UPDATED! I have put together a list of FREE Outdoor Parks, Splash Pads, Beaches, Farms & Zoos. Please note that some places may charge for parking. I chose the most unique looking parks and splash pads to list. Some of them I have not yet visited but I plan to take my children to as many as I can. If you are going to plan a beach visit, make sure to check online that it is safe to swim. I hope you enjoy and save lots and lots of money while still having a great time with your kids.
**FREE PUBLIC PARKS & SPLASH PADS**
*Chinguacousy Park (Brampton)
9050 Bramalea Road
Central Park Drive & Queen Street East
Free Parking (500 parking spaces on site)
Beach Volleyball Courts
Splash Pad: FREE
Barn Walkthrough: FREE
Petting Zoo: $1 per person
Mini Golf: $3.90 per person
Paddle Boats: $9 for 30 minutes
Merry Go Round: $3 per person
Train Rides: $5 per person
*Kidstown Water Playground (Scarborough)
3159 Birchmound Road
Kidstown is the only water park operated by the City of Toronto.
It is one of Scarborough’s most popular outdoor aquatic facilities for preschool and grade school children. It offers a variety of water features, including a tipping bucket, spray rings, squirting aquatic animals, a slide, wading pool, splash pad and so much more.
Playground on on site.
*Rocket Ship Park (Whitby)
Twin Streams Road
(Personal Photo: Courtesy of Entertain Kids reader Colleen Morris)
*Personal photo by Colleen Morris
*Earl Bales Park (North York)
4169 Bathurst Street
Walking and bike trails
*Jamie Bell Adventure Park (Toronto)
High Park Blvd.
(Entrance from Parkside Ave.)
*Kew Gardens (Toronto)
2075 Queen St East
Fun large tree house style playground
Short walk to the beach
*Corktown Common Playground (Toronto)
Very high slide,
*Little Norway Park (Toronto)
Bathurst Street and Queens Quay
children’s unique playground
many walking paths through gardens.
*Dufferin Grove Park (Toronto)
The Wading pool
an oval of sand about 20 feet wide by 40 feet long, ringed by big wooden logs. It was put into the park in 1993.
*Neshama Playground/Oriole Park (Toronto)
Near Davisville and Yonge
Large musical chimes
Spider web spinner that moves in circles
*Withrow Park (Toronto)
Carlaw (Major Intersection: South of Danforth at Carlaw)
Two outdoor tennis courts
Dog off-leash area
*Exhibition Park (Guelph)
70 Division Street
Playground with unique design
*Pier 4 Park (Hamilton)
64 Leander Drive
There’s an 80-foot tugboat play structure that is oriented to provide children with a full view of the water.
*Valleyridge Park (Oakville)
2524 Valleyridge Drive
*Lakefront Promenade Park (Mississauga)
800 Lakefront Promenade (off of Lakeshore Road East, east of Cawthra Road)
Licensed out door patio and grill.
*Madoc Skatepark (Madoc/Near Bellville)
11379 Highway #62, RR#5
•Large skate park
•Junior skate park for beginner levels
•3 Level high playground
•Skateboards, helmets, and bikes are available to rent
*The ROC (Keswick)
26479 Civic Centre Road
*Innisfil beach (Innisfil, ON)
$3 per hour
$15 per full day
*Centennial Beach (Barrie, ON)
65 Lakeshore Drive
Features: Sandy beach, Lifeguard, Washrooms, Accessible playground, Mini golf, Beach volleyball, Food concession, Parking lot, Walking distance to downtown, Paved 4-season multiuse recreation trail that is part of the Waterfront Trail and the Trans Canada Trail, Dogs are not permitted on waterfront parks.
