Summer Family Outings in Canada


Summer has started and the kids will soon be out of school. now begins the quest for our Annual Budget Friendly Summer Outing.

I am on the fence right now but I am thinking African Lion Safari or The Toronto Zoo.  African Lion Safari is $29.95 plus HST per adult and $24.95 plus HST per child. It would cost my family of four $124.07 just to walk through the gate.  Add in the cost to take the tour buses through the park for an additional $4.95 per adult and $4.75 per child.  The tour bus may seem optional but I always think it’s a a must do for the trip.  Discounts are available through Costco, so I’ve heard, but overall this is still a pricey outing.

Speaking of discounts, CAA is excellent place (if you’re a member) to get attraction tickets at reduced prices.  While researching for the Toronto Zoo I found out that I can receive and additional 10% off regular Zoo Admission at the gate.  The Zoo seems to be the most budget friendly of the two choices I have in mind.  With adult admission at $23.00 and the child admission at only $13.00 my family of four can travel there for $72.  Even add on the $10 cost of parking at the zoo and extra gas to get to and from I am sill saving the amount of an admission ticket.

Additional thoughts for savings:

  • Pack a lunch
  • Set a limit on souvenirs BEFORE you go
  • Make it a group outing (carpool)
  • Hit the Library before going for commuting activities
  • Load up the iPod with facts and trivia related to the location you are going (virtual tour guide?)

There are of course some places I simply cant even begin to come to terms with the cost versus the reward.  My best example, and feel free to disagree below, is Marineland.  Don’t get me wrong I would love to take my girls there and they have seen the commercial enough time to be begging for it but the cost? In my opinion it is far too much considering the experiences in the park.

What are your summer outings and how do you save?

57 responses to “Summer Family Outings in Canada”

  1. cjunk says:

    I got a free kid’s zoo pass for my son from a recent Mark’s Work Warehouse flyer (but I heard that President’s Choice Penguin Crackers has a free kid’s zoo pass with paying adult out there too). I got my adult pass from Airmiles Points at 95 points for the adult pass. Now I am just waiting for mail delivery to resume to receive it. Wish there was a way to get parking for free!!

  2. caroman says:

    wow! I wanted to take the family to African Lion Safari this summer but at those prices!?

  3. Vivian says:

    A little while ago I got African Lion Safari discount coupon in a menu from Pizza Pizza, gives $4 off up to 6 admissions.

  4. VeeVee says:

    I ordered my African Lion Safari tickets through my airmiles points. We save all year and then use them on fun things to do during the summer.

  5. Pandora says:

    I plan on going to the Peterborough zoo. There are less animals, but there is a splash park, and it’s free.

  6. Trash.Cat says:

    There’s some coupons available from Attractions Ontario, although based on the cost for African Lion Safari, they aren’t a huge savings.

  7. lovesagooddeal says:

    If you have a Caa card they offer a discount at african lion safari as well we went last year I personally think that TO zoo is the way to go it’s a longer day and much cheaper.

  8. cathy says:

    If you have a TTC pass you can get discounted tickets to the Toronto Zoo. I think it is 10%. It works on other Toronto tourist attractions, too.

    The public library also has free passes to different museums. (The ROM is expensive!) I think the passes are available each week beginning Saturday morning.

    Here’s the list of what they have, but keep in mind that different branches have different passes:

    Passes are available for the following venues:

    * AGO – Art Gallery of Ontario
    * Bata Shoe Museum
    * Black Creek Pioneer Village
    * Casa Loma
    * City of Toronto Historic Museums:
    o Colborne Lodge in High Park
    o Fort York National Historic Site
    o Gibson House Museum
    o Mackenzie House
    o Montgomery’s Inn
    o Scarborough Museum
    o Spadina Museum: Historic House & Gardens
    o Todmorden Mills Heritage Museum & Arts Centre
    * Gardiner Ceramics Museum
    * Museum of Inuit Art
    * Ontario Science Centre
    * ROM – Royal Ontario Museum
    * Textile Museum of Canada
    * Toronto Zoo

  9. lizziebargain says:

    It used to be if you belonged to the library in Toronto you could borrow activity passes to use. Not sure if you still can but worth checking-my sisters did this a year or two ago I believe for the zoo and other attractions for free

  10. lizziebargain says:

    Whoops I missed that last post with lots of good info!

