Monday, August 17, 2009

Baby-friendly sightseeing in Toronto

In this week’s baby bargainista column, Jenny shares her summer staycation experience and tips for venturing out with your little ones this summer.

This summer, instead of attempting to navigate the logistics of travelling with a breastfeeding 6-month-old, we decided to save time, money, and aggravation, have a family staycation and do some sightseeing right here in Toronto.

There are so many things to do, and so many places that we’d been promising ourselves (and our 5-year-old) that we’d visit “soon”! We picked two that are great value for the money (Centreville and Ontario Place) and one VERY touristy spot that was a special request by our 5-year-old: the CN Tower. So this week, I can’t offer you any money-saving tips, but I can help you to save time and aggravation by sharing what I learned.

Our first destination was the CN Tower. If you decide to go with the kids, there are a few VERY important things you should know:

1. Go first thing in the morning, when it opens at 9am, and you won’t have to wait in line. Otherwise, you’re looking at anywhere from a half-hour to a 3-and-a-half hour lineup just to get on the elevator – never fun, even less so when you have little ones in tow!

2. Aside from the main lookout area, the Tower is not stroller-friendly. One has to take narrow stairs down to get to the outdoor lookout and the glass floor, and the Skypod observation deck can only be accessed by narrow stairs from the elevator deck. Bring a carrier or wrap and leave the stroller with security at the bottom.

3. There are no baby-changing tables in the washrooms, and no seating (except in the restaurant), making breastfeeding a challenge. Desperate times call for desperate measures: when our baby got hungry, I copped a squat in a corner of the Skypod, whipped out a blanket to cover up, and commenced the World’s Highest Breastfeeding. Be prepared to do the same if the circumstances demand it!

Our next stop was Centreville. Obviously very kid-friendly (although they really need more washrooms)! Again, a few things to know before you go:

1. Again, go early to avoid lineups at the ferry, and for the rides!

2. The ferry is very stroller-friendly, although you’ll be restricted to the enclosed lower deck; if your older kids want to check out the view from the upper deck, arrange ahead of time which adult will accompany them to avoid holding up the line on the stairs while you discuss the matter!

3. The main ticket/ride pass kiosk is right at the entrance to Centreville, and almost always has a huge lineup. Here’s a little-known tip: the Town Hall Office also sells tickets and ride passes, and the lineup, if any, is MUCH shorter as most people (ie tourists) don’t know about this alternative.

Finally, on day three we hit up Ontario Place. Also very kid-friendly and stroller-friendly! However, they need more and bigger washrooms – I could barely fit our collapsible stroller in to use the baby-changing table. And more seating around the park would be greatly appreciated – I spotted many moms with tiny infants seated here and there on the grass or concrete to feed. Again, a couple of things to know:

1. Wear your bathing suits under your clothes and bring a change of underwear, so that when the kids get hot and tired of going on rides, you don’t have to wait in the lineup for changerooms before the little ones get cooled off in the water park area.

2. When it comes time to change into drier clothes, it’s worth lining up for the only family changing room – the male/female changerooms are crowded, with wet, slippery floors and NO privacy.

What are your best tips on seeing the sights around Toronto and the GTA with kids in tow?


  1. what a great view! but i think i cant stand on that thin piece of glass.

  2. Ha ha! It does make me nervous -- even more so to see my 5-year-old turning cartwheels on it. :)

    Thanks for your comment!

  3. I've been reading this column since 2 weeks ago. I think it's a good reading time and everyone can understand why... there are to many topics that you can find there and to be honest, I really like this kind of articles because it's a professional way to learn.


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