Oh, Canada – the country known for politeness and poutine, majestic mountains and maple syrup. Canada offers an abundance of wide open spaces to explore, and bustling metropolitan areas to discover, with people, places, and provisions that are sure to surprise and delight the kids who visit – and their parents, too.
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Is Canada a good place to travel with kids?
Yes! Offering outdoor adventures fit for all ages, safe cities, and friendly faces in every region, Canada makes for an unforgettable family vacation destination.
While it may be known as the “Great White North”, Canada showcases an incredibly diverse landscape. From the peaks of the Rocky Mountains to the plains of the prairies, and from the warm sandy beaches that speckle the coast to the chilly glaciers found further north, the world’s second-largest country is an outdoor playground for lovers of all landscapes. No matter where you are in the country, you will find epic hikes, beaches and more – and you’re sure to find something suitable for kids of all ages.
If city escapes are more your speed, the metropolitan areas are also a must, with museums – like the Children’s Museum in the Canadian Museum of History in Ottawa – and amusement parks – like Canada’s Wonderland near Toronto.
A visit to Canada wouldn’t be complete without exploring the stories and sites of the country’s Indigenous Peoples. Canada is made up of Inuit, Métis, and some 634 different First Nations, and through the diverse and authentic Indigenous tours offered in every region, families can learn about the traditional territories of the country we now call Canada.
Keep in mind that Canada is huge (it takes nearly nine hours by plane to travel from Vancouver to Prince Edward Island), so plan your visit accordingly and check out how to get around in Canada. Even each province and territory is likely too spread out to see it all in one trip. While epic adventures await you wherever you go, here is a sample of the best things to do with kids in Canada.
Best things to do in Canada with kids
First Nations totem poles in Stanley park in Vancouver © Songquan Deng / Shutterstock
1. Harrison Hot Springs, British Columbia
Located less than two hours by car from Vancouver, the lovely lakeside town of Harrison Hot Springs offers a wide range of activities to satisfy kids of all ages. Families can stroll along the Spirit Trail and seek out the dozens of hand-carved cedar masks that are hidden along the way, or search for Sasquatch along the Sasquatch Trail while learning about the mythical creature that is said to call the Harrison Hot Springs area home.
For fun on the water, the floating water park is sure to impress, as well as bumper boats and Sea-Doo rentals. Younger kids love spending the day on the protected sandy beach and waterfront playground found at the lake’s edge – the perfect spot for a picnic on a warm day.
2. Northern Lights Wolf Centre, British Columbia
The Northern Lights Wolf Centre, located in Golden, BC, is a great destination for wildlife lovers, where you can learn about wolves and watch them roam free in their natural habitat.
Budding photographers can capture the creatures through the lens on the Blackwolf Photography Walk, or families looking to learn more about the fascinating four-legged mammals can partake in tours through the natural habitat while taking in views of the surrounding valleys, peaks, rivers and forest that make up the surrounding landscape.
Explore the Canadian Museum of History in Ottawa © Songquan Deng / Shutterstock
3. Indigenous Experiences Tours, Ontario
Learn about Canada’s Indigenous heritage on an engaging and informative Indigenous Experiences tour through Ottawa, Canada’s capital city. Through interactive displays, workshops, performances, and hands-on experiences, guests can explore the culture and history of Canada’s First Peoples.
Paddle down the Ottawa River in a voyeur canoe, sip on traditional tea and break bannock with an Elder, or check out the Indigenous Peoples display at the Canadian Museum of History – Canada’s largest and most-visited museum. Choose from these and other great Canadian signature experiences and connect with the past, present, and future of Canada.
See the home that L. M. Montgomery used as a setting for her Anne of Green Gables novel © COSPV / Shutterstock
4. Literature comes to life on Prince Edward Island
Home of the fictional Anne of Green Gables stories, Prince Edward Island is a picturesque paradise in real life, too. From the red stone cliffs of Cavendish to the sandy beaches that line the island’s shores, PEI offers the perfect backdrop for cycling, hiking, swimming, and paddling. Get your hands dirty with renowned sand sculptor and art teacher Maurice Bernard, and learn how to build spectacular sculptures in the sand.
Then, sleep under the stars in a rustic camping spot by the sea. While you’re there, make sure to visit the home that inspired L. M. Montgomery to write Anne of Green Gables. The 19th-century farm that served as the setting offers tours and itineraries so you can get an up-close look at the site while you’re there.
The Yukon is a great place for adventurous families to go hiking © Justin Foulkes / Lonely Planet
5. Hiking in Whitehorse, Yukon
Slip on your hiking boots and head to Whitehorse for a wild time exploring the outdoors with your kids. The area offers a diverse range of family-friendly hiking trails for all levels, where you can choose your own adventure, with waterfalls, artifacts, glaciers, caves and canyons aplenty. From the Whitehorse Millennium Trail (a flat paved trail that follows the path of the Yukon River) to the Sam McGee Trail (featuring mining artifacts and tramway remnants to be spotted along the way), kids will love exploring the wildlife, wild views, and wondrous history of the area.
You can take guided tours or go it alone – just be sure to do your homework before you head out. There’s also no better place on earth than the Yukon for stargazing. Head out of town and see the aurora borealis from mid-August to mid-April from almost anywhere – no special glasses or binoculars needed, you just have to look up.