*J.B. Tudhope Park (Orillia)
450 Atherly Road
Beach volleyball courts
2 lit baseball diamonds
Washrooms and fountains
*Couchiching Beach (Orillia)
140 Canice Street
Mini Train Rides (There is a small fee for the train)
*Blue Water Park (Wiarton)
402 William Street
•Outdoor swimming pool
•Historic train station
*Rogers Cove (Peterborough)
131 Maria Street
•Trans Canada Trail
•Supervised Beach (in the summer)
*Cobourg Beach (Cobourg)
Free Parking on Side Streets on Weekends
*Riverside Park (Guelph)
709 Woolwich Street
Antique carousel (extra charge)
Pedal Boats (extra charge)
Miniature train rides (extra charge)
Giant chess/checker game
Sand beach area
3 baseball diamond
*Beachway Park and Pavilion (Burlington)
The Beachway Park Pavilion and multi-use trails provide a 2 km route from Spencer Smith Park to the canal. The pavilion provides change rooms, outdoor showers, seasonal concession facilities featuring the Snack Shack and year round washrooms. Amenities at the beach include the pavilion, parking, a pay phone, a playground, and lots of sun, sand, and water.
*Lakeside Park (St. Catherine’s)
1 Lakeport Road
Heritage Carousel (5 cents per ride)
1,500 feet of sandy beach
Dressing area and washroom
*Beachfront Park & Millennium Square (Pickering, ON)
Southern end of Liverpool Road or Alex Robertson Park at the southern end of Sandy Beach Road.
Splash pad play area
(9:00am-9:00 pm, weather permitting)
2 beach volleyball courts
(nets hung daily during summer months)
Public washrooms (9am-9pm)
**To find out if the lakes are safe to swim in, go to www.theswimguide.org and in the search box type in the name of the beach.
**FARMS & ZOOS**
*Riverdale Farms (Toronto)
201 Winchester Street
This park features: Historic working farm, scenic pathways, programs and seasonal events, pig and poultry barn, historic Francey Barn, Simpson House, Meeting House, the “Residence”, Old Zoo Ruins.
*Lionel’s Farm (Stouffville)
11714 McCowan Road
Some of the animals that can be seen or touched are sheep, goats, pigs, cow, donkeys ponies, deer, llama, alpaca, rabbits, chickens, ducks, geese, turkeys, pigeons, pheasants, peacocks, and a various times throughout the year, many will have babies by their side. Our animals are curious and friendly and are a big hit with kids of all ages.
You can bring your own food to feed the animals: mini carrots, cut celery, lettuce, and/or bread.
*Pine Farms Orchard (King City)
2700, 16th Sideroad
This is my favourite place to pick apples. They have a small park, a few little animals, and a store filled with the tastiest food.
*Watsons Farm (Bowmanville)
2287 Regional Hwy 2
Tractor to climb on
Wagon Rides are offered during strawberry or apple picking seasons
*The Big Apple (Colborne, ON)
Off highway 401 at exit #497
Shuffle board, Bocce Ball & Ping Pong Tables
Mini Putt Golf
Large Apple Observatory
Animal Land (Chickens, Goats, Donkeys, Rabbits)
Country Store & Restaurant full of food and baked goods
*Riverview Park & Zoo (Peterborough)
1230 Water Street
The zoo features 27 exhibits, with over 48 species, including Yak, Camel, Wallaby, Emu, Macaw, Squirrel Monkey, Cougar, Plated Lizard, Meerkat and more!
The park covers 55.5 acres and is the largest and most diversified playground in the city. It also features equipment for physically-challenged children.
With a splash pad, frisbee golf course, walking trails, a miniature train ride, and beautiful gardens we have something for everyone.
*The Dutch Mill (Dundas)
533 Millgrove Road Side Road
There is a giant market that carried everything and a restaurant on site.
Free Petting Zoo
*Happy Rolph’s Animal Farm (St. Catherine’s)
650 Read Road
(Corner of Read Rd. and Northrup)
Animal viewing area
Picnic area and pavilion
9/11 Memorial Walkway Trail
The animals will be at Happy Rolph’s from Victoria Day weekend until Thanksgiving weekend.
I have created a bucket list with 100 things you can do with your kids this summer.
100 KIDS SUMMER ACTIVITIES ON A DIME
1) WATER GUN FIGHT/WATER BALLOON FIGHT
2) MAKE BUBBLE SNAKES
3) MAKE A LIFE SIZE INDOOR BOARD GAME
4) HOT CAR CRAYON MAKER
6) CRAYON SAND PAPER T-SHIRTS
7) GLOW STICKS DANCE PARTY
Go to the Dollarstore and buy some fun glow sticks, turn off the lights, and blast some music!
