Tag Archives: Family Activity

Winter and Holiday Activities

1. Distillery District

Known for its Christmas Market, the Distillery District transports its guests to a holiday wonderland filled with lights, Christmas stalls filled with food and knickknacks, as well as, live carolling. You can continue the fun by checking out the amazing displays at the annual Toronto Light Festival from January 17th – March 1st, 2020.

2. Hockey

In typical Canadian fashion, what are the holidays without hockey? Check out your local Minor teams, the OHL, the AHL, and if you’re feeling jolly, spring for those NHL tickets. If you’re a Leafs Fanatic, mark your calendars to see the team practice at Nathan Phillps Square on January 9th, 2020!

3. CNE Aurora Winter Festival

This is definitely the place to take your kids. From the rides and games to the ice rink, magical forest, and whimsical holiday-themed events, this is a ton of fun for the family. You can purchase your tickets online (Presto Cardholders get a 15% discount). You can also get your skate on and enjoy free skate rentals on Wednesdays!

4. Ballet

Christmas is the time to see the Nutcracker. Enjoy The National Ballet of Canada’s rendition of Tchaikovsky’s holiday classic until January 4th, 2020.

5. Ice Skating

Show off your skills! Check out DJ Skate Nights the Harbourfront Centre and get free skating lessons at the Bentway Skating Trail. You can also visit Ontario Place, Nathans Phillips Square or your local ice rink.

6. Courthouse visit

For all of you crime show enthusiasts, visit your local courthouse to see a real courtroom proceeding. Check out the court’s website to find out about the proper etiquette and to view the daily court lists to see which cases are being heard.

7. Trivia

Do you know what’s fun? Pub trivia. Go test your vast knowledge of pop culture, history, literature and science, and show off your trivia skills. Bar trivia is not just a holiday classic fun time, but an all year round great way to spend with friends and family.

8. Give back

The holidays are a time for giving. Check out some of the many charities across the city to help those less fortunate this holiday season.

Have a safe and enjoyable holiday season and a happy and healthy new year!

 

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Things To Do During The Victoria Day Long Weekend

BBQ: Now that the weather’s warming up slightly, it’s always nice to throw a BBQ with family and friends. Vicentina Meats is a great place to satisfy all of your meat needs, and if you’re in need of a new BBQ, you could always visit Dickson’s Home Hardware on Avenue road.

Bike Rides: It’s the perfect time of the year to get in some extra exercise! At Toronto Island, hop on a bike for a leisurely ride. It’s $9 per hour for a single bike, or $16 per hour if you want to double up.

Toronto Blue Jays: The Jays are in town, up against the Red Sox on Monday May 20th—grab a pair of tickets if you’re around for the game.

Road Trip: If you’re up to it, take a road trip to the Niagara Falls for some wine touring. For the kids, there’s Bird Kingdom, mini golf, and the Niagara Skywheel.

Museums: Visit and support your local museum on the weekend. Victoria Day Weekend at The Royal Ontario Museum includes Animal Explorers scavenger hunts for children 12 and under, and #FNLROM, featuring live music, food, dancing, and DJs.

Patio: Hit up a patio for some good grub and a good time. I particularly like Taylors Landing at Don Mills, because the service and food is excellent. Lavelle is perched on a huge rooftop complex with an excellent view of the CN Tower, and El Catrin is one of the best Mexican restaurants in Toronto.

Canada’s Wonderland: If you’re not afraid of heights, try out the new Yukon Striker aka the tallest dive roller coaster in the world! Be sure to stick around for the evening fireworks show.

Potluck Picnic: Spend this Victoria day weekend with all your friends! Sugar Beach Park is a great place along the Harbor Front to meet up and enjoy a delicious fun-filled afternoon.

Whatever your plans may be, I sincerely hope you and your family have a safe and restful long weekend!

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Fantastic Fun in Philly

As I usually do each summer, I recently went on a road trip to the United States, and while at the beginning of the summer I went to the western part of Pennsylvania, this time I headed east. We went to Philadelphia, but on the way I took my daughter to visit Hershey Park and Hershey’s Chocolate World (I can’t lie, I was more interested in visiting Hershey!).

In Hershey, there are three main attractions, one of which is Hershey Park. If you love roller-coasters, they have a dozen to choose from, and they also have a great water park to cool off in.

When you’re finished with the thrill rides,  there’s Hershey’s Chocolate World, where there are tours, chocolate tasting, photo studios, and a create-your-own-candy-bar factory….a fun time for both young and old.

If you’re into history, there’s also the Hershey museum, where you can walk through and learn about the family, the company, and the city.

