On weekends and days off, family day trips to nearby places of interest are the best way to spend precious time with our fast-growing children. In this article, I’ll walk you through several ideas for awesome kid-friendly day trips to go on from London, Ontario. These mini road trips are perfect for families with children younger than teenagers and you can enjoy them from spring to fall. The suggested day trips mostly cover the area of southwestern Ontario and some reach further destinations, all under 3 hours of driving.
Family day trips by car are like mini-vacations and we should enjoy them as often as possible. Two weeks of vacation time a year is hopelessly short. Luckily, we have 52 perfect weekends and we should make the most of them. Regular short day trips can tremendously increase the joy and fun elements in our life. When we go out and explore new places, it gives us new impulses and energy. As we go to locations and spend time with family, it recharges us. Fun day trips with kids are milestones in the long drag of boring, work-and-duty-filled workdays. They are the stuff our memories are made of. We won’t remember those grocery shopping Fridays or Monday meetings with our boss. We’ll remember and forever cherish the fun-filled time with our kids in lovely places.
I know travelling with children is demanding, especially when they are younger than 7 or 8. Everything is about the right choice, good timing, and preparation. So, let’s have a look at a few points we need to consider before we take our family on a day trip.
BEFORE YOU SET OUT
Plan ahead a bit. Choose a day with sunny weather and make sure kids are well rested before the trip. Additionally, pack a day pack with snacks, sandwiches, and water for all members of the crew. Personally, I don’t like to rely on buying food on the go and wherever we happen to be. It’s hard to find good quality and nutritious food as you go. If you don’t search ahead for a particular eatery you want to try and you don’t have sandwiches with you, you’ll end up with roadside junk food chains.
On top of that, take extra clothes for kids in case they get wet or dirty. Some entertainment for the road will be handy as well.
Even though in Canada and the US public washrooms are quite clean and plentiful, the 2020 mess has shown us that they might not be open and available when you need them the most. So, from now on, we always travel with a portable potty as well. But it’s not a regular baby potty. It’s a simple and cheap version for the whole family. All you need is a utility bucket, a large garbage bag, a box of tissue paper, toilet paper, and a bucket-fitting toilet seat with a lid that you can buy in large home hardware stores. It can literally save lives in those stressful moments when all public places are closed. A must-have van accessory.
Now, let’s dive into these fun, must-try day trips just outside London, ON:
BEST DAY TRIPS WITHIN 1 HOUR FROM LONDON
Family day trips near London, ON are ideal with young children and toddlers. Small kids are not the best car travellers, so it’s wise to keep the car seat time to the minimum.
GREENVIEW AVIARIES PARK AND ZOO
A fun place for family day-tripping from May to October is this private ZOO and leisure park located only one hour of driving from London, ON. It’s best to bring the whole family or befriended friends with kids for extra fun. You can spend there anywhere from 2 to 6 hours. You can start with a leisurely walk around the ZOO, then enjoy a picnic and playtime in the park area.
From local to exotic, the ZOO has over 80 different animal species in their care. Bring wet wipes and sanitizing gel to wipe your children’s hands on the go because they’ll pet and feed lots of cute baby goats, ponies, donkeys, and perhaps camels.
If you forget to bring your picnic basket, you can buy refreshments from the on-site bistro. Your kids will love the spacious play area with plenty of climbing structures, zip lines, ball courts, and a splash pad, so bring a bathing suit and an extra set of clothes just in case.
If you go: The ZOO is open 9 am to 8 pm daily from May to mid-October including the holidays. Admission tickets cost $15.00 for adults (16-64), seniors 65+ save $2 and children (4-15) pay $11.00 each. Small children under 3 have free entry.
Address: 12734 Talbot Trail, Hwy 3, Morpeth, (R.R. 1 Ridgetown), Ontario, Tel: 519-674 3025
Travel time from London, ON: 1:02 hr and 91 km
PINERY PROVINCIAL PARK
A favourite locals’ escape to nature, within 60 minutes from London you can be hiking, cycling, kayaking, canoeing, or sweet-doing-nothing on the beach. Plenty of camping spots, but book early. The park has ten hiking trails, a 14-km cycling trail, seven beaches for humans, and two for humans and their dogs. Special highlights of the park are the oak savanna and coastal sand dunes.
