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family fun

Panda-monium: Meet the Calgary Zoo’s Newest Residents


Photo by Silvia Pikal.

What’s black and white and cute all over? The Calgary Zoo’s four new residents, of course! The giant panda breeding pair Da Mao and Er Shun have arrived at the Zoo with their two little bundles of joy, twin cubs Jia Panpan and Jia Yueyue. (more…)

50 Things to Do With Kids in Calgary



Make a splash with your kids this summer with a visit to Calaway Park. (Photo courtesy of Calaway Park)

Ride the roller coaster at Calaway Park
Western Canada’s largest outdoor family amusement park features 33 rides — everything from bumper boats to a roller coaster. It also includes daily live stage entertainment, concessions, games, shopping and mini-golf. Calaway Park RV Park and Campground is just a short walk from the park for overnighters.
Calaway Park, 245033 Range Rd 33, 403-778-7042, www.calawaypark.com (more…)

29 Fun Autumn Activities


Head to Whitamore’s Farm for some colourful pumpkins.

How Do You Like Them Apples?

1. Visit Dixie Orchards (14309 Dixie Rd., Caledon; 905-838-5888) for nearly two dozen varietals of apples, including ambrosia, Cortland, ginger golds, mutsu, Spartan, and tolman sweets.

2. Situated on 100 acres in the Oak Ridges Moraine, there are approximately 14,000 trees at Nature’s Bounty (651 Scugog Line 2, Port Perry; 905-985-2096) growing the likes of gala, honey crisp, elstar, and jonagold among the more than 20 types of apples. Don’t be surprised if you encounter some sheep; the owners have a flock that roam free.

3. Though the Niagara region is best known for its wines, the area’s unique ecosystem also allows for many different types of fruit to be grown here. Year round, Parkway Orchards (15000 Niagara Parkway, Niagara-on-the-Lake; 905-262-5097) has pick your own offerings including cherries, peaches, plums, and apricots, and in September and October, apples are in season.

Head for the Patches

4. Gourds of all shapes and sizes are available at Albion Orchards (14800 Innis Lake Rd., Caledon; 905-584-0354) come October, perfect for making pies or carving jack-o-lanterns. In September, visitors can pick apples starting with the farm’s famous Paula reds.

5. Dive deep into the field for a pumpkin at Stonehaven Farms (7388 Guelph Line, R.R. #3, Campbellville; 905-878-1870), or head to the Kids Zone for a straw bale or corn maze, and wagon ride tours.

6. Although pumpkins, squash and gourds in all shapes and sizes can be found at Howell Family Pumpkin Farm (2878 Holland Rd., Fonthill; 905-892-3918), the Niagara-area spot also has numerous activities like a scarecrow display, a corn maze, rides, shows, and two trails through their Carolinian forest.

Fun for Everyone

7. West of Toronto, be prepared for long line ups to get into Chudleigh’s. In addition to its apple orchards, the family-owned farm has tractor-drawn wagon rides and a huge hay maze. Don’t leave without trying their famous apple blossoms, which are baked from scratch.

8. North of the city, Whittamore’s Farm (8100 Steeles Ave. E., Markham; 905-294-8200) is a family favourite. Nestled next to the Rouge River Valley, the 220-acre farm boasts a corn maze, wagon rides through the Spooky Forest, a spider web climb, and the popular Pumpkinland—watch as Farmer Frank catapults the orange-hued squash during a weekend cannon show.

9. Located along the picturesque Niagara Escarpment, Springridge Farm (7256 Bell School Line, Milton; 905-878-4908) hosts its annual Harvest Festival from September 24 to October 30. Wagon rides to the corn trail, straw bale jumping, a spooky boo barn, and scenic views from the Escarpment lookout ensure there’s never a dull moment.

See Fall Foliage

10. There’s no better way to see the radiant fall foliage than being in the thick of it. Go tree top trekking at Bruce’s Mill Conservation (3297 Stouffville Rd., Stouffville; 905-887-5531), where Aerial Park has five courses comprised of zip lines, wooden bridges, Tarzan-style swings and more. Little ones can visit Treewalk Village, an enclosed space with a network of tunnels and a Treewee Walk obstacle course.