Since my wife isn’t into roller-coasters, on the day that I went to the park, her and a friend decided to check out some other attractions in the city, of which there are several.  My wife started the day by being adventurous, by going spelunking and exploring the caves at Indian Echo Caverns.  After working up an appetite, she then visited Tröegs Brewery, where she took a tour to get a firsthand glimpse into the work that goes into the production process, tried several beers, and enjoyed some great food.

After we spent a couple days at Hershey’s we set off for Philadelphia, and I wasn’t sure of what to expect, but it’s a really interesting place with a lot of history.  Most people know the city as the home of the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall, where both the United States Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution were signed, but there is so much more to Philly!

Down the street from the Liberty Bell are two cool buildings you must see: one one side of the street is the mint, where coins are made, and on the other side of the street is the federal reserve where they destroy money.  Both buildings offer free tours, and you can pick up some spiffy souvenirs…but no free samples.

Another historical site is the Betsy Ross House, where Betsy Ross lived when she sewed the first American flag.  Lastly, for those into history, a short drive from Philadelphia is Valley Forge, the encampment for George Washington’s Continental Army spent the winter.  An interesting fact that I learned on the trip is contrary to public belief, no fighting took place at Valley Forge…it was actually where they prepared for upcoming battles.

Of course, when you’re in Philadelphia no trip would be complete without a run up the Rocky Steps: 72 stone steps before the entrance of the Philadelphia Museum of Art.  The museum is one of many in the area, all of which are interesting and have their own quirks.  As an example, you can walk through a human heart in The Franklin Institute.

There are many other sites to check out in the city, including the waterfront area where they have The Rail Park– it’s a green park stretching three miles across Philadelphia on an old rail line.

If you like sports there’s the major league baseball Philadelphia Phillies, the Philadelphia Flyers hockey team, the Philadelphia 76ers basketball team, and the Supberbowl champion, Philadelphia Eagles football team.

As everyone knows, one of my favourite pastimes is food, and one must-visit place is the Reading (pronounced redding) Terminal Market, where it’s a combination of a farmer’s market and food kiosks.  Drop by and pick up anything from a deli sandwich to chicken wings, to a philly cheese steak. I highly recommend visiting Beiler’s Bakery at the market, for specialty donuts such as the pumpkin pecan maple donut, the key lime pie donut, and the caramel latte donut.

If you’re up for trying something a bit different, there’s Pho 75, where you can get a combination of noodles, protein and veggies in soup for under $12.00 a person.  Lastly, there’s John’s Roast Pork, which has a great pork sandwich but is famous for it’s Philly cheese steak.  Be prepared to line up…. it’s that popular!

Finally, when it comes to food, take a trip down memory lane and visit The Franklin Fountain, an old-style soda shop that serves ice cream, malts, and sundaes. They’re known for they’re spectacular Root Beer floats which have been featured on a number of television shows.

Lastly, one thing that I often find very useful for city trips is to take the hop-on-hop-off tours.  We took ours with Big Bus Tours and the tour guides were extremely knowledgeable and the route featured almost 30 stops to well….hop on and off as you please.

I highly recommend visiting Philadelphia if you get the chance. It’s a beautiful city with lots to offer.

 

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The Hidden Gem of Orillia

While I’m usually visiting my friend in Orillia for some fun and relaxation, a couple of weeks ago I decided to beat the long weekend traffic by heading up a day early. My plan was to simply work on the Friday from up north; however, since my wife was also working, she ordered me out of the house so I didn’t distract her. As a result of my eviction, I decided to go work at the library, and when I got there it dawned on me what a great city Orillia is. Not just to visit, but to live and work in.

In terms of the library, I was completely surprised by how modern and new the amenities were. From updated computers, to quiet rooms that you could book, to free WiFi, and all sorts of amazing programs and activities.

But the library was really just the tip of the iceberg to the other benefits of living in the community. As mentioned in my last blog, Orillia has a large number of chain retail stores (Costco just opened up there), tons of shopping, and a variety of restaurants. In addition to a variety of amenities, the city also has a modern hospital that has recently expanded.

When it comes to transportation, the city is close to the highway, has public transit within the city, and if you need to get down to Toronto, there’s a number of options (if you can get to Barrie there is also GO trains and busses).

One other thing that I’ve come to notice in Orillia, is that there aren’t really many traffic jams. Even in the summer time, with people going to the beach or the cottage, traffic generally moves along smoothly. While there are still cars on the road, it’s never crazy busy like Toronto’s main streets or the 401, so it is also a less stressful commute. Another bonus for drivers is that for whatever reason, the gas is much less expensive than it is in the city, with the price being as much as 15 cents less a litre!

