Tag Archives: Family Activity

Falling in Love with Fall

Pumpkins at Reesor's Farm.

As I get older, I am becoming more and more fond of the fall season.  Whether it’s apple picking, going to the pumpkin patch, taking a drive up north to see the leaves change, or hitting up one of the many fall fairs, I truly find it an extremely enjoyable time of year.

While I probably should have written this blog a few weeks ago, given the great weather we’ve been experiencing, there’s still lots of time to get out and experience many fall-themed activities.  These may include:

1. Carl Laidlaw Orchards is perfect for apple picking!  Pick your fill of apples for a crispy, tasty treat, or turn your gatherings into a hot and filling apple pie. Some farms seem to be closing down as farmers sell the land to builders, so you may want to get out apple picking before you can’t anymore.

2. Take a hike or bike on the Don Valley to see the leaves change. The weather is perfect – not too hot, not too cold, and everybody could use some exercise.  Now is the best time to get outdoors before our cold, Canadian winter comes romping along.

3. If you’re looking for some more leaf-changing, and perhaps some nice pictures too, consider taking a drive to Campbellville and Kilbride – about an hour’s drive from Toronto. There are five regional parks in Campbellville and an abundance of great scenery and trees.

4. When driving around Kilbride, try and spot the iconic farmhouse driveway that was the default fall wallpaper for Microsoft several years ago.

5. Take a fall boat cruise on the RMS Segwun – North America’s oldest operating mail steamship. This year is its 130th birthday!

6. Support a local farmer and buy a pumpkin at the pumpkin patch…Downey’s Farm Market, Brooks Farms, and Reesor’s Farm Market, to name a few. Spruce your pumpkin up and decorate it in time for Halloween!

7. Attend some fun fall festivals!  Hit up Pumpkin Mania at Rounds Ranch for pumpkin-themed games, farm animals, and a pumpkin to take home for yourself, or swing by the Pumpkin Festival at the Buckhorn Berry Farm for wagon rides, corn mazes, and a spooky haunted barn.

8. Cross something off your bucket list and take a hot air balloon ride!  The changing of leaves makes for a once-in-a-lifetime experience along with some beautiful scenery. Give Sunset Balloons in Scarborough a try!

Whatever you choose to do, enjoy and make the most of the fall season!

 

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Happy Trails Claireville Ranch

Entrance of Claireville Ranch.

Back when my daughter was just three years old, we drove by a horse farm on the way to our cottage. Eventually, we started stopping at the farm as the owner would let her sit on a pony, and I would walk her around the property. The first time we did this, the owner thought she wouldn’t even last 10 minutes, yet an hour and a half later I was still going around the farm!

We continued visiting the farm, until they closed up (they’ve since reopened under new management), and her interest and love of horses has continued to this day.

One day, last year she asked if we could go horseback riding somewhere in the city, and after some research, we found a small facility known as Claireville Ranch, located at the Claireville conservation area in Brampton.

The ranch is located in a beautiful area, has about 25 horses and very pleasant and knowledgeable staff. The ranch provides pony rides for kids, trail rides, private trail rides, and riding lessons. The ranch doesn’t take reservations, but trail rides go out on the hour. An hour long trail ride costs $35.00 (however there are discount coupons online), which is one of the more inexpensive costs that I’ve come across.

When I first discovered the place, my daughter wasn’t old enough to ride on her own, so I took her on a pony ride involving me once again walking her around the facility. Fast forward two years, and a few weeks ago, she asked if we could go back again. She’s older now, so she’s able to take a trail ride by going on a horse herself. Despite the beautiful weather and crowd on the weekends, when we got to the ranch, they had space for us on the next trail ride. After signing the waiver, being asked if we wanted to rent a helmet (I suggest this), and paying, we had a few minutes to hang around, grab a cold drink, and enjoy the area. Just before our hour was to begin, we were directed to our horses, the saddles were adjusted, and we headed out onto the trail.

We had a leisurely ride and about midway through, one guide asked if we wanted to go faster. Unlike many trail rides which only go slow, we were allowed to gallop at a steady pace for a short time.

During this recent visit, as well as our previous ones, the staff were all extremely friendly, polite, and knowledgeable, and perhaps most importantly….had safety as their primary concern. Our group of about 10 riders and two guides had a great time, and despite some sore muscles, I’m looking forward to going back again. After a quick stop at the snack bar, we were on our way back to our place, which wasn’t more than a half hour drive away. For a fun and relatively low-cost way to do something different in the city, consider visiting Claireville Ranch!