8) MAKE BALLOON ROCKETS
9) FAMILY CAR RACE
10) MAKE A MARSHMALLOW SHOOTER
11) STORY STONES
12) MAKE PLAYDOUGH MATS
This will keep the little ones busy for a long time!
13) ACTION DICE GAME
14) FEED DUCKS AT A POND
16) WATCH A FREE OUTDOOR MOVIE
Search online your city and movies in the park and you should find something close by.
17) MAKE A RETRO THEME DAY
18) MAKE A LEMONADE STAND
Kids will be busy decorating the signs and making the lemonade. Ask you neighbours come out and support your kids.
19) FROZEN ICE PLAY
20) OUTDOOR WATER ART
21) TIC TAC TOWEL
Take a plain towel and make a Tic Tac Toe board out of tape.
Kids can use sea shells or rocks as the pieces.
22) PUT ON A MAGIC SHOW
Learn magic tricks and show family and friends.
23) BALLOON POP ROCKS EXPERIMENT
Do the Balloon Fizz Science Experiment
23) MAKE CUPCAKES
24) HIDE AND GO SEEK IN THE DARK
Play Hide & Seek with the lights off using glow bracelets.
25) MOCK CAMPING TRIP
Make a mock camping trip
Use a play tent, sleeping bags or blankets, and flash lights. You can eat dinner out side and sing camp songs.
26) MAKE A “RESTAURANT” DINNER
Have your kids help you make dinner. Create menus with them to decorate and serve your spouse or neighbours.
27) DIY GIANT PAPER AIRPLANE
28) MAKE A COLLAGE
Make a collage with magazine pages or family photos.
29) MAKE MUSICAL INSTRUMEMTS
Find items around the house and construct different instruments. This teaches kids how to recycle waste into something useful and fun.
30) Make Alien Bubbles
31) SALAD SPINNER ART
You can purchase a salad spinner at The Dollarama.
32) MAKE HOMEMADE JAM
33) MAKE A TIME CAPSULE
34) DO A JIGSAW PUZZLES
You can purchase puzzles at Dollarama for $2-$3
35) MAKE A SUN CATCHER
36) WATCH HOME MOVIES
37) DECORATE WITH PUFFY PAINT
The Dollarama sells Puffy Paint in the art section and you can purchase a top or a hat to decorate.
Make sure you let it completely dry before wearing it.
38) HAVE A PICNIC
39) MAKE ICE CREAM IN A BAG
40) POOL NOODLE HOCKEY
41) POTATO STAMPING
42) BUILD A VILLAGE OUT OF BLOCKS OR LEGO
43) MAKE A DEEJAY DANCE PARTY
Go to the dollar store and get glow sticks! Dress your kids in light colours. Close the blinds and the lights and activate their glow sticks. Put on their favourite songs and have them dance. This one is good when they have friends come over.
44) MAKE A SUMMER SCRAP BOOK
45) SPONGE WATER GAMES
46) PAPER PLATE MARBLE TRACK
47) JUMP ROPE GAMES
48) CHINESE JUMP ROPE GAMES
49) MAKE ICE EGGS
50) MAKE A FELT PLAY MAT
51) AIRPLANE WATCHING
Take your kids over to Pearson Airport and watch the planes take off and land.
52) FREE CONCERT IN THE PARK
53) DIY KID “CAR” WASH
54) VISIT IKEA
Kids meals are $2.99 and there is a free drop off kids play area while you shop. Need I say more …
55) MAKE A LUA
You can purchase leis, grass skirts and decorations at the Dollar Store. You can also make fruity virgin colada drinks for the kids.
56) GO TO A FLEA MARKET
57) DIY GIANT SLIP & SLIDE with a painter’s tarp and shaving cream.
58) MAKE A SCAVENGER HUNT
59) MAKE A WATER BLOB
This one is cheap and a lot of fun!
60) WASH YOUR CAR
Put the kids in a swim suit and give them the hose, some sponges and a bucket full of soap. They will have a ball.