  11. Julie says:

    Simple outings here: Peterborough zoo, picnics in the park, library trips, puddle stomping after the rain, bike rides etc.

  12. wifegriz says:

    The Toronto Entertainment Book has BOGO coupon for admission to African Lion Safari. Also there is a Niagara Tourism book/flyer I picked up at a display of attraction flyers at an Esso station that has $4 off admission to ALS as well as other places.

  13. Kim says:

    entertainment book had some coupons for lion safari and the zoo i thought – maybe they were buy 1 adult get 1 kid free…not sure

  14. JEnn W says:

    Check out some of the coupons that come home with your children from school. As teachers, I sometimes hand out free child admissions coupons that are put in our staff mailboxes. Wagjag has some goodies too.
    Check out

  15. Sandra5 says:

    ROM has free admission (currently) Weds after 330pm. You can feed the kids first with a packed lunch in Queens Park (walking distance 3 blocks south of the ROM.)

  16. nbyd says:

    We are hosting international students this year & will be playing tourists all summer. Teens are more expensive where admissions goes but I have managed to find either coupons, free days or combine places to keep gas & parking down.
    Our plans are blue jays, ago, marineland with Niagara falls & camping, putting edge, free outdoor movies, Honda Andy, swimming, nature hikes, st Lawrence market & downtown festivities, Canada wonderland etc…

    We are hosting 4 teenage girls so it goes without saying We will stop in at any mall on our travels!
    Have an awesome summer

  17. silentbob1 says:

    Pack a lunch? boy your kids must love you

  18. Julie says:

    I have been debating between African Lion Safari and Toronto Zoo as well, and I’m thinking that the Zoo will be our choice based on price. We took our son 2 years ago to African Lion Sarari, it was a lot of fun, but I don’t think it is worth the admission price.

  19. Andie says:

    I often use the ticketops website ( for tickets. They seem to sell for a ton of the Ontario destinations (and a bunch in other places in Canada), and you can use codes you find online when you click through.

    it’s just a great place to see what’s out there and easy to click back and forth to compare pricing.

  20. Amy T says:

    We go to African Lion Safari all the time!
    It’s not really all that expensive when you consider that your admission includes EVERYTHING- you don’t need to spend another red penny!

    We always take our car through, and especially this time of year, the animals are hot and so used to to people, they don’t bother much with the cars- I only see monkeys on the cars of people that are feeding them (which you are not supposed to do!)

    The gift shop has TONS of items, and you can easily get the kids something neat for a couple of dollars (of course you can spend a lot more too!)

    anyways, thats just my 2 cents… we definitely see the value in the Safari 🙂

  21. LoriD says:

    Totally with you on Marineland. Toronto Zoo is a much better deal than ALS, both price and attraction-wise. If your kids are little, there’s also Twin Valley Zoo (Brantford area) is quite nice and reasonably priced.

  22. Jenn says:

    Check out the coupons that come home with your child from school. As a teacher, we often get asked to hand out vouchers for free children’s admissions.

    Wagjag has some 1/2 price deals for kids!

  23. Natasha says:

    We go to a different free music festival every weekend in downtown Toronto whether its kd lang at Luminato, Aretha Franklin this Friday at Downtown Jazz, Canada Day at Mel Lastman Square for King Sunshine and fireworks, or upcoming Afrofest, Caribana, Taste of the Danforth, Little Italy Festival, Chin Picnic, etc. there is always some great free concerts.
    We also bike and explore hidden trails over the city – try Edward Gardens or the bike trails in the Junction.
    Best way to save $$ bring your own food, snacks, water bottles and if you need soda/pop go to the golden arches for $1 large drinks or iced coffee.

    ps. will never visit marineland or similiar again after watching alarming dolphin movie showing horrifying scenes of mammal death. sorry for the downer.