11. Similarly, Heart Lake Conservation Area (10818 Heart Lake Rd., Brampton; 416-661-6600) has an Aerial Game Park with eight courses, 75 games, and 10 zip lines, including an impressive one that is 1,000-foot-long that flies right over Heart Lake.

Be Selfie-ish: Incredible Photo Ops

12. The pedestrian and cyclist thoroughfare Humber River Arch Bridge (southwest of Lake Shore Boulevard and Park Lawn Road) is set against the beautiful backdrop of Lake Ontario. Located at the southern end of Lakeshore Boulevard West, this bridge connects to the Waterfront Trail.

13. High Park offers many photographic opportunities, whether it’s beside Grenadier Pond, in one of the beautiful gardens, amidst the oak trees, or even with the capybaras at the High Park Zoo.

14. Hop aboard a ferry to the Toronto Islands, where shutterbugs can have capture the cityscape, as well as beaches and nature, but the best view is of the skyline at sunset.

15. The beautiful perennials, roses, wildflowers, rhododendrons, rock gardens and arboretum at Edwards Gardens (755 Lawrence Ave. E.; 416-397-1340) provide a lush backdrop for seasonal photos. There’s also a greenhouse, wooden bridges, a waterwheel, fountains, and many walking trails to explore, too.

16. For industrial-looking images, try Evergreen Brick Works, a former quarry and brick manufacturing site. Restored buildings feature graffiti-style art and the adjacent parkland has a number of scenic ponds.

17. In addition to the fascinating exhibits about Islamic, Iranian and Muslim art inside the Aga Khan Museum, the grounds provide a visually-stunning backdrop, including the reflecting pool and the dramatic front façade designed with Brazilian granite.

18. Rouge Park offers a true change in scenery, with beaches, farms, nature trails and more for endless exploring.

19. Niagara has much more to offer beyond the magnificent falls. The Dufferin Islands (7400 Portage Rd., Niagara Falls; 905-354-1721) are a secluded area with a picturesque archipelago connected by bridges and footpaths.

20. The Niagara Parks Botanical Gardens has 40 hectares of meticulously-cared for gardens, including more than 2,400 roses. Pose among ponds and an arboretum chock full of ornamental trees and shrubs.

21. At the Scarborough Bluffs, follow about 15 kilometres of easy trail along the shores of Lake Ontario for a view of the eroding cliffs.

A Walk in the Woods

22. Get a panoramic view of the Niagara Escarpment at Mount Nemo Conservation Area (5317 Guelph Line, Burlington; 905-854-0262) in Burlington. Watch turkey vultures soar and, on a clear day, see as far as the CN Tower.

23. Soak up some history at Woodend Conservation Area (905-788-3135), which is thought to have been a vantage point for British and American armies during the war of 1812. Follow the trail as it descends and then ascends the escapement. Finish at historic buildings with structural elements that date back to the late 1700s.

24. The Humber Valley Heritage Trail begins at the headwaters of the Humber River outside of Caledon and follows the Humber River Valley south for 15 kilometres through wetlands, pine forests, and ancient Hemlock groves.

25. Extending for approximately 200 kilometres from the Niagara Escarpment to the Trent River, the Oak Ridges Moraine (905-833-6600) is an elevated area of land with a wealth of wildlife, geological features, and hiking trails. The Oak Ridges Trail Association offers guided hikes through various sections; see oakridgestrail.org for a schedule.

Chasing Waterfalls

26. The ominously named Devil’s Punch Bowl (1-800-665-445) is the third highest waterfall in Hamilton at 37 metres in height. The Stoney Creek section of the Bruce Trail or the Dofasco 2000 trail leads hikers to this unique water feature.

27. Along with many outdoor activities, the Elora Gorge (7400 Wellington County Rd. 21, Elora; 519-846-9742) has a scenic trail. Take a trek on a cedar-lined path ending with a waterfall that drops from 22-metre-high limestone cliffs.

