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13 Awesome Things to Do in Sault Ste Marie Ontario with Kids


Things to Do in Sault Ste Marie Ontario with Kids

If you are planning a Northern Ontario road trip, then Sault Ste Marie should definitely be one of your stops. As one of the largest cities north of Lake Huron, you will find amazing attractions for kids, historical sites, shopping, incredible restaurants, and more. With so many awesome things to do in Sault Ste Marie Ontario with kids, you should plan to spend a few days in this vibrant city!

During our Epic Northern Ontario Road Trip, we spent three days in Sault Ste Marie (or The Soo, as it is affectionally called by the locals). This was enough to get a taste of the city, but we definitely could have used more time to do some additional exploring!

13 Awesome Things to Do in Sault Ste Marie Ontario with Kids

Depending on whether you want to spend your days outdoors hiking and enjoying nature, or you prefer museums and art galleries, there are a ton of options for things to do in Sault Ste Marie Ontario with kids.

Sault-Ste-Marie-Welcome-sign

1. Hop Onboard an Aircraft at the Canadian Bushplane Heritage Centre

The Canadian Bushplane Heritage Centre is a great place to visit if you have an interest in aviation history. Since our youngest has a fascination for all-things airplanes, this stop was a must-see on our list of things to do in Sault Ste Marie Ontario.

The main hall has an extensive collection of bush planes, many of which the kids are able to climb into and explore. This kid-friendly museum was also filled with various informative exhibits, hands-on displays, and a small 3D theatre.

The kids really enjoyed the flight simulator which highlighted unique aerial views over Sault Ste. Marie and Algoma, Ontario. They also loved the Children’s Flight Centre where there are flight simulators, arcade-style gaming consoles, a real airplane cockpit to sit in, and other fun interactive displays.

We really enjoyed the 3D presentation on wildfires in the theatre. The film tells the story of how the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry’s  Aviation, Forest Fire and Emergency Services Branch work together to battle forest fires in Ontario, from both the air and on the ground.

2. Go for a Stroll Along the Waterfront

Going for a stroll along the scenic waterfront walkway in Sault Ste Marie is a great way to learn about the city while taking in some of the sights. The 1.5-kilometre paved boardwalk is wheelchair and stroller friendly and runs along the banks of the St. Mary’s River.

Located along the boardwalk, you will find observation and fishing platforms, outdoor art, flower gardens, sightseeing benches, as well as historic plaques that talk about the city’s history. Perfect for walking, biking and rollerblading, the boardwalk also connects several downtown attractions.

Sault-Ste-Marie-view-from-Whitefish-Island

Walk from the Sault Ste Marie Locks, past the Canadian Bush Plane Heritage Centre, a conference centre, library, civic centre, marina, post office, shopping mall, the Algoma Art Gallery and train station. At the other end of the boardwalk, you will find Roberta Bondar Park.

3. Watch the Boats Go Through the Locks at the Canal

Built in 1895, the Sault Ste Marie Canal was once the world’s longest lock and the first to operate using electricity. Today, the Canal is a National Historic Site and is used only for recreational watercraft.

Sault-Ste-Marie-Locks

The Canal is a great spot for the kids to do a little boat-watching, have a family picnic, rent a Fat Bike, or even have afternoon tea at the Superintendent’s Residence. Let a Parks Canada guide regale you with the canal’s fascinating history, while you watch the locks move boats along the canal.

The viewing deck and recreational lock is open daily from May 15 to October 15 each year.

4. Hit the Playground at Bellevue Park

At 17 hectares (42 acres) in size, Bellevue Park is Sault Ste Marie’s largest urban park. The park is home to 2.4 kilometres of paved walkways, incredible floral beds, a greenhouse, and a pretty amazing children’s playground.

The park is the perfect way to spend some downtime during your visit to The Soo. Watch recreational boats and freighters go by on the canal, have a picnic under a shady tree, go for a walk or stroll along the paths, or enjoy some of the incredible flowers in the greenhouse, which have been brought in from all over the world.

Sault-Ste-Marie-picnic-in-park

The Bellevue Park Interactive Outdoor Sensory Playground is pretty special. Not only does the playground include accessible play options that eliminate barriers to play, it was also designed to provide children with sensory stimulation.

The kids will have no problem spending the morning or afternoon expending some serious energy on the playground!

During the summer months, Bellevue Park plays host to a number of concerts and events, as well as outdoor movie nights. In the winter, the park becomes the perfect place to go cross-country skiing or snowshoeing.

5. Play with Some Bugs at the Entomica Insectarium

By far, one of our kid’s favourite things to do in Sault Ste Marie Ontario was to play with the bugs at the Entomica Insectarium! Located inside the Canadian Bushplane Heritage Centre, this little hidden gem was a real find!

