Tag Archives: family travel

What To Do in the 1000 Islands Gananoque #familytravel #attractionsontario

9th July 2015

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On Tuesday, I blogged about going to 1000 Islands Gananoque with the family for a short getaway. When visiting the area, you’ll find that there are so many things to do even though it’s a small town. There’s countless beautiful, picturesque photo opps around the town, from the Town Hall to the Waterfront area, to the lovely neighbourhoods filled with gorgeous, huge heritage homes. For this trip, we also checked out the Arthur Child Heritage Museum, The Haunted Walk Experience and the 1000 Island Boat Cruise.

Arthur Child Heritage Museum

arthur-child-museumThe Arthur Child Heritage Museum is located on the waterfront, in Downtown Gananoque. It’s housed in a two storey heritage building that was originally the main station for the Thousand Islands Railway, until passenger service ended in 1962. The museum features the culture and natural history of the 1000 islands. It is run by a non-profit organization, features a seasonal collection and a gift shop on the main floor and the permanent collection on the second floor.

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When we arrived at the museum, we were greeted by a lovely woman who told us all about the museum – and funny enough, her twin actually works the gift shop. After we made our donation, we walked the temporary exhibit – Back in the Day: Dated Technology. The kids loved this exhibit of “old people stuff” especially the old cameras, a pram that my mom actually owned and pushed me in, some creepy dolls and a phonograph. The second floor is a much larger collection filled with interactive displays detailing the importance of the St. Lawrence River. Make sure  you don’t miss the chance to “drive” the St. Lawrence River in the Wheelhouse in the Tower – definitely a kid favourite.

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You can find more information about the Arthur Child Heritage Museum and their hours online, on Twitter and Facebook. Admission is by donation only.

Haunted Walk Experience: Ghosts and Legends of Gananoque

I’ve always been curious about the Haunted Walks in Kingston but have never taken one until our Gananoque weekend. The kids and I met our guide, Morgan for a special private walk – with some other guides. It was a 90 minute walk, with several stops along the way, filled with creepy ghost stories at each stop. Our guide Morgan was just fantastic – the amount of information she was able to retain and deliver in a fun and interesting way was beyond impressive.

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It was a fun way to spend 90 minutes, learning about some spooky Gananoque history. I was unsure how the kids would like it, but they were really into it, asking questions and staring at me with giant eyeballs in some of the scarier points of the tour, especially the eight year old. It was great fun and we would absolutely do it again, especially in our hometown of Kingston.

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haunted-walk

There are Haunted Walks held in Kingston, Toronto and Ottawa on a regular schedule which you can see here. Locally, you can find the Kingston Original Haunted Walk, Ghosts of the Fort (at Fort Henry) and of course, the Gananoque Haunted Walk, which will run July 11, 25, August 8, 22 this summer.

You can find Haunted Walk schedules and ticket prices here, and find them on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram as well.

Gananoque Boat Line1000 Island Boat Cruise

We ended our weekend with a boat cruise touring the Thousand Islands with Gananoque Boat Line. There are a few options of day cruises available – the 1-hour Beauty of the Islands Cruise, the 1-hour Ivy League Cruise, the 2.5-hour Lost Ships of the 1000 Islands Cruise and the 5-hour Boldt Castle Stopover Cruise. We decided on the 2.5 hour cruise – we didn’t have our passports on hand for the Boldt Castle Stopover Cruise, and we figured the 1-hour would be too short.

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The husband joined us for the cruise and we boarded at 10:30a.m. with a large crowd of people. If you’re keen to sit on the top level which the majority of the people were, you will want to arrive early to get a seat. We sat on the second level, in the uncovered section, on a bench facing the water, and personally I think it was the best spot to sit. Close to snacks and the bathrooms for the little people, and more importantly, the perfect place to take lots of great pics of notable points along the cruise, many of which were located on the right side of the boat. WIN! I took 200 photographs on the boat alone so you’ll want to make sure not to forget to bring it along.

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Throughout the tour, there is an audio tour spoken in English and French, pointing out important points on the tour including Millionaire’s Row, the smallest international bridge in the world, and Boldt Castle. It just a lovely way to spend some time on the water and learn about the sights as well. The cruise was really relaxing and enjoyable and I’m glad we chose the 2.5 hour option – I think the 1-hr would have been way too short. This is an absolute must-do when you’re visiting the area.

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You can get more info about the Gananoque Boat Line and their cruises here, and on Twitter and Facebook.