28. You don’t have to be a hardcore hiker to snap a shot of DeCew Falls (2714 Decew Rd., St. Catharines), just a short walk from the parking lot. The two-step waterfall first plunges from a 20-metre drop, while the second is smaller (but still picturesque) eight-metre cascade.

Take the Scenic Road

29. With more than 890 kilometres of main trail (follow the white signs) and 400 kilometres of side trails (look for the blue signs), The Bruce Trail (905-529-6821) is Canada’s longest-marked hiking route. It follows the Niagara Escarpment from the Niagara Peninsula in Queenston, north to Tobermorey. While many nature lovers concentrate on specific regions or day treks, some more experienced hiking enthusiasts can take the footpath from end to end as it passes through St. Catharines, Hamilton, Burlington, Milton, Halton Hills, Walters Falls, Owen Sound, and Wiarton, among others.

—By Linda Luong Luck and Karen Stevens



Get Set for Summer: Family Time


LeviathanJuly7-2 copy

Take your family for a ride the Leviathan at Canada’s Wonderland this summer.

The Toronto Zoo is always a hit with kids of all ages. Home to more than 5,000 animals from more than 450 species, there’s an extra special reason for a visit: the arrival of eight new animals, including two giant panda cubs named Jia Panpan and Jia Yueyue, four white lion cubs, an Indian rhino calf, and Juno the polar bear cub. Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada is likewise a popular destination for families to explore nine different galleries featuring more than 13,500 sea creatures such as jellyfish, octopus, pufferfish, stingrays and more.

Would-be architects and designers can let their imaginations run wild at Legoland Discovery Centre, where they can build their own race cars and test its aerodynamics, or be inspired by a recreation of Toronto’s landmarks completely in the brick form. Ever wonder what happened with Emmett and his friends after The Lego Movie? There’s a new 4D movie exclusively that catches up with Wyldstyle, Unkitty and MetalBeard. Learning and play go hand-in-hand at the Ontario Science Centre through its interactive exhibits on astronomy, geology, nature, human anatomy, technology, music and more. Currently, a special travelling exhibit, The Science of Ripley’s Believe It or Not! is on display with experiments, challenges and touchable specimens that delve into the oddities associated with Ripleys, from how illusions work to how to swallow a sword safely.

Getting to Centreville Amusement Park is part of the fun; the picturesque ferry ride over to the Toronto Islands is bound to get everyone in the mood for a day of rides like bumper boats, twirling tea cups, and the log flume. The attraction, which celebrates its 50th anniversary this year, also boasts a petting farm with the likes of an alpaca, llama, pygmy goat, and a mini donkey and pony. Thrill seekers love the rides at Canada’s Wonderland, which counts the country’s tallest and fastest roller coast, Leviathan, among its 200-plus attractions. There are more tame rides at Planet Snoopy and Kidzville for wee ones, plus a 20-acre waterpark. New this year are two interactive rides: Flying Eagles for little ones and Skyhawk for adults, who can make 360 degree turns from 135 feet up in the air.

EAT Combine an activity with a meal at Medieval Times Dinner & Tournament, as knights on horseback joust before King Don Carlos and Princess Catalina in an epic battle. The King’s favourite meal—chicken, potatoes, corn, and tomato soup—is served as guests watch the clash between the East and West sides.

The scope of Pickle Barrels menu is enough to make it a family-favourite—there are several hundred items on the menu ranging from grilled cheese and chicken fajitas to pasta and French toast—ensuring that even the fussiest of eaters can be appeased. Step back in time at The Old Spaghetti Factory, which is chock-full of vintage details including a 100-year-old carousel and even a streetcar that you can dine in. The fare is classically Italian with offerings like lasagna, ravioli and spaghetti with meatballs. More upscale Italian fare can be found at Terroni—and a more fitting environment for older kids—with crispy, thin crust pizzas, panini sandwiches and pastas; there’s also a patio for al fresco dining at their original Queen West location.—Linda Luong Luck

Get excited for summer with these other action-packed itineraries:

