A family enjoying the views near Niagara Falls

Niagara Falls

Plan a budget-friendly family trip to Ontario

A family enjoying the views near Niagara Falls

Niagara Falls

From the iconic Niagara Falls to the vibrant city of Toronto and the charming capital city of Ottawa, here are some cost-saving ideas to plan the perfect budget-friendly family vacation to Ontario.

Toronto

From world-class museums and captivating parks to cultural festivals and a great public transportation system, Toronto offers a perfect blend of entertainment and value, ensuring an unforgettable experience for your entire family.

Getting around

The Toronto Transportation Commission (TTC) operates within the city of Toronto and includes a vast network of buses, subways and streetcars.

Additionally, visitors can also use GO Transit buses and trains to travel around Toronto and its nearby region.

While individual tickets can be purchased on the TTC, the economical option is to buy a Presto Card (new cards cost $6) and load a day pass, which costs $13.50, allowing you to travel across the city with ease during your stay. Travellers can also pay by tapping their credit card and debit cards.

Kids under the age of 12 years travel free on both the TTC and GO Transit.

Having a Presto Card provides lots of benefits.

You’ll receive 20% off the admission fees at:

  • Hockey Hall of Fame
  • Gardiner Museum
  • Bird Kingdom Niagara Falls
  • Toronto Zoo
  • Ontario Science Centre
  • Aga Khan Museum
  • Black Creek Pioneer Village

You’ll receive 15% off at the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) and enjoy 'Buy One Get One Free' on general admission at the Art Gallery of Hamilton.

Get more information on TTC routes, schedules and passes.

Save with Toronto CityPass

Toronto CityPass is a discounted ticket package, allowing visitors to save 42% at five top Toronto attractions, which include admission to the CN Tower, plus four more of your choice from:

  • Casa Loma
  • Royal Ontario Museum
  • Toronto Zoo
  • Ontario Science Centre
  • City Cruises Toronto

All of these attractions are must-visit, especially when you’re travelling with kids. You’ll be able to enjoy the variety of experiences Toronto has to offer from the best museums to local outdoor attractions.

Note: The pass is valid for nine days starting from the time you visit your first attraction.

Things to do

Toronto offers a variety of budget-friendly activities. Here are some of the best options:

Ferry to the Toronto Islands

Visiting the Toronto Islands is an enjoyable day trip. It only takes around fifteen minutes to reach the islands from the Jack Layton Ferry Terminal. Located at 9 Queens Quay West, the ferry terminal is within walking distance from the Harbourfront Centre.

For the best experience, consider purchasing tickets online prior to travelling. Return tickets for adults cost $9.11, while kids under 19 years are charged between $4.29– $5.86 based on age.

For families, a visit to Centre Island will be best, given that it is home to the Centreville Amusement Park. The park includes a host of great rides such as a swan ride, minigolf, mine coaster and many more.

Explore the Toronto Zoo

The Toronto Zoo is a world-renowned zoological park located in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Covering an expansive area of 710 acres (287 hectares), it is the largest zoo in the country. Additionally, it features over 5,000 animals representing more than 450 different species.

The zoo offers a wide range of kid-friendly activities and attractions, ensuring a fun and educational experience for young visitors, such as:

  • Kids Zoo: The Kids Zoo is a special area where children can get up close and personal with a variety of domestic animals. They can interact with and learn about farm animals, such as goats, sheep and pigs, fostering a connection with these friendly creatures.
  • Discovery Zone: This is a part of the Kids Zoo, which features a splash pad, a playground and interactive exhibits where kids can learn about animals and their habitats through hands-on experiences.
  • Keeper Talks: Throughout the day, zookeepers conduct informative talks and feeding sessions at various animal exhibits. Kids can listen to these presentations to learn fascinating facts about different species, their habitats and conservation efforts.

Additionally, there are designated picnic areas and beaches located across various regions of the zoo, making it one of the best family friendly attractions to visit when in Toronto.

Given that the zoo is one of the most-visited attractions, it’s best to book your tickets in advance, preferably for a weekday.

