Visiting Casa Loma with Kids

When visiting Toronto, there is an almost endless list of great attractions for your family to visit. With a population of 2.8 million, it is no wonder. I grew up living about an hour outside of Toronto. When I was young my family took many day trips into the city for one activity or another, but one of my favourite places to visit was Casa Loma. This summer we decided to indulge one of the wish list items our kids had and take them for their first tour of the “House on the Hill”.

 

Viewing Casa Loma from the gardens

Viewing Casa Loma from the gardens

The History Behind Casa Loma

The visionary of Casa Loma was Sir Henry Pellatt. At the age of 17 Pellatt left school to begin working for the family stock brokerage business ‘Pellatt and Pellatt’. In 1882, by the age of 23 he had become full partner and his ambitions only grew. He had founded the Toronto Electric Light Company in 1883 and by 1901, Sir Pellatt was the chairman of 21 companies of various interests. In 1902, his company won the rights to build the first Canadian hydro-generating plant, which was placed in Niagara Falls. At the time of Casa Loma’s construction, Henry Pellatt was responsible for 25% of the entire Canadian economy and held a monopoly on Toronto’s street light supply. Pellatt commissioned the building of Casa Loma by E. J. Lennox, who was Canada’s premier architect at the time. The castle took 300 labourers three years to construct, and building ceased in 1914. Pellatt was known to be a romantic and it is said Casa Loma was a gift for his wife, Mary.

After Casa Loma was initially completed, Henry Pellatt wanted to continue expanding the castle. However, during the construction, the government ruled that electricity was no longer allowed to be privately owned. This change removed his only guaranteed income and the Pellatt’s struggled to maintain their home and lifestyle. Between the daily cost of running a home such as Casa Loma, and the continued expansion, Sir Henry and Mary Pellatt found themselves $1.7 million in debt. In today’s standards, that would be equal to approximately 20 million dollars. The couple were forced to auction off their possessions, and in 1924 they moved to their farm in King township.

Since that time, Casa Loma has transformed from a hotel, to a nightspot with orchestra performances, and also spent quite a few years sitting empty. The city of Toronto purchased the castle in 1933, and in 1937 the Kiwanis Club of West Toronto opened it as the tourist attraction we all enjoy today.

Princesses locked in the tower

Princesses locked in the tower

Why Visit Casa Loma with Kids?

Boasting 70,000 sq ft of space, 98 rooms, water features and gardens, Casa Loma has something for everyone in the family. The stunning architecture and antiques on display are enough of a draw themselves, and yet you will find so much more. Adults may enjoy seeing the filming location of some popular movies, such as X-Men, Cocktail, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, Chicago and many others. Parents will love the self-guided audio tour, which gives your family the freedom to roam and set your own pace. Kids will love climbing the small spiral staircase to the top of the tower and the underground tunnel to the garage, stables and greenhouses. However, the biggest sense of awe and mystery may come from searching out the castle’s two secret passageways. Rumor is that a third passageway was built, but it has never been found. Perhaps your children will be the ones to find it? Many children harbour dreams of being a prince or princess, and exploring Casa Loma – Canada’s only full-sized castle – will definitely have them feeling like a member of royalty.

 

Dining

Casa Loma offers three dining experiences. The Blueblood Steakhouse is an upscale steak and seafood restaurant, not included with admission to Casa Loma. Reservations are required. The Liberty Caffe is in the lower level of the castle and features cafe style fare, as well as pub style foods such as hamburgers, fish and chips and french fries. Terrace Grill is a seasonal option located on the back castle terrace, open from May through August.

Enjoying the view from the top of Casa Loma's tower

Enjoying the view from the top of Casa Loma’s tower

Events at Casa Loma

Casa Loma hosts many different events throughout the year. Escape rooms are one of their most popular, with some rooms accommodating children ages 11+. In the fall they host a Thanksgiving Brunch, as well as a haunted house type experience. For more information, click HERE.

Price vs. Value/Experience – Our Comments

The Negative

One thing that I found disappointing was that some castle events took away from the experience. Casa Loma hosts weddings and during our visit they were clearly preparing for one in the next day or two. The library had a reception table set up to show the bride and groom and in the gardens there were people working to set up a large tent. As we were enjoying the conservatory, they started running through a wedding rehearsal, which made us feel as though we should leave the space.