Do you want to have the chance to take a 1000 Islands Getaway?? Attractions Ontario is giving away an ULTIMATE GANANOQUE GETAWAY as part of their “Explore Ontario Summer Contest”. With a value of $1,200, the contest will include: 2 nights accommodations for a family of 4, theatre tickets, a $50 gift certificate for a downtown business of your choice, tickets on board the famous Gananoque Boat Lines 1000 Islands Tour, 4 tickets to The Haunted Walk Experience: Gananoque, and finally a ride in a helicopter! Plus, $100 Bonus Bucks from Pioneer! The contest ends in TWO weeks on July 23, 2015 so make sure to go enter asap.

*This post was sponsored by Attractions Ontario, but my experiences and opinions are my own.*

A 1000 Islands Gananoque Getaway #FamilyTravel #AttractionsOntario

7th July 2015

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Last weekend, I had a mini overnight getaway with the family, to Gananoque and the 1000 Islands and we had the best time. Living in Kingston, we live really close to Gan (20 minute drive) but we’ve never really taken the time to visit with the kids. As a kid myself, we used to visit at least once a week with my family. I fondly remember driving to Gananoque every Sunday after church, with my parents and one or two of my siblings in my Dad’s baby blue Thunderbird. We’d take the scenic route, filled with countless farms, so my little sister could see all the cows and horses on the drive there. We would get ice cream at the Dairy Queen, visit for a bit, and drive home. We loved those drives, so I made sure to take the scenic route this time as well, for my youngest who loves animals. All the way there, we yelled out whenever we saw any animals and it brought me right back to doing that for my little sister, way back when.

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When we arrived in Gananoque, the kids and I (Daddy joined us later that evening) checked in at the Comfort Inn & Suites Thousand Islands Harbour District on Main Street. It’s a great choice if you’re staying one night or several. It offers free breakfast, free wifi, free coffee and newspapers, a fitness center, pool and sauna. It was perfectly located and within walking distance to the downtown, the waterfront, museums, The Town Hall and Town Park, and neighbourhoods filled with heritage homes. You can park your car for free and just enjoy the outdoors and walk everywhere, even with two grumpy children (who perked up after some ice cream).

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Gananoque is a small town (population 5,200) filled with history and beautiful scenery. If you’re a nature lover, it offers a perfect location for freshwater fishing, cycling, golfing, cycling, boating, hiking, helicopter tours and walking tours. You’ll find museums, live theatre, shopping, dining and the casino – there really is something for everyone. You need to remember to bring your camera as well, there are so many great spots for some beautiful photo opps.

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With so many ways to spend a day or two, we decided on a visit to the Arthur Child Heritage Museum, a Haunted Walk Experience: Ghosts and Legends of Gananoque and of course, a 1000 Islands Boat Cruise. We thoroughly enjoyed all three attractions, kids included. Come back tomorrow to see more details about our experiences with all three of these attractions.

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*This post was sponsored by Attractions Ontario, but my experiences and opinions are my own.*

Legoland Discovery Centre Toronto – Giveaway

1st May 2015

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My family and I were recently invited to check out the Legoland Discovery Centre Toronto (located in Vaughan Mills), and with two big Lego fans in the house, we were excited to finally check it out.

The first thing you’ll see when you arrive is a Lego store (well played Lego people) filled with every set you could possibly imagine, if not every set actually available, including that wall with all the bulk pieces that my children love. Perhaps you’ll want to put the child blinders on until you get into the attraction. Just a thought.

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Once inside, you’re invited to stand in front of a green screen to take some pics, which will be available for purchase later on inside. The kids were into it, so we agreed and all the employees were really nice and great with the kids so it was fun to watch them get into it. We then moved into a small area for a Lego Factory Tour where you can see how Lego is made and also get on a scale that will tell you what your body weight equals in Lego bricks.

Next up was the Kingdom Quest Laser Ride where we climbed onto a moving “chariot” and using the attached laser guns, shot at various targets throughout the ride. You can see each person’s score and our eight year old kicked everyone’s butt by far. Little do you know that your picture is taken during the ride and you have the option to purchase that as well. Right after the ride exit, is where you will see the pics taken at the green screen and the one taken during the ride.

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Up next was MINILAND, my favourite, where you can see a Lego reproduction of some of the great landmarks, including the CN Tower. It really is fantastic to see the incredible detail in the replicas, created with over 1.5 million bricks! The exhibit moves from day to night as well – it’s quite fantastic.

