Exploring Toronto with teens, was for me, like seeing this cosmopolitan city with new eyes. Toronto had become so familiar to me over the years, having lived, worked, and played there, that I had become complacent about it as a tourist destination. On a recent trip with my teenager and her best friend though, I was reminded why the Six attracts visitors from around the globe.
Safe, clean, bursting with arts & culture, adventure, sports, dining, and shopping, Toronto quite literally has it all. Toronto is a teen dream for travel. If visiting Toronto is currently not in your travel plans, here’s why it should be.
- Get the “big apple” experience at a fraction of the price. While I would never dismiss a NYC experience, it’s worth noting that Toronto has several funky neighbourhoods to explore with your teens. There’s also enough to keep you busy over several trips, not just a day or two. Best of all it’s in Canadian dollars, so no ruthless exchange rate for Canucks. That exchange rate gets favourable for our American neighbours. Think of it as a 30% off vacay.
- It’s a year round destination. Toronto Tourism is huge, and the city is doing an excellent job providing experiences worth heading to the Six for any time of year. From Christmas Markets and outdoor skating in the winter, beaches with pink umbrellas and clean water in the summer, to the CNE and FanExpo in late summer, to the Royal Agriculture Winter Fair in late November, there is always a unique experience to seek out. This is on top of classics open year round like the CN Tower.
- Getting around is easy. Downtown Toronto is incredibly walkable any time of year, but the transit system is second to none as well.
- There is something for everyone in your family. Toronto has attractions that fit every age and stage.
Toronto With Teens – A Sample Itinerary
Getting to Toronto is easy from anywhere in Ontario on Via Rail. Sign up for email notifications to snag the best fares. In particular watch for Tuesday seat sales, summer specials for youths and students, as well as seasonal promotions.
Flying is also easy with daily flights across the country into Pearson. Even better, you can be off the plane and into your holiday in a matter of minutes when you fly into Billy Bishop which is located in the heart of the city.
Finally, driving is always an option, but if your teen is the driver then godspeed sister, godspeed.
Where to Stay
Toronto offers amazing accommodations across the city, but the most notable, particularly with teens, has got to be the Marriott City Centre. This iconic hotel has some of the largest guest rooms in the city because it is uniquely shaped around the Rogers Centre.
Perfectly situated beside two of Toronto’s biggest draws, the CN Tower and Ripley’s Aquarium, the Marriott is the perfect place to kick off your day, as well as unwind at the end of it in one of the largest indoor pools in the city centre. A short walk from Union Station, the restaurants and shops on Queen and King St are also walkable which will help keep some of your transportation costs down.
Finally, for teens, the Marriott offers a “cool factor” most other properties in Toronto can’t touch. It’s not very often you can choose between a city view or a stadium view when staying in a hotel. The hotel restaurant, Sportsnet Grill, is the place to see and be seen with a unique view of the stadium below, and upscale ballpark faves like the Bacon Jam Burger and homemade chips with Caramelized Onion Dip.
Doing It for the ‘Gram
Seriously, if it’s not shared on IG didn’t it even happen? Teens today are always looking for fun ways to share experiences with their peers. You may not understand it, but trust me when I say, it’s a fun way to embrace the way your teens communicate. Toronto is Instagram heaven, with grammable locations around the city, but also destinations literally made for it.
The Museum of Illusions is not your typical museum. Filled with trippy, mind-bending fun in every installment, this museum on Front Street will have you questioning your own eyes, and give you a few fun shots so that your friends at home will be questioning theirs.
This is Eye Candy is 100% built for the Instagram lovers and your social media mavens will love you for taking them to capture at least an entire grid of enviable snaps, grams and TikToks. Located on Queen St West, this pop up museum is a short walk from the Marriott City Centre and some killer shopping.
The Funhouse is part maze, part interactive experience, part art installation, and all fun. Be sure to download the app before you arrive to get the most of this stop. Once inside, be sure to stop in the loo, because even they are fun!
