Fun, Film and Family in Toronto

By Heather Greenwood Davis | @greenwooddavis


Offer me the chance to do anything I want on a Saturday afternoon and chances are you’ll find me at the movies. Outside of getting in a plane, train, bus or car, movies are my favourite way to travel. As our kids have grown, they’re now 8 and 10, my husband and I have brought them along when we can. There’s something about a film’s ability to transport you to another time or place that perfectly suits our world traveling family. (The fact that you can take popcorn along for the ride only makes it better!)

But despite my love of film, the announcement of the opening of the TIFF Bell Lightbox Theatre in 2010 initially failed to register with me as a family boon for the city. Toronto hosts the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) every fall. Celebrities, paparazzi, film fanatics and curious onlookers all flock out to the city’s theatres to take in the world’s most promising films. I assumed that the TIFF Bell Lightbox Theatre – TIFF’s new corporate headquarters – was built for them.

I was wrong.

The theatre does for the trendy but decidedly adult King Street West corridor, what cartoons with an edge like Shrek did for families everywhere – a place where everyone can find something to enlighten and entertain no matter their age.

Case in point: A few weekends ago I packed up the family and headed down when I heard about the Digital Playspace exhibit at the Lightbox. It was spring break here in Ontario and we, after already hitting city favourites like The Ontario Science Centre and Royal Ontario Museum, decided to try it out on a whim.

What a surprise to find a space that not only offered innovative play (Want to learn to play the drums with potatoes? Dreamed of making your own video games? Ready to transport yourself via green screen to some of your favourite movies? This is your spot), but a fully integrated, multi-sensory film experience as well.

On that particular Saturday we enjoyed movies that were great for all ages, took in a magic show, explored an X-men special effects exhibit that crossed generations and had both my husband and my kids in geeky comic book heaven and ate at the healthy (and tasty!) O&B Canteen restaurant downstairs.

Throughout, the staff is friendly and kids are welcome. But what I loved most is that families aren’t just tolerated, they’re encouraged. The experience was so good that the kids each took home handfuls of pamphlets to start planning our next visit. (“TIFF Kids International Film Festival” happens each April and we’ll be taking in some of those.)

In a city where family friendly options are plentiful, kudos to the TIFF Bell Lightbox Theatre for finding another space where families can enjoy time out together. I’m thrilled to have a new city haunt in our arsenal.

About the Author

Heather Greenwood Davis is an award-winning freelance writer, travel columnist, lifestyle blogger and journalist. Her travel columns and news feature articles have appeared for more than 10 years in the Toronto Star, Canada’s highest circulation national newspaper. Her stories also appear in Canadian Living Magazine, Canadian Family Magazine,, Metro Newspaper, Lexpert Magazine and others. Most recently she and her family were awarded the National Geographic Traveler Magazine “Traveler of the Year” designation for the yearlong trip around the world they took from June 2011-2012. When not traveling you’ll find her (and her family) exploring the city in search of the best it has to offer.



Twitter: @GreenwoodDavis