Here’s our top suggestions for things to do in Thunder Bay and around the area, especially if you are travelling with kids!

Located on the shores of Lake Superior, Thunder Bay is surrounded by gorgeous scenery and some amazing natural wonders, and there are plenty of opportunities to get outdoors.

There’s also plenty of history in Thunder Bay. From the early European fur traders to the rich cultural heritage of the Indigenous communities, there are many historical and cultural things to do in Thunder Bay.

I had the opportunity to live in Thunder Bay for a year while I completed my B.Ed at Lakehead University. While I didn’t have kids at that time, I did have a dog, and the two of us explored many trails and hidden gems that Thunder Bay has to offer. Once I had kids, I wanted them to experience it as well, so one summer we took a road trip and I introduced them to this amazing Northern city. 

Here’s our favourite things to do in Thunder Bay with kids, whether you and your family are outdoor enthusiasts, history buffs or just looking to get away and explore Northern Ontario.

20 Best Things to Do in Thunder Bay

Thunder Bay is a long drive from most places in Southern Ontario, but it makes for an amazing Northern Ontario road trip, and believe me, it’s worth it! It’s a gorgeous area of the province and there are so many things to do that you could easily fill a few days with activities. Here’s our suggestions for the best things to do in Thunder Bay with kids.  

1. Step Back in Time at Fort William Historical Park

Once the inland headquarters of the North West Company, the world’s largest fur trading company, Fort William is now the home of an award-winning living history program.

Wander through more than 50 reconstructed buildings and experience daily life in the fur trade as it would have existed in 1816. Meet and chat with Scottish fur traders, French Canadian voyageurs and Anishinaabe Indigenous peoples, while learning about furs, food, medicines and birch bark canoes.

Fort William Historical Park is a reconstructed fur trading post - a must-see if you are in Thunder Bay

Be sure to stop by the Main Gate at 2:30 as the cannon is fired and a traditional trade takes place in the Main Square. Check the website for current opening hours and rates. Children under 5 are free.

You can also take a virtual tour of Fort William before you visit!

2. Visit the Sleeping Giant

The legendary Sleeping Giant can be seen from many spots in Thunder Bay.

An Ojibway legend tells of a giant who turned to stone when the location of the rich silver mine was discovered by the Europeans. The Giant lay down on top of the mine with his arms crossed over his chest and still rests there today.

The Sleeping Giant, as it’s commonly known, is on the Sibley peninsula and about an hour away from downtown Thunder Bay. It’s worth the drive though!

Whether you want to attempt the legendary Top of the Giant hike – a 22km hike taking you to the top of the highest cliffs in Ontario with some phenomenal views along the way – or opt for some shorter, but just as scenic hikes like the 1km Sea Lion Lookout trail, there are plenty of trails to choose from.

3. View Kakabeka Falls

Known as the “Niagara of the North”, Kakabeka Falls is truly an impressive sight to see. At 40 metres high, it’s the second highest waterfall in Ontario and one of Ontario’s natural wonders.

You can view the falls from several viewing platforms on both sides of the falls, and then walk along the boardwalk for views of the river downstream.

The Kaministiquia River was an important route for voyageurs and there’s a short 1.25km hike that follows part of the portage route that early voyageurs would have taken.

The trail is fairly flat and accessible, great for visiting with the family.  

view of Kakabeka Falls from the top - it is the 2nd highest waterfall in Ontario
Kakabeka Falls

Kakabeka Falls are impressive anytime of the year. If you happen to be in Thunder Bay in the winter, be sure to visit and see the frozen falls!

4. Pay Tribute to Terry Fox

Terry Fox was an incredible Canadian. After losing his leg to cancer at a young age, he set out to run across Canada to raise money for cancer research.

Starting in St.John’s Newfoundland, he ran the equivalent of a marathon a day, before he had to stop just outside of Thunder Bay, when the cancer returned. 

The Terry Fox monument is dedicated to his memory  and the awareness that he raised for cancer research.  

statue of Terry Fox atop a monument just outside of Thunder Bay Ontario
Terry Fox

Just before you enter Thunder Bay, you’ll see the Terry Fox monument high above the highway.

Head up to the lookout to pay tribute to Terry Fox and you’ll also be rewarded with some fabulous views of Lake Superior and the Sleeping Giant. 

Fun fact: Thunder Bay is located in the geographic centre of Canada!

5. Visit the Thunder Bay Museum

A former police station, the Thunder Bay Museum now proudly serves as the history museum for Thunder Bay and Northwest Ontario.

On the main floor, learn about the rich local history and how Port Arthur and Fort William joined together to become the city of Thunder Bay. Then head upstairs and explore various travelling exhibits.