Additionally, guests are permitted to carry their own food and drinks (non-alcoholic only) to their visit, helping families to avoid spending big on food.

Visit Nathan Phillips Square

Nathan Phillips Square is an urban plaza located in the heart of Toronto. It is a dynamic and lively space that draws millions of visitors annually.

Its central location makes it a popular destination for a diverse range of visitors, including tourists exploring the city, attendees of special events and seasonal gatherings.

A major highlight of Nathan Phillips Square is its stunning reflecting pool, which undergoes a magical transformation into a charming skating rink during the winter season.

The pool is located adjacent to the iconic “Toronto” sign which is the perfect backdrop for a memorable family picture. Visit the sign at night, as it is lit up with commemorative colours representing festivals and other special occasions.

Toronto City Hall is also located within this plaza and is an architectural masterpiece in its own right. With its eye-catching curved towers and the elevated walkway known as the "podium roof," City Hall stands as an iconic and recognizable landmark in Toronto's mesmerizing skyline.

Explore Kensington Market

When it comes to one-of-a-kind shopping there are few better places than Kensington Market in Toronto.

From clothing to souvenirs and books to toys, you’re bound to find something for everyone. The same can be said for dining in the market. Whether you’re in the mood for local cuisine, international options or kid-friendly meals, Kensington Market has got it all.

Find more discounts and offers

Take advantage of more discounts and offers when you visit these top Toronto attractions:

Ottawa

Nestled on the banks of the scenic Ottawa River, this vibrant metropolis offers a perfect blend of entertainment, cultural richness and value. The entire family can enjoy historic buildings, iconic museums and outdoor spaces in Ottawa without breaking the bank.

Getting around

OC Transpo is the primary provider of public transportation in the Ottawa region. Its convenient routes connect downtown with key destinations, such as the main VIA Rail train station, the Ottawa International Airport, various neighbourhoods, popular attractions, shopping destinations and more.

Taking the O-Train is one of the common ways to travel around Ottawa, as it provides connectivity to all key areas and is operational in all seasons. The O-Train currently consists of two main lines: Confederation Line (Line 1) and the Trillium Line (Line 2).

The Confederation Line, runs from Tunney's Pasture Station in the west to Blair Station in the east, featuring 13 stations in total.

This line provides direct connections to major hubs such as Parliament Station, Rideau Station (near the Rideau Centre shopping mall) and Lyon Station.

The Trillium Line recently underwent a massive southward extension stretching from Bayview Station in downtown Ottawa to Greensboro Station in the south, covering a distance of approximately 16 kilometres and serving eight stations along the way.

Similar to the TTC in Toronto, Presto cards can be used on the O-train.

During the warm months visitors can also travel on the Water Taxi Eh, which is a 100% electric and universally accessible water shuttle service between Ontario and Quebec shores of the Ottawa River.

You’ll encounter various notable stops during your ride. These include the Ottawa Locks near the Bytown Museum, the Canadian Museum of History and Richmond Landing near the Canadian War Museum.

As you glide through the picturesque waters, depending on the chosen route, you will be treated to breathtaking views of renowned landmarks like Parliament Hill, the Supreme Court of Canada and the National Gallery of Canada.

Things to do

Take guided tours of Parliament Hill

No visit to Ottawa is complete without exploring Parliament Hill. Free guided tours of Parliament Hill are offered daily in both English and French. You can choose to register for one or all of these tours to explore different parts of Parliament Hill:

  • Senate Guide guided tours takes visitors for a trip in and around the Senate of Canada Building. The tour lasts approximately 30 minutes.
  • House of Commons guided tours explore the newly restored West Block and lasts for around 40 minutes.
  • East Block guided tours include visiting the historic offices of the Governor General, the prime minister, a cabinet minister and the Privy Council. Tours run from late June to early September and typically last around 50 minutes.

Visit the ByWard Market

Whether you're looking for delicious food, unique shopping experiences or kid-friendly entertainment, the ByWard Market has something to offer for everyone.

The market has a miniature train ride which runs daily, except on Mondays between 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. For just $3, kids can enjoy an eight minute train ride across the market.

