Updated: May 14
Surfaces: concrete (splash pad), woodchips (outdoor), laminate (indoor)
If you’re a parent of young children in a place where winter lasts six months or more, you know how valuable it is to discover places that are indoors, fun, and free.
There are plenty of indoor attractions in this city, but museums and galleries can get expensive, especially if you’re only there for the duration of a child’s attention span. There are also a growing number of indoor playgrounds in the GTA, but most of those charge admission as well.
And sure, some of us have, in our weaker moments, gone to a McDonald’s that has a PlayPlace and purchased a small coffee to validate our children’s use of the equipment, but you don’t generally leave that situation feeling like a good parent. Or person.
So the fact that Playground Paradise is city-run, and therefore free, is enough to earn it a high rating for me. It the only such venue in the city (as far as I know) and in addition to being free, it’s actually pretty good, too.
The equipment is fairly new and in good condition. There’s a climber outside for sunny days (no slides, for some strange reason) and a pretty good splash pad and picnic area to boot.
It’s not the easiest to get to by public transit, and its location, at the far end of Flemingdon Park on the other side of the fence from the roaring DVP, isn’t great. But in the depths of winter, it’s indoors, and that’s all that matters.
The hours of opening are a bit weird, so be sure to check their website before you go.
NOTE: This site only rates free, city-run parks. If you're looking for an indoor playground in Toronto and you don't mind paying, here's a quick list of some of the ones we've been to.
Extreme Fun - Lots of shared toys, bouncy castle, nice climbing structure. Not too expensive.
Happy Kingdom - Huge. Amazing. Expensive. Often very busy.
Sprouts - East-end favourite. Best for 4-and-unders. Free Starbucks. High ratio of parents who wear skinny jeans.
Busy Bodies - Not technically in Toronto (Markham) but a fun spot.
Kids Fun City - "The Best Indoor Playground In Toronto" ...according to their own website. Probably the least fun of the ones listed here.
Kids Fun Town - Right at Woodbine and Danforth, a fun place with a lot of mini-rooms that my kids love; construction room, music room, grocery room, auto shop room...but I do mean "mini." They are literally made for people who are toddler sized. My kids like it here. I find there's always a slightly odd smell...some kind of combination of Febreeze and kid sweat.
Monarch Park Bubble - More an indoor sports field than a playground, but a great place for kids to run and play in the winter.
Jump For Joy Play Centre - Discovered this by accident when the nearby Monarch Bubble was closed. New-ish and small-ish; great for age 3 and under. Super clean, super friendly staff, lots of toys for such a small place.
Just For Fun Play Centre - Another Scarborough goodie, with lots to do for various ages, including two separate areas for babies. A bit cheaper than most other places, but then you're not allowed to eat your own snacks, so you have to buy food from them. And that, as my mother-in-law would say, is how they getcha.
Bunch Of Fun Playland - Up near Downsview. Big, fun, awesome. Also has a clay-making facility, which is unique.