Extreme sleepover adventures in Ontario


At the Toronto Zoo, kids can get an African safari experience thanks to the Serengeti Bush Camp attraction that features tents for overnight stays. (Jennifer Merrick/

Story by Jennifer Merrick Writer

TORONTO, ONTARIO — Looking for something a little out-of-the-ordinary for your family this summer? Check out these super cool sleepover adventures in Ontario.

Wild Toronto


Sharks roam the waters at Ripley’s Aquarium, and families can spend the night in this major tourist draw in downtown Toronto. (Terry O’Neill file photo/

Sleep with the Sharks: Don’t watch Jaws before you do this one as you’ll be kipping down in the “Dangerous Lagoon” shark tunnel at the Ripley’s Aquarium in downtown Toronto. Sleepovers include a late-night snack, breakfast and admission for the evening and following day. This gives your family plenty of time to explore the 16,000 marine animals and 100 interactive displays.

Or in the Jungle: Hear lions roar as you sleep in tents at the Toronto Zoo’s Serengeti Bush Camp. This safari experience starts with an up-close and personal tour, where kids learn that giraffes’ tongues can be as long as 18-20 inches, and other cool animal trivia. After dinner, their new knowledge is put to the test in an after-dark scavenger hunt. Before bunking down, devour s’mores and listen to animal-legend bedtime stories around the campfire.

The Great Outdoors in Ontario

Yurts: These canvas-covered shelters come with a barbecue, electricity and bunk beds making a nature adventure in Ontario Provincial Parks more comfortable. Many of the province’s parks offer these rustic digs, including the beautiful MacGregor Point Provincial Park on Lake Huron near the town of Port Elgin. 

Tipis: Experience the northern wilderness on Manitoulin Island in these traditional First Nations dwellings. Several campsites provide these accommodation, including Gordon’s Park, an eco-resort that offers hiking, stargazing, archery, bike tours and other nature activities.

Bridal Veil Falls Manitoulin Island

Spying the Bridal Veil Falls is one reason why Manitoulin Island is a fantastic destination in Ontario. (Chris Nowakowski file photo/

And a Caboose: Journey 183 kilometres (114 miles) into the Agawa Canyon Wilderness Park, where your family will find its own train car, equipped with a kitchen, bathroom with shower, electricity and air conditioning in the same pristine wilderness that inspired the Group of Seven artists.

Spirited Sleeps

Family Jail Time: The HI-Ottawa Jail Hostel in the nation’s capital was originally the Carleton Country Gaol, where many a criminal was convicted and hanged. Now you can hang out behind bars with your kids in the historic landmark with the ghosts of convicted pasts in your own private (or maybe not-so private) room.

A Room with a Ghost: The Inn at the Falls in Bracebridge in the Muskoka region has such good hospitality that some residents have decided to stay forever. Room 105 supposedly has the most supernatural activity, so be sure to pack your Ouija board.

And for ghost per capita, Niagara-on-the-Lake is hard to beat. Lots of haunted places to stay, including The Prince of Wales Hotel, where you might meet Molly McGuire, a young woman accidentally killed by a young soldier during the American siege in room 207 and reputedly still haunts that space.

Spend a night inside the thick limestone walls of Fort Henry in Kingston. Families and groups can reserve one of several barrack rooms, and who knows, you may just catch a glimpse of Nils von Schoultz. This revolutionary was hanged on the premises and some say he’s been hanging around ever since. 

There is no guarantee you’ll get much sleep at any of these places, but the kids will sure have a cool story to tell their classmates come September.


After teaching English as a Second Language abroad for 7 years, Jennifer has now 'settled down' in Toronto. But her feet continue to itch and she now travels whenever she can, writing about her adventures along the way.

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