  24. Tina says:

    If you are aiming for a “stay-cation” in GTA I recommend the Toronto City Pass. You can get them from the CAA for $60 for adults and $36 for kids (4-12 years). They are good for 9 days beginning the date of first use and will get you into the following Toronto area attractions:

    CN Tower
    Casa Loma
    Ontario Science Centre
    Royal Ontario Museum
    Toronto Zoo

    We did this last year and hit one attraction per day for a week. The kids loved it. The highlight was definately the science centre.

  25. Natasha says:

    One more. We have a family annual membership (about $120) to the Ontario Science Centre with its never ending array of activities and new displays, its a great rainy day activity. And a bonus, it includes reciprocal free admission to dozens of other Science Centres in North America.

  26. Bloodymary says:

    RCSS is offering free child’s admission to the Toronto Zoo with the purchase of PC Little Penguins crackers, currently they are on sale for $1.67

  27. sfaraz says:

    right now there is ofeer from pc for free child admission
    Toronto Zoo: One Free Kids’ Entry w/Proof of Purchase of PC Penguin Snack Crackers, June 17-Sept 5

  28. kyl says:

    Anyone know where can I find a coupon or sale price for Toronto Zoo?

  29. kd says:

    Up until last year I thought the marineland admission was crazy expensive too! however, Marineland has an option of adding on $5 extra and u can get a season pass! It’s a terrific deal if you can go back over and over.

    I have two special needs kids (autistic) and this place is PERFECT for them. Everytime the family has gone it hasn’t been that busy, and the kids get on the rides within a couple of minutes. it’s great if you have kids like mine who cannot wait for long periods of time.
    and 4 and under is free!!

  30. kd says:

    Marineland also has a discount through CAA if you have a card.

  31. Catherine says:

    DO Not support Marineland! Natasha is correct, watch the movie- “the Cove” You will NEVER go to a place like that again, once you find out how they acquire those poor animals and how they are tortured by being held in captivity. I’m not one to rant about an unrelated topic but try to keep your summer fun cruelty free- avoid Marineland.

  32. tracey says:

    Mountsberg is a great place for the kids they can get up close and personal with some great raptors, there’s trails….picnic areas and admission is $7.25 adults and $5.00 for kids 5-14. Or you could get a family pass for around $130 and that’s for 365 days and all conservation areas in Halton (not sure where you live)

  33. Cristina says:

    I organize the family picnic at my work at African lion safari and people always complain that its to expensive but we only charge adults 20 dollars and children 15 dollars and this includes a bbq lunch.. I think its a great price.

  34. morganmom2 says:

    we go every year to african lion safari and love it! we go on the safari website and get a deal through there where we stay at a hotel. it includes admission to park, breakfast, a dinner voucher, and gift bag for the kids!! the hotel has a mini putt, bowling alley and the coolest pool that is 2 storeys deep. the lower level is plexi glass so you can wave to them under water!! the safari is all included. all the animal shows, boat rides and you can drive through the safari as many times as you like. it also has a great splash pad!!! its a cheap 2 day trip for a family of four!!

  35. kiki says:

    we take our kids to Lion Safari, thr TO ZOO, and Centerville and we all LOVE it! The past two years and this year we have got Free tickets for the Safari and the Zoo with our hotel stay. Alot of the hotel surround these attractions offer great family stay packages. The Holiday Inn Express in Cambridge was awesome, when we arrived they had welcome packages for the kids, including really cute stuffed monkeys, balloons, sticker, balls, etc. We also recieved several free/discount meal vouchers for us and the kids ate free. And I think the total was $125 and like I said that was including the passes to the safari, hotel and the other stuf mentioned…well worth it in our eyes, but we live 4 hours away from there too. The deal at the Delta Chelsea was very similar with the Zoo. I found the deals through looking on the hotel websites, near and around the attractions, under packages and deals. I have also called the hotels in the past for other attractions to see if tey could make us up a package deal, most are very accomodating, a they want you to stay at their hotel 🙂 We also pack a cooler for all our outings…the kids love a picnic!

