I’m so glad I married a Canuck.
When you live in Phoenix, Arizona, as we have done for the past 16 years, it’s so nice to have in-laws and a large, extended family in Toronto, Canada that you get to visit – especially during the sweltering summer months when the weather in Phoenix climbs to 110 degrees.
My husband’s parents have a terrific time visiting us during the winter months when they want to escape the Canadian cold and snow and we love visiting them in July. It works out perfectly.
If you’ve never been to Toronto before, this is one beautiful, sophisticated, super-clean city that I highly recommend you bring your kids to. Many consider Toronto, Canada’s largest city, to be “The New York City” of Canada because it has subways, ethnic neighborhoods, diverse restaurants, the nation’s top museums and a thriving theater scene. That’s all true.
But I’ve also found – after many visits during the past 20 years of our marriage – that Toronto is enormously family-friendly with lots of lovely parks, playgrounds, and wonderful venues to keep children of all ages happy and busy. It also happens to be a fabulous city to quietly meander and walk around in.
Our sons are now 14 and 16 and our daughter is 8 and one of our favorite things to do with them in Toronto has always been just strolling around together, discovering new shops and restaurants, stopping for ice cream or dessert in a cute café, and simply seeing what life in Canada is like.
I think it’s a lot of fun for American children to see street signs in both French and English and to see signs for the “washroom” instead of “restroom.” My kids still get a kick out of paying for things in Canada with the loonies and toonies – the Canadian $1 and $2 coins. They used to giggle every time they heard the words “loonie” and “toonie.”
Now, I don’t claim to be a tourism expert, but I have compiled a list of five memorable places to visit in and around Toronto that I have personally visited and strongly recommend. And, it just so happens, that the five places I’ve selected all start with the letter “C.”
Canada’s Wonderland is a huge, fun amusement park featuring over 200 attractions, 69 thrilling rides, North America’s greatest variety of roller coasters, and Splash Works; a 20-acre water park. There’s also an outdoor wave pool and a water playground for younger kids.
My children absolutely love visiting Canada’s Wonderland and this summer my daughter was particularly happy there because she was finally told by a ride operator that she was tall enough for all the big kid rides and roller coasters. That was music to her ears!
This is a definite must-see for the entire family! You and your kids will never forget the experience of riding up in the glass elevators and taking in panoramic views of the city from the world’s tallest, freestanding structures – 1,815.5 inches high. They also have a fun family challenge here: See if you can stand on one of the glass panes on the floor below – a mere 1,122 feet high. Although it’s strong enough to withstand 14 hippos, the glass creates the illusion of walking on nothing at all.
Yes, my family and I did this a few years back. We all took turns walking on the glass floor. Yes, it was super-scary. And yes, we all loved doing it!
If you’ve always dreamed of enjoying a relaxing, lake-side vacation with your family, you will find no prettier lakes than the ones found up in Muskoka, Ontario – about two hours north of Toronto. Muskoka is a beautiful, picturesque region known as “cottage country” where there are some 1,600 lakes, making it a popular cottaging destination.
There’s a lovely lake-side resort in Muskoka called Deerhurst Resort that our family recently stayed at for three days this summer and it’s one that I would highly recommend.
I know it’s not very nice to tell your kids to “go jump in a lake,” but I couldn’t resist. And they had a ball jumping in! They also had a marvelous time tubing on the lake, paddle boarding, wakeboarding, and canoeing.
If your kids love Chinese food and want to be a little daring and adventurous when it comes to eating, pay a visit to Toronto’s Chinatown. First developed in the late 19th century, the main Chinatown is now one of the largest Chinatowns in North America and one of several major Chinese-Canadian communities in the Greater Toronto Area.
One of our favorite family food traditions whenever we visit my in-laws is that we all go out to eat Dim sum together and the Chinese cuisine found here in Toronto’s Chinatown is the best I’ve ever tasted.
If you have a little girl who’s always wanted to see a real-life castle, Casa Loma is the place to bring her. I remember my father-in-law taking me to see this popular tourist attraction on my very first trip to Toronto. I really enjoyed it.
Toronto’s famous castle on the hill, Casa Loma, took three years and 300 men to build. Completed in 1914, the historic manor of Sir Henry Mill Pellatt is a great stopping spot for kids interested in mystery and history. It’s open for exploration for most of the year – check out its turreted towers, stables, secret passages and posh suites – but the gardens are most glorious when they’re in summer bloom.
Lila Baltman is a professional publicist who owns Lila Rose Baltman Public Relations in Phoenix.
Lila also recently started a new business venture called “Hairglasses.” This is an all-new hair accessory product that she has designed and is now selling. Hairglasses are sunglasses covered in different fabric patterns that girls and women wear as comfortable hairbands in their hair.
Please visit Lila’s new website hairglasses.com to learn more.