Get Set for Summer: Cheer on the Hometown Team

Get Set for Summer: Culture Vultures


7 Ideas for Winter Fun in the Mountains

Dec. 10, 2015
By Afton Aikens

We talked to local extreme sports athlete Will Gadd in our winter feature Big Mountain Adventure about some of his favourite places to ice climb and backcountry ski. But if the suggestions in that article are a little too adventurous for you, Gadd has more ideas for fun:

Grotto Mountain Ice Walk, Canmore Kananaskis

Grotto Mountain Ice Walk, Canmore Kananaskis


50 Things To Do With Kids in Montreal


# 3 – Granby Zoo (Photo: Austin H. Kapfumvuti)

Montreal is a festival city, and explodes with activity year-round. There’s always something family friendly to do, whether it’s biking on the waterfront, learning circus skills, exploring a living-history or science museum or pigging out at the city’s decadant ice-cream parlours, chocolate shops and crêperies. (more…)

Canadian Ski Hills to Visit this Summer


Mountain Coaster at Blue Mountain, Ontario (Photo: Marc Landry)

Just like Canada itself, our ski hills are equated with winter. But there’s so much more to explore at the country’s coolest ski spots in the sizzling summer months. Here are 10 places to visit while the weather’s warm.

Start the slideshow of summer ski hills in Canada »

Field of Dreams

chronic creative

chronic creative

Winnipeg Blue Bomber Glenn January knows good things really do come to those who wait. While construction of the team’s new home at Investors Group Field was neither rapid nor without hiccups the boyishly handsome offensive tackle points to the final score, a win for Winnipeg. “I’m happy it was done the right way it was worth the extra time because this is a fantastic facility that is going to be absolutely at the top for years to come.”

Investors Group Field celebrated its grand opening June 27 with the kickoff to the 2013 Canadian Football League season that saw Winnipeg face the Montreal Alouettes. Situated on the University of Manitoba’s sprawling Fort Garry campus, the world-class athletic field was built to replace the inadequate and crumbling Canad Inns Stadium (1953-2012). The new, modern facility is home turf for both U of M Bisons and Winnipeg Blue Bombers.

The city’s former CFL digs were set in a concrete jungle, a far cry from the lush greenery surrounding Investors Group Field. Visible from Pembina Hwy, the structure’s fluid form and gorgeous architecture has quickly established the field as a point of civic pride. Winnipeg’s latest and greatest landmark joins the ranks of quintessential ’Peg places such as Esplanade Riel, The Leg and Manitoba Hydro Place.

While football is the building’s bread and butter, it has already hosted a multi-denominational Christian service of 14,000 worshippers and a sold-out Taylor Swift concert. Sir Paul McCartney is scheduled to rock the gridiron mid August.

Spectator comfort is much improved here, it is easy to get about the stylish structure with six elevators and spacious corridors. The sunken bowl design (the first 12 rows of seats are below street-level) creates great sightlines at every level and fans will appreciate twice as much legroom and a cup holder on each seat. Eighty per cent of the seats are sheltered from the elements by the second-largest canopies in North America. Swanky private suites offer gourmet grub, complimentary WiFi and a bird’s eye view of golden Bomber helmets shimmering on the green turf.

Plenty of accessible washrooms and a designated booze-free family zone promise to make game day a great experience for everyone. A tempting roster of concessions (twice as many as Canad Inns Stadium) offers a wealth of choice reflective of the city’s food scene ranging from fresh sushi and gelato to bison burgers and local bratwust. At Shawarma Khan you may even be served by owner and former Blue Bomber, Obby Khan.

Bomber Vice-President and Chief Operating Officer Jim Bell uses a suitably sporty analogy of adrenaline to describe the frenetic energy cloaking the facility as everyone, from Bomber Store staff to football players to construction crews, puts in finishing touches. Finally standing on glistening turf at centre field beneath epic undulated fins and NFL-sized video boards, Bell gets emotional, “It’s been a long process that included all of the planning, not just bricks and mortar. You feel six feet off the ground with goose bumps down your back.”