Address: 9526 Lakeshore Road, RR#2, Grand Bend, Ontario
Travel time from London, ON: 50 minutes and 70 km
CAMBRIDGE BUTTERFLY CONSERVATORY
One of great family-friendly places to day trip from London is the Butterfly Conservatory in Cambridge, ON. You’ll learn a lot about butterflies and moths. Besides insects, the conservatory is home to over 100 different types of tropical plants. Throughout the year, they offer various fun and educational events.
If you go: You must purchase timed tickets online in advance. The tickets are issued for a precise time slot so make sure you arrive on time. They are open from 10 am to 5 pm between Tuesday and Sunday. Mondays are closed. They are also closed during three Christmas days and the first day of the new year. The tickets cost $7.50 for kids 3-12, $15 for adults and teenagers, and $12.50 for seniors over 65. Taxes are extra. You can buy timed tickets on this page.
Address: 2500 Kossuth Road, Cambridge, Ontario
Travel time from London, ON: 1:05 hr and 106 km
TWIN VALLEY ZOO
Twin Valley ZOO is a private ZOO near Brantford and is home to over 80 different animal species such as bears, lions, tigers, deer, wolves, monkeys, and birds. Families with children will enjoy a baby goat petting area, picnic tables, and a playground.
If you go: The ZOO is open daily between May and October from 9:30 am to 5:00 pm. Admission tickets cost $18.50 for adults, $16.50 for seniors, $16.50 for teenagers, and $9.50 for kids 2-12. Toddlers and babies under 2 are free of charge. Taxes are included.
Address: 84 Langford Church Road, Brantford, Ontario
Travel time from London, ON: 1:03 hr and 104 km
HISTORIC OILS FIELDS IN PETROLIA AND OIL SPRINGS
If you are looking for an interesting place to visit in southwestern Ontario, I suggest the Historic Oil Fields in Petrolia and Oil Springs. The area around the city of Sarnia is well-known for its oil industry. But did you know that it all started in Enniskillen Township between the villages of Oil Springs and Petrolia? In fact, in 1850, a geologist named Thomas Sterry Hunt discovered oil seeping from swampy gum beds and the area became the very first place where the oil industry started in North America. The boom ended over 100 years ago, but the fields around Oil Springs and Petrolia still produce small quantities of oil.
If you go: You can visit three unique and highly educational places documenting the early history of oil extraction:
- Petrolia Discovery is an open-air museum open on weekends between May and October from 10 am to 4 pm. Admission is by donation.
- Oil Museum of Canada is open between 11 am and 4 pm on Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays as well as Thursdays between 11 am and 8:30 pm. Visitors must book their visit time slot by phone (519-834-2840) or online.
- Fairbank Oil Fields can be visited in two ways. You can do a self-drive tour or go on a 2-km hike around the property. Download the hiking trail map here.
Address: Petrolia Discovery, 4381 Discovery Line, Petrolia, Ontario
Oil Museum of Canada, 2423 Kelly Road, Oil Springs, Ontario
Fairbanks Oil Fields, 2558 Duryee Street, Oil Springs, Ontario
Travel time from London, ON: 60-70 minutes and approx. 110-120 km
BEST DAY TRIPS WITHIN 2 HOURS FROM LONDON
All the destinations on this list involve 2.5 to 4 hours of total car seat time and are therefore easier for school-aged kids.
POINT PELEE NATIONAL PARK
A day trip to the Point Pelee National Park is simply a must-do. It’s the closest national park to London and it’s also special because it’s the southernmost place (together with the Pelee Island) in Canada. The park has tons of cycling and hiking trails, long beaches, picnic areas, and canoe routes.
If you come here more than once a year, you’ll notice the tip of the land changes its shape and position thanks to the lake currents. Make sure you walk the 1-km Marsh Boardwalk loop trail. Or rent a canoe and paddle around the ponds. Don’t forget your picnic basket, hiking shoes, canoe/kayak, or a bike.
The park is also a Monarch butterfly sanctuary. Come between late August and mid-October to see them migrate through the park.
If you go: Point Pelee NP is open daily from 7 am to sunset. If you live close, it’s convenient to buy an annual pass. Otherwise, the day passes cost $7.90 for adults, $6.90 for seniors, and $16 for a family arriving in one car. Kids and teenagers are free.
