Kid-Friendly Castles, Forts & Historical Jails in Ontario
Each of these sites has something unique to discover about Canada’s past, and a chance for interactive learning that goes beyond the pages of a book or exhibits in a museum.
‘Dundurn’ is Gaelic for ‘fort on the water’, an appropriate name for this kid-friendly castle nestled on gorgeous grounds facing Burlington Bay in Hamilton. Archeologists have found evidence at Dundurn that confirm the land was home to First Nations people as far back as 9,000 years ago.
The castle itself was built much more recently by Sir Allan Napier McNab between 1833 and 1835. Though Dundurn wasn’t built by royalty, there is a connection to the Duchess of Cornwall (Prince William and Harry’s stepmother), who is the great-great-granddaughter of Sir Allan McNab. At the time of its construction, the gas lights and running water inside the castle were modern technology. Walk the grounds, explore the history and more as you make your way through this unique Canadian landmark. Costumed interpreters lead personalized tours and hands-on cooking workshops.
Location: 610 York Boulevard, Hamilton
Casa Loma means ‘House on the Hill’ in Spanish, and this mansion, built in 1911, features opulent stone architecture with turrets and towers as well as secret passageways, narrow staircases and underground tunnels that give it an air of mystery, romance and adventure. The castle has 98 rooms, including 30 bathrooms, a library, a dining room for 100 guests, a bowling alley, and even a rifle range. Explore on a self-guided tour, take in sweeping views of the city below and play in the sprawling gardens around the castle.
Location: 1 Austin Terrace, Toronto
James Livingston, a member of the Canadian parliament and owner of flax and linseed oil mills, built Castle Killbride in 1877, naming it after his birthplace in Scotland. The castle features incredible interior Italian Renaissance style wall and ceiling murals done in the trompe l'oeil technique. Meaning ‘trick of the eye’, this art form creates optical illusions using realistic imagery in three dimensions. Explore the hidden images and motifs in this rare and wonderful artwork.
Location: 60 Snyder’s Road West, Baden
Learn about the War of 1812 from guides and staff who re-enact the time period in dress costume, lead tours and offer cannon and musket demonstrations throughout the day. There’s also an annual siege of the fort event you’ll want to experience!
Location: 350 Lakeshore Road, Fort Erie
Enter into the 19th century realm of military life with guided tours, musical performances and military demonstrations offered by the Fort Henry Guard. In addition to the re-enacted soldiers, meet schoolteachers, soldiers’ wives, vendors and others playing the parts of the townspeople around the fort.
Location: 1 Fort Henry Drive, Kingston
This award-winning living museum depicts all aspects of an early 19th century fur trading post and society. Enjoy tours, themed weekends, festivals and feasts, concerts and so much more. Traditional craft demonstrations from the era, boat building, tailoring and smithing take place throughout the day, as well as workshops kids can do to experience some new skills.
Location: 1350 King Road, Thunder Bay
Built in the 1840s by a stonemason from Scotland, Old Stone Jail in Beaverton is a unique interactive experience for kids of all ages. The facility was used to imprison lawbreakers, but also provided shelter to travellers. The simple three-cell prison was originally situated on the Beaver River behind the first town hall. In 1995, it was saved from demolition by the local historical society and moved to its current location.
Location: 284 Simcoe Street, Beaverton
The Huron Historic Gaol in Goderich was established for the Huron district of Upper Canada in 1842. The octagonal jail housed inmates, and also served as a temporary courtroom and council chambers. The jail was officially closed in 1972 and converted into a museum two years later. The jail has since been refurbished to match the original Victorian setting. Guided tours provide insight into the history of the justice system in the region.
Location: 181 Victoria Street North, Goderich
One of Ontario’s most unique heritage sites, L’Orignal Old Jail is the oldest jail in Ontario and the second oldest in Canada. Open seasonally, take a guided tour to learn about its storied past.
Location: 1023 Queen Street, L’Orignal
Last updated: August 17, 2022