Fun family-friendly trips east of Toronto

Simple icon of two tall buildings. Downtowns of Durham

Sometimes the best family memories aren’t made at fancy faraway resorts, but during the low-key days that require less standing in line at the airport.

 If you’re looking for some family fun, plan an easy, family friendly day trip or overnight getaway in Durham Region!  

With restaurants featuring tasty kids’ menus, hands-on museums, retro games, candy shops and, of course, ice cream, there are so many family friendly activities to discover in Durham.  

Whether you have kids to entertain or are a kid at heart, these three slow travel family trips make adventuring through Durham’s downtowns easy. And, we’ve also included a selection of hotels—some featuring a pool (a surefire kid-pleaser) and complimentary breakfasts.  

Enjoy the moments that lead to great memories. Happy adventuring!

Vehicle enthusiasts family trip to Oshawa

A man standing inside the Canadian Automotive Museum beside a car from the movie, "Cars".
Canadian Automotive Museum, Oshawa

For a trip just a short drive from Toronto, visit downtown Oshawa where you can discover museums and unique vehicle experiences. First, stop at the Canadian Automotive Museum, where children five and under are free! With more than 70 Canadian and International vehicles, the Canadian Automotive Museum has kid-friendly activities and special seasonal crafts. While there, don’t forget to snap a picture with Lightening McQueen from the movie Cars.  

After exploring automotive history, stop in for a snack or lunch at the Brew Wizards Board Game Café where you’ll enjoy yummy baked goods, fresh coffee and their wide selection of board games.  

After you’ve refuelled at the café, adventure on over to Xtreme RC & Raceways for a little friendly competition driving remote-control vehicles on their indoor track. All of these activities are within five minutes walking distance of one another, making this an easy day out for all ages.

A room full of tanks and old military vehicles.
Ontario Regiment Museum, Oshawa

No vehicle enthusiast’s visit to Oshawa would be complete without a stop at the Ontario Regiment Museum just outside of downtown Oshawa. Featuring the largest collection of operational military vehicles in North America, there is lots to see and explore. The museum even offers tank rides during their regularly scheduled special events. Visit their events page for more information. 

Finish your adventure at the nearby Oshawa Executive Airport where your little ones can watch planes land or, if you dare, book a sightseeing flight for up to three people at Durham Flight Centre. 

Nearby attractions 

If you’re looking to extend your stay in Oshawa, you can visit Neb’s Fun World and enjoy indoor go-karts, bumper cars or ride in their mini jets to round out your adventure.  

If you’d like to stay overnight, book a stay at the Holiday Inn Express & Suites Oshawa Downtown. This hotel features complimentary breakfast, an indoor pool and lots of restaurants within walking distance.

Retro family fun trip to Whitby

8-Bit Beans, Whitby 

Go back in time with a retro family fun adventure in downtown Whitby! Start your day off with a late lunch at PJ’S Restaurant, which features an original 1950s diner counter and vintage fixtures. Open for breakfast and lunch, there are lots of kid-friendly meal options—whether you steal a stool at the counter or a climb into retro booth. 

Show your kids the joy of visiting a candy store with a pocketful of allowance at Exotic Knacks located in historic and quaint Pearson Lanes. Featuring rare and retro candy and imported chips, they have lots of cool goodies to choose from. Then teach them about finding the perfect vintage T-shirt at Vintage 905, a shop that features high quality, hand-picked vintage clothing and accessories from the ‘80s, ‘90s and early 2000s. Or, visit Maximum Cards and Collectables and explore their selection of sports cards, gaming cards and collectibles.  

Next up, visit 8-Bit Beans retro arcade. Though geared toward an adult audience, this is an authentic arcade where you’ll want to game alongside your kids (whether you let them win is up to you!) Featuring arcade cabinets like Pac-Man and foosball tables, they also offer amazing coffee and snacks, like their salted caramel latte.

Chickadee eating seeds from a person's hand in the winter.
Lynde Shores Conservation Area, Whitby

If ditching the screens is more your pace, go for a bird feeding adventure. Bring your own unsalted bird seed and visit Lynde Shores Conservation Area, where you can stroll five kilometres of trails. Extremely popular for wildlife viewing, the Chickadee Trail is great for little ones to experience feeding songbirds right from their hands. 

Nearby attractions 

Get active in Whitby by rock climbing at Aspire Climbing Whitby, jumping at trampoline parks like Flying Squirrel and SkyZone, or indoor skydiving at iFLY. Or visit the animals at Reptilia 

If you’d like to make it a weekend adventure, check-in to the centrally located Residence Inn by Marriot in Whitby, which features studio, one and two-bedroom suites, a complimentary breakfast buffet and pool with a hot tub.

Story lovers family trip to Uxbridge

For those who love reading, a story lover’s day trip to Uxbridge may be just ticket for family fun. From its quaint downtown bookstore, to the nearby house of a famous Canadian author and a vintage movie theatre, there’s something magical about a visit to historic Uxbridge. 

Start your adventure where all good adventures start, with curiosity. The Lucy Maud Montgomery Trail is a self-guided journey that allows you to follow in the footsteps of the renowned author of “Anne of Green Gables.” This two-hour drive with accompanying podcast takes you through the countryside as you learn about Lucy Maud Montgomery’s life in the Uxbridge area from 1911 to 1926.  

Next, venture outside of downtown Uxbridge to the Leaksdale Manse, the home of Lucy Maud Montgomery. This National Historic Site of Canada is where the author lived when she wrote 10 of her 22 highly acclaimed stories. Tours are available by appointment only, so make arrangements in advance. 

After your scenic drive, you’ll be ready for something sweet. Stop by Kawartha Diary Uxbridge for some of their famous ice cream.

Woman picking a book from a shelf full of books.
Blue Heron Books

After you’ve fuelled up, spend some time browsing at Blue Heron Books. While there, check out their custom Anne stationary with real fountain pen and ink, or purchase one of their Anne of Green Gables books for your little bookworm. 

Lastly, cap off your day getting lost in a film at the Roxy Theatre in Uxbridgea restored movie house from the 1950s. Before your show starts, grab some snacks and browse their collection of movie memorabilia.  

If you’d like to extend your adventure, book a night at the Wooden Sticks Golf Course Cabins. With six on-site luxury two-bedroom cabins, it’s a relaxing home away from home. For breakfast options, check out one of the amazing diners or cafés found on the Rise and shine with Durham Region’s breakfast spots blog. 

Nearby attractions 

For  more fun things to do with kids in Durham, check out the Adventure awaits students in Durham Region blog post.