Bomber and Bison brass know their shiny new digs are attractive to prospective athletes and energizing to current ones. Players are excited about the state-of-the-art training facility that includes a jet propulsion hot tub, an underwater treadmill and an underwater bike, super spacious locker room and player’s lounge, 2,200 sq. ft. weight room, multiple meeting rooms and an 80-seat theatre with descending projection screens.

Signature canopies and bowl seating were designed with the team’s 13th player in mind, this city’s notoriously boisterous fans. Ripples of the roof amplify the crowd’s roar, intimidating opponents and adding to the Bombers’ home field advantage. “Winnipeg was already the hardest city to play in due to the fans and how knowledgeable they are of the game and how rambunctious they get so this is just going to add to that,” January says. “Hopefully it makes Winnipeg a city that nobody wants to come and play in.”

A formidable, unnerving environment to visiting teams is an exciting, energetic environment for fans. Investors Group Field is a winning spectator experience. Now all we need to do is sit back, enjoy a cold one with a hot dog and watch as the Bombers bring home the Grey Cup. Go Blue!

Hot Date: Disney’s On-Ice Escapades

DECEMBER 21 TO 30  Experience the magic as your family’s favourite animated movies come alive as Disney on Ice Presents Worlds of Fantasy. This holiday-season spectacular features dazzling skating, of course, plus characters from Toy Story, Cars, The Little Mermaid and more. Whether you’re following Buzz Lightyear and the gang as they try to escape from Sunnyside Daycare, watching Lightning McQueen race across the ice, or meeting Tinkerbell and her fellow fairies, it’s sure to be an animated good time. Rogers Centre, $25 to $90; call 1-855-985-500 or visit here for a full schedule.  —Ana Taveira

Hot Date: Take the Kids to the COC’s GrimmFest

A Scene from Dean Burry’s The Brothers Grimm (photo: Anand Maharaj)

DECEMBER 4 TO 8  Once upon a time there were two siblings who collected stories of evil stepmothers and big bad wolves. At least that’s how Dean Burry tells it in The Brothers Grimm, his one-act children’s opera about the pair who brought us the fables of Rapunzel, Cinderella and more. Burry’s work is just one of the highlights of GrimmFest, the Canadian Opera Company’s celebration of the 200th anniversary of the Brothers’ famous tales. The family-friendly event also includes COC artists singing Grimm-inspired arias, and Juno winner Maryem Tollar recounting legends from Arabic, African and Gypsy cultures. Various venues, The Brothers Grimm tickets $15 to $25, all other shows free; call 416-363-8231 or click here for further details.  —Eva Voinigescu

Hot Date: Ross Petty Awakens Satire in Snow White

(photo: Bruce Zinger)

NOVEMBER 23 TO JANUARY 5  A classic fairy tale gets the song, dance and comedy treatment from Toronto’s best-known theatrical satirist, Ross Petty, in Snow White the Deliciously Dopey Family Musical. Canadian Idol winner Melissa O’Neil is the “fairest maiden of them all” in this zany pantomime filled with humorous pop culture references, while other Canadian stage stars like Stratford Festival actor Graham Abbey and Petty himself take on some rather… uh… unorthodox roles. Elgin Theatre, $27 to $85; call 1-855-599-9090 or click here for a schedule and tickets.  —Ana Taveira

Hot Date: Enjoy a Bright Night in the Big City

(photo: City of Toronto)

NOVEMBER 17  As winter weather arrives, there are few better ways to keep warm outdoors than by gathering with thousands of revelers to enjoy the Cavalcade of Lights. For the 45th year in a row, Toronto’s official kick-off to the holiday season decks City Hall and Nathan Phillips Square (100 Queen St. W.) with thousands of festive bulbs and a massive, beautifully decorated Christmas tree, and celebrates their inaugural illumination with musical performances and a fireworks display. The lights will remain aglow through the end of December, while public skating draws crowds so long as there’s a chill in the air. Free admission; dial 311 (within Toronto) or visit here for more information.  —Ana Taveira