For a country home to 35.5 million people with the vast majority living on a narrow string along the 49th parallel, sorting out the best cities in Canada could get tricky since many hubs boast their own claims to fame.
Besides, plenty of organizations do a very good job scouring for the best.
Take the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) which tracks cities around the world assessing them on a myriad of points.
In the latest report, the EIU Safe Index report pegs Toronto among the best cities in Canada to live in.
Families, on the other hand, look for enjoyable urban outings, interactive activities, hands-on exhibits and of course good old fashioned fun but before you go, your kids might like to read up on these fun Canadian facts.
So with this in mind, here’s a look at our 10 best cities in Canada for kids.
10 best cities in Canada with kids
The EIU has anointed this famously bilingual city as one of the best cities around the world to live in.
And why shouldn’t it?
The vibrant island city along the St. Lawrence River in Quebec is an incubator for some of Canada’s biggest artists and musical talents.
Icons like Leonard Cohen, Celine Dion and Arcade Fire are just a few of the many legends who hail from there.
If there’s one party city in Canada where you should hire a babysitter and head out on a night out in the town, choose Montreal for a great night out without the kids.
Parents know the diverse neighbourhoods have ample child-friendly amenities, attractions including a good selection of meet up spots for new moms.
Sprinkle a nice assortment of cafes too.
In Old Montreal part grocery store and part cafe comes Le Cartet with its communal tables.
The baby-friendly eatery caters to young families and hipster professionals. Regulars like the free wi-fi and brunch on weekends.
Besides the charming neighbourhoods, Montreal boasts a rich list of family attractions, many of which are free.
Montreal with kids
- Hang out by the Old Port
- Take a ride in a horse-drawn carriage in Old Montreal
- See butterflies at the Montreal Botanical Garden
- Soak in the fabulous panoramic vista from the city’s lofty perch at Mont-Royal
- Explore nature at the Biodome
It doesn’t get any better than hanging out at the foot of Niagara Falls sopping wet from the thundering water crashing all around you in an out-of-this-world boat ride on a Hornblower Niagara Cruise.
But then again, it’s not every day you get to hang out in Niagara Falls either.
Famous for the mighty Horseshoe Falls, (that’s the Canadian Niagara Falls) this city has plenty of side attractions popular with families.
While a year-round destination, summer is when all the fun really happens.
Located in the Niagara Parks, crowds gather at the famous brink by the Table Rock Welcome Centre but many continue their discoveries at other Niagara Parks Commission attractions like the White Water Walk along the Great Gorge located enroute to Queenston Heights.
Niagara Falls with kids
- Walk the boardwalk and see the cascading rapids
- Visit the Botanical Gardens and Niagara Parks Butterfly Conservatory
- Take the Whirlpool Aerocar for a cable car ride across the river
- Hike down the legendary Niagara Glen (popular with families who like to experience nature at its best). Be warned, some of the trails are steep along ridges by the escarpment so wear good hiking shoes.
- Visit Clifton Hill for amusement park fun
The birthplace of Greenpeace, this eco-friendly city in British Columbia rolls out a green carpet of family-fun activities, many of which you can enjoy year-round.
Head to Capilano Suspension Bridge or Lynn Canyon Park for trails, and test your nerve by walking across the swingy suspension bridge then duck into the ecology centre.
Kids can get inspired at the Beaty Biodiversity Museum.
Located in the University of British Columbia campus which on its own is a stunner surrounded by age-old foliage and cool sculptures, the museum is a great hotbed for inquisitive minds.
Fun thing to see: the blue whale skeleton in the atrium (it’s Canada’s largest blue whale skeleton).
By the Burnaby Village Museum coastal retro comes to mind.
Tiny tykes enjoy the old-fashioned charm of Burnaby’s early years when ice cream parlours and carousels were all the rage.
Feel like a kid and go for a spin around the restored 1912 C.W. Parker carousel.
Then there’s more outdoor fun – try hiking the Lions with older kids.
Vancouver has plenty of parks.
Stanley Park is nice for family get-togethers and a great place to watch the kids play. It has fabulous terrain for cyclists and rollerbladers too.
Big hits include the totem poles, a miniature train ride, the 800-year-old hollow tree which is a red cedar stump frequently photographed, and the massive monument trees which are protected heritage trees.
Vancouver with kids
- Stanley Park totem poles and train
- Capilano Suspension Bridge or Lyn Canyon Park
- Beaty Biodiversity Museum
- Burnaby Village Museum
- Hike the Lions
The city is comprised of many vibrant neighbourhoods which celebrate the diverse cultures of residents who have made Toronto home.
So why is that fun for families?
You can take a whirlwind world tour by sampling the customs, cuisine and local festivals.
Then there are the numerous urban parks, many of which, morph into backdrops for radiant summer festivals.
For instance, the city’s Beaches International Jazz Festival takes over the city’s east end in July.
