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.
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 while 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 fit for any type of diet.
Most budget to mid-range restaurants offer booster seats and servers almost always love children. As an alternative to kid's menus you can often ask for half-portions of mains on the adult menu.
A History Lesson
- European Colonization L'Anse aux Meadows (Newfoundland), Louisbourg (Nova Scotia), King's Landing Historic Settlement (New Brunswick)
- Fossils Joggins Fossil Centre (Nova Scotia)
- First Nation Lennox Island (PEI), Port au Choix National Historic Site (Newfoundland)
- Pirates & the Titanic Halifax Waterfront, Maritime Museum of the Atlantic (Halifax), Titanic Burial Grounds (Halifax)
Out in Nature
- Whale and Sealife Watching Brier Island (Nova Scotia), Witless Bay Ecological Reserve (Newfoundland), Grand Manan Island (New Brunswick)
- Wild Waters Rafting the Fundy tidal bore (Nova Scotia), Sea Kayaking (Nova Scotia), Clamming at Point Prim (PEI)
- Beaches Prince Edward Island National Park (PEI), Kejimkujik National Park Seaside Adjunct (Nova Scotia), Parlee Beach Provincial Park (New Brunswick)
- Forests & Lakes Anchors Above Zipline Adventure (Nova Scotia), Kejimkujik National Park (Nova Scotia), Mt Carleton (New Brunswick)
Theme Park Delight
- Upper Clements Park (www.upperclementsparks.com) Wild rides, zip lines and a wildlife park near Annapolis Royal, Nova Scotia.
- Magic Mountain Water Park (www.magicmountain.ca) Steep and fast slides to lazy floats make this great for all ages in Moncton, New Brunswick.
- Avonlea (www.avonlea.ca) Brings the Anne of Green Gables books to life in PEI.
- Ross Farm Museum (www.museum.gov.ns.ca/rfm/) Re-creates 1800s Nova Scotian farm life, including hands-on animal experiences and sleigh rides in winter.
Children who are traveling to Canada without both parents need authorization from the nonaccompanying parent.
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. Ask about family admissions if your posse consists of two adults and two or more kids.
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. Most restaurants other than fine-dining establishments will usually offer you booster seats and anything else you might need as soon as you steer your family through the door. Children’s menus are widely available as well.
Baby food, infant formula, milk, disposable diapers (nappies) and the like are widely available in drugstores and supermarkets. Breastfeeding in public is legal. In all vehicles, children under 18kg must be restrained in safety seats.
Most tourist offices can lead you to resources for children’s programs, childcare facilities and pediatricians.