Wednesday, July 31, 2013

TOP-3 day trips to the beach (during Civic Holiday long weekend or any other warm summer day)

Not too late to plan a day trip!

Cobourg Beach
Despite the fact that it is my job to do research on family outings, I never get to plan a big family holiday. This has never bothered me because I know from experience the wonderful effect of a simple day trip on my family (and not to forget how much easier it is on my wallet).

Here are three great options to enjoy the pleasure of old-fashioned beach fun (but there's more in the guide). Pack the beach toys (shovels, buckets, several sizes of containers), swimsuits and beach towels, water, sunscreen and a cooler packed with a picnic. Allow some ice-cream money and you're good to go.

Cobourg Beach 
(1hr from Toronto)
We've had great days at this beach. Wide and long, with great sand which is perfect for little engineers' projects and cool waves for active kids. (Super splash pad and great retro snack bar by the entrance as a bonus.)

Frenchman's Bay Park in Pickering 
(40-min. from Toronto)
Hidden gem in Pickering. It might change in the coming years. The municipality has big improvement projects for the place. Until then, you can enjoy the beautiful sand and the intimate feeling of this secluded beach.

Frenchman's Bay Park, looking west
Frenchman's Bay Park, looking east
Centennial Beach in Barrie 
(1hr from Toronto)
This is one long beach with plenty happening all around (playground, splash pad, snack bar, tall fountain by the water) with a long paved bike path to explore the horse-shoe shaped bay. 

Centennial Beach in Barrie

Beating the crowd at Centennial Beach

Great ideas from other moms:
10 tips for the perfect beach picnic
How to keep your cooler colder
10 beach games for your family

Follow Toronto Fun Places on Facebook 
for last minute ideas, tips and fun bits for parents!

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Great summer family recipe

From left to right: Laurent (8), Roxane (4), Alex (7) and Cedrik (4)

Family-tested summer recipe:

• Take kids (preferably locally grown)
• Add nature (ravines give a special flavour)
• Throw in non-designer clothes (easy to wash)
• Mix well
• Allow to sit, stand, run or do play with sticks for a couple of hours
• Add snacks and water to taste

And voilà! A happy summer memory to share with your friends and family.

Preparation time: 
Depends on the location of the nature! Visit the Nature's Call section of to find good suppliers.  

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Water Fun in and around Toronto

My lucky star
I had the chance to be by a lake last weekend and take this photo. I have no idea how I got the stars effect but it's quite pretty, isn't it?

For suggestions on beaches to visit in and around Toronto, see the Water Fun section of

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Urgh! Just saw my first back-to-school TV ad!

Shame on you Crayola! Love the products. Hate your summertime ad at this time of the year. As a result of these premature ads, we'll soon have the nagging feeling summer is over. 

Not yet, people!
There are still 41 days till the end of Labour Day Weekend.

Check out this smart DIY craft I found on Pinterest, to make cheap beach shovels. Then visit the Water Fun section on to find out where to try your new beach toys.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

What a treat! FREE admission to DuffleBag Theatre family shows!

The Three Musketeers in Mississauga

The Living Arts Centre in Mississauga has created a FREE drop-in program called "Summer Art Attack" offered in different public locations until the end of the summer. 

The "Summer Art Attack" one-day events cater to kids 5-12 years old accompanied by one adult. The activities go on from 10:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. and include a Living Rhythm segment (11:15 a.m. to 12 noon); "I rock with THE ONE", an interactive Hip-Hop performance (12:15 p.m. to 1 p.m.) and The Three Musketeers, the funny interactive storytelling theatre by very popular DuffleBag Theatre.

I was told you can drop-in for one or the other (or all) of these activities. You can also expect some crafts.

Belly laughs guaranteed!
As the author of Toronto Fun Places, I'm part of the board of Prologue to the Performing Art, the organization facilitating the performance of over 2,200 shows from 40 artists and companies in the schools across Ontario. 

DuffleBag Theatre is one of them and Prologue's best seller! Their genuine love for kids is palpable and kids really dig their wacky and contagious sense of humour. Over the years, I've witnessed DuffleBag's knack for interacting with a young audience. (Adults will have fun too!) 

On their website's home page, you can read: 
- Knock. Knock. 
- Who's there? 
- Boo. 
- Boo hoo? Aww, don't cry. DuffleBag's school season may be over, but there are summer shows to catch!

The Three Musketeers is just one of many fairytales they've revisited.

