Tag Archives: Family Activity

What’s Hip and Happening around the Holidays

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December is always a cheery time of year! With the holidays just around the corner, more and more holiday-themed activities seem to be popping up around town. Many stores are taking part in holiday festivities, and with no shortage of holiday cheer going around, it’s always nice to engage in one or more activities. Some of the more popular activities, which I enjoy, include:

Toronto Christmas Market – Down in the Distillery District, the iconic Christmas market is on until December 23rd! Enjoy Christmas music, magical lighting, singing, dancing, visits with Santa, and everything to get you into the holiday spirit. Though the experience is purely magical, it’s $6.00 to get in on weekends and lineups can be lengthy.

Starbucks Holiday Cups – I always enjoy the little things that add bits of holiday spirit. Starbucks offers some cool and interesting holiday drinks with a fun design on them. It’s a great pick-me-up, and a great way to warm yourself up. This year’s design encourages customers to colour and draw on the white background of the cups.

Skating at the Harbourfront Centre – Want to do something active, fun, and festive? Skating is the perfect way to engage in holiday cheer while burning some calories at the same time. Visit your local skating rink and rent a pair of skates – or bring your own. The Harbourfront Centre has a beautiful, scenic outdoor skating rink and best of all – admission is free!

Holiday Fair in Nathan Phillips Square – At the heart of downtown Toronto, celebrate winter by shopping in the market, skating, or simply enjoying the view at their annual holiday fair. Until December 23rd, experience different foods, find that perfect gift, and listen to some live Christmas music!

The Nutcracker – Experience the magic firsthand when you see The Nutcracker live in theatre! As an all-time classic, and world-renowned play, the National Ballet of Canada has been performing every year since 2005. It’s an amazing and entertaining family activity, and suitable for all ages. Catch it now until December 30th.

Get Involved with A Charity – Whether it’s helping out at your local food bank, preparing meals for the homeless, running a toy drive, or collecting clothes and personal care products for those in need, getting involved with charities is something that should not be overlooked during this busy and hectic time of year.

Whatever you choose to do, and wherever you choose to go…from all of us at SQM, have a safe and enjoyable holiday season, and a happy and healthy new year!

 

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Leisurely Shopping at Lee Valley

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Many years ago, I was introduced to Lee Valley Tools when I required some specialized equipment and supplies for a wood working project. Since that time, I have often returned to their stores for specialty items, but quickly realized that there is much more to them than meets the eye.

Not only does the store have fun and creative little stocking stuffers (it may only be November, but the holidays are just around the corner), but these tools are practical and useful – for things you never knew you needed help with.

As an example, my wife once received a portable can opener at a Secret Santa event. It’s small, safe, and easy on the hands, using a butterfly-shaped crank design instead of the usual handles that require great strength and effort. She loved it so much, we immediately ordered a new one when it inevitably broke years later.

Ever since then, she’s loved the place. She told me that any and all types of gifts she was in search of, she could get at Lee Valley. We were recently going through the website and commenting on the cool and practical things we had found on there. It may be important to note that not all items online are available in-store.

The folding phone holder, for example, makes every outlet your personal charging station with a simple, albeit ingenious, solution. Hang it over your charging plug, and create a small shelf for your phone while it charges. Your phone is kept safely out of the way!

The people who work at the store are very helpful, knowledgeable, and polite. In fact, they’ve helped me with my own specialty projects in the past.

For those looking for good quality service and unique items – be it for a gift or a project, I highly recommend checking out Lee Valley Tools.

Lee Valley Tools
416-366-5959
www.leevalley.ca

 

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Fun and Friends at the Freeman Family Day Centre

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Over the past few weeks, I’ve posted several blogs regarding my aunt, as she is recovering from a broken hip.  Around the same time my aunt broke her hip, my father enrolled in a program at Baycrest, specifically at the Freeman Family Day Centre.  The program is a day program for seniors, allowing them to keep active and engaged while socializing with other seniors.

Once accepted into the program, seniors can choose to come up to four days a week (the program runs Monday to Thursday) as well as either half days or a full day (full days run from 10:00 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.  Typically, the day begins with coffee, pastries, and some informal socializing.  After everyone settles in, one of the group leaders discusses current events, which typically results in some entertaining conversations.  The participants then get active with low-impact seated exercises, known as Stretch and Kvetch, which is run by one of the physiotherapists on staff.  After morning exercises, several program options can be selected, ranging from art, to music, to book reviews, or even movies.

After working up an appetite, the members all head to the dining room for lunch, sitting with those with common interests.

The program then continues until 2:30 p.m. with a variety of options for activities.

When it comes to getting to the program, there are several transportation options.  Aside from driving or taking the bus, many attendees use taxis, Wheel-Trans, or iRIDE, to get them to and from the facility.

The cost of the program is approximately $40.00 a day, plus any transportation fees.

The program director and the rest of the staff are great to deal with.  Whether it is helping new members adapt to the routine, getting coffee, assisting members to the washroom, or taking people to the next event, there is always help every step of the way.  The staff are truly amazing people and are always there to help.

My dad originally attended the program and now that my aunt is on the road to recovery, she attends as well.  Whether it’s the two of them or the other attendees that I’ve met, they all seem to enjoy it.

I know when folks hit 80 they become very set in their schedules, but for anyone that has a senior in the family and wants to keep them busy and active, I personally recommend the Freeman Family Day Centre.

Baycrest, Freeman Family Day Centre
416-785-2500
www.baycrest.org

 

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The Scary Spirit of Halloween

Two children dressed up as ghosts trick-or-treating on Halloween.

The end of October brings many things along with it – colder weather, shorter days, and of course, Halloween!  At this time of year I always prepare myself for a breakout of pumpkins, candy, and amazing Halloween decorations.

Much like my fall blog post a couple of weeks ago, I decided to find several must-dos to help everyone get into the Halloween-y mood:

1) Screemers is one of Toronto’s best haunted theme parks, featuring a wide variety of terrifying attractions and shows, including the Zombie Prizon, The Haunted House, and Skull Castle.  Join Screemers this October as they celebrate 25 years of terrorizing their guests!  For adults, kick back and hit up the Vampire Lounge and toss back some liquid courage before coming face to face with your greatest fears.

2) The infamous Halloween Haunt at Wonderland is one of the most popular Halloween attractions out there.  Feeling brave enough?  There are 700 monsters scattered around the park as well as mazes, live shows, and scare zones.

3) Every now and then, I do love a blast from the past.  If you haven’t already gone to…or even if you have….go watch the original, Rocky Horror Picture Show in theatres. There are several showings at the Ted Rogers Cinema throughout October and into November.  Don’t forget to dress up and bring your props!

4) Save some money this year and rent a costume instead of buying one!  Everyone wants a cool costume at an affordable price, and for something you only wear once a year, plenty of people are looking to save some money. Malabar, located in Toronto, does just that.

5) Choose costumes from historical figures, superheroes, animals, and more!  Be cautious of what your costume will be this Halloween, as more people are starting to make more conscious decisions on what to wear.

6) Choose something unique to give out on Halloween night!  Instead of giving out candy, give out arts and crafts supplies, fun school supplies, or toys.  There’s even one person in our neighbourhood who hands out Webkinz.  Make this Halloween a memorable one for kids.

7) Take a peek at Casa Loma’s Haunted House!  Make your way through the spookified castle and immerse yourself in a terrifying environment.  Witness iconic Halloween figures, such as Dracula, the Phantom of the Opera, and the Creature from the Black Lagoon.

Halloween only comes around once a year. Make the most of whatever you decide to do, and most importantly, don’t be afraid to get into the Halloween spirit!

 

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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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