Monday, 12 November 2012

Toronto fun - the beginning

Super excited were we to be invited by Toronto Tourism to check out the city for our recent family holiday with our 6yr old and 3yr old.
We had heard amazing things about the city but we were not aware of how family friendly it might be in terms of hotels catering for families and then what could we do to entertain the kids in a city, surely we might be limited? 
We were wrong! We fell in love with Toronto. As grown ups we loved the history, the varied scenery (walking off a beach and 15 minutes later seeing the view of the skyline above, a ferry ride away), great restaurant choices but also to see how much the kids enjoyed it too was really satisfying, there was something for us all.  
We stayed in the heart of downtown Toronto at the Delta Chelsea which is Canada's largest hotel (1590 rooms!) and is minutes away from hot spots such as The Eaton Centre shopping mall, live theatre and cinema. The hotel was well chosen for us in particular because of its many family friendly offerings including a Kids Centre offering activities such as painting, making and Wii gameplay. They also have pet rabbits may I add...and goldfish which ours loved. There is a family pool with new corkscrew water slide, Club 33 Teen Lounge and Camp Chelsea which is like an activity camp you can book the kids on during your stay. Lots on offer for all ages.
Our room was smartly decorated and very comfortable, see above. 

The hotel does also offer a limited number of Family Fun Suites (above) which are like a home away from home (above) including living room and kitchen as well as 2 bedrooms. Bunk beds are offered along with a toy selection and game consoles. As any parent of young kids know, a separate living space is key when want some evening to yourself and really not easy to find in many hotels.
It does make such a difference to your holiday experience to be welcomed and well accommodated for at a hotel. The entertainment centres available were great but also the choice of restaurants also very much appreciated. There is a buffet style restaurant, Market Garden, for more casual meals. Giant muffins my children could not jump over were their regular choice for breakfast. Then there is an a-la-carte restaurant BB33 which is still comfortable for families just a little more 'deluxe' and somewhere to get a little bit more spoilt.
See more details about the Delta Chelsea and their latest offers at their website or at their Facebook page:

On our day of arrival, we didn't have time to think about being tired, as we were lucky enough to be invited for dinner at the 1,815 foot high CN Tower which we had already spotted gloriously peaking out high above the city skyline on our way in from the airport. We dined in the revolving 360 restaurant on the X floor which offers spectacular views at every turn along with delicious food. It's quite difficult to concentrate on eating dinner with the view constantly changing around you with something new to admire. Quite breathtaking. The kids took a while to get their head around the view, I think they thought it was some kind of TV screen at first. 
Visibility on a clear day can reach 160km (nearly 100 miles)
We visited the observation level. This has a glass floor with a view down 1,122 feet.
First stop the next day was Toronto Zoo which, with 700 acres to explore, is pretty awesome. As a family of course we have done the zoo thing a few times in London and in the first instance the kids think they know what's coming and are quite 'OK yes whatever, it's a zoo' about it, until we get there and they realise actually this is a pretty cool zoo with animals we've not seen before. 'Yeah let's stay longer'. And so we did, but it was pretty hot so unfortunately we couldn't spend as long as we'd liked, the kids had a great little buggy for shade but none available in grown up sizes! 

Toronto zoo is in its early stages of a $50million dollar 'Wild for Life' campaign that helps causes through research, education and conservation. In turn this will mean a much better experience for the animals and the visitors. 
The new additions this year at the zoo are the rare white lions, not seen in the wild for over 15 years, also African penguins and baby polar bears. The kids loved the polar bears. There were videos showing alongside the enclosure of them as babies and how they have grown. The kids also loved the Sharks at Stingray Bay tent where you get to touch the stingrays and sharks (yes sharks). 
A huge highlight for the zoo next Spring 2013, will be a Giant Panda conservation & breeding centre. 
The zoo is about an hour's drive from downtown however do not let this put you off. It is absolutely worth the journey whether you are young or old. We loved it.
 Alright for some to be pushed around.
Hello Mummy Polar bear.
There it is!
Ahh white lions sleeping.

We then re-charged over lunch in time for one more excursion that day, a visit to the Ontario Science Centre. Now, I thought the London Science Museum was pretty great, but this centre has some really amazing interactive play for kids called KidSpark, a unique discovery playground for kids aged 8yrs and under. The venue also has daily science demos, shows IMAX(R) films daily and is home to Toronto's only public planetarium. Our kids did not want to leave, and if we had not had plans for the rest of the holiday, we would have been back here every day! The kids had such a brilliant time, there were in tears when we had to leave (at closing time). If there is one place you go with kids in Toronto, make it this one.
This set up allows the child to put a ball in from the side and watch it go through the mechanics and sliding tunnels, quite mesmerising. Like a gigantic marble run.
Push this contraption down to produce vapour and steam. Fun.
Push the button on the basket to light the flame which in turn made the balloon rise up high in the air. 
Put your message in the canister, then bounce on the seat at the very end to make the message travel down the tube. Pretty funny to watch children (& grown-ups...ahem) bouncing with such determination to push the message along. 
 They had this amazing toy supermarket set up, about the size of my local Tesco Express! Aisles with shelves of play food, fruit and vegetable section that kids could wheel their trollies around and pretend they were really shopping then even take everything to the till when they were done. It was heaven to my little girl, she was in her element here. See above, she found a friend at the till to ring up her bill of groceries. Museum staff would re-stack the shelves constantly. Genius 
Arthur rocking out. They had a music studio set up with loads of guitars with different sounds and you could watch yourself on screen...well, just rocking out really.

It had been an action packed trip until this point and we were not even a full 2 days in yet. Watch out for my next post where I will tell you our next steps on our trip including our visit to the Shops at Don Mills, dinner at Glow restaurant. What we discovered at the ROM and our fun meal at the Old Spaghetti Factory. Not forgetting our amazing day at Centre Island on the beach and enjoying the theme park. Take me back....

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