For kids who are bookworms, a visit to Librairie Du Soleil, an independent French bookstore is a must.

Zak’s Diner is a well-known restaurant in the market. Famous for its free kids’ meals! From Sunday to Thursday, between 5:00 p.m. and close, visitors can get one free kid meal on the purchase of an adult meal and beverage.

Additionally, kid-friendly activities such as face painting and balloon artists are offered during special events.

The Ottawa Sign is strategically positioned in the heart of the ByWard Market and makes for a great spot for a family picture. If you happen to visit the market during festivals, you’ll find the sign adorned with decorations and unique lighting.

Enjoy the Rideau Canal

The Rideau Canal is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is a popular spot for walking, picnicking and biking in Ottawa.

As temperatures drop during the winter, the canal freezes and transforms into the world’s largest ice-skating rink. The rink stretches over 7.8 kilometres from downtown Ottawa to Dows Lake.

Apart from skate rentals, skating on the canal is completely free. Skating season runs from January to early March. However, it is dependant on weather. When operational, the Skateway is open seven days a week, 24 hours a day.

Join Ottawa Free Tours

These guided tours led by expert guides are perfect for new visitors to the city. These tours are free of charge and they depend on the generosity of guests to support their efforts. If you enjoy the tour, do tip your guide whatever you feel is appropriate.

While these might not be the first option for those with toddlers, young kids and teens will surely enjoy exploring the capital city and all that it has to offer.

Here are the walking tour options:

  • Capital City Tour extends from the National War Memorial to Parliament Hill and the lively ByWard Market. This tour will explore the city's iconic landmarks and fascinating stories.
  • Ottawa After Dark Tour takes visitors on a journey into Parliament Hill and through Centertown Ottawa, while the guides narrate dark stories regarding the city’s past. During the tour you’ll enjoy a mesmerising sunset, illuminated monuments and finish with a free light show at Parliament Hill, which runs throughout the summer.

Find more discounts and offers

Make the most of these additional discounts to visit Ottawa’s best attractions at low or no cost:

Niagara Falls

Niagara Falls has been attracting tourists for centuries due to its natural beauty and providing a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

But the region has a lot to offer beyond the Horseshoe Falls, such as scenic hiking trails, an amazing butterfly conservatory and many family-friendly attractions.

Getting around

Visitors to Niagara Falls have numerous transportation options to choose from, that make it easy and affordable to visit all popular attractions in the region.

WeGo

WeGo is a state-of-the-art bus system that seamlessly connects accommodations and popular tourist attractions across Niagara Falls and Niagara Parks.

WeGo buses operate on three routes, namely:

  • The Blue and Red lines catering to the city's major tourist areas
  • The Green line traversing through Niagara Parks.

If you plan to visit Niagara Falls for a one-day trip, purchasing a 24-hour pass will be the economical option. Passes costs $10 for adults and $7 for children.

For those planning a multi-day trip, 48-hour passes are available as well. They cost $15 for adults and $11 for children.

Both passes provide unlimited travel within their designated time frames.

Niagara-on-the-Lake shuttle

The Niagara-on-the-Lake shuttle provides a seamless connection to WeGo, allowing visitors to easily travel past the regular Green Line’s Floral Clock stop into the town of Niagara-on-the-Lake.

One-way and round-trip shuttle tickets can be purchased individually at the Floral Clock in Queenston or Fort George in Niagara-on-the-Lake.

All-day access is included with the Niagara Falls Adventure Pass Plus.

Children under two years of age travel free. A round-trip adult tickets costs $16 for adults and $10 for kids between 3-12 years old.

Niagara Regional Transit (NRT)

The NRT is the Niagara region’s public transit system and provides connectivity to nearby communities such as St. Catharines.

The service runs seven days a week with reduced service on Sundays.

Get more information on NRT routes, schedules and passes.

Things to do

Visit the Niagara Botanical Gardens

The Niagara Botanical Gardens is one of the best free attractions in the region.