The Insectarium houses a variety of live exotic insects from around the world. The insects are displayed in beautiful living vivariums, making it easy for kids to get up close to have a look. 

But the best part of our visit was the hands-on interaction with some of the insects! The amazing and incredibly knowledgeable staff were on hand to not only tell us all about the insects, but to quell some fears, and allow us to hold whichever insects caught our eye!

Sault-Ste-Marie-Entomica-staff-holding-large-snail

Entomica is an incredibly fun and educational experience for kids. This not-for-profit insect-focused science centre does not cost extra when visiting the Bushplane Museum, but they do ask for donations to help keep it running.

6. Go for a Hike or Bike on Whitefish Island

Whitefish Island National Historic Site is located on the St. Mary’s River in Sault Ste Marie. The island was formed over 2000 years ago and was once home to an Indigenous settlement, trading post, and fishing base.

Sault-Ste-Marie-Whitefish-Island-beaver-dams

At approximately 1 kilometre long, and about 500 meters wide, Whitefish Island can be found on the southern edge of the Sault Ste. Marie Canal National Historic Site of Canada. Aside from a small hiking and biking trail, and a gazebo to sit and enjoy the waterfront views, the island remains undeveloped and intact both as an archaeological site and as a geographic feature.

If you are heading there in the summer, be sure to cover yourself in bug repellant, as parts of the path are overgrown. When we visited, parts of the pathway were also flooded out, so you may not be able to do the entire loop.

7. Ride the Rails on the Agawa Canyon Tour Train

One of the most popular things to do in Sault Ste Marie Ontario is to take the Agawa Canyon Tour Train. This 114-mile excursion takes passengers through the incredibly scenic Northern Ontario wilderness.

From the mixed forests of the Canadian Shield to the shores of northern lakes and rivers, and even the depths of the Agawa Canyon, the train winds its way through the incredible landscapes and majestic views that inspired the Group of Seven to create some of Canada’s most notable works of art.

During your train ride, a GPS-triggered commentary provides passengers with the history of the region, as well as that of the Ojibway, fur traders, explorers and entrepreneurs that called this area home. The commentary is available in five languages including English throughout the coaches, and in French, German, Japanese, Korean and Mandarin via wireless headsets.

Sault-Ste-Marie-Agawa-Canyon-Train-Ride

One of the surprising features of the Agawa Canyon Tour Train is the cameras mounted outside of the locomotive. The cameras provide an engineer’s ‘eye-view’ of the fantastic scenery via flat-screen monitors that are installed throughout the coaches.

The turnaround point of the train ride is Agawa Canyon Park, which is only accessible by rail. There, you’ll have an hour and a half to explore the park.

Enjoy a hike or scenic walk on one of the many gravelled trails, go in search of the four gorgeous waterfalls, or climb up over 300 stairs to the breathtaking lookout point sitting 250 feet above the canyon floor. And just a quick tip – although the park is beautiful at any time of the year, it is especially vibrant in the fall, when the leaves start changing colour.

8. Chase Waterfalls at Hiawatha Highlands Conservation Area

If you are looking for a relatively short and easy hike with great rewards, look no further than Hiawatha Highlands Conservation Area. The park includes gorgeous waterfalls, 35 kilometres of nature trails, as well as forests with creeks, lakes and wetlands.

Hiawatha Highlands includes one of the most spectacular views of Crystal Falls from the Crystal Creek Trail. And a wheelchair-accessible boardwalk makes it easy for anyone who would like to get some fresh air and soak in the views.

With over 70 species of birds and 18 species of mammals found at Hiawatha Highlands, you can also enjoy some birdwatching or wildlife viewing along with your summer hike or bike. And in the winter, the trails are groomed for cross-country skiing perfect for both novice and expert skiers.

While skiers pay to use these trails in the winter and early spring, there is no charge to hikers during the rest of the year. The park also includes a baseball diamond, children’s playground and picnic area

9. Look for Street Art in the City

Created in 2019, the Downtown Mural Project consists of 5 large-scale murals. Originally started as a way to revitalize Sault Ste Marie’s downtown core, the street art has become a wonderful draw for tourists and locals alike.

The murals not only add colour, vibrancy and character to the downtown core, but they attract a ton of foot traffic in the area, which helps to support the local economy. And the best part is, that the Downtown Mural Project involves local youth and artists working together to create incredible murals!

10. Buy Local at the Mill Market Farmers Market

Open year-round, the Mill Market is one of the awesome things to do in Sault Ste Marie with kids. Conveniently located right off the Hub Trail, the Mill Market Farmers Market features fresh local produce and artisanal goods.