Claireville Ranch
905-794-0700
www.clairevilleranch.com

 

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Go-Getter Customer Service for Go-Karts

Go-karting track at 'Go-Karts @ Polson Pier.'

For quite some time, I’ve been wanting to take my daughter go-karting. While I realize that there are a number of indoor tracks in Toronto, I’m a bit of a traditionalist and I think it’s more fun outdoors. Although I’ve always been driving past one of the tracks up north, a friend recently told me about an outdoor track, right here, in the city, named ‘Go-Karts @ Polson Pier.’ Indeed, it seemed very promising.

Last Sunday I called the location to gather more information. The phone was answered by an older gentleman by the name of Bob, who also happened to be the owner. Bob was friendly, polite and patient in answering my many questions regarding the hours of operation, pricing, age and height restrictions, and whether it was busy (because I didn’t want to drive down and end up waiting for hours).

When he learned that it was my daughter’s first time he kindly offered us the management special, which brought the price down, considerably.  When we got down there, we met Bob, who came out to shake our hands while the employees set us up with tickets and helmets.  My daughter went with the two-seater car first before feeling comfortable enough to go out on her own. Within a few laps, she was zipping around the track like Emerson Fittipaldi, and having a great time.

The racing equipment and the track were clean and well-maintained, and the staff were pleasant, polite, and friendly.  Furthermore, Bob added to our visit by making it more personal and memorable.

After our fun on the track, we headed back into the downtown area for a bite to eat and some ice cream, which was the perfect end to a great afternoon.

I highly recommend visiting this track for a fun and somewhat different activity.

Go-Karts @ Polson Pier
416-778-5278
www.gokartsatpolsonpier.com

 

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Putting the Home in Homewood Suites

Orlando Airport Homewood Suites by Hilton

At the end of my vacation, my daughter and I ended up stranded in Orlando, when our flight was cancelled, due to poor weather conditions.

With my rescheduled flight not leaving until the next evening, myself, along with thousands of other stranded travellers began looking for hotel rooms.

Although we were initially directed to a 1-800 number, that involved a long on-hold time, one of the airline employees recognized my increased stress level given the late hour of the day and my young daughter being on the verge of tears. The employee quietly suggested a few specific hotels that took good care of stranded passengers, and as a result, I called the Homewood Suites.

I immediately called the hotel and was surprised at how quickly they answered the phone. Despite it being after two in the morning, the employee was friendly, helpful, and provided me with a very reasonable stranded travelers hotel rate.

Once we confirmed the reservation, the employee asked me if I needed a lift to the hotel and sent a shuttle to pick us up. As soon as we arrived at the hotel, I was greeted by name and checked in within two minutes. The gentleman working was able to anticipate our needs before we even had to ask. He then offered to store our bags at the front desk while we ran out to grab a quick bite, and he let us know he added a late checkout to our account so we could sleep in the next morning.

The next day I had an equally enjoyable experience with the other staff members who were friendly, helpful and extremely accommodating. My daughter and I also had time to walk around the grounds. The facility is beautiful with big and modern spacious rooms, a large, bright lobby area, and complimentary breakfasts, afternoon snacks and dinner (including some wines and beers).

I can certainly see why many travelers make it their first choice. While I can’t speak for other hotels in the chain, this location definitely puts the home in Homewood Suites.

Orlando Airport Homewood Suites by Hilton at Gateway Village
Email: Luis Arancibia
Homewood Suites Website

 

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Ja’ Makin me Happy…Patrice Bailey!

Photo of Patrice Bailey on one of her Falmouth Tours

Last year, I got to know Patrice Bailey when I began planning a day trip for my family to explore the area near the Port of Falmouth in Jamaica. Our cruise ship was docking there for the day and I wanted to plan an excursion to make the most out of our stay, since my research showed that the port was located in the middle of nowhere with nothing really around it.

While I was surfing the web for ideas, a tour guide by the name of Patrice Bailey kept coming up…and with great reviews, I decided to send her a short email. Within a few hours, I was communicating with Patrice by phone and email, and we made an arrangement to hire one of her colleagues to drive us from Falmouth to a beach in Montego Bay, since she herself was fully booked. When we arrived at the port, Patrice introduced herself with hugs all around before sending us on our way, with our tour guide. We immediately felt like family.

Our tour guide was really friendly and he even managed to give us a short tour of the area before taking us back to the ship. He also took us to a great local place for Jamaican patties, which was the icing on the cake!

Flash forward to 2017 and I gave Patrice a call when we chose a cruise revisiting Falmouth. Since we had developed more of a personal friendship over the last year, during our numerous email exchanges, I invited Patrice to lunch as a thank you for planning a great trip the year before. Patrice accepted the invitation but when we arrived, she surprised us with an entire day of fun filled activities.

