Out & About Toronto

Indoors & Out with Kids at the Ontario Science Centre

June 11, 2015
Cohen Family Nature Escape

Cohen Family Nature Escape

You may already know that we love the Ontario Science Centre. Yes it is close to home and an annual membership gets us unlimited visits, but rain or shine and in all seasons, it’s a great place for the whole family!

On a recent visit, we discovered the newly opened Cohon Family Nature Escape – an outdoor, urban nature space and trail in the forest surrounding the building. The great thing about this, besides the 125 year old tree trunk slide, nest house and graceful log benches, is that it’s a welcome diversion from all the stimulation inside. Now, we can go crazy in the kids area, see stars in the Planetarium, run, jump, drive and play instruments throughout and then escape outdoors to the beauty and calmness of the space, complete with more opportunities for learning.

Cohen Family Nature Escape Cohen Family Nature Escape Cohen Family Nature EscapeOntario Science CentreLego at the Science Centre

There are actually a few outdoor areas around the building with picnic tables and/or benches where you can get some fresh air and even bird watch. Now that the weather is nicer, we will certainly bring a picnic on our next visit!

Read more about why the Ontario Science Centre in Toronto is awesome for kids:

+ Around Toronto Indoor Fun: K!dSpark
+ Science Centre with Tots (12mos)

Family Travel

Overnight at Great Wolf Lodge Niagara: Quick Review

June 6, 2015
Great Wolf Lodge Niagara

I spent my birthday this year twirling with my niece in the giant toilet bowl at the Great Wolf Lodge Niagara Falls water park and had a blast!

Niagara Falls is a great little getaway spot and it’s only about a 1.5 hour drive from Toronto. There are always hotel deals to be found – even for Great Wolf Lodge (just sign up for their email blasts to find out about upcoming sales). As I’ve written about before, Great Wolf Lodge is one of three indoor water parks in Niagara, and while it’s the most expensive, it’s also the best.

The hotel and restaurants are so kid-friendly and from what I’ve experienced, families are respectful of each other which is a big deal to us. There’s morning activities, evening story time, MagiQuest throughout the halls, restaurants, an arcade and of course the water park!

Water slides  Water slidesWater slides

Just bring yourself!

Towels and life jackets are provided and depending on the day/week you arrive, seats are plentiful. Lockers are available to rent (just in case). As with all decent water parks, there’s space for the littlest ones, a wave pool, a lazy river, a few water play areas and various water slides! Our older boys had a blast testing out everything on their own!

Family meal plan

For the first time, we opted for the family meal plan – $50 adult / $25 kid (plus tax, gratuity & drinks included). This includes a breakfast buffet, lunch combo and dinner buffet. Not exactly cheap, but very convenient. The water park has a way of making everyone hungry all the time, so having the option of cooked food is great! The breakfast and dinner buffets were good, while lunch is a standard choice of pizza, a deli sandwich or burger.

Even if you don’t go for the whole meal deal, you can simply buy whatever you want from the pizza shop, deli or grill. As well, there’s an ice cream shop and a little coffee spot in the lobby.


Overall, we had a great time at Great Wolf Lodge. Because we went mid-week and booked during a sale, the price was manageable. Because it was my birthday, I got a ‘birthday bracelet’ which got me (us) many free ice cream cones. And because the weather was warm, we got to spend some time in the outdoor pool and patio, which really added to the ‘getaway’ feel!





Out & About Toronto

Indoor Fun in Toronto: ROM with Kids

March 21, 2015
Toronto Museum with Kids

Although it’s a typical school trip destination, I cannot believe that in my 11 years of being a parent I haven’t once brought my kids to the ROM or Royal Ontario Museum.

The ROM is super amazing! It’s modern, spacious, educational and kid-friendly. It’s perfect for indoor fun (which we really need here in Toronto over the long winter months) and can be visited and explored over and over again without worry of boredom.

We recently purchased a discounted, annual family pass to the Royal Ontario Museum ~ regular price $149 for unlimited visits. [High school students can get in for free on Tuesdays, while discounted tickets are available for Fridays after 4:30pm when you buy them online in advance.] Coat check is $1 for each coat.

Toronto Museum with Kids Toronto Museum with Kids Toronto Museum with Kids

Royal Ontario Museum for Kids

The ROM has several kid-friendly hands on galleries where little ones can touch, try-on, run around and play.