  36. IvanaSave says:

    I’m surprised no one has mentioned the BEACH! Toronto and pretty much all of southern Ontario have great beaches to explore, and almost always for FREE! If you don’t have a car, or want to save on gas, Toronto has some great beaches accessible by TTC, like Ashbridges, Cherry beach, Woodbine etc… You can check online if the water is safe enough to swim in, but if you don’t feel comfortable letting your kids swin in lake Ontario (don’t blame you! Lol!) Ashbridges Bay Beach, (lake shore blvd east)has a boardwalk, large parks, and an olympic sized swimming pool, which I assume is also FREE! Centrevill is also great for younger children, and the ferry ride there can be relaxing and fun.
    *a tip* – freeze a couple of bottles of water, it will keep the rest of your food cool, and will be soooo refreshing in the hot sun! 😀

  37. Tammy Hynes says:

    We’ve done both in the past two years and both are good excursions and the best deal is if you have air miles to use up you can get free passes for both. If not then go with the attraction Canada discounts and/or CAA discounts if you can’t find any free passes floating around on cereal boxes etc….
    A few things to note though: I find the Zoo turns out to be more expensive than you plan on. They charge for parking and if you want to take the Zoomobile that’s extra too (and it’s alot). The new endangered species carousel costs extra also as do special exhibits if they have any going on this year. And I find the food there to be very costly and since it’s such a big place, bringing a cooler of food is either a pain to carry around or way to far to walk back to the car to get half way through the day.

    The Lion Safari however is more all-inclusive really, train and boat rides are free in the park, parking is free in addition to the wildlife exhibit, shows and a great splash park too. The only things I can think that were extra were the Elephant or Pony rides (but very cheap, like $2 or something and free for little ones). We’ve never taken the optional bus ride through as we prefer to drive our own car instead and have never had any problems with damage from animals etc…And because it’s a smaller park, it’s very easy to pack a cooler full of food for lunch, leave it in your car and then grab it when you are ready to eat as the parking is very accessible. The other plus with Lion Safari is not dealing with the long drive in Toronto traffic! I always find I’m exhausted after a day at the Zoo by the time you get there, walk all day to get it all in (which we usually find you have to skip one of the trails) and then get all the way back home. I personally found the Lion Safar to be way more leisurely and the kids love either really. Enjoy whichever you choose though!

  38. Stephanie says:

    If I may, I suggest the Elmvale Jungle Zoo… It’s just north of Barrie. It’s small, and has quite the variety of animals. The best thing about that zoo is that you are allowed to feed the giraffes and monkeys bananas. Not many zoo’s where you can pet/feed a giraffe!! Love going there. Check it out!

  39. Melody113 says:

    African Lion Safari can be a great deal if you decide to do an over night stay at one of the hotels that offer free passes and other deals to intice you. The one we stayed at Last time was the Holiday INN and we were right off the pool and bar area. It had an indoor pool as well as out door plus aa outside bar which was great to relax at. We went the friday night booked in early and enjoyed the pool and a few drinks and the next day we went to African Lion Safari. Just look at this link as the prices are awesome with all the stuff they give you. We are about 75 minutes from there so it was just totally worth the relax time.We did the tour bus once at the park and our guy made us go around twice more in the car. We just missed the monkeys with our vehicle as well as the Ostrich

  40. vibrantflame says:

    Well I will share what our family plans to do this summer. We’re going to Toronto for the long weekend, Ontario Place has free admission all this year, so we are going to go there and take the kids to see the free Thomas the Train live show and meet Pingu. We have also planned to go to the CN tower, as none of us have ever been and I was able to find a printable coupon for 10% off price of admission. We’re also planning to see some of the local attractions, like Upper Canada Village and Prehistoric World. Hoping to have a nice picnic one day this summer too.