Patrice took us on a tour of the area, which included the neighbourhood that Usain Bolt grew up in, as well as a couple of gorgeous lookout points. We then went to a secluded beach, where there were only a few other people nearby and you could see blue water and white sand for miles. When we were ready for lunch, we asked her about good, local jerk chicken. Patrice said, for really good jerk chicken, she would only take us to one place and that began our 45 minute drive to Scotchies… more about that in my next blog.

After our great lunch, Patrice showed us a few beach clubs that we can visit on future trips and took us back to the port where we hugged and promised to keep in touch.

Being in the hospitality industry, I typically make friends wherever I go, but I have met my match in Patrice. If you are looking for someone to make your experience in Falmouth amazing, Patrice Bailey is definitely the way to go. She is really easy to deal with, professional, reasonably priced and a barrel of fun!

Patrice Bailey Tours
1-876-509-7542
patbailey52@yahoo.com
www.patricebailey.com

 

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Sky High Customer Service

Recently Southwest Airlines was named as one of the Top Ten Most Admired Companies in the World, by Fortune Magazine. With that being said, I believe Southwest Airlines is a great company and I would like to share my recent travel experience with you. For transparency purposes, SQM does do business with Southwest Airlines and I know people who work for the company.

Years ago I started flying with Southwest Airlines because they had a reputation of being a low-cost carrier. Even though they aren’t always considered low cost, these days, I believe that the company still has a great reputation! Today they are known for providing travelers with very good customer service, empathetic employees who genuinely care about their customers and front-line workers who enjoy serving the public.

A few weeks ago I experienced Southwest Airlines recipe for success when my daughter and I became stranded at the Orlando International Airport due to bad weather. While we were waiting in line to speak with a Southwest employee, I noticed the staff made it a point to ensure that every customer was taken care of before the employees left the gate area. Considering we were all tired and upset, the employees did a great job ensuring each customer received the time and attention he / she deserved.

When I reached the front of the line, the employees made me feel like they cared about my situation and wanted to help. Together, the employees came up with a solution to get myself and my daughter to where the rest of my family was located (Buffalo). In addition to rebooking my flight as early as possible, they went above and beyond the call, to help me find a hotel for the night when they learned I was having difficulty finding one and noticed that my daughter was exhausted and upset. Within a few minutes they provided me with some contact information and I spoke to someone who gave us a very nice room and a special “stranded traveler’s” rate.

While there are many times in business where a customer is left feeling like they are just another number, I really felt like the Southwest employees added the personal touch to this difficult situation, making me feel valued and appreciated.

For those of you living in Canada, close to the border, I truly believe it is worth a short drive to the US to fly with Southwest Airlines. Southwest is a great company to fly with and I am confident that you will enjoy your travels.

Southwest Airlines
1-800-I-FLY-SWA
www.southwest.com

 

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Games Night—Stay Latte!

Several weeks ago, as the weather turned colder, my family introduced me to great place for food and fun, located in downtown Toronto.

Snakes and Lattes (S&L) is Toronto’s original board game café where you can dine and play games for as little or as much time as you would like.  With over 1,000 games to choose from, there truly is something for everyone!  S&L now has two downtown locations.  The original location first opened on Bloor Street in 2010, and after much success, they opened their second location on College Street in 2015.

Both locations offer guests a dining experience, however, Bloor Street is more of a cafe, while the College Street location has more food and beverage options.  Of course, the food is almost secondary, to the main reason for going to Snakes and Lattes…..to play games.  In fact, if you enjoy any of the games that you play, they also have an area of the store where you can purchase games (I believe they are the only place in the city to buy the popular game, Cards Against Humanity).

The staff are well educated and can suggest age appropriate games for your group and give you details on how to play each game.  This is pretty impressive given the number of games S&L offers.  The games are divided into zones like card games, strategy, fantasy and more.  Some of the games are ones you have probably never heard of but they do indeed exist!

Snakes and Lattes does not take reservations so it is good to get there early, but if there is a wait, they will take down your number and text you when a table is available.  Even if you have to wait, it is definitely worth it!  S&L provides a fun evening out where you and your friends or family can partake in something a bit different than just going out for dinner or drinks.  It’s an especially enjoyable place to go during the cold winter months.  

Don’t be surprised if you get hit by the bug and end up buying a game you played that night….it’s happened to us more than once.  Alternatively, you can also purchase games from their website.

Now back to Monopoly……

Snakes and Latte’s
647-342-9229
www.snakesandlattes.com

 

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