When it comes to real estate, the market also seems to be much more reasonably priced for both buying homes, renting apartments, and leasing office space.

Orillia is the OPP’s headquarters, so I have to think it’s a relatively safe community. I’m not sure what the employment opportunities are like, but it has just about any of the amenities that a larger city would have.

As I get a bit older, I realize that there’s certainly an allure to being able to work during the day and only be minutes from the beach or a boat for the evening and weekends.

A lot of people have migrated from Toronto to Barrie, but it might be worth looking another 20 minutes north to Orillia, for another potential hidden gem.

 

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Orillia: A Place to Visit

A few years back, a close friend of mine moved to Orillia for work. While he often visits Toronto on the weekends, my family and I have also had the added benefit of visiting Orillia as well. It is only an hour and 15 minutes north of Toronto, or 20 minutes north of Barrie! While we often take advantage and spend a lot of time lounging around my friend’s pool in the summer, there are also tons of places to go in the area, with plenty of things to do…museums, parks, and farmer’s markets, to name a few. Orillia is not a summer-only stop! There are tons to do in all four seasons!

The pool aside, I love going to the local beaches. The two main beaches are sandy, have clean water, change room facilities and washrooms, friendly lifeguards and are never unbearably crowded. The parks by the beach have some great playgrounds. Of course, with lakes on both sides of the city, there are always people going on leisurely boat rides, fishing or just walking.

Looking for other summer activities? There are some great hiking trails, a go-kart track between Barrie and Orillia, and a drive-in movie theatre…perfect for a cozy date!

If you are visiting during the cooler months of the year, there are still lots of things to do: a trip to the sugar bush for maple syrup and pancakes, great hiking trails, treetop trekking, and fantastic tobogganing hills.

If eating out is your thing, there are a wide variety of restaurants to experiment with. Choose from diners, chain restaurants, great independent spots and if that is not enough choice for you, you could always drive 20 minutes south to Barrie! I have to mention the classic: when you are up in Orillia, you’re only minutes away from Weber’s, the burger joint on Highway 11 that signifies you’ve arrived in cottage country. Head in the opposite direction and you have Casino Rama – a great spot for dining, concerts, shows, and gaming.

After your stomach is full, if you want to flex your retail muscle, at more than just your average chain stores, there’s a very robust main street. Of course, you can’t bypass the main street without going to the Mariposa Market for some delicious pastries and baked goods. In the evening, the area comes alive with some bars and restaurants playing live music to make it a lively and fun atmosphere. An opera house regularly has incredible shows and plays. 

I often like watching a movie or two up in Orillia, as there’s only one theatre (a sixplex), but because it’s smaller than those in Toronto, it’s usually not as crowded.

Lastly, when you exhaust all that there is to do in Orillia, there are also little day trips you could take, such as driving up to Gravenhurst, Midland, or Port Carling.

Though it’s only a short distance away from Toronto, if you want to get away from the big city and take a break from it all, make Orillia your next stop!

https://www.orillia.ca

 

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The Canada Day Weekend is Almost Upon Us…SQM Will Help You Celebrate!

Another long weekend is coming up, and at the ripe, old age of 151 years old, Canada has plenty of events and activities that will be taking place across the country.

Try one of these ideas for your precious three day weekend:

Camping: With black fly season almost behind us, the Canada Day weekend is the unofficial kickoff to summer camping! Check out ontarioparks.com for dozens of options on where to set up camp, both close to Toronto and throughout the province. Whether you’re going to one of the provincial parks for a simple day trip, or staying overnight, there’s tons of different things to do outdoors. Camping is a great inexpensive trip for a big group!

Fireworks: Go traditional and nab some fireworks from stores like Phatboy Fireworks or Kaboom Fireworks, and enjoy yourself a colourful spectacle in the sky. If you can’t do your own, Downsview Park, Canada’s Wonderland, and Ashbridges Bay will be putting on a lightshow worthy of Canada’s birthday.

Swimming: By July 1st, all of the municipal pools should be open, so check out the schedule and either exercise those muscles with a nice, relaxing swim, or take in some sun followed by a cool dip in the water. Find the nearest pool to you here.

Sports: Love sports and happen to be in the Toronto area on July 1st ? There are three sporting events, with Toronto FC, Toronto FC2 (academy team), and the Toronto Blue Jays all playing.

