Family-friendly zoos to visit
Ontario’s zoos and animal parks bring the wonderful world of wildlife to you. Experience unforgettable, up-close-and-personal sightings and interactions and learn all about the advancements in preservation and conservation of these precious animals and their habitats.
The Toronto Zoo is Canada’s largest animal attraction, housing over 5000 animals on close to 300 hectares. The park features seven distinct sections that represent key zoological habitats: Indo-Malaya, Africa, Americas, Tundra Trek, Australasia, Eurasia and the Canadian Domain.
In addition, you’ll find fun kid approved play areas and activities like the Splash Island, Canopy tours and zip lines, ropes courses, a carousel and the Tundra air ride. Saving wildlife and wild spaces around the world is a big priority, so the park also offers great educational opportunities.
Plan your visit carefully in advance, as it’s impossible to see everything in just one day. The zoo is open year-round, although some exhibits are seasonal. There are several on-site restaurants and cafes, as well as free water stations to refill your water bottles.
Location: 2000 Meadowvale Road, Toronto
Brantford Twin Valley Zoo
View over 80 species of animals, including birds, primates, big cats and even adorable goats in the petting area. The family-run property covers about 10 hectares, and in addition to the animal exhibits, features picnic spots, a playground and an educational show area, all connected by a nature trail.
Open April through October, you’re welcome to bring a picnic lunch, while some refreshments and snacks are available at the gift shop.
Location: 84 Langford Church Road, Brantford
Indian River Reptile Zoo
This is the place for the budding paleontologist and herpetologist in your family! That’s the study of dinosaurs and reptiles for the rest of us. This attraction is one of the few accredited reptile zoos in the world, and with their fascinating collection of over 400 reptile friends, it’s no wonder.
See monitor lizards, turtles, tortoises, snakes and more, then cross the Croc-Walk over an enclosure teeming with alligators, caiman and crocodiles.
Another highlight is the drive-through Dinosaur Park which features over 60 life-sized animatronic dinosaurs and even more reptiles. Dig through the “boneyard” to discover real dinosaur bones, play a round of mini golf around a model Stonehenge and explore the property’s hiking trails.
You’re welcome to bring your own lunch or purchase something from the food truck and be sure to wear proper walking shoes.
Open daily until the end of September, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Location: 2206 County Road 38, Indian River, 16 km east of Peterborough
From lions and leopards to flamingos and parrots, meet the menagerie of over 1000 birds, mammals and reptiles from around the world. Learn all about your favourite creatures and the park’s conservation efforts with Keeper Talks, Behind the Scenes Tours and other events and demonstrations.
There are loads of additional activities to keep kids entertained. Board the Gater Express Tram, cool off at the Splash Pad, go paddle boating, hike the Silent Forest at the park, try out the ropes course or race on the Pedal-Bike-Go-Karts track.
Open early June to mid-October, hours of operation change throughout the season. Various restaurants and food locations onsite or you can pack your own picnic.
Location: 2821 Stevensville Road, Stevensville, 10 minutes drive from Niagara Falls
Riverview Park and Zoo
Home to almost 50 species, including squirrel monkeys, green-winged macaws, capybaras, tortoises, peacocks, wallabies, servals, crocodiles and a red-necked wallaby, Riverview Park and Zoo is located on the Otonabee River in Peterborough.
Follow the marked walking trails to explore the park on your own or book a guided tour. Consider ‘adopting’ your favourite resident to help support the care and conservation of that species.
The park area features splash pads, frisbee golf and a miniature train tour.
A snack bar is open during the summer or you can bring your own lunch, and water refilling stations are located throughout the park. Riverview is open daily, year-round, from 8:30 a.m. to dusk and admission is free.
Location: 1300 Water St, Peterborough
Elmvale Jungle Zoo
Mighty tigers, graceful zebra and giraffes, playful lemurs and rare exotic birds are just a few of the amazing animals you’ll see at this family-orientated attraction just north of Barrie. Established in 1967, the park has grown from under one hectare to over 12 today.
The shady trails and pathways are stroller-friendly, while daily presentations, animal feeding and the goat petting zoo offer great opportunities for little ones to enjoy interactive experiences.
There’s a small snack bar and gift shop onsite. Hours of operation are weather dependent and change seasonally between mid-June and late September.
Location: 14191 Simcoe County Road 27, Phelpston
Jungle Cat World Wildlife Park
Love big cats? At Jungle Cat World Wildlife Park you can get up-close-and-personal with the big cats, plus you’ll have the chance to pet and feed baby lions, tigers, lemurs and other furry friends.
This family-friendly park hosts educational feeding tours, night safaris and other exciting activities seasonally, just be sure to wear proper footwear for all the walking. If you’re so inclined, stay a night at the park to listen to the lion's roar, wolves howl and peacocks squawk – it’s an adventure none of you will soon forget.
Open daily 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily, year-round, weather permitting in winter, tickets must be purchased online in advance of arrival. There’s a seasonal café onsite, or you can bring your own snacks to enjoy at the sheltered picnic areas.
Location: 3667 Concession Road 6, Orono
African Lion Safari
In true African safari fashion, most of the animals at this park roam free in seven large game reserves and you get to view them from a vehicle tour along the 9 km safari trail. Choose to safari in your own vehicle or on the guided Safari Tour Bus. Over 1,000 beautiful birds and animals like rhinos, giraffes, zebras and of course, lions call this large animal park home.
Other sightseeing attractions include the ‘African Queen’ boat cruise and the ‘Nature Boy’ scenic train tour, plus there’s a kids’ water park and playground, and a pets corner to get a little closer to some of the friendly residents. Food facilities are located throughout the park selling snacks and treats.
Open seasonally, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays (to 5 p.m. weekends), purchase timed tickets in advance online.
Location: 1386 Cooper Road, Cambridge/Hamilton
Last updated: March 12, 2023