Things-to-Do-in-Calgary-farm-basket

The Mill Market connects Northern Ontario farmers to local consumers. Their goal is to make it easy for the community to provide farm-to-table meals for their families. From fresh meat and produce to homemade soups and baked goods, locally sourced maple syrup, knit and crocheted items, or pieces of art, you’ll never know what goodies you might find at the Mill Market.

Be sure to try some pâté or Fish Candy from Sayers Fishery! This local Indigenous company takes whitefish from Lake Superior, which they then smoke, and finally candy it in maple syrup produced by Mountain Maple Products from St Joseph Island.

11. Do Some Shopping at the Trading Post

If you are looking to do a little shopping, the Trading Post is a definite favourite when visiting Sault Ste Marie. There, you will find some pretty cool trinkets and treasures ranging from souvenirs to blankets, Indigenous crafts, moccasins, mukluks, hats and mitts.

The Trading Post is well-known in the city for tourists and locals alike. It is definitely a must for anyone’s list of things to do in Sault Ste Marie Ontario with kids.

12. Immerse Yourself in Indigenous Culture

The Anishinaabe peoples of the Great Lakes traditionally called Sault Ste Marie ‘Bawating’, meaning ‘place of the rapids’. Learn about their deep-rooted connection to the St Mary’s River by taking a big canoe tour with Canoes for Conservation.

Sault-Ste-Marie-Canoe

Canoes For Conservation Tours are 2.5-hour interpretive guided canoe tours. Canoe guides take guests on a journey along with one of Sault Ste Marie’s historic water trails while sharing their knowledge about the local history, culture, and environment.

The tour is family-friendly and also includes a delicious cup of hot cedar tea and some locally curated snacks. Learn about Indigenous culture while enjoying the beautiful scenic waterfront areas.

13. Experience a Pow Wow

If you have not experienced a Pow Wow, then this needs to be added to your list of things to do in Sault Ste Marie Ontario. This unforgettable experience will include incredible dancing, and singing, as well as some delicious cuisine guaranteed to impress.

A Pow Wow is a terrific way for non-Indigenous people to learn about the culture in an energetic setting. The kids are guaranteed to be mesmerized by the gorgeous regalia and the sound of the drums.

Sault-Ste-Marie-Pow-Wow

And it really does not matter if you are sitting in on a traditional Pow Wow like Batchewana or Garden River’s summer Pow Wows, or a competition Pow Wow like the Gathering at the Rapids Pow Wow. Either way, you will learn a lot while being blown away by the experience.

How to Get to Sault Ste Marie Ontario

Sault Ste Marie Ontario is located approximately 699 km northwest of Toronto. If you are driving, you would take Highway 400 North to the Trans-Canada Highway (Hwy 69) north. The Trans-Canada will take you directly into the city, before continuing north.

If you are coming from a distance, you can fly into the Sault Ste Marie Airport. From there, you can easily rent a car for your visit to The Soo and the surrounding area.

Another option would be to take the bus. Ontario Northland bus service is the only bus line which connects Toronto to Sault Ste Marie. The good part is, there are several trips daily to choose from.

Where to Stay in Sault Ste Marie

There are a variety of accommodations available in Sault Ste Marie. You can find hotels and motels in the downtown area, as well as Airbnb rentals on the outskirts of town.

Sudbury-to-Sault-Ste-Marie-Soo-hotel

We chose to stay at the Quality Inn and Suites which was located right in the downtown area. This budget-friendly hotel was just a short drive from several attractions. It is also within walking distance of several restaurants, cafes, and eateries.

The rooms were well-appointed and clean. Breakfast was included, and there was a pool for the kids to burn off some energy.

You can find a complete listing of Sault Ste Marie hotels here.

Where to Eat in Sault Ste Marie

There are many incredible family-friendly places to eat in Sault Ste Marie. Depending on your budget and what you are in the mood for, you are sure to find something that will tempt the pickiest of eaters!

Sudbury-to-Sault-Ste-Marie-Johnnys-Chophouse-sign

During our stay, we chose the convenience of eating at the restaurant that was attached to our hotel. Johnny’s Chophouse had a great variety, with many kid-friendly items on the menu.

We found the food, ambience and service to be quite good. And after a long day of travelling, it was nice not to have to do any more driving to get to dinner!

Final Thoughts on Things to Do in Sault Ste Marie Ontario with Kids

No Northern Ontario road trip would be complete without a stop in The Soo. And there are definitely a ton of cool things to do in Sault Ste Marie Ontario for families. Whether you want to spend your visit outdoors or prefer indoor attractions, there are enough options to choose from to make this city a must-see.

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