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Family Fun with Kids in Toronto

School’s out and summer’s here. Slip on those sandals, slather on some sunscreen and gear up for the summer of ’04! Adventure and fun are just around the corner for kids of all ages whether you’re a wee tot of two or a thrill-seeking teen. Whatever your idea of a good time, the city has a variety of activities and amusements to entertain the whole family.

The zaniest cartoon characters and the highest highs can be found at Paramount Canada’s Wonderland, a theme park boasting more than 200 attractions in eight themed areas with nonstop, action-packed fun. Adrenaline junkies will rejoice over the variety of thrilling roller coasters here, each guaranteed to get hearts racing. Try the monstrous Sledge Hammer which cuts 80 feet in the air through accelerated jumps and freefalls, or Tomb Raider: The Ride, Canada’s only flying coaster where the adventure and excitement of the movie comes to life. For the less adventurous younger set, visits to Nickelodeon Central, Hanna-Barbera Land and KidZville will put smiles on their faces. Give Fred Flintstone a hug, take a drive with Dora the Explorer on her Dune Buggies or battle aliens in Jimmy Neutron’s Brainwasher. For the really hot and hazy days of summer, dive into Splash Works, a 20-acre water park where you can float along the Lazy River, slide down the eight-lane Riptide Racer or keep cool in the interactive Pump House complete with rotating water jets and a waterfall. For a respite from the action, take in a show. The Victoria Falls High Divers gracefully descend the Victoria Falls 66 feet to the base of Wonder Mountain, or discover the behind-the-scenes secrets of movie making in Paramount’s Magic of the Movies Live.KIDS’ PLACE
A cultural leisure and entertainment facility located along Lake Ontario, Ontario Place celebrated 30 years of fun for the whole family in 2001. Kids can climb, slide, wiggle or crawl around in the large outdoor climbing structure, H2O Generation Station, take a dive into a foam-ball factory and encounter ball canons in the Atom Blaster, and shoot hoops or mini putt through a 9-hole course. Among other highlights: get lost in a multilevel labyrinth in MegaMaze or take a daring ride on the world’s largest fully animated flume, the Wilderness Adventure Ride. Pre-schoolers can hit the road in Canada’s only driving school for kids, the O.P. Driving School, whiz around in a go-cart, or if boats are the vehicle of choice, Mini Bumper Boats. For those who prefer to motor around on their own two feet, Microkids has an abundance of activities from a wave slide to climbing platforms that will keep kids hopping, or they can build their own forts and clubhouses—without using the sofa cushions at Coolblox Construction Zone. Cool off at the city’s only downtown waterpark, Soak City, where kids create their own water fun at Waterplay, take a plunging tube ride in Hydrofuge, or enjoy some mega waterslide action in the Pink Twister and Purple Pipeline. The Festival Stage has an exciting lineup of live songs and games for kids, including Clifford the Big Red Dog and Loonette and Molly of The Big Comfy Couch.

Oh my! It’s more than just lions, tigers and bears at the Toronto Zoo, where an olive baboon, a Sumatran orangutan and a pygmy hippopotamus—among others—also call home. This year marks the Zoo’s 30th anniversary and the animals have all got their party hats on, so come and join the festivities. This 710-acre zoological park is home to more than 5,000 animals who represent more than 450 different species. Visit a West African dwarf crocodile in the African rainforest, a caracal lynx in the African Savanna, an Arctic wolf in the Canadian Domain, a komodo dragon in the Australasian Pavilion, or a clouded leopard in the Malayan Woods. The Kids Zoo is open through the summer, an interactive learn and play area for kids age nine and under, where they can burrow underground like a prairie dog, dig in a giant sand pit for dinosaur fossils or play in a giant bird’s nest. At Splash Island, kids can simultaneously cool off and learn fun facts about Canadian plant and animal life, meet a replica of a king-sized polar bear or play on a Canadian beaver. The outdoor Waterside Theatre sets the stage for the Amazing Animal Show and other special events, including children’s shows and concerts.SCIENCE, SPACE AND SLEUTHS
Youngsters who think that science can’t be fun have never been to the Ontario Science Centre, an interactive environment featuring more than 800 activities and exhibits where kids can learn about the environment, botany, space, physics, chemistry, sports, technology, communications and more. Touch a living tornado, generate your own electricity or catch a criminal with DNA fingerprinting. The KidSpark exhibit is aimed at the eight and under set helping them to learn through play while enhancing their problem solving skills and nurturing their creativity. Here kids can build a roller coaster, make things float in mid-air or learn to make bubbles in a variety of shapes and sizes. In Cosmic Questions: Our Place in Space and Time, explore the universe through a virtual tour of the Mauna Kea observatory in Hawaii or use infrared cameras to uncover the hidden secrets of space. The Omnimax Theatre brings films to the big, big, big screen, including Forces of Nature—tales of real life earthquakes, volcanoes and tornadoes—and Coral Reef Adventure, which follows ocean explorers on a 10-month quest across the Pacific Ocean.

On the prowl for even more family fun? For a taste of grand living in all its majestic glory, take a tour of Casa Loma, a 98-room castle with towers and secret passageways. Continue the majestic theme with Medieval Times Dinner and Tournament, and enjoy a feast straight from the Middle Ages as knights battle for their kingdom with swords and lances right before your eyes. Learn more about Canada’s sport of choice at the Hockey Hall of Fame (30 Yonge St., 416-360-7765) and provide play-by-play commentary on a simulated game or get a taste of glory next to the Stanley Cup. A favourite at the Royal Ontario Museum is the Dinosaur Gallery, which includes the complete skeletons of a stegosaurus and an albertosaurus, or walk through the Bat Cave, a diorama feauring thousands of roosting bats. Visit Harbourfront Centre for a leisurely day of music, theatre and festivals on the cool and shady shores of Lake Ontario. Take a ferry to Centreville for a ride on a Ferris wheel or carousel at this 20-acre theme park designed to resemble a turn-of-the- century Ontario village.
—Linda Luong

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