After MINILAND, the Discovery Centre opens up into a large room that houses the rest of the attraction. Including the Lego Racers Build & Test (where you can build your own racecar and race them on ramps), the Lego 4D Cinema, Merlin’s Apprentice (a pedal ride), Lego Fire Academy and Construction site (a play area for the younger set), a cafe and birthday rooms.

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My son’s favourite part of the attraction was the Lego Star Wars MINILAND Model Display. It had several displays of Star Wars scenes and battles, some interactive, others involving sound and light effects. It was very well done, and according to the 11 year old, very, very cool.

Overall, the kids had fun at the Legoland Discovery Centre, and especially enjoyed the MINILAND exhibits, the laser ride and the pedal ride. I do think a lot of the attraction is geared towards younger kids, so if you have little ones (age 2 and younger are free), you might want to consider annual passes.

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Have you been to the Legoland Discovery Centre in Toronto yet? Want to? I’m giving away a FAMILY PASS (four tickets) to one lucky winner! Please enter below – the giveaway is open to Canadian residents, but please keep in mind that you’ll want to live close enough to be able to get there, or if you’re planning a trip to Toronto soon. The giveaway will run until Thursday, May 14th and the winner will be chosen using Random.org. GOOD LUCK!!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Niagara Falls – Bird Kingdom #FamilyTravel

9th July 2014

Bird-Kingdom

We recently went to Niagara Falls with the kids to accompany Daddy on a business trip and our seven year old was DESPERATE to go to the Bird Kingdom. We really only had three things on our list of must do activities while in Niagara Falls – see the falls, go to the Butterfly Conservatory and check out Niagara Falls – Bird Kingdom.

The Bird Kingdom was the last place we went before leaving the city and we’re so glad we did. My kids absolutely loved it. It is actually the world’s largest indoor free flying bird aviary. It is very easy to find, a close five minute walk from the falls and there is parking attached to the building. After paying your entrance fee, they suggest you follow the white footprints on the ground as a guide through the rooms. Although there are some reptiles, bats and such, the birds are definitely the main event. A toucan, a kookaboura and a variety of parrots are what you’ll see when you first walk in, so prepare for it to be LOUD. The birds are beautiful and as an added bonus, you’ll even see a blue and yellow macaw that says hi and waves to you using his foot. It’s too adorable for words.

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We then moved onto a small aviary filled with smaller birds flying around, most of which we had never seen before.  We moved through this room quickly because the kids were excited to see what was next. After walking through a dark tunnel, we entered a huge aviary that resembled a rainforest, complete with a 40 ft. waterfall. It was so unexpected and incredible. There are approximately 400 birds in this 50,000 sq. ft aviary so you’ll want to take your time walking through and taking pictures. The definite highlight was when the blue Victoria Crowned Pigeon happened upon my son and seemed enamoured with him. He was wearing dark blue jeans and it seemed the bird was trying to figure out what they were all about, walking around him back and forth and making little noises. He followed him walking down the path and every time my son stopped walking, he would circle him and walk over his feet to get around him. My kids talked about it for DAYS.

Here’s a little video of the little man with the bird he wanted to take home – I’m hesitant to share it because the sound of my voice makes me CRINGE!!! But here you go:

Make sure if you’re headed to Niagara Falls, to check out the Bird Kingdom. Try to arrange it so you don’t miss feeding the Australian Rainbow Lorikeets – we missed it and I know the kids would have enjoyed it. 

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SOME USEFUL INFO: The Bird Kingdom is open 9:30-5 and 9:00-5:30 in the summer. Admission is $16.95 (plus tax) for adults, Seniors $14.95, Kids 4-15 are $11.95 and under 3 are free. Parking is $3 per hour.

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*Sponsored by me.*

Niagara Falls – Niagara Parks Butterfly Conservatory #familytravel

18th June 2014

Niagara-Parks-Butterfly-Conservatory

Last week we took a trip to Niagara Falls for a couple of days – the kids had never been and the husband had a business trip so it was the right time to go. The kids were super excited (to miss school) and stay in a hotel, which they LOVE to do. As with any road trip we take, and we love a good road trip, I made a list of our must see attractions and The Niagara Parks Butterfly Conservatory was number one on the list.

We had gone as a couple years ago before having kids, and we loved it so we knew the kids would as well. It’s about a ten minute drive from the Falls, so you will definitely need to drive or take public transportation to get there. We went first thing in the morning to avoid crowds and school groups and we really recommend you doing that so you can walk at a leisurely pace and really enjoy as many butterfly species as possible. There are over 2,000 butterflies (45 different species), flying around in a lovely tropical (ie. steamy) environment. The kids LOVED just walking around, seeing all the different butterflies, and hoping one would land on them.

