These Canadian provinces were made for kids. As if seeing moose, eagles and whales or running around in the snow or on the beach all day wasn’t fun enough, everywhere you turn those crafty Canadians have cooked up some hands-on learning experience, living history lesson or child-oriented theater.
Best Destinations for Kids
- Halifax, Nova Scotia
Cartoonlike tug-boat rides, cycling, kayaking, a free year-round skating area, parks and family-friendly festivals galore through summer.
- Prince Edward Island's Beaches
Sandy stretches of white or pink sand with lightly lapping, bearably cool waves.
- Fundy National Park, New Brunswick
Low-tide flats to putter around, trails leading to waterfalls, lakes to swim in.
- St John's, Newfoundland
Nearby whale-watching tours.
Nova Scotia, New Brunswick & Prince Edward Island For Kids
Between learning about pirate history on antique sailing vessels, playing on low-key beaches and climbing to the top of lighthouses, it's impossible to make a bad decision about where to take your kids in these provinces. Canada caters to families better than nearly anywhere else in the world and the mix of coast and forest, easy-to-manage cities and lakes galore make this region a top choice in the country. The food isn't daunting, people are exceptionally friendly and there's a prevalent sense of peace and welcome.
Museums, Monuments & Lighthouses
Halifax, Saint John and St John's all have science museums that specialize in hands-on activities to get all ages involved, while at historic sites strewn across the region costumed thespians get you right into the period and often have demonstrations of everything from blacksmithing to cooking. At some of these places there are also puppet or theatrical performances for children and other events such as hayrides. Teens often enjoy these sites as well, since they are large, diverse and great for exploration.
Lighthouses seem to be perched on every headland and you can climb up to the top of many of them, usually for a small fee. If you're lucky there will be a hand pump horn to set off.
Endless coastlines, fresh air, wildlife, snow, sand, rivers, lakes and mountains make almost any outdoor activity you may be yearning for entirely possible. Prince Edward Island's mostly flat Confederation Trail traverses the island and can be picked up from almost any point; the coastline of the Prince Edward Island National Park has dedicated cycling lanes that run scenically along the beaches. The Halifax waterfront is also a great place for family bike rentals. Canoeing is a Canadian activity par excellence, available in lakes in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, and most sea-kayaking outfits throughout the region cater to families. Skiing and snowboarding are available at small family-friendly slopes in winter.
But perhaps the most exciting thing to do with all the surrounding seas is to set sail, either to explore and feel the wind in your hair or to look for the many species of whale thriving in the Bay of Fundy, Cabot Straight and the mighty Atlantic Ocean.
- Fast food is ubiquitous in Canada so healthy eaters may find that the biggest hurdle is finding food that's not processed or fried.
- Cabins and family suites often have kitchens so you can self-cater; in cities you'll find options for any type of diet.
- Most restaurants offer kids' menus or half-sized portions of main meals.
- Fortress of Louisbourg Step back to the 18th century at this historic fort.
- Citadel Hill Look out from the battlements of Halifax's hilltop stronghold.
- Joggins Fossil Cliffs Spot 300-million-year-old fossils in the cliffs.
- L'Anse aux Meadows Visit Leif Erikson's viking village.
- Kings Landing Wander through a Loyalist village from the 1800s.
- Whale-watching Spy whales on Brier Island, Cape Breton or Grand Manan Island.
- Kejimkujik National Park Explore Nova Scotia's largest wilderness area.
- Greenwich Dunes Spot birds amongst PEI's dunes and wetlands.
- Kouchibouguac National Park Stroll, bird-watch, camp and clam-dig in this New Brunswick park.
- Witless Bay Ecological Reserve Watch out for Newfoundland wildlife, including whales and puffins.
- Shubenacadie Provincial Wildlife Park Get up close to Nova Scotian wildlife.
- Green Gables Heritage Place See the real-life location where Anne of Green Gables is set.
- Memory Lane Heritage Village Walk through a Nova Scotian town c 1940.
- Maritime Museum of the Atlantic View a flotilla of boats from Nova Scotia's past.
- Fundy National Park Swimming Pool Splash around in a solar-heated saltwater swimming pool.
- Sea Kayaking on the Eastern Shore Paddle a kayak to the 100 Wild Islands.
- Cycling the Confederation Trail Pedal your way along PEI's premier bike trail.
- Anchors Above Zipline Adventure Conquer your vertigo on two huge zip lines.
- Rafting the Fundy tidal bore Get very wet indeed on a whitewater adventure.
- Canoeing in Kejimkujik National Park Bring out your inner paddler on Kejimkujik Lake.
- Hopewell Rocks Explore weird rock formations on the Bay of Fundy.
Before You Go
Children under 18 are considered minors and will need to apply for their own eTA and travel on their own passport.
Single parents, grandparents or guardians traveling with anyone under the age of 18 should carry proof of legal custody, or a notarized letter from the nonaccompanying parent authorizing the trip. Unaccompanied children will also need a notarized letter of consent from both parents or legal guardians. This is in addition to their passport and/or proof of citizenship.
- Kids often stay for free in hotels and motels.
- B&Bs are not so gracious, and may even refuse to accept pint-sized patrons. Ask when booking.
- Camping can be a really good way to keep costs down – many campgrounds offer pre-pitched tents, chalets or cabins.
- Once in Canada, kids receive a wide range of discounts on attraction admissions and transportation fares.
- Usually kids aged six to 17 are half-price; younger children are free.
- Kids receive free admission to National Historic Sites.
- Ask about family admissions if your posse consists of two adults and two or more kids.
- Baby food, infant formula, milk, disposable diapers (nappies) and the like are widely available in drugstores and supermarkets.
- Breastfeeding in public is legal.
- Most supermarkets and larger visitor attractions offer baby-changing facilities.
- In all vehicles, children under 18kg must be restrained in safety seats.
What to Pack
- Waterproof jacket
- Insulating layers
- Bug spray
- Wildlife field guides
When to Go
- Summer is the best season for travelling with kids: everywhere will be open and all activities will be available, and there are often seasonal visitor programs at national parks and historic sites.
- Fall is the next best time to visit: most attractions stay open until October, the weather is usually quite settled and mild, and the fall colors are fabulous.
- Spring can be a tricky time: many places won't open up until late May or early June, and the changeable weather makes for guaranteed tantrums.
- Few visitors come to Atlantic Canada in winter, unless they're coming specifically for winter sports.