12 Hours:
Family Fun in Toronto’s Leslieville and Riverdale

With countless cafés, plenty of parks, and Instagram-worthy ice cream shops, Leslieville and Riverdale offer a fun-filled day for the whole family.

By Joëlle Anello

Located just east of the downtown core, right across the Don Valley Parkway, is arguably one of the most family-friendly neighbourhoods in the city: Leslieville and Riverdale. With a reputation for being where Toronto hipsters migrate to start families, Leslieville and Riverdale offer the culture, walkability and vibrancy of city living with a kid-friendly mentality. Children are welcome patrons and with an abundance of green space, Leslieville and Riverdale make for a great backdrop to a family fun day. Here’s how to spend the day in the neighbourhood with your kids.

Start off the day with coffee and pastries

Hailed Coffee Mother and Son
Start the day with an iced cardamom latte at Hailed Coffee

We all know that a fun-filled family day requires necessary sustenance in the form of strong coffee and freshly baked treats. Thankfully Leslieville and Riverdale both have a number of independent neighbourhood cafés to provide some welcome fuel throughout the day.

Te Aro can be found right in the heart of Leslieville and is the birthplace of Pilot Coffee Roasters. Aside from amazing coffee, Te Aro is a great stroller-friendly option for any littles in your party due to both a spacious interior and front patio.

Be sure to hit up Purple Penguin, a cheerful and centrally located café in Leslieville, whose reputation for homemade apple fritters precedes it.

If your adventures take you a bit further north into Riverdale, Hailed Coffee is a local favourite with Middle Eastern-inspired flavours. Try a cardamom latte, either hot or iced, indulge in house-made chocolate and pick up some delicious pastries for the road.

Shop local: Browse the small independent shops

With no shortage of small shops catering to families, spending some time shopping or window shopping is a great way to enjoy the neighbourhood. The littles in your group will love browsing the curated selection of kids’ garments and activities, and the adults will appreciate the welcoming atmosphere of family-friendly establishments.

Queen Books is an independent neighbourhood bookstore with some of the best titles around for all ages. Centrally located in Leslieville, Queen Books is a welcome stop to pick up supplies for outdoor story times or even to have a quick browse in between activities. If you’re running short on time, you may wish to purchase your books online for quick and easy curbside pickup.

If you’re after a store that caters to the whole family, look no further than Good Neighbour. Known by locals to not be your average general store, Good Neighbour has cool clothing for every member of your household (including furry ones), eclectic housewares and fun activities or gifts for kids.

If a beautiful clothing boutique is your preference, Little Peeps will be a welcome stop during the day. Marvel at the independently owned children’s clothing boutique that offers healthy, environmentally-friendly products for kids. Little Peeps also offers a selection of soft toys, artwork and wooden activities.

Enjoy some fresh air and park hop

One unique feature of both Leslieville and Riverdale is that there are so many parks and parkettes to discover, making it an ideal place to spend time as a family! Aim to visit one of the neighbourhood’s largest parks and enjoy discovering all of the smaller parkettes and playgrounds along the way.

Withrow Park Mother and Toddler
Find fun for the whole family at one on Leslieville’s many parks and parkettes

Jimmie Simpson is a pillar in the Leslieville community due to its central location and variety of activities to enjoy. Adjacent to Jimmie Simpson Recreation Centre, this 2.6 hectare park offers a ball diamond, large sports field, two tennis courts, an outdoor hockey rink for the winter and a playground. Enjoyed by all ages, Jimmie Simpson Park is a great family-friendly spot to soak up the energy and excitement of Leslieville.

Greenwood Park is another large park on the more eastern end of Leslieville that boasts a number of amenities for every season. All members of your family are welcome at Greenwood Park, even those with fur with the off-leash dog park. If the weather is warm enough, children of all ages will enjoy the outdoor splash pad and playground.

If you find yourself in Riverdale, Withrow Park is the place to be. Boasting a whopping 8 hectares in the city, Withrow Park truly has it all: two ball diamonds, a sports field, two tennis courts, a volleyball court, a playground, an off-leash dog area, wading pool and an outdoor ice rink in the winter. A local secret of Withrow Park is the epic views of the Toronto skyline—perfect for some photographs to remember the day!

Grab some lunch to enjoy outdoors

Nothing works up an appetite more than spending the day outdoors at Leslieville and Riverdale’s many parks. Thankfully there are so many neighbourhood options to pick up some delicious lunch, to either enjoy outdoors on a patio or to bring to the park so that the fun doesn’t need to stop.

Should you find yourself near Withrow Park, then a lunch break at Riverdale Perk would be a welcome addition to your day. Touted by locals as Riverdale’s best kept secret, Riverdale Perk is known for light breakfast and lunch fare that packs huge freshness and flavour. And the best part—Riverdale Perk offers a kids’ menu!

Serving the Leslieville neighbourhood for nearly 25 years, Bonjour Brioche is truly a pillar in the community. Swing by their takeout window for some takeaway brunch and lunch fare to enjoy on a picnic blanket at Jimmie Simpson Park, and don’t forget an order of their famous butter croissants for the whole family.

What’s more family friendly than pizza? The answer is most certainly pizza in the park! Located across the street from Greenwood Park, Blondies Pizza offers made-from-scratch dough that cooks into a pizzalicious lunch! Even your pickiest of eaters will enjoy a pie from Blondies with their totally customizable menu and fun pink pizza boxes.

End the day with ice cream

Is there a better way to cap off a fun-filled day than with some ice cream? There are many neighbourhood ice cream spots in Leslieville and Riverdale to enjoy some cool and delicious ice cream.

A family fun day in Leslieville would not be complete without a stop at Ed’s Real Scoop for some small batch, house-made ice cream and gelato. With no shortage of flavours on the menu (including Burnt Marshmallow, a local favourite), Ed’s Real Scoop will guarantee smiles all around.

If you’re looking for something sweet that will put a smile on even the most aloof teenager in the group, Sweet Jesus offers unique and colourful ice cream treats that you definitely don’t see every day! Think candy-laden ice cream creations with cheeky names. Get your phones ready because a trip to Sweet Jesus is not complete without a photo for Instagram!

When the ice cream cravings hit in Riverdale, Wong’s Ice Cream is your place. Consistently rated one of Toronto’s best ice creams, Wong’s Ice Cream specializes in delicious Asian-inspired flavours that change regularly (for example, Sriracha Buttered Popcorn, yum!). Pick up a pint (or two) to enjoy with the whole family in the park, or as a treat to cap off a fun-filled day.

Leslieville Street Art with Toddler and Dog
Don’t forget to snap a family photo in front of the iconic Leslieville sign

About the Author

A former Funeral Director turned full-time Lifestyle Content Creator and Blogger, Joëlle Anello has proudly called Toronto home for the last decade. Formerly a downtown Toronto condo-dweller, Joëlle now lives in the city’s East End with her family and is passionate about enjoying Toronto’s food, entertainment and shopping scene with a baby on her hip. Follow her adventures on Instagram at @lapetitenoob, through her blog lapetitenoob.com or via her YouTube channel.

See it. Snap it. Share it. In every neighbourhood, around every corner, through every door there's something that begs to be discovered in Toronto.

#OPENYOURCURIOSITY

More Insights & Ideas from Locals

Food & Drink

See & Do

Holidays, Christmas & Winter