Schedule of DuffleBag Theatre's free summer shows 
presented by the Living Arts Centre:

July 18 & 19         Cooksville United Church
(2500 Mimosa Row, Mississauga, 905-277-2338, near Hurontario Street/QueensWay east)

July 22 & 23         Royal Canadian Legion Branch 139
(101 Church Street, Mississauga, 905-826-8672, in Streetsville)

July 24 & 25         Churchill Meadows Library
(3801 Thomas Street, Mississauga, 905-615-4750, near Brittania Rd West and Winston Churchill Blvd)

July 30 & 31         Camille's Place
(4983 Rathkeale, Mississauga, 905-819-8880, near Eglinton Ave West and Mavis Road)

August 7 & 8        Port Credit Memorial Arena
(40 Stavebank Road, Mississauga, 905-615-4830, near Lakeshore Rd East and Hurontatio Street)

August 12 & 13    Park Royal Bible Church
(2400 Trustcott Drive, Mississauga, 905-822-3691, near QEW and Southdown Road)

August 14 & 15    Malton Community Centre
(3540 Morning Star Drive, Mississauga, 905-615-4640, near Hwy 427 and Hwy 407)

August 20 & 21    Britannia Glen Co-op
(5995 Glen Erin Drive, Mississauga, 905-567-5525, near Erin Mills Parkway)

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

How to use Toronto Fun Places 5th edition

Kennedy Subway Station
About Toronto Subway Stations

In my 480-page guide Toronto Fun Places, I've created a whole chapter on things to do and see within a 10-minute walk of each Toronto Subway Station. (It took me a whole month to do the research around the 69 stations.)

Parents tend to forget that the ride is as important as the destination, especially for kids who haven't forgotten yet to live in the present!

Kennedy Subway Station
Don't underestimate the wonderful adventure of a subway ride for a young child. And you want to be there when they take their first subway ride ever. 

Imagine it from their perspective: the turnstile! the escalators! the dark tunnel! the swoosh of air pushed by the coming car! the speed! I reckon it can be a bit nerve racking for a new parent. With kids under 6, I suggest you try to have a ratio of one adult per kid.

Surprise them!
Tell your kids you're taking them on a subway ride but surprise them with a fun destination. The subway is already an outing in itself. If there's a playground, a fun urban sight or an ice-cream cone to top it off, even better.
Dutch Dream 10-min. St. Clair West Station
I've included everything I thought would be of interest to kids and their families in the Subway chapter: toy stores, playgrounds, bowling, fun restaurants, treats, cool sculptures, etc.

• Not all stations are staffed. Bringing the exact change is a good way to avoid any bad surprises. The one-way fare is $3/adult, $2/student, 75¢/kids.) 
• Even better, at staffed stations, you can get a $10.75 Day Pass for family/group to ride all day (until 5:30 a.m. the next morning) on a Saturday, Sunday or statutory holiday. It's valid for 1 adult and up to 5 kids (19 years and under), or 2 adults and up to 4 kids. Visit for details.

• To estimate the duration of a ride, count two minutes per station.
• Not all the stations have elevators and the escalators are often one way only. Expect to carry your stroller and dare to ask for help.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Fantastic urban splash pad: Corktown Common

A splash pad and a playground and a skatepark and... frogs

When I first visited Corktown Common, at sunset, I discovered there was a splash pad in the back of the large park! (BEWARE! In 2015, the park and splash pads are closed until August 31, due to the Pan Am Games!) 

I returned to figure out the parking logistics around that park (which opened at the end of June 2013) and to take some photos of the splash pad with kids in action. What a great addition to the city! 

How to get there
Corktown Common is located near the Don River, south of King Street East, at the foot of Lower River Street (where the Pan American Games will host the athletes during the 2015 games held in the GTA). 

If you want to get there by car, first try to find a spot on Saint Lawrence Street (one block west of Lower River, south of King). It is $1.50/hour, maximum 10 hours, 7 days a week from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. No charges after 6 p.m.

Otherwise, you'll be able to find parking meters along Queen Street East (but NO PARKING from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. on weekdays). It's $1.50/hour, maximum 3 hours, to park Monday to Friday (8 a.m. to 4 p.m.) and Saturday (8 a.m. to 6 p.m). There's no charges to park after 6 p.m. and no charge to park throughout Sunday.

First things first, coffee!
If you park near Sumach Street, it will take you 10 minutes to reach the splash pad. 

The coffee shop Savoury Grounds is right at the corner of Sumach and Queen Street East. While you're there, show your kids the whimsical facade of the Magic Building at 60 Sumach just south of Queen. (Note from June 20, 2015: It used to be the closest place to buy a beverage around the park but now, there is a Tim Hortons (south-west corner of King East and Lower River), and the cool café Odin, facing it, on the north side of King East.)