61) BOARD GAME NIGHT
62) PLAY WITH SIDE WALK CHALK
(Have a Colouring Contest, Mini Art Gallery, or create games like Hop Scotch and Tic Tac Toe)
63) OUTDOOR GIANT BOARD GAME
64) CATCH FIRE FLIES
65) TRIP TO THE PET STORE
66) PLAY IN THE SPRINKLER
67) FLOWER POT CRAFT
68) MAKE A VIDEO
Whether you have one of those little FLIP videos, a camera, or your cell phone, get your children to make a play.
Have them practice it a bunch of times. Find or make some costumes and have them perform their play on the video.
You can put it on the computer for them to watch.
69) CARD BOARD BOX CREATIONS
Take your children to the grocery or drug store and ask for extra used boxes.
Here are some cool ideas your can do with coard board boxes:
70) GO TO THE BEACH
71) NATURE ART
Take your kids to a local park or nature trail and have them pick out items (ie. leaves, sticks, rocks, flowers)/
Give them bristol board and glue and have them make abstract art using their findings.
72) MAKE SMORES
Using a microwave or a real fire pit, you can get into the camping spirit!
73) MAKE A PLAYING CARD CASTLE
74) MAKE PIZZA
75) SCIENCE EXPERIMENTS
76) OUTDOOR COMPETITIONS
Get the neighbour hood kids over and host a competition.
Split the kids in fair teams.
You can create some games to play:
* Potato Sack Races (using garbage bags or pillow cases)
* 3 Legged Race using Socks or Shoe Laces
* Water Balloon Toss
* Spoon Race (holding a ping pong ball or egg)
77) MAKE EDIBLE PLAYDOUGH
78) MAKE A BOAT PATH
80) HOME MADE TAP SHOES
Tape nickels to the bottom of your kid’s running shoes and you’ve got a pair of tap shoes.
81) GO TO A TOWN MAIN STREET
Go for a walk down the street. Grab an ice cream cone.
Suggested Place: Unionville Main Street in Markham is a great choice. Any Cottage Country down town strip will do the trick.
82) FEED THE DUCKS
Go to a local pond with cut up bread.
83) MAKE A HOMEMADE SLIP AND SLIDE
84) BURY A TIME CAPSULE
85) GROW FRUIT OR VEGETABLES
86) GO TO A FARMER’S MARKET
87) VISIT A PET STORE
88) MAKE AN OBSTACLE COURSE
89) PLAY SHARK
All you need is a folded ironing board to be your boat. Keep the kids on the boat. If they fall off, they get “eaten” by the Shark, which Mom or Dad can play!
90) GO TO A SPLASH PAD
91) MAKE A WATER BALLOON SLIP AND SLIDE
92) MAKE SAND BUCKET MINIONS
93) HAVE A CARD GAME TOURNAMENT
94) MAKE A HIGH TEA PARTY
95) GO GEOCACHING
96) MAKE YOUR OWN MAD LIBS
97) EXPLODING BAGS EXPERIMENT
This one is messy but a lot of fun!
98) MAKE A PET ROCK
Pick a rock outside. Let the kids paint them, decorate them
99) SUMO WRESTLING MATCH
Make the kids are supervised during this one.
100) MAKE A LEGO NIGHT LIGHT
80’s Retro Day At Home
Being a child of the 80’s, I decided a few days ago that it would be a good idea to create a retro-themed 80’s day for my kids at home. My kids are 5 and 3 so I wasn’t sure how this would go over or if they’d even indulge me in my creativity, but I was pleasantly surprised to see how much they loved the experience!
The best part was that the whole thing cost me under $10.
I went into my kids rooms and pulled out all of their 80s style clothes. Leg warmers, neon pink shorts, a headband, and some jewelry for my daughter. A ‘surfer dude’ shirt, black headband and sunglasses for my son.
The tie and arm band that my son was wearing was from an 80’s party that my husband and I hosted long before we had kids! It brought me back to my good old days!
If you don’t have 80’s style clothing, you can go to the dollar store and get a bright coloured head band, arm band, and/or tie to get the kids into the spirit.
