus far...outdoor skating also came to mind, since both of them are learning to skate, although it's supposed to be hella cold on Saturday and Sunday.
posted by The Card Cheat at 8:33 AM on February 15, 2013

The AGO also has several activities planned. I imagine both the ROM and AGO will be bananas though.

It's a bit early for maple syrup tapping, unfortunately.

Evergreen Brickworks will have a few things going on.

The Clay Room has ceramics you can paint yourself. Unfortunately pieces have to be picked up a week later — this may pose a problem depending on your or siblings' availability later.
posted by mayurasana at 8:41 AM on February 15, 2013

One more idea. My four year old daughter's going to see Strawberry Shortcake with special guest The Doodlebops Saturday with her friend (both Mum's are going too).

Not exactly cheap but it's inside and heated.
posted by samhyland at 8:43 AM on February 15, 2013

If he loves a first car subway ride, you should also take him on a streetcar ride, too. Maybe not as cool as a subway, but easy enough to accomplish while in the downtown core.
posted by evadery at 9:49 AM on February 15, 2013

How about the High Park Zoo? It's free!
posted by janepanic at 11:15 AM on February 15, 2013

Smock Cafe on Roncesvalles is great fun.
posted by lizifer at 3:45 PM on February 15, 2013

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