Monday, March 22

Our March Break Getaway

Friends of ours invited the four of us to join them for March Break in the Bahamas. Yeah, that didn't happen.

Instead, I am here to regale you with the exciting tales of our long-distance voyage to Toronto, Ontario! Woo hoo, you may be thinking. From where we live, Toronto is only a commute away, and could easily be a day trip. For us, however, it was a chance to get out of the house and away from chores, school work and laptops to enjoy our girls and get some R and R. Sort of.

We drove straight to the CN Tower, since Dora the Explorer was doing a meet-and-greet at 10:30, and miraculously found a great parking spot on the street just a couple of blocks away. We waited in line to meet the little Senorita, and to take a couple of poor photos. (Frannie insists that she was not scared, she just wanted to be on the other side of Daddy in the picture instead of actually being close to the famous character. Maggie was a little bit braver.)

Afterwards, we took the elevator as high as the observation deck. It's worth noting that the CN Tower is a fairly expensive tourist attraction, and we went more for the grownups' sake than the kids', as we hadn't been since elementary school. Our girls were too young to really 'get it', though Frannie was interested in looking down at all of the buildings, and enjoyed playing on the glass floor. (I'm sure my mother is cringing as she reads this. It's safe, Mom, or they wouldn't let people up there!) We came away with a cute ($20) family photo, taken in front of a green screen before we boarded the elevator, with the Toronto skyline added in by the time we got back down. Unfortunately, when we arrived back at the van we realized that our parking spot wasn't such a miracle. There was a $40 ticket waiting on our windshield...apparently we missed some no-parking sign (that the other 6 cars along the street must have overlooked as well).

We took advantage of being tourists and went to this really unique restaurant for lunch -- a little chicken joint called Swiss Chalet. Don't be concerned that you've never heard of it; not everyone can be as well-travelled as we are. It seemed pretty busy, so I wouldn't be surprised if it becomes a franchise. Great kids' meals, complete with toy and dessert.

After that we headed to our hotel, and I am no longer being sarcastic when I say you probably haven't heard of it. I hadn't, and couldn't find anyone who had, but it popped up when I googled "Toronto hotel March Break kids"...and what a find! We stayed at the Toronto Don Valley Hotel and Suites, which was about a 15 minute drive from downtown, and was an incredible deal. We booked a special March Break package, and when we checked in, the girls each received a gift bag with a colouring book, crayons, play-doh set and card game.

The hotel accommodated our early check-in request, in order to put Maggie down for her nap, and the employees were all friendly and helpful. Included in our stay was an amazing breakfast buffet (no continental-muffin-and-fruit-thing: we feasted on bacon, eggs, and hash browns while the girls enjoyed their usual cereal, toast and yogurt).


The pool was also a great surprise...although small and simple, the water temperature was beautiful. Normally I watch the action from the warmth of the hot tub, but here I could actually walk right in with no hesitation, which made for more fun family time. Daddy and Frannie spent Maggie's naptime down at the pool both days, and our little fish was happy to be in the water for over two straight hours! The baby...not so much a water-lover. The fact that she whines for every minute she's in the bathtub should have been a warning, I suppose.

An in-room movie with popcorn was part of our package, so we chose the critically crucified "Did You Hear About The Morgans?" with Sarah Jessica Parker and Hugh Grant. It was just as we expected - a light, somewhat romantic comedy with Grant doing his usual bumbling schtick. I can completely understand how it did not rank right up there with the Oscar contenders, but we got a few chuckles out of it. Since we realized afterwards that Frannie had been listening to the whole thing from her bed, I'm glad we didn't choose anything too inappropriate!

Our two-night special came to only $159.00 before taxes, which is an extremely good deal for two nights with breakfast, kids' surprises, and a movie. The only negatives that come to mind about the hotel are that parking was an additional cost of $12 per night (I had assumed it was included) and our GPS had issues recognizing the location. Although we met a few nice guests and Frannie made a couple of new friends, the hotel was surprisingly quiet.

We didn't just hang out at the hotel - we wanted to explore the city some more, and I had heard great things about the Fairview Mall, so our first night we headed there to eat at Moxie's Grill (a great feels-grownup-but-kids-love-it kind of joint) and then we hit Payless. A necessary stop, as we had packed only clunky winter boots for our little angels, and with beautiful 17 degree weather and a lot of walking ahead, we figured it was time to purchase some spring footwear.

Wednesday morning (after I awoke to find a little gift on the nightstand -- watch for that in a future post) we braved the very busy Ontario Science Centre. I am taking my class there in the Spring (the Harry Potter exhibit will be opening April 9th) and again, our girls, especially Maggie, are too young to really appreciate it, but we wanted to take advantage of our teachers-get-in-free deal. We tried an  IMAX film (the beautiful Under The Sea) and discovered that Maggie is definitely too young for a movie theatre. Four year old Frannie was just old enough to appreciate it.

If you plan to hit more than one tourist attraction in Toronto during your stay, I'd strongly recommend puchasing a City Pass, which costs $59 for adults and $39 for children, and includes admission to five major spots: CN Tower, Ontario Science Centre, Casa Loma, Toronto Zoo, and the Royal Ontario Museum.

Wednesday night we met my parents at Tucker's Marketplace. We LOVE this restaurant for its huge buffet and amazing selection. The adult dinners were $18, and kids were charged a dollar per year of age, which seemed very fair to me. Then we returned to the hotel for one last dip in the pool, and to get packed up and ready to head home in the morning.

Guess what? The chores, school work, and laptops were still waiting patiently where we had left them.

P.S. If anyone has other see-Toronto-with-the-kids suggestions, please leave a comment. I'm always open to new ideas!

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

Your “vacation” sounds great. With little kids, sometimes going away to some “hot destination” is not that feasible as people think, well for those of us travelling with SMALL children. As much as mom and dad wanna lay out in the sun all day, its just not going to work with little ones.

Your trip sounds great and affordable and seems like you engaged in activities that the kids would actually get something out of. Being away for a few days and staying somewhere where there is a pool was probably good enough for them!!

AB said...

Wow, it sounds like a great time! And nice find on the hotel-- What a great deal! It's nice that you were able to spend time on your March Break doing some things for the parents to enjoy, as well as catering to the kiddies.

Anonymous said...

17 degrees sounds nice, but just a 3hour flight away (and, yes, a bunch of cash later) it was 26 degrees. The pools AND the ocean were warm.

Anonymous said...

One year we took our family to 'Build A Bear' and 'The Rainforest Cafe' as a March Break family outing. Somewhat cheaper than a tropical vacation, and 4 years later those bears are still well-loved and snuggled. FYI...there is no such thing as free parking in Toronto. EVER. Not even on Sundays. I'm sorry you had to find this out the hard and expensive way:-(

This Mom said...

Yes, we should have known the parking spot was too good to be true. There were so many other cars there, though, and we were sure we checked the signs carefully!

Build-A-Bear and The Rainforest Cafe are both great ideas. In another year or two both of our kids would be old enough to appreciate them.

Pam Putnins said...

you should go down to the big TO in the summer and go to Center Island, Ontario Place, Midevile times is a great place too, High Park it a great place to have a picnic at and they have a great playground and little zoo and lots of places to hike. I grew up in TO it was great to hear you had a great time. If you love to shop like most of us ladies do you should go to Yorkdale mall, or bloor/York Dale at Young st. and Bloor just north. Lots of little cute stores or even Keniston Martket.

This Mom said...

Thanks, Pam. I've done Medieval Times as a class trip and it was a lot of fun. We had planned to do Centre Island last year, but because of the strike we were out of luck. It's in the plans for this summer.