6. Calgary Bow River, Alberta
Pick your paddle preference from The Paddle Station and explore downtown Calgary from a new perspective – with a float down Bow River.
Visitors looking to combine city sights with outdoor adventures are sure to love this river raft ride that takes you on a winding journey through the soaring downtown buildings of Calgary, under the twisty red Peace Bridge and over to St. Patrick’s Island, for a day of family bonding on a boat.
An aerial of Horseshoe Falls at Niagara Falls © TRphotos / Shutterstock
7. Niagara Falls, Ontario
Known for its famous waterfalls that go by the same name, the Canadian city of Niagara Falls has much more to offer than riveting views of rushing rapids.
Take in the waterfalls from the White Water Walk, journey behind the falls, or zipline across the gorge – there are many ways to get a unique perspective of the famous falls while exploring the outdoor site.
8. Granville Island, British Columbia
While it’s not technically an island, the waterfront community of Granville Island in Vancouver is the perfect destination for a full day of varied activities – indoors and out. Start at the Public Market where you can tantalize your tastebuds with a wide selection of gourmet goodies. Stroll the hidden alleyways and browse through art galleries and artisan shops found along the way.
The kids are sure to love the play spaces and toy shops found in the two-story Kids Market and the expansive spray park found up the road is a must on hot summer days. Then hop on an Aquabus False Creek Ferry and explore the stops found along the surrounding coastline while you take in city views from the water.
9. Stanley Park, British Columbia
A visit to Vancouver would not be complete without a stroll through scenic Stanley Park – a 400-hectare public park found steps from the city’s downtown core. Start with a guided Indigenous-led Talking Totems tour, where you can learn about the towering totem poles and captivating carvings that have stood tall since 1920.
Rent bikes and cycle the 6-kilometer bike path that takes you around the perimeter of the park, and stop for a play at one of the three sandy beaches or four playgrounds found along the way.
10. Jasper Wildlife Adventure Tour, Alberta
Join the Jasper Tour Company for an adventurous wildlife tour through the Athabasca Valley, where you’ll enjoy possible encounters with the mega-mammals of the Canadian Rockies.
Look for bears, elk, coyotes, sheep, wolves, and moose, as you explore the peaks and valleys of Jasper National Park by car and by foot, all while your tour guide – a member of the Metis Nation – brings the mountains and animals to life through engaging storytelling that connects past with present.
11. Au Diable Vert, Québec
Known as “The Green Devil” in English, Au Diable Vert is an enchanting mountain retreat that offers all of the summer outdoor activities that kids love, including water sliding, tubing, stand-up paddleboarding, and stargazing. Sleep in a treehouse, retreat to a sustainably-built pod, or camp in style in an airstream while enjoying the outdoors in the Green Mountains of Québec.
At the Mountain Station, pick up an augmented reality headset and see the real night sky overlaid with the names of the stars and planets. Or, climb aboard a VéloVolant – a suspended recumbent bike that dangles from the tree canopy by cables – and pedal through the treetops for a bird’s eye view of the landscape below. Go kayaking or floating on an air chamber along the Missisquoi River during the summer months, or enjoy snowshoeing and cross-country skiing in winter.
Cape Breton is a great place to explore with kids © Vadim.Petrov / Shutterstock
12. Cape Breton Highlands National Park, Nova Scotia
Known for its stunning sea views and spectacular wildlife viewing found along the Cabot Trail, Cape Breton Highlands National Park is a destination fit for nature lovers of all levels. Hit one of the park’s 26 hiking trails, looking out for moose and eagles along the way, and then camp in one of the front country or backcountry campgrounds to fully immerse yourself in nature.
Take a step back in time on the Lantern Walk Through Time tour, where you’ll hike by lantern light while learning about the Indigenous Peoples, European settlers, and most recent inhabitants of the area through thrilling tales – be sure to enjoy a local lobster boil while you’re there.
13. West Edmonton Mall, Alberta
The biggest mall in North America (spanning the size of 48 city blocks), West Edmonton Mall is a destination in itself. It’s an accredited zoo, and the space also features an indoor amusement park, waterpark, bowling alley, mini golf course and ice rink, on top of the over 800 stores and services found on site.
With more attractions than you could enjoy in one day, a stay at one of the two on-site hotels makes this an ideal weekend destination for families looking for a range of fun to be enjoyed all in one spot – without ever having to step outside.
Take the kids to visit Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada © Colin Woods / Shutterstock
14. Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada, Ontario
As Canada’s largest aquarium, Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada is a must-visit site for marine lovers of all ages. There, you’ll find more than 15,000 animals – from sharks and sea turtles, to jellyfish and stingrays.
Dash through Dangerous Lagoon – an underwater tunnel and home to the longest moving sidewalk in North America – where you can experience a truly immersive underwater-like experience, and snap shark selfies as you explore under the sea. Then, take a ride to the top of the CN Tower, found right next door, where you can take in views of Toronto from 553 metres (1,814 ft) in the sky.
How to explore Toronto with kids
Children who are traveling to Canada without both parents need authorization from the non-accompanying parent. Sometimes this is enforced and other times not, but to play it safe you’re better off with a notarized letter. Divorced parents should carry copies of legal custody documents. Find out more about the rules here.