Toronto, Canada's largest city and it's cultural and entertainment hub, makes not only for a great weekend escape for adults, but also for families traveling with tweens and teens. Plus it's less than two hours by air from Chicago! With so many fun options - from the walking on the edge of the tallest freestanding structure in the world to sleeping - literally - with the sharks, Toronto is the perfect spot for a family travel adventure. Here are seven must-dos for families visiting Toronto with tweens and teens.
Explore the city by bicycle. Toronto's bike sharing network, BIXI , gives you 24/7 access to a bicycle, perfect for exploring Toronto's fascinating neighborhoods. Take a bike when you need one and leave it at any station when you arrive at your destination. First, you have to subscribe or acquire 24 or 72-hour access to use the service (about $5 per short-term subscription). Take out a bike as many times as you want for 30 minutes or less with no additional fees; usage fees for longer trips apply. Check out this Toronto Bike Map, which shows on and off-street bikeways, suggested routes and connections, bicycle lockers, rental and shop locations and other important information about cycling.
Walk along the edge of the CN Tower. The iconic CN Tower defines the city's skyline and is now home to one of the biggest urban adventures in the world: EdgeWalk . Participants are whisked 116 stories off the ground via elevator. Once they reach the top, they don orange jumpsuits and bright yellow harnesses and walk, hands-free, along the edge of the CN Tower - 1,136 feet above the ground! Come prepared to face your fears and enjoy the stunning view. Edge walkers must be at least 13 years of age.
Savor a Poutine pizza. Poutine, perhaps Canada's most famous dish, is even better when it's served atop a crispy pizza. Bannock, a casual restaurant featuring Canadian comfort food, features a to-die-for Poutine pizza: a savory pizza crust topped with french fries, a light gravy-like sauce, cheese curds and crispy roasted duck. Save room for sour cream doughnuts for dessert.
Sleep with the sharks at Ripley's Aquarium. More than 16,000 marine animals live in this brand new 135,000-square-foot aquarium at the base of the CN Tower. This is your chance to get up close and personal with marine life. You can pet a friendly shark, watch jellyfish magically change colors and crawl through an "underwater" tube surrounded by sea life. Extend the fun by taking part in a family sleepover, offered on Saturday nights about once or twice a month. Your evening will include a hands-on program, exclusive access to the aquarium, an evening snack, breakfast and your "accommodations" in a shark tunnel (you supply a sleeping bag and pillow). Age four and up are welcome to attend (children must be accompanied by a paying adult).
Enjoy an acoustic brunch at the Gladstone Hotel. The Gladstone Hotel is an art-focused, historic boutique hotel centered in funky West Queen West neighborhood. Every Sunday the hotel's hip Melody Bar features an Acoustic Family Brunch from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Dine on pancakes, eggs, sausage, bacon - all the best brunch fixins' - while you enjoy some of the finest bluegrass musicians in town at a kid-friendly volume. Dancing is encouraged!
Get your laugh on at Toronto's Second City. Second City specializes in sketch comedy and improv and it's resident company in Toronto guarantees a good laugh. While some of the material may be a bit too sophisticated for younger tweens or teens, older teens will be wowed by the company's creativity and flash comedy. Second City in Toronto even has a Teen Conservatory - an improv school just for teens.
Where to Stay. We stayed at the centrally located Eaton Chelsea, where the magnificent views and comfy beds suited our family perfectly. The kids especially loved the Eaton Chelsea's Family Fun Zone, which features an indoor family pool and a 130 ft. corkscrew waterslide. Check out the in-hotel restaurant, Market Garden, for a quick and healthy breakfast.
For more information on travel to Toronto, visit www.seetorontonow.com
Amy Bizzarri is a writer, Chicago public school teacher and mom to two kids - a preschooler and a middle schooler - living in the Logan Square neighborhood of Chicago.
See more of Amy's stories here.