There were also people setting up for the haunted house experience. Parts of the underground tunnel were in the midst of being transformed and the grounds by the garage and stable were littered with metal gates and Halloween style decorations that had recently been unloaded off of a transport truck parked there. All in all it was a minor inconvenience, just one I did not expect to encounter and which I felt lowered the authenticity of the experience. While I understand that to accommodate the events, set up is required, I had assumed those things happened after they closed at 5:00 pm. If this is something you believe you may want to avoid, I would suggest calling ahead and asking. Casa Loma staff can be reached at 1 (416) 923-1171.

Again, while I understand why changes have been made, I did also find it a shame that the large downstairs formal sitting room had been changed into a restaurant. The woodwork and ceiling is the same, but the furniture has been removed and the room (as well as the smoking room) has been redesigned as a permanent restaurant. The room used to be beautiful and now that section of the castle feels very commercialized.

I was surprised by the cost and found it to be more expensive than what I had expected. Between parking, entry and snack, the visit for our family of five cost $150.00. That being said, it is not out of the average attraction cost for Toronto, and if you purchase the Toronto Citypass (mentioned below) it becomes much more affordable.

The Positive

Overall, we definitely enjoyed Casa Loma as a family. The kids loved it and all of the ‘build up’ their minds had created was not disappointed. All of the sections of the castle that have retained their authenticity (which really is the majority) are stunning. There are lots of very interesting facts about the castle posted for visitors, which even the kids found interesting. The underground tunnel was longer than expected and the kids found it to be quite an adventure. They loved the secret passageways and the tower. The walk down from the tower leads you through an attic area which the kids loved because it made them feel like they were at Hogwarts. We got a basket of fries in the lower level cafe and they thought it was awesome that they got to eat inside a castle. From an adult perspective, the intricacy of the building and its history was fascinating, and seeing the look on the kids’ faces as we entered each new space was very gratifying. I do believe we will go back and visit Casa Loma again at some point in the future.

 

In Casa Loma's library

In Casa Loma’s library

Visitor Information

*To view more photographs of Casa Loma, continue to the bottom of the page*

 

Accessibility

Casa Loma does have ramps and an elevator available for wheelchair bound guests, however it is not available for the use of guests with strollers. Likewise, secret passages and tower stairs are not accessible, and would also be difficult to maneuver with a child in a carrier.

Best Time to Visit

Visits in early spring or late fall are suggested, as early in the day as possible, for avoiding the thickest crowds. Summertime and Christmas can be quite busy.

Age Recommendation

Casa Loma is a large property that requires quite a bit of time on your feet. The majority of your visit is a “look but don’t touch” experience which I believe would likely cause toddlers to lose interest quickly. As mentioned above, strollers are not allowed in the elevator and would therefore be difficult to maneuver up and down the stairs. Baby carriers are definitely an option but may cause difficulty in some of the tight fitting areas such as the secret passageways and tower stairs. For these reasons we recommend Casa Loma for families with children ages 4+. That being said, Casa Loma is a lovely experience that really can appeal to everyone. You know your family best!

Address and Parking

Casa Loma is located at:
1 Austin Terrace
Toronto Ontario
M5R 1X8
Canada

There is limited paid parking on-site. Additional paid parking can be found down the street at George Brown College. For a cheaper alternative, take the metro to Dupont Station, from which the house is around 10 minutes on foot.

Hours of Operation

Open daily 9:30 am – 5:00 pm (Last admission at 4:30 p.m.)
*Last admission at 4:30 pm
*Tower closes at 4:30 pm
*December 24th Casa Loma closes at 4:00 pm and remains closed on Christmas day

Cost

Parking:
On-site parking carries a flat rate fee of $10 per vehicle

Admission (taxes in):
Adults (18-64)    $30
Senior (65+)       $25
Youth (14-17)     $25
Children (4-13)   $20
Children 3 and under FREE

If you plan to explore more Toronto attractions, we recommend the Toronto Citypass.
Save 36% or more off admission to Casa Loma, plus 4 more top Toronto attractions: CN Tower, Royal Ontario Museum, Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada, Toronto Zoo OR Ontario Science Centre. You’ll skip most ticket lines, too. Valid for 9-days. Purchase booklets or printable vouchers at citypass.com or at the Casa Loma box office for the same price.

Citypass Cost:
Adult (12+)     $88 (+ tax) (value $137)
Child (4-12)    $59 (+tax) (value $91)

 

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Planning a visit to Toronto? Don’t miss Legoland Toronto or all of the free things to do in Niagara Falls!

 

 

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