Good Food, Good Mood
There are a lot of things I miss about my kids when they were younger, but limited dining options are not one of them. Now that they think like I do when it comes to dining, it means that my taste buds are a lot happier. My wallet maybe not much, but definitely my palate. Here’s a list of must dine establishments in Toronto.
Assembly Chef’s Hall takes the “play place eatery” for kids concept and upscales it for the big kids at heart. Seventeen of Toronto’s top chefs hold court in this eclectic restaurant that is part food court vibe, part gourmet experience. In the summer, enjoy dining on the expansive patio outside and even play a game of giant Jenga. There is no rush to get out of here, so come and spend a few hours just connecting with your teens.
O&B Cafe Grill at Yonge and Front is the perfect place to stop on your way to the Museum of Illusions located just a few blocks east of here. Teens will no doubt feel paparazzi worthy dining on the massive patio that wraps around the corner of Yonge and Front. Best bets for food include their handmade pizza, fresh squeezed juices, and crispy cauliflower with lime aioli.
Sportsnet Grill is located inside the Toronto Marriott City Centre but even if you don’t end up staying at the hotel, it’s worth stopping in to dine here for two reasons. First, the view into the stadium is spectacular and if you make reservations far enough in advance you can even catch a game while you dine. Second, the food is on point! I have mad love for the homemade potato chips with caramelized onion dip, but you’ll want to try everything here because it’s ballpark fare with a upscale twist. Yum!
Consider the Montecito Restaurant your just reward for enduring years of meals served up on a tray. This upscale restaurant located on Adelaide St. W features farm to fork cuisine using local and local-ish food suppliers. I’d love to tell you what to order but because of the seasonality of the food, the menu changes frequently. What I can tell you is that you should make sure everyone at your table orders something different, and to order at least one item from each course. The food here will blow your mind and the service is outstanding.
District Eatery is all about clean eating, but be forewarned, your brain is going to be confused thinking you just indulged in some seriously guilty pleasures. This restaurant located on King St. W offers vegan, vegetarian and a wide-variety of gluten free options….and best of all, you’ll love every minute of it.
If you visit Toronto and don’t go up in the CN Tower, I hear they revoke your Canadian citizenship on the way out of the city. I kid, mostly. This beloved landmark is an absolute must-do when visiting Toronto with teens. If you’re really adventurous, book the heart-stopping Edgewalk if you dare.
Avoid the crowds here by going between 5 and 7 pm when most people are having dinner. We zipped through security and up the elevator in no time. Don’t forget to grab a picture on the glass floor.
Under the Sea
The beautiful thing about visiting Ripley’s Aquarium with teens, is you are no longer restricted to visiting times between naps and before bedtime. Let’s face it, teens are probably outpacing you at this point. The time of day will not impact your visit to Ripley’s and since you’re with newly minted night owls, head there late at night.
Located just beside the CN Tower, we entered Ripley’s around 9:30 pm and were able to enjoy it all at a leisurely pace until the 11pm closing time. Crowds were minimal at this time of day and there were very few kids under 12 roaming about, which for older teens made it even better.
Play Fair, Play Hard
If you should find yourself in Toronto in late August, then you absolutely can’t miss the The Ex.
This fair is one of the 10 largest in North America and runs annually on the Exhibition Fairgrounds. Going into it’s 141st year, The Ex has become synonymous with outrageous food and end of summer fun.
For the ultimate adrenaline rush with teens, Canada’s Wonderland must be on your list if you’re visiting during the summer months. This theme park has some of the most thrilling roller coasters on the planet including the mind-blowing Leviathan and the newly opened, Yukon Striker. With 17 coasters to choose from, be prepared to feel a little wobbly at the end of the day.
This itinerary barely touches the surface of all there is to see and do in Toronto with teens, so if you want more be sure to check out the See Toronto Now website to gather even more ideas or to change things up for an epic visit of your own with your teen.
Disclosure: I was invited by Toronto Tourism to visit and experience Toronto with my teen daughter. All opinions expressed are mine.