Famously friendly, Canadians gifted us all with maple bacon and poutine. It also boasts some of the most spectacular skiing in the world, and mountains so grand they’ll take your breath away. But what else should you add to your family-friendly itinerary on your trip to this North American destination? Check out our favourite places to go and things to do in Canada with kids.
Niagara Falls, Ontario
This destination, shared by Canada with their USA neighbours, easily tops our list of things to do in Canada. These monumental falls sit on the border of Ontario and New York state, 2 hours’ drive from Toronto. Myths and legends circulate about the handful of daredevils who’ve attempted to go over the falls in a barrel in days of old. You’ll get a much better experience of the mighty Niagara Falls and river from a boat cruise, helicopter scenic flight, gondola in the Niagara Skywheel, jet boating tour, or the glass elevator in the Skylon Tower. On the Canadian side, you will be able to see the “Horseshoe” falls where over 2 million litres of water rush over the brink…per second! It is worth sticking around to explore the 300 kilometres of biking trails near Niagara, or to go snowshoeing in winter in the Niagara Parks.
Banff National Park, Alberta
Banff (and Jasper) surely come out on top when it comes to Canada’s world famous national parks. In fact, Banff is actually Canada’s oldest national park. Set in the Rocky Mountains, enjoy the thermal hot springs, canoe on the lakes, hike the trails or, if you visit in winter, delve into the snow sports. The glass gondola is a great way of securing the best views from the top of Sulphur Mountain. Banff is also famous for its lakes; check out Lake Louise, Bow Lake, Moraine Lake or Lake Minnewanka.
Read more: Brilliant Banff rocks in every season
Prince Edward Island
A worthy destination in its own right, Prince Edward Island is also the famous setting of Anne of Green Gables. Fans of the red-headed heroine can embark on literary tours and visit Green Gables itself. Then, be sure to go seal watching, canoeing and on scenic drives such as the Points East Coastal Drive. PEI is known also for its beaches, with red cliffs spilling into the sea. We recommend Cavendish Beach. We also recommend hiring a bike and cycling a section of the Confederation Trail, which runs for 449 kilometres.
PEI features on our list of 13 literary destinations for book loving kids.
Canadian Children’s Museum, Quebec
Tucked inside the Canadian Museum of History, this hands-on experience of the past caters specifically to curious kids. You can climb aboard a Thai rickshaw, venture inside a Bedouin tent or explore a Mexican-style home. The Children’s Museum hosts a kid-friendly schedule of events throughout the year. There are also nappy changing facilities and breastfeeding spaces.
Royal Tyrell Museum of Paleontology, Alberta
This Drumheller museum is another worth exploring with littlies. The only museum in Canada dedicated exclusively to prehistory, it covers a timeline of 3.8 billion years and has a fossil exhibit and a cretaceous garden. The Dinosaur Hall is a stand-out, with a huge display of dino remains including those of a triceratops and tyrannosaurus rex. Dinosite is an exhibit tailored to budding paleontologists aged 4 and up. You can search for fossils as well as learn about the prehistory of Alberta.
Watching ice hockey
Surely this is one of the most quintessential things to do in Canada. It can be brutal and fierce – and that’s just in the crowd! You’re guaranteed a thrilling experience as a spectator of Canada’s most beloved sport. Try to catch a game of the National Hockey League, but if you miss out, stop by a local game to witness amazing skills, thrills and spills on the ice.
Catching a train
Some of the best views in the country are through the window of a train. For a top-shelf experience, splurge on the luxury of the Rocky Mountaineer. Otherwise, there’s The Canadian, a four-day route running from Toronto to Vancouver through prairielands and the Rocky Mountains. For something shorter, try a day trip to Niagara by train, or jump on the Polar Bear Express.
Read more: Canada’s best train trips.
Skiing at Whistler Blackcomb, British Columbia
Perhaps the most famous and family-friendly ski resort in the world, Whistler Blackcomb is a wintry haven. Built on two mountains and two hours’ drive from Vancouver, it is not just awesome for snow-loving families. Visit in summer for mountain biking, golf, hiking and glacier tours. Be sure to take the peak to peak gondola between the two summits. Read more about how Whistler is a year-round destination, or how to make the most of skiing with kids in Whistler.
Whale watching, Bay of Fundy
This Vancouver Island whale hotspot has been labelled one of the seven wonders of North America. Whales aside, it is also renowned for having the world’s highest tides and for its spectacular sea caves and rock formations. Spot seabirds on a coastal walk, and keep your eyes peeled for dinosaur fossils – because a considerable number have been found here!
Polar bear spotting in Churchill
Did you know that two thirds of the world’s polar bear population reside in Canada? See for yourself in Churchill, Manitoba on the edge of Hudson Bay. It is one of the best places to spot a polar bear. The bears arrive here in season on ice floes, spreading out across the tundra before gathering at the bay in winter. Catch a short flight to Churchill from Winnipeg.
Moose spotting in Algonquin
The Fall season – specifically the month of September – is ideal moose-spotting time in Algonquin Provincial Park, Ontario. At this time of year, the big bulls have full-grown antlers. The trees also put on a show, draped in astonishing reds and oranges. The park is great year-round for active lovers of the outdoors. Try backcountry canoeing, camping and hiking. Mew Lake campground is great year-round, a visit to the Logging Museum is a nice diversion and bike trails such as Byers Lake Mountain Bike Trail and Old Railway Bike Trail are great fun.
Biodome Montreal, Quebec
Where else can you go in the world that contains five global ecosystems in the one place? Originally built as the velodrome used in the 1976 Olympics, this Montreal site is now part of the Space for Life natural science museum complex. Its counterparts include the Montreal Insectarium, Botanical Garden and Rio Tinto Alcan Planetarium. Wander through its five exhibits. Meet macaws in the South American rainforest, lynx in a Quebecois Laurentian forest, marine creatures from the Gulf of Saint Lawrence, penguins from the subantarctic islands and puffins from Labrador.
Old Montreal, Quebec
Fuel up on Quebecois favourite poutine (fries, cheese and gravy) before wandering the streets of this quaint old city district. Be sure to tread the cobblestones of Saint Paul street, peruse the 150-year-old Bonsecour market and marvel at the breathtaking Notre Dame Basilica. Museums abound in the region, including a Science Centre and Centre d’Histoire de Montreal.
Queen Elizabeth Park, British Columbia
The highest point in Vancouver, with stunning city views, also happens to be a delightful picnic spot. This landscaped park and garden contains the Bloedel floral Conservatory and a dome containing tropical bird and plant species. Stroll through the trees of the arboretum or past sculpture features. Get sporty on a tennis or basketball court, or have a round of pitch and putt.
CN Tower, Ontario
Standing at 550 metres, the CN Tower is the tallest building in Toronto and boasts some unparalleled views. Discover the history of the tower by watching a short film, then head up to its observation desks, including a LookOut level with six glass elevators and an Edgewalk level for the brave.
Calgary Stampede, Alberta
The largest event on Canada’s calendar and the largest outdoor rodeo in the world, the Calgary Stampede unfolds every July. It earns its host city the nickname of ‘Cowtown,’ but the rodeo events aren’t the only ones worth visiting. There are also fireworks displays, acrobatics shows, country music, rides, chuckwagon derbies and the ever-present pancakes.
Quebec Winter Carnival, Quebec
Celebrate all things snow-related at this winter themed festival, which first began in Quebec City as early as 1894. Wear red and tie the famous arrow sash on your left side, and you’ll be ready for the parades and events. Other traditions include the trumpets of the Carnival Night Parade, caribou appearances, ice sculpting, ice canoe challenges, dog sled racing and more.