Address: 1118 Point Pelee Drive, Leamington, Ontario
Travel time from London, ON: 1:53 hr and 173 km
The capital city of Ontario is another great destination for quick day trips from London. Toronto has too many amazing attractions and you can fit maybe two or three activities into one day. Below are some two-activities-a-day suggestions for one-day trips unless you want to stay overnight and make it a weekend outing.
If you have young children, I wouldn’t combine two educational attractions into one day. That could be too overwhelming for them. I suggest combining one educational and one fun activity.
• CN Tower + Ripley’s Aquarium
Conveniently located beside each other, CN Tower is fun to visit on a clear day when the visibility is the best. Count approx. 2 hours for the tallest tower in Canada and another 3 or 4 hours for the neighbouring Ripley’s Aquarium. Kids will love the huge tanks with sharks and small ones with sea horses. Absolutely fascinating is the jellyfish tank. One could sit there for hours and watch them graciously dance in the changing light.
• Hockey Hall of Fame + CN Tower
Little ice hockey enthusiasts will certainly enjoy a visit to the Hockey Hall of Fame where they’ll learn about all the top players. From there it’s only a short walk to the CN tower.
• ROM + Casa Loma
With over 6 million artefacts in its natural history, art, and culture collections, the Royal Ontario Museum is sure to be a hit with all visitors. The promise of seeing mysterious Egyptian mummies and towering skeletons of prehistoric dinosaurs will easily get your kids to agree on going on an educational museum trip.
The young prince and princess wannabes would sure like to visit Casa Loma. Its Gothic Revival architecture is as close to real castles as you can get in North America. Visiting the mansion and the manicured gardens is fun. No transatlantic flight tickets necessary.
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• Ripley’s Aquarium + Toronto Islands
Aquariums are always a great destination for family day trips. They are educative and fun to visit.
After the aquarium, take a walk to the Jack Layton Ferry Terminal at Bay Street and Queens Quay. Take a ferry to the largest urban car-free community in North America – the Toronto Islands. Not only you’ll have the best view of the Toronto skyline, but there are lots of things to do. Bring your picnic and beach bag, because there are several lovely beaches and splash pads to enjoy. You can rent a boat and paddle around the canals. Besides other attractions, Centre Island has an amusement park, a petting farm, and a cedar hedge maze. Also, you can walk or bike from one end at the Hanlan’s Point to the other on Ward’s Island which is around 5 km.
• Ontario Science Centre + Toronto Islands
Ontario Science Centre is a fun, educative museum and it’ll be hard to make the kids leave. You’ll probably have to drag them out 😊 You could make it a whole-day trip just to visit this science museum. The same can be said about the Toronto Islands.
• Toronto ZOO
The largest ZOO in Canada is a whole-day family expedition destination. Arrive early as the parking lot fills out fast. Also, the ZOO is so large, with young kids you won’t manage to see it all. I suggest you choose the zones that interests you the most and then with extra time, tour the rest. Also, if you are on a healthy diet, bring your own food and drinks because what they offer is just fast food. Don’t forget a set of extra clothes so they can enjoy the splash pad.
IF YOU GO
This year, you must purchase timed tickets for all attractions before you head out because most places don’t sell them on-site. Buy your tickets online via the links below. Furthermore, make sure you check social media of all attractions for any news and changes.
There are so many fun things to do in Toronto that one day might not be enough for you. Make it a weekend trip and stay overnight. Check out the best prices on Toronto hotels.
Travel time from London, ON to downtown Toronto: 1:54 hr and 190 km
• Ripley’s Aquarium: Located at 288 Bremner Boulevard in Toronto and open daily from 10 am to 8 pm. Regular tickets cost $39 for everybody over 14, $26.00 for older children 6-13, $13 for young children 3-5 and $26 for seniors over 65.Taxes are extra. Buy tickets HERE.
• CN Tower: Located at 290 Bremner Boulevard in Toronto and open daily between 10 am and 8 pm. Tickets can only be purchased only up to 30 days in advance before visiting. The regular admission is $39 for adults and teenagers 14+, $26 for seniors 65+, $26 for children 6-13, and $13 for children 3-5. Family pass for 2 adults and 2 children costs $90. Buy timed tickets HERE.