Located by the laidback, picture pretty neighborhood known as The Beach, this festival has a monster street fest and main stage for concerts, and it’s all free.
In Toronto, families can enjoy multiple attractions and save money with the Toronto CityPass which is bundled tickets of Toronto’s top attractions.
Avoid the cues and head inside to explore some of Toronto’s favorite family-friendly spots.
- Climb CN Tower
- Visit the Royal Ontario Museum
- Hangout with the animals at Toronto Zoo
- Learn something new at the Ontario Science Centre
- Explore Casa Loma, which can be described as a Canadian castle
A complete 360-degree from trendy Vancouver and hip Whistler, Victoria has commonly been kibitzed as Canada’s retirement capital.
Nestled on Vancouver Island the capital of British Columbia is known for a huge senior population that’s drawn to the city’s warmer temperatures, manicured lawns, and a paean of furling gardens.
But the city is also reaping rewards for fine family living.
A pedestrian-friendly city enveloped by sea and tree-fringed parks, Victoria’s landmarks are easily viewed on foot or bike.
The west coast charm brews nicely with boho shops, eclectic boutiques, and the kids will have plenty of diversions to keep them busy.
The Royal BC Museum is a good start.
Packed with permanent collections wander through “Old Town” that looks akin to a film set with life-size replicas of various city streetscapes depicting community scenes over 100 years ago.
Enter a wood block street and wander past a collection of shop fronts and period-style buildings like the Grand Hotel and the Port Moody Train Station.
For strange late night adventures, there’s a fun sleepover with dinosaurs that gets everyone excited during the Night at the Museum.
This is a one-night annual event where you spend the night at the museum and awaken to yoga stretches and pancakes.
In the heart of Beacon Hill Park is a classic crowd-pleaser: The Beacon Hill Children’s Farm.
There’s never a dull moment. Hear the farm animals and watch as they do their daily chores, which is to sleep, eat and poke their heads around.
Fun critter sightings are guaranteed. Picture ducks, a peacock, chickens, roosters, turkeys.
The farm’s oldest is 16-year-old Peg and the youngest is Baby Oliver, born in January.
For some fun bonding, try the Victoria Bug Zoo.
Sounds creepy but this local bug zoo is packed with creepy crawlies and tiny six legged insects among other squirmy looking things that move in the dark.
With 40 species to choose from, here’s where you can see giant walking sticks, hairy tarantulas and Canada’s largest ant farm.
Take a guided tour and don’t forget the camera for those family pix.
Victoria with kids
- Spend a night at the Royal BC Museum
- See the animals at Beacon Hill Children’s Farm
- Visit Victoria Bug Zoo
- Chase butterflies at Victoria butterfly gardens
- Look for orcas on a whale watching cruise
6- Quebec City
A city can’t get any more magical for a kid than knowing there’s a magnificent castle on a hill.
The legendary Chateau Frontenac, a luxury Fairmont hotel property soars above a cliff top.
It has feted and hosted too many dignitaries and families to even mention.
You don’t have to travel across the Big Pond either to feel like you’ve entered another continent.
The cobbled stone streets in Old Quebec are reminiscent of Europe so families can wander the historic streets, watch buskers, and enjoy the city’s lively charm.
The capital of Quebec, Quebec City is the seat of government but don’t expect too conservative although it’s not as brash and sassy as Montreal, but then again what Canadian city is?
In winter great blankets of snow cover the streetscapes and ‘Bonhomme,’ the city’s winter mascot snowman, greets winter loving guests at his annual Winter Carnavale de Quebec.
Top things to do include stops at the Aquarium de Quebec for close-up views of wondrous fish, stingrays and Eddy, the aquarium’s champion swimming polar bear.
The Mega Parc des Galeries de la Capitale for merry-go-round and Ferris Wheel trips are all part of this indoor amusement park.
Make sure you take some walks along the Dufferin Terrace to see the ships chug along the ancient river.
Quebec City for kids
- Have fun at the Quebec Winter Carnival
- Visit the Aquarium de Quebec
- Visit Mega Parc des Galeries de la Capitale
- Cool down in summer at Village Vacances Valcartier waterpark
- Shop for toys at Benjo
A city that’s near the world’s largest dinosaur bone yard gets a huge thumb’s up in the family-fun department.
Take your kids to this Jurassic Park by the famous Canadian Badlands, home of the Royal Tyrrell Museum a short drive away to suss out real dinosaur bones.
And if that’s not enough, summer time turns into cowboy central with the annual Calgary Stampede, where families don cowboy hats and watch rodeos over and over again.
Other top things to see and do are visiting the Calgary Zoo and the Peace Bridge.
Considered Calgary’s best attraction, this fun family spot makes for a perfect day to be with the kids.
See penguins at the Antarctica exhibit, and head to watch other animals like the long necked giraffes, lions, tigers and bears.
