While it’s nice to imagine our kids being so enthralled with all their new toys and books that they never utter the words “I’m bored” over winter break, the truth is that at some point, they’re going to want to leave the house—and likely, so will you.
Ticketed events are great, and Toronto is spoiled with kid-friendly shows, but sometimes getting organized for a musical or sports game can be a little challenging. Thankfully the city is also home to plenty of drop-in style programming.
Below we round up 10 such activities that are sure to entertain your kids this winter break.
Holiday surprises aren’t only for humans! During this special event, visitors get to watch polar bears, lemurs, and giraffes get special treats and activities while learning more about how the Toronto Zoo’s Behavioural Husbandry Program engages the 5,000+ creatures that call the zoo home. Each day is a little different so be sure to check the calendar to see which animals are focused on when.
Location: Toronto Zoo
Dates: December 26–January 6
Ontario’s largest indoor amusement park is a great spot to take younger kids for a day of age-appropriate thrills. Attractions include a Ferris wheel, an old-fashion carousel and bumper cars. There’s also a large, three-level play gym that’s perfect for burning off pent-up energy. Ride tickets can be purchased individually or get your kids an unlimited ride pass.
Location: Woodbine Shopping Centre
Dates: Open daily (closed December 25 and January 1); see holiday hours here
Just because it’s cold outside doesn’t mean you have to stay indoors! Grab the kids and head down to the Bentway, where you can skate on Toronto’s coolest rink. There’s no admission fee and skate rentals are even free on Thursday evenings. And yes, there is food, drink, and most important, warming lounges on site.
Location: The Bentway Skate Trail, 250 Fort York Blvd., Toronto
Dates: December 21–January 6
More than a dozen visual artists have teamed up to turn one end of Ontario Place into a stunning winter wonderland that features hundreds of dazzling lights. This completely free event starts at 4 pm each day of winter break. While you’re at Ontario Place, you and the kids can also go for a spin on the skating rink (skate rentals are available for a fee) or warm up by the bonfire.
Location: Ontario Place, West Entrance
Dates: Every evening (from 4 pm) until March 17
With help from interactive activities, videos and even games, the Science Centre’s latest exhibit aims to make quantum mechanics an accessible concept for all ages. Once your kids have had their fill of subatomic particles, explore the rest of the Centre, which is packed with hands-on displays. Need an excuse to sit? Then stop by the IMAX Dome, which over winter break will be screening a film about pandas and another about oceans.
Location: Ontario Science Centre
Dates: Daily through January 6 (closed December 25)
Indoor playgrounds are a fantastic way for kids to burn off some energy, but those entrance fees can add up quickly. That’s what’s so great about Playground Paradise, a beautiful, big indoor playground renovated in 2018 that is completely free. That does mean that it can get busy so it’s best to get there as soon as it opens, which is 10 am every day but Thursday (when it opens at 4 pm). On weekends, toddlers get a head start on the crowds with a 9:30 am open time.
Location: Flemingdon Community Centre
Date: Open daily year-round; call ahead for holiday closures
Starting at 10:30 am each day, ROM for the Holidays stages a different educational (and fun!) event every 30 minutes. This year kids can get up close and cuddly with real (domesticated) wildlife, learn how animals dance, and discover how rocks can teach us about the ancient world.
Location: Royal Ontario Museum
Dates: December 26–January 6
If you have a hockey fanatic in your house, a visit to the Hockey Hall of Fame is a must-do, especially since until the end of the year, it’s hosting a special event to celebrate the 125th anniversary of the Stanley Cup. In addition to seeing hockey’s biggest prize on display, visitors can check out more than 20 championship rings and a wide variety of rarely seen Stanley Cup–related artifacts.
Location: Hockey Hall of Fame
Dates: Now until December 31 (closed December 25)
In December, the AGO’s Family Sundays focus on “art-making activities that celebrate the earth and our hopes and dreams for our planet.” Bring your family down to the Weston Family Learning Centre and have your kids contribute to a paper window garden that the museum is hoping brightens up these dark, winter days.
Location: Art Gallery of Ontario
Dates: December 23 and December 30
Free Events at the Toronto Public Library
In addition to being a valuable resource for an endless flow of books and movies, your neighbourhood library is likely also hosting special, kid-oriented events this winter break. These often free activities include everything from puppet shows to a noon-time New Year’s Eve party to making robots. To find out what’s happening near you, find your local Toronto Public Library branch.
Location: Various TPL branches