The Patrick and Barbara Keenan Family Gallery of Hands-on Biodiversity – or the room of bugs, snakes & bones – showcases hundreds of little creatures (dead & alive). We were all quite captivated by the massive snake skeletons, stick bugs & drawers full of foreign creepy crawlies! There’s also a very popular play tunnel where the little ones can crawl through over and over!

The CBC Discovery Gallery is where the play happens – there are costumes to try on, dinosaur bones to dig for and toys to play with. Fortunately there is plenty of seating – as we spent a lot of time here!

You definitely need more than one visit to see the whole museum – especially if you really take the time to explore and learn about all the exhibits. My whole crew could spend hours in the GEM room alone, and then there’s the dinosaurs and all the natural history galleries….

A spacious indoor destination, kid-friendly, fun and educational – I wish I discovered it sooner!

Toronto Museum with Kids Toronto Museum with Kids Toronto Museum with Kids Toronto Museum with Kids

Royal Ontario Museum
Location: 100 Queens Park (Bloor/Avenue)
Parking: Closest P parking on Bedford Road
Extras: Coat check and cafe
Admission: $16 adults / $13 kids / Kids 3 & under free
Free Tuesdays for High School students
ROM Best Value Fridays $10 adult / $7 kids

Family Travel

Travel Snaps: Akumal, Mexico

February 16, 2015
Akumal Mexico

My family and I recently spent a week in Akumal, Mexico. If you haven’t heard of it, you likely soon will as it’s nestled on the Mayan Riviera between the fashionable Playa del Carmen and the newest hotter than hot spot, Tulum. The word Akumal means “place of turtles” and as such attracts day-trippers from all the area resorts, bohemian travellers, local condo owners and randoms like us who come to swim in pristine waters and look for turtles (and other sea creatures).

Akumal Condo


As this was our first time to Akumal, we rented a beautiful new build, gated-condo in the jungle – found on Airbnb.com. Although Akumal is so small, there are several condo and luxury rentals along the sea, most of which can be found online. I had a vision that we would arrive in Akumal, and find a little place on the beach for next to nothing to stay after our condo rental. No such luck – Akumal is not cheap and deals are better found online!

For our next trip to Akumal though, I would love to round up a bunch of friends and rent a 5 or 6 bedroom mansion on Yal-Ku lagoon – a dream!


Akumal is the most perfect location for exploring the entire area and with a hefty budget, there is so much to do! Many of the “attractions” are nature and/or adventure-based: off-roading through the jungle, zip-lining, swimming in caves (cenotes) or even holding crocodiles at the crocodile zoo! Honestly, the whole Mayan Riviera is designed and/or caters to tourists – there is a lot to choose from!

The largest and most popular destinations are the “experiences xcaret” and include:
Xel-Ha: a huge natural water park to swim and snorkel with tropical fish, dolphins and manatees all day! Sort of like Discovery Cove in Florida, but much larger and all natural!
Xcaret: Jaguars, butterflies, birds and fish. Mayan entertainment, rivers, cenotes and jungle walks. There is so much to do – it takes a whole two days to experience Xcaret!

Akumal Bay


Akumal Bay is absolutely gorgeous! Palm trees on a pristine beach (much needed for shade!), intensely gradiated blue and turquoise sea, tropical fish swimming around your legs and if you swim further out – turtles! There are snorkel rentals available on the beach (about $15US), scuba tours and boats for hire everywhere! There are a few other bays in the area, mostly lined with small hotels and condos. Equally intimate and gorgeous, although on one of our visits to Half Moon Bay, swimming was impossible because of all of the mounds of sea grass that had washed up onto the beach.



Fish tacos

Fish tacos on the side of the road in Akumal, Mexico


Our trusty little VW Gol rental



We rented a car during our stay in Akumal and it was the greatest! Pure freedom to zip around the Mayan Riviera! I read sooooo many negative reviews about renting a car in Mexico and getting ripped off at gas stations – fortunately we had a good experience with both. We rented a little VW Gol from America Car Rental in Playa del Carmen (online). The rental included all necessary insurance (except tire and window coverage and after seeing the extra giant speed bumps, or topes, I understand why this is extra!) and even if we didn’t need it, the peace of mind was worth the extra pesos. A car is definitely the best option for getting around the area.

Otherwise, if you are coming into Akumal, you can take one of the many collectivos – cheap, zippy little vans that drive up and down the highway all day! Once you get off at the main stop, it is quite a long (hot!) walk to the beach or anywhere interesting really with kids in tow. However, cabs are available as well.


All in all, Akumal is a definite new fave of mine! Although I have plans to see the entire world, I hope to fit the Mayan Riviera into my plans at least yearly!