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Many of them did in fact. On their shoes, on their backs, and even their heads. They were beyond thrilled. My son fell in love with this particular butterfly – it landed on him and stayed there the entire time we were there. We eventually passed him off to a staff member who told us he had just been born that day.

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There were so many gorgeous butterflies and unique flowers in the conservatory, you could spend hours looking at everything – the kids loved it and didn’t want to leave. The building itself is surrounded the botanical gardens so once you leave you can enjoy the gorgeous setting as well. There are almost 100 acres of gorgeous grounds to experience, including a beautiful rose garden. Don’t miss this Niagara Falls attraction – !!

Some Useful Info: Tickets are free for children under 5, $8.50 plus tax for 6-12 year olds, and $13.50 for 13+. Parking is $5 and the hours of Operation vary so check online!

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*Not a sponsored post.*

The Westin Trillium House At Blue Mountain Resort

11th September 2013

We were recently invited to experience a two night stay at the Westin Trillium House at Blue Mountain Resort. My family and I had never been, but had heard from so many friends that it was an absolute must visit family destination. It was a bit of a trek from Kingston, but we love a good road trip so we were absolutely thrilled to check it out.

The Westin Trillium House is an award winning hotel that is pet friendly, and 100% smoke free. They are a green hotel and encourage you to make a green choice – for every night you decline housekeeping, you will enjoy a $5 voucher at participating food and beverage outlets or 500 Starpoints® awarded at check-out (LOVE!). They are also partners with Clean the World – which means they will recycle bar soap, shampoo, conditioner, lotion and bath gel to create new amenity products. This initiative saves lives by donating bar soap to third world countries and domestic homeless shelters. So fantastic!!

We arrived in Collingwood, Ontario mid-afternoon after a gorgeous drive (approximately 2 hours from Toronto) and soon after, arrived at the resort. As someone who has never been to the area, I was immediately taken by how picturesque the location was and how gorgeous the hotel itself was. It looked like a pretty chalet tucked in among the mountains. Being a total hotel snob, I’m always anxious when I first arrive at a hotel I’ve never stayed in, but I relaxed immediately as soon as we walked into the lobby. It was gorgeous, and clean and full of families and people enjoying themselves – it just had a great, relaxed vibe. After a quick check-in, we headed to our room on the third floor which required a very LONG walk because our room was located at the end of a very LONG hallway. We got over that pretty quick once we saw our room – it was perfect.

Our room (the Two Bedroom Suite) was a two bedroom, two bathroom, with a full kitchen, dining room and living room with a pullout couch. There was a fireplace, three tvs, a dvd player, and the most comfortable beds I’ve slept in in ages. The room also had a lovely deck with a gorgeous view (see above). My kids were beyond excited about the living arrangements – there was room for everyone to play, chill out and rest. The rooms were clean, modern, and fresh looking which is something that I always notice and appreciate when staying in a hotel. The kitchen was fully stocked with a regular sized fridge, stove, dishwasher and coffee maker. We could have easily lived in that room for days!

Unfortunately, on the second day of our stay, I came down with a horrific bug that kept me room-bound the entire day. So while I lay dying in the Heavenly® Bed, the husband and the kids experienced many of the hotel’s features on their own, like the heated outdoor pool, the arcade and the Plunge! Aquatic Centre. They also had a great time trying to catch frogs just outside the hotel, which is a must-do if you have kids – the husband picked up little nets and bug boxes at the dollar store in Collingwood for the activity. Of course, checking out all that the village area had to offer was part of their day – although they held off on experiencing many of the great attractions in hopes that I would be able to be vertical the following day. (Spoiler: Yes, I survived the dreadful bug, and was able to drag myself around the village for hours the next day because I am a warrior – code for: I had no choice). With so many activities to mention, a separate post about the Blue Mountain attractions will follow.

We absolutely loved our stay at the Westin Trillium House at Blue Mountain – it was relaxing and a perfect three day getaway for our small family. We can’t speak to the room service because we didn’t have any (although the dry toast they brought me on day two was delightfully dry.) We can’t wait to go back to experience it during a different season – I’m guessing it must be gorgeous during the fall with all the fall colours. If you’re looking for a great weekend away with the family that your kids of any age will enjoy, Blue Mountain is it, and the Westin Trillium House is THE place to stay.

A Day At The Toronto Zoo

6th June 2012

We recently were invited to spend the day at the Toronto Zoo.

We love the zoo so we were very happy to be there.

