28 April 2019
Mention Canada to anyone and most people will think of snowy untouched wilderness, the Rockies, Niagara Falls, maybe a moose made from maple syrup.
While Canada does have all this (okay, perhaps not that moose thing), this vast country’s world-leading cities - Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver to name a few – mean that families can enjoy a holiday that breaks up city experiences with picture-postcard natural beauty.
Canada attracted a record number of visitors for the second year running in 2018 and we can’t help feeling that the country’s unique urban/wilderness balance played a key role in boosting its global appeal.
As the second largest country in the world, there’s a lot to get through when it comes to covering what families can do in Canada. That’s why we’re splitting what would be a mammoth-sized feature into two and we’re looking at the east side first.
This big, beautiful city might look imposing with its lofty towers and busy skyline but it’s deceptively easy to get around. With more than 140 languages spoken here, Toronto is said to be the most multiculturally diverse city in the world, with over half of residents being born outside Canada. That peerless mix of cultures feeds Toronto’s buzzing energy and opportunity for family fun is never too far away.
A must-do for first-timers to Toronto is the iconic CN Tower. At 553 metres, it was once the highest freestanding structure in the world and the views from the top are phenomenal. Other family favourites are Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada, the Royal Ontario Museum - Canada's biggest natural history museum and the historic Casa Loma – Toronto’s only castle. If that wasn’t enough, Toronto even has blue flag-certified beaches
We have to tell you about Canada’s Wonderland too. Often dubbed ‘the Canadian Disneyland’, it has more than 200 attractions and 69 thrilling rides spread over 331 acres, including Leviathan, Behemoth and Yukon Striker, which will open in 2019 as the world’s fastest, tallest and longest dive rollercoaster, reaching 80mph with a plunge of 245 feet and covering 3,625 feet from beginning to end.
It’s not all breakneck speeds and high-octane exhilaration though; Wonderland’s calmer sections include KidZville and Planet Snoopy where kids can enjoy more than 25 rides and attractions and have a meet and greet with Snoopy and Charlie Brown.
“Right at the top of the CN Tower, they have a viewing platform and a 360-degree revolving restaurant. I really recommend this but pre-booking is essential. They also have a glass floor which you can walk over if you can stomach it!”
Richard, Travel Counsellor
It’s Canada’s largest city and Montreal doesn’t pull any punches when it comes to delivering fun for all the family.
Montreal has its own premier theme park too. Open for six months from May, LaRonde Amusement Park has more than 40 rides including Goliath – a hypercoaster that soars up to 170 feet in the air and approaches speeds of 70mph – and Chaos – a seven-storey, chaotic loop rollercoaster delivering 360-degree thrills.
A full guided tour of the towering Notre-Dame Basilica might be a stretch for families with younger children, but instead, these families can simply pop in to this 19th century cathedral to admire the unique stained-glass windows and impressive altar before patience becomes tested.
Adventurous families can catch a bird’s eye view of Montreal by riding the MTL Zipline in the Old Port – the first urban zip-line circuit in Canada – or rent a Bixi bike and ride up Mont Royal – a mini-mountain with lush green spaces and impressive city views.
“Montreal is an extremely diverse city with a fascinating background that makes it an overall welcoming place. The main street, Rue Notre-Dame, brings everyone together from the surrounding areas as they enjoy one of the street’s many restaurants and shops. Everywhere we went we were greeted with excellent service and smiles. I really loved this city.”
Martina, Travel Counsellor
A visit to Montmorency Falls is guaranteed to impress the whole family. This majestic waterfall is one of the most striking natural wonders in the Québec City area, stretching up to 275ft high – making it taller than Niagara Falls. Even the trip to the top on the aerial tram is a lot of fun. There are actually three separate waterfalls in Montmorency Falls Park, but the other two are much smaller so don’t enjoy as much exposure.
Let the kids burn off any excess energy by visiting the Dufferin Terrace in front of the Chateau Frontenac – said to be the single most photographed hotel in the world. Whatever the weather, this is a great place to stroll along to take in breathtaking views and watch the Frontenac-hosted toboggan run.
Quebec is a fortified city, with the Old City surrounded with a stone wall perimeter that contributes to Quebec City’s UNESCO World Heritage Site status. A walk along these walls help you see the city in a different light, but walking the full 4.6km might be a tall order for some little ones. As such, the most popular section lies between the St.Jean gate at Place D’Youville and the St. Louis gate, which can be covered on foot in roughly 15 minutes.
Ottawa is home to Calypso – Canada’s biggest theme water park with 35 waterslides including a 500-metre jungle river ride and the largest wave pool in the country. Open between June and September, Calypso is particularly family friendly because they let you bring in your own food so you can swerve the overpriced junk food. The water is heated at a constant 27°C (80°F), making it a great choice for family summer vacations.
The Parliament Hill Sound & Light Show is a fantastic free event, worth catching if you’re in Ottawa this summer. Taking place every night between 9 July and 8 September, the light show is a great introduction to Canadian history with plenty of laser lights to keep the kids interested. The only catch is the 10pm start time, which might not rule this out for younger children.
Drop by the famous ByWard Market - one of the oldest and largest farmer markets in Canada – to tuck into a beavertail. Dubbed the Canadian doughnut, this simple, hand-stretched wheat dough can be deep-fried like its ringed counterparts but distinguishes itself as a Canadian staple treat with a choice of several decadent toppings.
Moncton is often referred to as Hub City, due to how great it is to base a family break. Like many places in this list, Moncton has its own water park: Magic Mountain Water Park. Open between June and September, it’s made up of four zones of fun: Splash Zone with its wave pool, the amusement rides of Fun Zone, high-tech thrills of Tek Zone and 36 holes of challenging family fun in Golf Zone.
Head to Hopewell Rocks to witness the world’s highest tides, with water reaching as high as the cliffs before walking the ocean floor later that afternoon. Things could get muddy so it’d be an idea to bring a change of clothes. Open seasonally from mid-May to mid-October, the Hopewell Rocks is located along the coast of the Bay of Fundy. Time and tide have been carved from the cliffs and coves distinctive sandstone formations topped with trees. During periods of low tide, you can walk 2km of beach and explore several coves filled with these flowerpot rocks.
Book your family escape to the east coast of Canada today - contact your Travel Counsellor and unlock a range of exclusive benefits including full financial protection and a 24-hour duty office ready to assist you before, during and after your stay.