• ROM: Located at 100 Queen’s Park in Toronto and open between Wednesday and Sunday from 10 am to 5:30 pm. Tickets cost $23 for adults, $14 for children 4-14, $18 for student with valid student ID, $18 for seniors, and teenagers 15-19. Buy timed tickets HERE.
• Casa Loma: Located at 1 Austin Terrace in Toronto and open between Tuesdays and Sundays between 9.30 am and 5 pm. The admission tickets cost $32.49 for adults, $27.32 for teenagers 14-17, $27.32 for seniors, $22.15 for children 4-13. Taxes are included. Buy tickets HERE.
• Hockey Hall of Fame: Located at Brookfield Place, 30 Yonge Street in Toronto and open from Tuesday to Sunday between 10:30 am to 3:30 pm. Admission tickets for adults cost $20, $14.00 for kids 4-13, and $16 for seniors 65+. Taxes included. Buy tickets HERE.
• Ontario Science Museum: Located at 770 Don Mills Road in North York. The museum is temporarily closed so check their website for the latest updates. When they open, timed tickets will be sold online.
• Toronto ZOO: Located in 2000 Meadowvale Road in Toronto, closer to Pickering, they open at various times: Monday noon to 4:30 pm, Tuesday – Friday 9 am to 4:30 pm and on weekends 9:00 am to 6:00 pm. The admission tickets will cost you $27.99 for adults, $23.15 for seniors, and $18.30 for kids. Buy your timed tickets HERE.
• Toronto Islands: You can reach the island by ferry from Jack Layton Ferry Terminal and take the 13-min ride to Ward Island. Then you walk around to places that interest you. The ferry ticket includes the return fare: $8.19 for adults, $5.37 for seniors and teenagers 15-19, and $3.95 for children 2-14. Infants are free. The ferry runs at regular intervals from early morning to almost midnight. You can buy the ferry tickets HERE but be aware they must be used on the day they are issued for and there are no refunds. Check out the ferry schedule on this link.
AFRICAN LION SAFARI
If you cannot go on Safari to Africa, you can enjoy the African animals close to home. From June to mid-October, the drive-through game reserve is home to many exotic animals such as lions, cheetahs, rhinos, giraffes, ostriches, antelopes, baboons, kangaroos, wildebeests, and zebras. The safari also keeps animals from the Americas as well as from Australasia.
After driving through the reserve, park your car and enjoy the ZOO area with more animal enclosures, aviaries, picnic areas, and entertainment. They offer a parrot show, birds of prey and elephant demonstrations. Children will enjoy a large splash park, petting zoo, and climbing structures.
If you go: Open daily between June and mid-October from 10 am to 4 pm. Admission tickets cost $27.95 for adults and teenagers. Children between 3 and 12 years of age pay $17.95 each. Those under 3 are free. Taxes are extra. Please note you must purchase timed tickets in advance, and you can do so on this link. Don’t go there without a ticket because they won’t sell it to you on-site.
Address: 1386 Cooper Road, Hamilton, Ontario
Travel time from London, ON: 1:16 hr and 112 km
As a family, we love Niagara Falls. We go there several times a year for day trips with children and every time we are there, we discover something new. On each trip to Niagara Falls, it’s fun to check out the Horseshoe Falls and walk the promenade along the river. Then it’s time to add another activity such as a cruise on the Hornblower catamaran or descend and see how it looks behind the falls. For the amazing views, the Skylon Tower observation deck is unbeatable. There is the ‘crazy fun area’ on Clifton Hill, but more natural beauty can be found along the river beyond the Rainbow Bridge.
Stunning views of the Niagara River Rapids along the White Water Walk or perfect hiking in Niagara Glen. I highly recommend a summer visit to the Botanical Gardens and the Butterfly Conservatory. We have three Niagara Falls bucket list items left: a helicopter flight above the falls, the Whirlpool Aero Car ride and the Niagara SkyWheel.
IF YOU GO
This year, tickets purchased online in advance are a must. Many tickets are timed and you have to arrive for your time slot. Buy your tickets online via the links below. Furthermore, make sure you check social media of all attractions for any last-minute changes and news. If one day is not enough and you would like to stay overnight, check out the latest accommodation prices.
