The best part? Most of the activities are F-R-E-E! (And who doesn’t love finding free things to do in the GTA?!)
From May 18 to 24, 2019, the second-annual, family-friendly festival — aimed at four to 14 year olds — near Toronto’s famed waterfront has so much happening that you could easily turn it into an overnight staycation.
And one of my favourite things about JUNIOR is that the live shows include “Relaxed Performances,” designed to offer a more inclusive environment. These shows welcome audience members who need a more casual sensory experience, such as those on the autism spectrum. You can expect a more informal approach to theatre noise and movement, with the house lights that will remain on at a lower level and a reduced intensity of sound and other effects.
While most of the JUNIOR series is free to attend (I’ve included a few highlights farther down), there are a few ticketed performances as well. They’re pretty inexpensive — starting at just $12 per ticket — so you could definitely see more than one without breaking the bank. (Pro Tip: families can save 15% on the purchase of tickets for any two productions and 20% on the purchase of three productions.)
Here are the three ticketed performances happening daily during the holiday weekend:
Woogie Boogie (May 18-20 at 11 a.m. each day)
In its North American premiere, this interactive South Korean production is a mix of both live and animated effects with real stage performers. It follows Woogie and his friend Boogie as they embark on a magical sea expedition. The action ensues when their trouble-making pet turtle drifts into open water…
Two-Part Inventions (May 18-20 at 1:30 p.m. each day)
This homegrown production from Quebec is making its world premiere at the 2019 Toronto International Children’s Festival! It’s a play about a curious encounter between two kids that leads to a thought-provoking journey. Through the brilliance of a child’s imaginary world, the play explores themes such as revenge, boredom and fear of the unknown.
A Billion Nights on Earth (May 18-20 at 3 p.m. each day plus 7 p.m. on May 18)
A Canadian stage premiere that’s inspired by pop-up books and Kabuki magic with sleight-of-hand stagecraft that’s sure to impress. It’s a tale that weaves through time and space, removing the often-paralyzing limits of adulthood in favour of the boundless land of playtime. My kids and I have tickets to see this one!
Some of the free activities we’re most excited to experience at JUNIOR include:
JUNIOR Concert Series — from percussion to tap to choral performances, there are a few different shows depending on which day you come to the Harbourfront Centre. I’ll be heading there with my family on Victoria Day and can’t wait to see a group of young and professional tap dancers celebrating legendary Bill “Bojangles” Robinson’s birthday.
Interactive performances from Australia, Belgium and Canada — whether it’s a deeper look at breadcrumb-collecting ants or joining drag queens for an unforgettable outdoor reading experience and dance party, these events are taking place a few times each day of the festival.
Write It Workshop — a series focused on kids’ writing skills that will explore brainstorming, character development and plot structure. While this 60-minute workshop is free, pre-registration is suggested. Miss Q is gonna LOVE this!
Fashion Machine — this sounds so neat! It’s a live fashion show featuring new, young fashion designers who’ll select willing audience members for a fashion makeover. Fun!!
Kids Can Save the Planet — an eye-opening documentary series by 13-year-old Dylan D’Haeze who had one simple question: what happens when we throw away plastic?
How It Feels to Be Me — an Australian-based dance company for children, teens and young adults with disabilities using dance to unleash the spirit and encourage independence, confidence and resilience.
This is really just the tip of the iceberg! There is so much more happening at the Harbourfront Centre during JUNIOR — including a Collage Party, clothing swap, an “instrument petting zoo,” a Tickle Trunk dress-up area, hands-on STEM activities and MORE STILL. You can see the full schedule here.
Tickets are available to purchase online, in-person at 235 Queens Quay West or by calling the Harbourfront Centre Box Office at 416-973-4000. Box office hours are Tuesday through Saturday from 1 to 6 p.m.
Still need a bit more nudging? Watch this:
Hope to see you there!
DISCLAIMER: Harbourfront Centre compensated me for this post. We are genuinely excited to check this out with our kids and all opinions here are my own.