  41. Wilson says:

    I was thinking African Lion Safari this year, too. I was also planning on traveling to London for Storybook Gardens (really cheap and good for little kids). The Children’s Museum in London is also a must, if you are in the area. My kids are really young, so it doesn’t take too much to impress them.

  42. cdn75 says:

    Admission is free at Ontario Place all summer. Might go there. Do not go to African Lion Safari if your A/C is not working…..ask me how I know.
    Totally not worth paying full price. My son asked to go to Black Creek Pioneer Village this summer, hope it is worth the gas to get there.

  43. Twinmommy says:

    Growing up we used to go to Marineland every summer (this is about 25-30 years ago) and it must have been somewhat affordable because my parents are not the type to dish out lots of money for these sorts of places. We used to bring our food in a cooler, leave it on a table and walk the park all day. When we were ready to eat our cooler would be waiting for us untouched and we would have our picnic. Good luck trying that in this day and age! In any case, we will definitely be taking up the offer for the free zoo passes for the kids. Last year they were finally tall enough but still young enough to be free to go to Martin’s Fantasy Island just across the border in New York. There was a $4 off coupon on the website so adult fare was just $20.95 to get in. On Wednesdays a family of four can enjoy the park for $49.95 Canadian! Parking is free and there are lots of rides for the little ones plus a Western show they put a few times a day. Both my boys really loved it! You can also bring in your own food and drinks – always a bonus!

  44. cdn75 says:

    Wanted to add Saint Marie among the Huron is a great place to take the kids. Schools give out the discount ticket books and there are free admission tickets in it. It is in Midland, but worth the drive.

  45. Ciel says:

    Vibrantflame, here are two other CN Tower coupons that might interest you-20% off packages (with some exclusions) and 20% off general admission? for 4.

  46. Ciel says:

    Grounds admission is free at Ontario Place unless there is an excluded day this year. Waterpark still requires passes.

  47. mupiel says:

    Thanks for all the AWESOME ideas and feedback!

  48. cindy says:

    If you have an Entertainment Book for the area, there’s a 2for1 coupon for African Lion Safari. There was also some sort of discount you can pick up at pizza pizza (I thinkk it’s $4 off per admission).

  49. Paulina says:

    I’d have to agree with Natasha and Catherine. Marine Land has horrible inhumane living conditions for their animals. The deer live on concrete floors with no access to food or water.

    But anyways. Not sure if anyone mentioned this,.. I always loved Wild Water Kingdom as a child and even a teen. It’s a cheaper admission if you go after 4pm or something.

    For virtually nothing, there’s always things to do downtown- different farmers markets, festivals and free shows!

  50. Li says:

    I’d love to take my family to Ottawa’s newest water park, Calypso. I think it’s actually the best water park in Ontario. Tickets are pricy, anyone know where/if dicounted ticket available?

  51. thepixie says:

    just wanted to chime in to say that you can now pre-purchase Toronto Zoo admission tickets online (and you get a coupon or something for 10% off at the giftshops by doing so!)

  52. Angie says:

    I have been to both African Lion Safari and Toronto Zoo, and I love them both! But for a whole day I think the Toronto Zoo is better. After taking the bus tour at African Lion Safari (sooo much fun, DO NOT take your car, the monkeys will destroy it!) there wasn’t a lot else to do. At least at the Toronto Zoo you can walk around more and they have a splash pad.

    Either way, I think it is worth it!

    Also I have seen coupons for a free kids admission with that of an adult for the Toronto Zoo on several different products (although I can’t seem to think of them right now).

  53. Randi says:

    If you are a family of four you can pay a little more for a year membership at the TO zoo ($145)and that gives you unlimited entry and unlimited use of the zoomobile for a year plus savings at the gift shop. That means, at the very least, you can go once this summer and then again next summer before your membership runs out.

    If going to Midland for Saint-Marie among the hurons you automatically get 50% off at Discovery Harbour in Penetanguishene on the same day. The Wye Marsh Wildlife centre is right next door to Saint-Marie.

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