Travel time from London, ON: 1:56 hr and 201 km
• Hornblower Boat Cruise: Located at 5920 Niagara Parkway, Niagara Falls, Ontario and operates seasonally when the river is free of ice. The regular admission is $30.50 for adults and $20.50 for children 3-12, funicular ride included but tax will be added at checkout. Buy timed tickets HERE.
• Niagara SkyWheel: Located at 4960 Clifton Hill, Niagara Falls, Ontario, on top of the Clifton Hill. The unmissable attraction operates all year long. The tickets cost $12.99 for everybody above 13 and $6.99 for children under 12. Tax is extra. Buy timed tickets HERE.
• Skylon Tower Observation Deck: Located at 5200 Robinson St., Niagara Falls, Ontario and operates all year round. The tickets cost $16.24 for everybody above 13 and $10.44 for children 4-12, kids under 4 are free. Taxes are extra. The access to the observation deck is free if you eat at the restaurant. Buy tickets HERE.
• Butterfly Conservatory: Located at 2565 Niagara Parkway and operates year-round. The tickets cost $16.50 for everybody above 13 and $10.75 for children 6-12, kids under 6 are free. Taxes are extra. Normal opening times are between 10 am and 5 pm. Buy tickets HERE.
• Whirlpool Aero Car: Located at 3850 Niagara Parkway and operates seasonally between April and November. The tickets cost $16.50 for everybody above 13 and $10.75 for children 6-12, kids under 6 are free. Taxes are extra. Normal opening times are between 10 am and 5 pm or 6 pm on weekends. Buy tickets HERE.
• White Water Walk: Located at 4330 River Rd, Niagara Falls, Ontario and is open seasonally between April and November. The tickets cost $16.50 for everybody above 13 and $10.75 for children 6-12, kids under 6 are free. Taxes are extra. Normal opening times are between 10 am and 5 pm or 6 pm on weekends. Buy tickets HERE.
• Free activities: hiking in Niagara Glen and Botanical Garden
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FUN DAY TRIPS FROM LONDON, ONTARIO TO USA
If you have explored all of the above-mentioned destinations in southwestern Ontario, it’s time to venture out beyond the Canadian border. Several nearby interesting places are worth the visit. All of them are under 3 hours of driving one way, so if you plan ahead and set out early, you’ll have enough time to enjoy new places across the border.
NIAGARA FALLS, NY
Have you explored the Canadian side of Niagara Falls and now want to know how the falls look like from the other side? Great idea for a one-day trip with your family! The American side of Niagara Falls offers plenty of things to do for the whole day and once there, you’ll see how busy the Canadian side is. Bring your passport and cross the Niagara River over the Rainbow International Bridge. After crossing the border, follow the signs to the parking lot on the Goat Island. Hope you have comfy shoes on because you’ll walk a lot. Aim for the Terrapin Point which is the edge of the Horseshoe Falls on the American side.
I would then walk along the river and explore all the viewpoints and nice pathways that lead towards the Observation Tower.
If you go: Don’t forget your passport.
Travel time from London, ON: 2:10 hr and 200 km
The cute little town of Frankenmuth is a piece of Bavaria in Michigan. Bavarian architecture, pretzels, and sausages, lederhosen, and Octoberfest. A great destination for a fun family trip. From London, ON you need to drive west to Sarnia via Highway 402 and cross the bridge to Michigan. Follow directions for Flint and then Frankenmuth. It takes about 2:40 hr and 256 km.
Make sure you visit Bronner’s Christmas Wonderland store that covers the space of almost 2 soccer fields which make it the largest Christmas shop in the world. Also check out the Cheese Haus, the wooden bridge, go on a river cruise, and try out Bavarian specialties at the Bavarian Inn. Kids will enjoy hunting for 10 gnomes that are spread around the town – get your map at the visitors’ centre.
If you go: Plan your visit during the Octoberfest in mid-September for added fun. Frankenmuth’s Octoberfest is the first official Octoberfest outside Germany. Parking is free and plentiful in the whole town. If one day is not enough, plan to stay overnight. Check out the latest accommodation prices.
Travel time from London, ON: 2:40 hr and 256 km
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I hope this list of family-friendly day trip from London, Ontario inspired you to go out and explore further from home. Which one of these is your favourite?
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