Along with seeing some of our favorite animals like the giraffes, the penguins and the new baby polar bear, we also had an up close experience with the rhinoceros and his trainer.

The five year old wasn’t happy that she couldn’t pet or feed the rhinoceros – I’m ok with that.

As the family got lost at the zoo, I also had the opportunity to learn about the “Hidden Zoo” which is the work the zoo does in conservation, preservation, research and education. Did you know that the Zoo participates in “captive breeding and re-introduction programs?” The Toronto Zoo is also the “only Canadian zoo with a reproductive physiologist on staff.” I didn’t know about either of these efforts. There is just so much that goes on behind the scenes, and it’s all funded through its patrons. I wish I lived closer because I would jump at the chance to get a Family membership – if your kids love animals and you live close enough to enjoy it often, you should consider a membership. A family membership starts at $121 for one year which is amazing.

Of course, we enjoyed more than just the animals – we also enjoyed a ride on the zoomobile, and the carousel, and our kids emptied their pockets at the gift shop.

And the kids and their dad LOVE the hands-on stingray exhibit. I like it too – from afar. Hence why I’m always the one with the camera.

Just call me snuffleupagus.

Disclaimer: We were treated to a day at the zoo, however my thoughts and my aversion to animal poop is my own.

Our Family Vacay – Washington D.C.

8th September 2009

We just recently went to D.C. as a family to see the sights and more importantly, to visit with my brother and his family. It was the best trip we’ve taken as a family of four, although truth be told, we don’t take many week-long trips. Its usually day trips and over-nighters that are close to home. So this was definitely a special treat for the little people, and for the old crotchety ones too.

Our plan was to leave on Sunday 6 a.m. and it almost happened – until I realized that Starbucks doesn’t open until 7 a.m., and I’m sorry but there was NO WAY I was heading off on a 8+ hour trip without my latte. So AFTER I GOT MY LATTE, off we went, and 10 hours, 1 gas break, 1 food break, and 4 pee breaks later, we had reached our destination – my brother’s house. We were so fortunate that we were able to stay with my family – it gave our kids a chance to play and get to know each other, and it gave me a chance to hang with my sista-in-law (and brother), which I really haven’t had a chance to do, other than for small periods of time.

So what did we do while we were there?? We did as the tourists do – we saw the monuments, we went to several museums and we SHOPPED!!! Yes, I got my love of shopping (for myself) back baby! All it took was a visit to the outlet mall and a new Coach Handbag!! Hello NEW BEST FRIEND:

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So, what did we get to see?

TONS OF MUSEUMS:

  • National Museum of American History IMG_2986
  • National Museum of Natural History
  • National Air and Space Museum
  • Smithsonian American Art Museum
  • National Portrait Gallery
  • National Aquarium

THE SITES:

  • The White House
  • The Lincoln Memorial
  • The National Mall
  • The Washington Monument
  • The Capitol Building
  • The Carousel on the Mall
  • The NGA Sculpture Garden
  • The Vietnam Veterans Memorial
  • Arlington National CemetaryIMG_3108
  • The Pentagon

Different cities in the Maryland/Virginia/D.C. area:

  • Silver Spring, Falls Church
  • Georgetown
  • Arlington, Alexandria, Leesburg

SHOPPING!!!

  • Leesburg Premium Outlets (I WANT TO GO TO THERE!)
  • Tysons Mall
  • TARGET!!!

Some highlights (for the adults):

  • As you may be able to tell from my above list, we are museum people, so we hit as many as we could (all part of the Smithsonian) and we loved every single one that we saw.
  • The Lincoln Memorial was unbelievable
  • My kids being photographed with hunkalicious sailors was a lovely plus.
  • The Vietnam War Memorial and Arlington Cemetery were jarring to say the least, yet important to see
  • The architecture and the city was beautiful. IMG_2994
  • The SHOPPING was FANTASTIC!

Some highlights (from the kid’s point of view):

  • Hanging out with their cousins
  • Seeing C3PO was fab for the little Star Wars fanatic.
  • They loved seeing all the fish (especially Dorie & Nemo) at the aquarium.
  • My son couldn’t believe his good fortune when we saw a LEGO store.
  • The Air & Space Museum
  • All the kid interactive areas that we saw at several of the museums

It was an amazing trip, and I would recommend it as a family destination to anyone and everyone. However, if you do go, please…..take me with you. I WANT TO GO TO THERE.

OH….ONE MORE THING:

We would like to thank our lovely hosts for a great week – thank you for not getting smelly until the end of our trip:

THANKS SAMMY!!

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AND THANK YOU SKIPPY!

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