You can also take a virtual tour of the Thunder Bay Museum to check it out before you visit.

When we visited, there was an excellent, interactive and hands-on section on Science Facts. The boys could build Lego on a timed challenge, take a cup stacking challenge or try thier luck at speed tag.

6. Get Outdoors at Boulevard Lake

Boulevard Lake is a perfect spot to spend some time outdoors. There’s a 5.5km path that circles the lake and is great to walk or cycle along. It’s a popular spot for locals and you’ll see plenty of people walking their dogs here. It was one of my regular walking spots while I lived here, winter or summer!

If you’re not up for walking the whole loop, you can walk part of the trail and cross the bridge for an up-close view of the dam, or spend some time at the beach and playground. The playground is a fully accessible Jumpstart playground, and is a great spot to spend some time with young kids.

Paddleboard and canoe rentals are also available during the summer months if you want to spend some time on the water.

7. Cool Off at Trowbridge Falls

Trowbridge Falls is an excellent place to spend the afternoon. In fact, it was one of the highlights of our time in Thunder Bay – especially as it was unseasonably warm when we were visiting.

There are plenty of walking, hiking and biking paths, as well as small cascading falls that are perfect to splash around and sit in!

Bring a picnic lunch and find a spot beside the river to spend the afternoon.

Trowbridge Falls in Thunder Bay are small, wide falls
Trowbridge Falls

8. Enjoy the View from Hillcrest Park

Overlooking the waterfront and harbour, Hillcrest Park is one of the best spots in Thunder Bay to view the Sleeping Giant.

Bring a snack or picnic lunch and enjoy the views! There’s also a playground for kids to enjoy.

9. Lookout from The Bluffs

Close to Boulevard Lake, take a short drive up to the Buffs for another great lookout over Thunder Bay.

10. Visit Marina Park

Also called Prince Arthur’s Landing, Marina Park is located on the waterfront of Thunder Bay.

As the name suggests, its home to Thunder Bay’s marina, where you can admire the sailboats or sign up for a boat tour of Lake Superior.

There are plenty of walking paths along the shores of Lake Superior, with scenic lookouts and picnic areas. Kids will love the large splash pad and children’s playground.

              Fun Fact: Thunder Bay is on the shores of Lake Superior, the world’s largest fresh-water lake.

11. Go on a Public Art Walk

In and around Prince Arthur’s Landing, you’ll find many large pieces of public art.

Wander the path and admire the many large pieces of art displayed, or check out the map here before you go, for an interesting and self-guided walking tour.

There are also plenty of outdoor murals to be found throughout Thunder Bay. Keep your eyes open snap of photo of some interesting street art!

12. Get Outdoors at Cascades Conservation Area

Head to Cascades Conservation Area for an afternoon of hiking and then cool off with a dip in the falls.

There are a variety of short hiking trails, with one that leads to the falls.

Bring your bathing suit (or go in with clothes like my kids did) and sit, relax or play in falls!

13. Wander Through the International Friendship Gardens

Take a stroll through the Soroptimist International Friendship Gardens, where you’ll find gorgeous flower displays representing the many different nationalities that make up Thunder Bay.

It’s a great place to take a short walk, with paved paths passing by the international displays.

For all my fellow runners out there, there is also an outdoor track right beside the Friendship Gardens, which is free to use.

14. Marvel at the Ouimet Canyon

One of Ontario’s natural wonders, the Ouimet Canyon is an impressive sight to see.

Just an hour northeast of Thunder Bay, Ouimet Canyon is staggering in size but is also unique with arctic flora living on the canyon floor.

Because of its size and depth, the bottom of the canyon often has ice and snow well into the summer, allowing plants to grow as they would 1,000 km north in the sub-arctic tundra.

Ouimet Canyon - rock wall with trees on top rises on the far side, fog covers the end of the canyon
Ouimet Canyon

From the parking lot, a 1km trail takes you past two viewing platforms, providing spectacular views of the canyon and even out to Lake Superior.

Standing on one of the platforms, you can see a large rock formation standing up away from the rim of the canyon. Legend has it that this “Indian Head” is a giant that was turned to stone to watch over the canyon.    

15. Walk Across the Eagle Canyon Suspension Bridge

For the adventurous, just a few minutes from Ouimet Canyon is another canyon, home to Canada’s longest suspension bridge.

Eagle Canyon actually has two suspension bridges that cross the canyon – while one is shorter than the other, they are both fairly long and VERY high above the canyon. It can also be pretty windy!

Crossing the bridge is not for the faint of heart!

Trails connect the two bridges and lead down to the canyon below, where you see how high the suspension bridges really are!

You can find more hours and current entry fees here.