The playground
From Queen Street East, walk southbound on River Street (called Lower River where it goes south of King Street). It won't take long before you see the modern playground to your right.

It is such an urban sight, set as it is amidst parkways.

The vast park
Keep walking southbound and you'll see the entrance of the park, marked by a lowland wet meadow (where you can hear the frogs!).

Follow the path to your right and you'll see the roof of the gazebo. You can stroll left and right around the upland meadow before reaching the other section of the park with a large gazebo.

Still in development, one sees that this park will eventually connect with the surrounding trails.

The splash pad and the gabezo
Corktown Common is curently managed by Waterfront Toronto(there's a security guard on site 24-7), but it will eventually be managed by the City. They've installed two large washrooms on the premises (open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.) and two water fountains. The gazebo provides shade.

I don't how it will look once the construction is done but for the time being, the splash pad overlooks construction and the cityscape for a unique urban panorama. Expect water sprays spurting daily from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

The slides
On the other side of the gazebo is an interesting playground with two slides and soft flooring. It includes a sand patch complete with a faucet, for the small engineers. There are different swings on separate levels. (There are lots of nooks and crannies in this park.) 

The Underpass Park
On you way back towards King Street, facing the playground, you'll notice some action on your right under the overpass. They've installed basketball nets and a street skate layout.

What makes it even better it the lighting effects along the columns. Imagine if this was done under the Gardiner!

Friday, July 5, 2013

What's in it for families at the Fringe Festival?

In the back alley south of Bloor near Brunswick.
Lots of Fringe benefits 
(Updated July 6, 2014)

The Toronto Fringe Festival 2014 seems to be spread all over the map with 150 performances in oer 25 venues (in 2013, it was 148 shows in 35 venues), which can be confusing for families who are new to this theatre festival. 

Don't worry! All the kids shows (presented in the fringekids! section on their website) are performed in one place: the Palmerston Library located at 560 Palmerston, two blocks west of Bathurst, just north of Bloor West. (PARKING: Municipal parking lot right across from the library.)

Inside Honest Ed's
In 2014, from July 3 to July 13, eight different family shows are offered almost daily, starting at different times between 11 a.m. and 7:45 p.m. In their listing, the Fringe specifies the age recommendation, the length, and the genre. (ADMISSION: $5/kids, $10/adults) Buy online at to save time and ensure you have seats! (Find the listing under Palmerston, select, and scroll down again to click on the specific show you want.)

While you're there
New in 2014, is the FringeKids! Club with a line-up of free outdoor activities and $15 per kid workshops. Note that the Club, located at Huron Street Public School (541 Huron Street) is a 20-minute walk from Palmerston Library.

You might want to check my free excerpt with map from Toronto Urban Strolls 2 (BLOOR WEST Cool Stroll) which covers Bloor West around Palmerston Library, which is located between #15 and #16 on my map, in the middle of Koreatown.

At Hodo Kwaja (656 Bloor W.)
My stroll includes plenty of cool murals, Honest Ed's wacky store (two blocks east of Palmerston), walnut-shaped cakes (at Hodo Kwaja, two blocks west of Palmerston), great coffee... (cause moms are people too).

One block west of Hodo Kwaja, the tinest coffee shop in Toronto, Sam James Coffee bar  (688A Bloor W.)

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Cottage life at Harbourfront Centre with paddleboat and Muskoka chairs

Loved the cottage vibe at Harbourfront!

I was visiting Harbourfront on Canada Day Eve and was thrilled to see that we can rent paddleboats and canoes to enjoy the small pond. 

Those who are used to exploring wide open water in their canoe or paddleboat at the cottage might not think much of it but parents of young children who are new to this will definitely be happy to introduce their kids to this kind of water fun in such a safe environment.

It's $5 per person for 15 minutes to rent a paddleboat ($4 per person for a canoe). And they have some funny individual paddleboats (for anyone 70 pounds and lighter) which will be much appreciated by young school-aged adventurers.

They've added Muskoka chairs on the site, perfect to relax and do some people watching while you have an ice cream.

When Harbourfront doesn't have a big event going on, the place is not that crowded, with plenty of room on any of the patios sit and enjoy the glistening water. The elevated World Café offers a great view.

While you're there, check the tall ship Kajama along the promenade. Walk over the white bridge on the west part of Harbourfront Centre to reach Toronto PawsWay (entrance on Queens Quay). Check it out inside. They have a Hall of Fame of dogs and cats who saved their master's life. On your way out, stroll on the cool Wavedeck to your right.