I let the kids choose 1 treat to have as a snack for that day. So I purchase some 80’s treats from the dollar store, including a pack of ring pops, push pops and bubble tape as well as a box of Teddy Grahams from the grocery store.
Popular 80’s candy that are still available in stores:
3) SCAVENGER HUNT
I hid 80’s themed toys around the house and had the kids find them. I wrote the name of each location as a clue, because my daughter is 5 and is learning to read. For older kids you can make the hunt more challenging with riddles.
To set everything up, the first thing I did was go through their toys to see which characters are from the 80’s.
We found a My Little Pony figurine, a Smurfs doll, a Garfield toy, a Supermario Dragon, a Ghostbusters Marshmallow Man, a Ninja Turtle, an Ariel Doll, and a Strawberry Shortcake and Berenstein Bears book. I made the mistake of taking a picture of my Scavenger hunt after they completed it, so I don’t know where all of the papers are
You do not need to use toys for the scavenger hunt. Go on the computer and print up pictures of 80’s characters for your kids.
My Little Pony
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
4) MOVIE TIME
After long deliberation my children chose to watch Honey I Shrunk The Kids while eating their chosen push-pop 80’s treat.
Popular Kids 80’s Movies:
Back To The Future
An American Tail
Who Framed Roger Rabbit
The Never Ending Story
The Brave Little Toaster
Troop Beverly Hills
Tip: You do NOT have to purchase a movie. You can stream a movie off your computer.
5) DANCE PARTY:
To complete our evening we had an 80’s dance party. I went on YouTube and put on some classic 80’s dance songs that my husband and I like.
We first played dance freeze and then the kids wanted to to free-style dance. It would have also been fun if I got glow sticks for them and shut off the lights. I’ll save that one for next time.
Popular 80’s dance songs:
Girls Just Wanna Have Fun: Cindy Lauper
Open Your Heart: Madonna
Celebration: Kool and The Gang
All Night Long: Lionel Richie
Let’s Hear It For the Boy – Deniece Williams
Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go – Wham
Mickey – Toni Basil
Ghostbusters – Ray Parker Jr.
Dancing With Myself- Billy Idol
Thriller- Michael Jackson
Do You Really Want To Hurt Me- Culture Club
EXTRAS YOU CAN DO
1) CRAFTS (All Dollar Store Purchases)
•Puffy Painting On Hats or Tops.
•Boondoggle or Lanyard.
2) TRIVIA (No Cost)
Teach your kids facts from The 80’s.
3) MORE GAMES (All Dollar Store Purchases)
•Rubics Cube Challenge
My kids had the best time. They are now begging me to do a 90’s day.
So stay tuned….
WALK LIKE AN EGYPTIAN!!
TIPS ON THROWING A PARTY ON A DIME
HERE ARE SOME HELPFUL TIPS AND IDEAS TO KEEP YOUR PARTY IN BUDGET:
1) Throwing a party at home is a good way to save venue rental fees.
2) Make your party between meals. A great time to have a party is 2pm-4pm. Then you only have to serve snacks instead of a full meal to your guests.
3) If your child is of age, make your party a “drop off” party. That way you don’t have to feel obligated to buy the adults food.
4) Make your party theme around a food or art craft. You can use the kid’s finished crafts or cooking creation as a take home gift.
THEME PARTY IDEAS (Most can be modified for different ages):
-Play games like dance freeze or musical chairs
-Create a choreographed dance for the kids to learn and present
– Make your own CDs or an iPod play list with Top 40 songs. Dim down the lights and give the kids glow sticks and have them free style dance.
-You can make personalized CDs of you child’s favourite songs for the loot bag. You can also add an instrument or more cool glow sticks as a take home gift.
You can buy art supplies from Dollar Stores, Michael’s, Target and Walmart
-Decorate tees, aprons or hats with puffy paint or fabric markers
-Gingerbread house decorating
Loot Bags would be their creations.
-Make cup cakes or small cakes
-Give the children icing and candy to decorate their cupcakes and put them in a box to take home.
-Have an interactive “make your own” meal like tacos or a pasta bar.
-Loot bags could be their cupcakes and you can buy aprons or baking supplies from the Dollarama to add to their loots.