16. Dig for Gems at an Amethyst Mine

Did you know that amethyst is Ontario’s official gemstone? And it’s found in great quantities just outside of Thunder Bay.

Visit one of the Amethyst mines around Thunder Bay, learn about amethyst mining and have a chance to pick your own!

One of the best things to do in thunder bay with kids is a visit to the amethyst mine panorama

Amethyst Mine Panorama has a $10 entry fee plus $4 a pound for amethyst, but there is also a tour that talks about amethyst mining.

Diamond Willow is free to enter, but there is no tour. You can dig your own amethyst; prices are $30 for 2 gallon bucket or prorated for lesser amounts.

17. Go Back in Time at Centennial Park

Located in downtown Thunder Bay, Centennial Park is a great place to spend the afternoon.

Hike the well-marked trails or wander through the replicas of a 1910 logging camp, visit the farm animals and take a ride on the Muskeg Express train, a mini train ride for kids..

There’s also a playground for kids to burn off some energy!

18. Experience Nature at Mission Island Marsh Conservation Area

Mission Island Conservation Area is a fantastic place to escape into nature. Walk along the boardwalk for a close look at the marsh and experience the four different ecosystems that are found here.

There are self-guided “Learning Trails” though various areas of the Conservation Area, highlighting the different ecosystems present, so you can take your time exploring.

It’s also a popular birding area and chances are you will also see other wildlife up close!

19. Eat Finnish Pancakes

With a large Finnish population, Finnish pancakes have become a popular food in Thunder Bay.

What are Finnish pancakes? They’re thin pancakes that hang over the side of the plate and you definitely need to try some while you’re in Thunder Bay! They’re fantastic, and I ate a fair number while living here.

The well-known Hoito and Scando have recently closed, but Kangas Sauna serves great pancakes (and other treats as well)!

Fun Fact: Thunder Bay has the largest Finnish population per capita outside of Finland.

20. Try a Persian! 

a persian is a unique treat that you'll find in thunder bay. It's similar to a doughnut but without a hole in the middle, and topped with raspberry icing.
Try a Persian!

The Persian is a local favourite treat, and one that’s unique to Thunder Bay. It’s similar to a doughnut, but without a hole in the middle, and topped with raspberry icing.

The Persian Man is a great place to find these delicious treats. There are two locations; one down on Balmoral near the Friendship Gardens and the other is on Tungsten, near the Walmart and Superstore.

If you only try one local thing in Thunder Bay, be sure to splurge for a Persian!

21. Spend Some Time at a Playground

When you’re travelling with young kids, it’s always a good idea to search out the local playgrounds. And luckily there are plenty of fun playgrounds in Thunder Bay. Here are some of the best play areas that we discovered while visiting Thunder Bay.

Westport Playfield is a large green area directly across from the airport, with a play structure for kids, plenty of room to run around or kick a soccer ball, and baseball diamonds that I ran way too many laps around to try and get a 5km workout in.

Marina Park is a large park right on the waterfront with play equipment, slides and ramps for toddlers as well as older kids. There’s a splash pad in the summer and a skating rink in the winter.

Hillcrest Park has a small accessible play area with a slide, saucer-style swing and climbing rope. There’s also a cannon and a large bell that kids will love looking at, as well as excellent views of the city, the harbour and the Sleeping Giant.

Vickers Park is a beautiful park with large trees and a small wooden play structure, featuring a triple slide and a fun turtle to climb on. The play equipment is being replaced in 2024, and it will become the city’s second accessible and inclusive playground. 

Chippewa Park is right on the shore of Lake Superior with an excellent view of the Sleeping Giant. There’s a large play area for kids, plus amusement rides in the summer months. 

Boulevard Lake is the home to an amazing, fully-accessible playground. Similar to the Jumpstart playground in Halifax, it features double-wide ramps, barrier and transfer-free equipment and is a fantastic place for kids of all abilities to play. 

Where to Stay in Thunder Bay

We stayed at Days Inn & Suites, which is easily accessible from the highway and is central to most things in Thunder Bay. They also have a pool and hot tub, which is great when you are staying at a hotel with kids.

Check for other available accommodation here or use the map below.

Final Thoughts: Best Things to Do in Thunder Bay with Kids

Thunder Bay is a fantastic city to visit and there are so many things to do – whether you’re looking for outdoor adventures, learning about the area’s history or simply taking in the gorgeous scenery.

And with its welcoming atmosphere, it’s no wonder that Thunder Bay is one of the top destinations in Northern Ontario.

My kids and I loved our time in Thunder Bay and hope that you do as well!

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For more Northern Ontario travel ideas, be sure to check out these posts:

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