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February 7, 2010


Family Friendly Toronto


         Toronto, about a three hour drive from Rochester, is the perfect family-friendly winter getaway destination. Of course, there’s so much to see and do in this city that you couldn’t possibly see it all in one trip. Here are just a few attractions that my family recently checked out.


Canada’s most popular sport

The Hockey Hall of Fame, in downtown Toronto, is a must-see, even if you don’t know the first thing about hockey. I was impressed with the size of this 57,000 square foot museum and the quality of the displays.



            We were dwarfed by the imposing statues of hockey players guarding the NHL Zone as we entered the museum. The NHL Zone has displays featuring some of the NHL legends and their milestones. The adjacent World of Hockey Zone, has jerseys, photos and other memorabilia from countries around the world. On display among this memorabilia is a special collection of 137 Olympic Medals, on loan from the Olympic Museum in Lausanne, Switzerland until mid-June. A very timely exhibit, given that the Winter Olympics will be taking place this year.


Of course, no visit to the Hockey Hall of Fame would be compete without paying homage to hockey’s Holy Grail, the Stanley Cup, which is displayed in the Great Hall. This impressive display space, with a gorgeous stained glass skylight, was originally constructed in 1885 as the head office for the Bank of Montreal. Have you photo taken with the cup, then check out the photos of some of hockey’s greatest legends and take a look at some of the other trophies awarded in the sport.



            My children’s favorite spot in the museum was the interactive player area, where they tried their hands at being a goalie and also had the opportunity to score a goal past a virtual goalie. We spent quite a bit of time playing the Pepsi Game Time Game, which tested our knowledge of hockey facts and trivia. One can even sit in a broadcast booth and call the play-by-play watching actual game footage.


More Downtown Attractions

            On our most recent trip we also visited two other attractions that are within walking distance to the Hockey Hall of Fame. The CN Tower, the best known landmark on Toronto’s skyline, features an observation deck 1,136 feet above the ground; part of the deck features a glass floor that you can actually walk on. My kids thought this was cool, but I found it rather unsettling, since I don’t like heights.        

            The St. Lawrence Market is another interesting place to check out. Over 120 specialty merchants are housed in a circa 1850’s building. One can buy baked goods, dairy products, vegetables, deli meats, flowers, fruits, teas and coffee, fresh seafood, and more. There are also about a dozen eateries in the market where one can either eat-in or take-out.


Science Fun

            Northeast of the downtown area, the Ontario Science Center has been a popular destination for 40 years. I can remember coming here for a class trip many years ago, when I was in high school and the museum was in its infancy. You want to plan on spending the entire day here, as there are nine large exhibit halls to explore in this huge, multi-level museum.

            The majority of the exhibits are hands-on, so kids of all ages can learn how the human body and mind works, explore the living earth, and find out about outer space; you will even see some actual moon rocks. Kids under 8 can enjoy age-appropriate workshops in Kidspark and the whole family can have fun in the Science Arcade and enjoy a film in the Omnimax Theater.

            The science center is currently hosting the exhibit Body Worlds & Story of the Heart, which features over 200 real human specimens. This exhibit closes February 28. On April 9, 2010 Harry Potter: The Exhibit opens. This traveling exhibit takes visitors inside Harry Potter’s magical world.



Hockey Hall of Fame (416-360-7765; 30 Yonge Street, Toronto


CN Tower (416-868-6937; 301 Front Street, West, Toronto

St. Lawrence Market (416-392-7120; ) 92 Front Street East, Toronto

Ontario Science Center (416-696-1000 770 Don Mills Road, Toronto



Take the NYS Thruway (I-90) to the Buffalo area, cross over to Canada either via the Peace Bridge in Buffalo, Rainbow Bridge in Niagara Falls or the Lewiston-Queenston Bridge in Lewiston. Follow the Queen Elizabeth Way (QEW) to the Gardiner Expressway, which accesses downtown Toronto.



Crossing the border to Canada

Since June 2009, the Western Hemisphere Travel initiative requires adults crossing the US/Canadian border to have a passport, passport card, enhanced driver’s license, or NEXUS card. Children under 16 only need an original or certified copy of their birth certificate.