-Buy each child a bowl, nail polish, manicure kit, hand cream and a hair accessory.
-Have some adult family members or friends help you out to fill the bowls with water and give the kids manicures or pedicures and apply nail polish and cream.
-You can do make-up applications and hair styles.
-For the loot bag, send the kids home with their bowls, manicure kit, hand cream, nail polish and hair accessory.
-Have the kids come dressed in princess attire.
-Buy supplies at the dollar store to make and decorate wands and crowns.
-You can do a fashion show with the kids in their costumes or watch a Disney princess movie.
-Make the kids a tea party with warm fruit flavoured tea, little sandwiches and small treats.
-Your bags can be their wands, crowns and add a few Disney princess trinkets (ie bubbles, sun glasses and colouring books).
*MOCK SLUMBER PARTY
-Have the children come dressed in their pyjamas.
-Go to Walmart or the dollar store and buy pillow cases and pillows. Get the children to decorate the pillow cases with puffy paint or fabric markers.
-Put on a movie for the kids and serve them popcorn.
-The Loot Bags would be the pillows in the decorated pillow cases.
-Movie Trivia Game (you can find animated movie trivia questions online).
-Put on a family movie.
-Hand out popcorn, candy, and soft drinks.
-For the loot bags go to Walmart in the movie section and pick up $5 family movies to send home with each child.
*SUPER HERO PARTY
-Cape and mask making. You can find supplies at Your local Dollarama.
-You can cut pillow cases or buy towels and stick them with sticky velcro (found in the craft aisle).
-Find an adult family or friend’s superhero costume and surprise the kids.
-Watch a super hero movie.
-Make white ice cream sundaes with red and blue toppings for Spider-Man.
-Loot bags can be the capes, masks and a super hero colouring book.
-Go to the dollar store, Walmart, or Michaels and buy two different colour T-shirts. One colour for one team and another for the other.
-Give the kids puffy paint or fabric markers. Have them put their last names and choose a number to go on the back of their shirts.
-You can throw in sporting items like a ball, glove or hockey stick to take home with their T-shirts.
-If the weather is on your side you could put the kids in your yard for a game of soccer or capture the flag. If the weather doesn’t work you could put the kids in their teams and do a sports trivia contest.
-Have some adult family members and friends help you run the party.
-Create your own games by going to the Dollarstore to buy the supplies.
-Games can include: Throw the ball and hit the cans, ring toss, bean bag toss in the hole, bowling, fortune teller, borrow a jumping castle from a friend, pin the nose on the clown and face painting.
-Go to the dollar store and buy mini popcorn containers and cotton candy filled containers.
-Buy a roll of tickets. Give each child a roll of tickets for each booth and a bag. For each game played the child receives a small prize which goes in their loot bag. (Party City has small cheap little prize toys).
-Send the children home with their loot bag and a container of cotton candy.
If you don’t want the mess at your home, you will want to find a party place that offers a cheap package that consists of food, cake, paper plates, cutlery, balloons and loot bags.
*PARTY PLACES IN THE GTA FOR 20 KIDS THAT COST UNDER $300 (INCLUDING TAX):
1) MCDONALDS (All over the GTA)
You can throw a party for your child at McDonalds for $10 per child. They reserve your tables by the playground. Each child gets a happy meal and loot bag. This package also includes a cake.
*PARTY PLACES IN THE GTA FOR 20 KIDS THAT COST UNDER $500 (INCLUDING TAX):
1) LOBLAWS (All over the GTA)
The cost for a Loblaws pizza party is approximately $20 per child. This includes the pizza the kids cook and eat for their meal. They also will colour their own baking hats and decorate a big cake or cupcakes, which becomes their goodie bags to take home as a party favour.
2) MESS FOR FUN (North York)
If you can throw your party on a weekday, this is a good deal for you. The kids will have fun in the Indoor Playground, and a will receive a food package, and add on loot bags.
73 Alness St #3, North York, ON M3J 2H2
3) CHUCKIE CHEESE (All over the GTA)
Full food and play package. For the basic package, add their cake and small loot bags. This will keep you in budget for a fun party.