For a cool architectural landmark see this new bridge illuminated at night.
You’ll understand quickly why it won the 2014 Canadian Architect’s award for best steel design in the bridge category.
Calgary with kids
- Hangout with the animals at Calgary Zoo
- Learn about dinosaurs at the Royal Tyrrell Museum
- Be a cowboy or cowgirl at the Calgary Stampede
- Visit the Calgary Science Centre
- See the sights at Calgary Tower
Canada’s capital packs a capital good time for families.
Besides where else can you skate along the world’s largest naturally frozen skating rink?
Ottawa’s answer to good winter fun is its annual Winterlude festival with its mega ice sculptures, races and cool places for family time like the Snowflake Kingdom, a snow playground for kids.
Located on the border of Quebec and Ontario along the ancient Ottawa River, there’s a great assortment of attractions.
Bedazzle the little ones with a visit to the Canadian Children’s Museum, a giant toy box of great adventure where kids can experience hands-on learning and fun!
Ottawa with kids
- Join in the winter fun at Winterlude festival
- Explore the Candian Children’s Museum
- Learn about trains at the Canada Science and Technology Museum
- See the snakes at Little Ray’s Reptile Zoo
- Get wet and wild at Calypso Waterpark
So where does everybody go and play when they want to escape Canada’s big cities?
Only 120 km north from Vancouver along the Sea to Sky Highway that zips across undulating inlets and sky-high mountains, comes this outdoor playground.
A small population of nearly 10,000 means better chances in connecting with your loved ones without the hassle of city distractions.
Of course, things change come winter when the slopes attract planeloads of skiers and boarders.
Folks might recall the 2010 Winter Olympics when Whistler was home to Nordic events, bobsleigh, skeleton and luge events.
With gold medal fever long over, the area now is home to the sprawling Whistler Olympic Park.
In summer or winter, gutsy teens and nail-biting parents can get a huge adrenaline rush heading down part of the bobsleigh slides at the Whistler Sliding Centre.
While winter is nirvana and Whistler is definitely one of the best places to ski in Canada, don’t let the green hills of summer stop you.
The snow town is a year-round resort town.
In summer bask in the clean mountain air and enjoy the wide outdoors.
Whistler with kids
- Go cycling along the Valley Trail. Pick the length of trails you like and enjoy a family cycling trip on the 40km paved Valley Trail, or paddle on a canoe trip on the River of Golden Dreams.
- Experience the adrenaline rush of the Superfly zipline. The Superfly zipline is pegged as the longest in Canada that soars through BC backcountry. It’s good for kids seven years and older.
- Go on a bobsleigh at the Whistler Sliding Centre
- Ride the Peak2Peak Gondola in summer and in winter
- Join the family apres in winter
On our list of cities, this maritime city in Canada is family to its core.
When bad times happen, Haligonians rally to help pick up the pieces.
They were there when the world mourned the tragic sinking of the Titanic, and they were there when the Halifax explosion of 1917 flattened their town in an instant.
Everyone wept and hugged their loved ones even closer.
The tragic collision of two ships one carrying deadly military explosives caused an unimaginable explosion and became known as the biggest man-made explosion in the world’s history before the atomic bomb.
To this day, every Christmas the city sends Boston a spruce tree as a token of thanks for the help and generosity Boston provided Halifax.
As you walk the streets of Halifax, the capital of Nova Scotia, you will notice the vestiges of yesteryear, those hallmarks that reflect their past.
You will also meet good natured Haligonians, amiable folk whose ancestors resilient to hardships have passed down an indefatigable spirit that’s wrapped in good humour and the gift of the gab.
Families get a lot of joy visiting the vast family-friendly attractions and events scheduled year-round.
Some favourites include the annual Royal Nova Scotia Tattoo, a week-long festival in July.
That’s when you see the proud locals showcase their tartan hardware with other international performers in the world’s largest indoor show.
Also, parents need to take their children to show them Canada’s immigration history at Pier 21.
Considered Canada’s version of Ellis Island in New York, thousands of immigrants who arrived by ship were processed there before later becoming Canadian citizens.
Now a museum you can see hand-written notes, personal mementoes, photographs, and listen to oral histories.
My own mother Maria (nee Steiner) has a recording of her family’s arrival from Hungary after the 1956 Hungarian Revolution.
Families can explore the urban parks, watch ships in the harbour, and visit other notable landmarks like the Halifax Citadel and the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic.
Whether around Robie Street with its tree-fringed residential homes near St. Mary’s University or around Point Pleasant Park for its popular summer Shakespeare by the Sea festival, families can easily find good times that make for good memories.
Halifax for kids
- Watch the bands at the Royal Nova Scotia Tattoo
- Canada’s immigration history at Pier 21
- Visit the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic
- Learn about history at the Halifax Citadel