Day or Dinner Cruising: Whether you’re in cottage country or near the Toronto harbour, you can try taking a day or dinner cruise. One popular cruise is the RMS Segwun– North America’s oldest operating mail steamship. The RMS Segwun currently tours around Muskoka Lake and has afternoon and evening departures (it’s also a beautiful trip to take in the fall when leaves are changing colours – but don’t worry, we will remind you in the fall).

Ottawa: It’s always exciting to be in the nation’s capital over the Canada day weekend! There will be fireworks and festivals- plus, it’s always nice to immerse yourself in Canada’s wonderfully rich culture at a number of art galleries and museums.

Ribfest: For those in the Toronto area, head on down to ribfest at Etobicoke Centennial Park, featuring music, magic shows, fireworks, and of course, ribs!

BBQ: Like the Americans when they celebrate July 4th with a BBQ, there’s nothing like grillin’ some dogs or steaks on the bbq. Looking for some inspiration? Look no further.

Whatever you end up doing over the upcoming long weekend, and wherever you end up doing it, I hope you and your family have a safe and enjoyable weekend!

 

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A Taste of Pittsburgh

Since my wife is in charge of meal planning for all of our trips, I wasn’t sure what to expect food-wise but I was pleasantly surprised to find a lot of amazing restaurants in Pittsburgh. Highlights included:

Primanti Bros: Whenever I asked about Pittsburgh, people have told me that I have to visit Primanti Bros. The place has been around for about 80 years. It started out as a small sandwich shop in the Strip District and because most of the clientele were truckers, they started designing their sandwiches with french fries and coleslaw right on the sandwich itself….for ease of eating while driving. The four elements that make up most of the sandwiches….. the bread, meat, french fries, and coleslaw…were all delicious. The sandwiches were all big, solid, excellent sandwiches. Whether it’s for breakfast, lunch, or a late-night bite, I definitely agree that Primanti Bros. is worth a stop. Or maybe more than one….

Gaucho Parrilla Argentina: This unique hotspot is open for lunch and dinner, and they cook right on open wood! Whether you’re looking for chicken, lamb, steak, or sausages, this place has it all. The restaurant works a little differently than many other restaurants, as you line up, almost like a fast-food joint, if you will, and they only take your order once there’s a table available. After you place your order, you then sit down, and they deliver your food right to you, like regular table service. When it gets later in the dinner period and they won’t be able to seat anyone else, they give the last person a t-shirt that says “end of the line” and that person’s responsibility is to inform anyone else who shows up that they will have to come back another time. The service is amazing, and the staff are extremely friendly…in fact, once they learned we were from out of town, they accommodated us even though the person in front of us had the “end of the line” t-shirt. On top of that, they were kind enough to gift us with our own t-shirt after I was joking around with them. It’s a terrific place with great décor and service, topped with delicious food. If you’re ever in the area, it’s well worth standing in line for. Also, this local joint is BYOB!

Kaya Island Cuisine: This restaurant is in the Strip District and serves up some hot and tasty Caribbean food. Near the end of my trip, I was a little fooded out, and wanted something a little different. Although we hadn’t planned on going to this restaurant, we changed our plans given that the menu had so many unique dishes. We actually ended up sharing the food, as they had a lot of appetizers that all looked amazing, including conch fritters, baby back ribs, Jamaican jerk wings, a spectacular salad known as the Caribbean rainbow salad, crispy fish tacos, and pulled pork quesadillas. All of the food came out very hot and fresh, very nicely presented, and we were pleasantly surprised to learn that it was big portion sizes, big enough to share among three people. The service was very good, and the atmosphere was fun, lively, and vibrant. It was the perfect meal to end our trip. It seems that, despite the popularity of the Strip District, most of the area closes down earlier on Sunday nights and Kaya was one of the few restaurants that stayed open. It’s definitely worth a visit.

Peace, Love, & Little Donuts: This is a small donut shop found in the Strip District, and I guess appropriately, they serve small donuts…about half the size of a regular donut. They actually take a plain donut and jazz it up with different toppings, which you choose off of their extensive menu. We tried the apple pie, banana split, s’mores, and the strawberry french toast, but you can choose from almost one hundred more. We stopped by after brunch one day and it was the perfect ending to our meal, with the four of us sharing six donuts. Although there is a little bit of a wait while they prepare each donut, it’s well worth the extra time, and they ended up being an awesome sweet treat.

The Church Brew Works: This is a microbrewery located in a very large, old church. The food is good pub food, all designed to go with beer. The atmosphere was truly amazing and certainly worth visiting. They also conduct tours of the brewery two or three times a day.

Whether it’s sandwich shops, pizza joints, or even some chain restaurants, there is certainly no shortage of great food in the Pittsburgh area. Happy eating!

 

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