Located just ten minutes from Clifton Hill, the garden is spread across 99 acres (40 hectares) and includes a wide variety of plant species such as azaleas, herb and vegetable plantings, perennials, rhododendrons and a world-famous rose garden featuring over 2,400 roses.

Additionally, the garden is home to the Butterfly Conservatory having over 2,000 colourful tropical butterflies roaming freely in their natural habitat. This is a paid attraction, but kids under two years can enter for free.

The garden is open year-round, from dawn until dusk.

Dufferin Islands

Located just south of the Table Rock Centre, Dufferin Islands is ten acres of secluded and serene greenspaces perfect for a relaxing family outing.

You’ll find numerous picnic tables around the islands each providing a unique view of the Falls and the convenience to eat and relax.

Additionally, visitors can bring their own food or choose from a delicious selection of grab-and-go meal items from the Table Rock Market.

Dufferin Islands is also a great spot to enjoy the annual Winter Festival of Lights, which is a free outdoor lights festival, attracting over a million visitors annually.

The festival also includes special events such as a hot chocolate trail. This is a self-guided trail allowing visitors to experience delicious chocolate-based creations by the best chefs and mixologists in the region.

Oakes Garden Theatre

Nestled at the base of Clifton Hill, this location offers a breathtaking panoramic view of both the American and Horseshoe Falls.

Originally constructed in 1936, the designers utilized the natural contours of the landscape to create a curved pergola that overlooks the amphitheater. This also serves as a great spot for taking pictures and taking in the beauty of the majestic Falls.

Additionally, the garden is decorated with meticulously crafted iron gates, Queenston limestone edging, stone gardens, water features, ponds and lush shrubbery.

Find more discounts and offers

When it comes to getting the most out of your visit to Niagara Falls, here are great offers to consider:

Save with the Niagara Falls Adventure Pass

The Niagara Falls Adventure Pass is a bundled ticket package that offers visitors access to a variety of thrilling experiences and popular tourist sites while saving money compared to purchasing individual tickets.

Visitors can choose from one of three passes:

  • Niagara Falls Adventure Pass Classic ($59 + tax): This is the cheapest tier that includes a two-day WEGO pass and admission to three attractions.
  • Niagara Falls Adventure Pass Plus ($99 + tax): This all-inclusive bundle helps you save 53% on costs compared to paying for each attraction individually. Along with a two-day WEGO pass, you can access six incredible attractions including the newly opened Niagara Parks Power Station and Tunnel.
  • Niagara Falls Pass ($79 + tax): This pass bundles five of Niagara’s classic attractions to offer visitors a memorable experience at Niagara Parks.

Get the Clifton Hill FunPass

Located one block from the Horseshoe Falls, Clifton Hill is a go-to destination for family fun. From the iconic Niagara Skywheel to the fast-paced Niagara Speedway, Clifton Hill has something for everyone in the family.

Rather than spending big on visiting each of the six attractions individually, consider saving yourself $30 with the Clifton Hill FunPass. The pass includes admission to:

  • Niagara Skywheel
  • Zombie Attacks
  • Movieland
  • Cosmic Coaster
  • Ghost blasters
  • Dinosaur Adventure or Wizards Golf (miniature golf courses)

Passes can be purchased online 24/7 and are valid anytime within one year of purchase.

Additionally, families can consider purchasing the family fun hotel package that includes:

  • Accommodation at the Howard Johnson Plaza by Wyndham by the Falls
  • Meal vouchers for breakfast and dinner
  • Two adult Clifton Hill Fun Passes
  • Two-day WEGO passes for two adults

Money-saving tips

Here are some common money-saving tips you can practice regardless of the destination:

  • Consider travelling mid-week as travel prices are typically lower and public transport will be less crowded.
  • While long-weekends are the go-to time for travelling, they are accompanied with higher costs. Hence, either book well in advance to avoid surge pricing or consider travelling on non-long weekends.
  • Attractions Ontario provides a curated selection of coupons to help you save while visiting the best attractions across the province.

Last updated: September 25, 2023

Looking for Ontario travel advice?

Our experts are here to help you plan your perfect trip. Call or book today.