Attractions & things to do for the kids in your life

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7 TIPS about Santa Claus parades

Christmas

Santa's hit parade!

Year after year, brave adults tackle Santa Claus parades all over Canada with a smile, initiating their little ones to the event where they get a sight of the big man (often for the first time). We've attended a few parades big and small, during the day and at night time. Here are a few tips to get the most out of the experience.

eb24e6e009e27af9788d93efac2eaef4TIP #1

Yonger kids who can't wait to see the real Santa will be happy with any parade.

TIP #2

Be a sport! If you don't want to brave the traffic (or the crowd on the TTC), are really stressed out about finding parking and hate the cold, chances are you'll be a grumpy parent ruining it for everyone. You'd better stay home and watch your local parade with your family (with hot chocolates and warm cookies) on your local channel (parades are usually aired a few hours after the event).

TIP #3

Most parades last one hour (except for Toronto's, which goes on for two hours). If you're standing at the end of the route, you are bound to see the parade roughly one hour after the official departure time. In smaller towns, it means you can arrive 30 minutes after the departure time and find a spot closer to the end of the route.

TIP #4

Older kids will really appreciate Toronto Santa Claus Parade for the "wow!" factor of the floats. It's the only one where I would take teenagers.Toronto's parade (which took place on November 17) is by far the biggest one. Plan to arrive one hour before the parade starts to snatch a vantage point suitable for your children.

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TIP #5

Evening parades offer the advantage of floats with pretty lights.

TIP #6

Old parts of towns offer the best decor for a soulful parade. You'll find the links to over 150 Santa Claus Parades across Ontario on the website vacationingwithkids.com.

TIP #7

Some parades to consider:

Saturday November 15 at 9 a.m. Oakville Santa Claus Parade (in cute old Oakville)

Saturday November 15 at 11 a.m. Niagara Fall Santa Claus Parade (with lots of attractions to visit in the afternoon)

Sunday November 16 at 12:30 p.m. Toronto Santa Claus Parade (offers the most impressive floats)

Sunday November 30 at 1 p.m. Mississauga Santa Claus Parade (in the old part of town called Streetsville, a country feeling withing the big city)

Saturday December 6 at 10 a.m. Etobicoke Lakeshore Santa Claus Parade 

Saturday December 6 at 6 p.m. Kinsmen Santa Claus Parade in Peterborough (to combine with a visit to Lang Pioneer Village)

Saturday December 13 at 11 a.m. Niagara-on-the-Lake Santa Claus Parade (old-fashioned feeling throughout the beautiful village)

You liked the 7 TIPS? Great! I invite you to LIKE Toronto Fun Places on Facebook for more tips and photo galleries.

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Liked the craft ideas? Check my Pinterest board X for Xmas!

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Fall colours at Belfountain Conservation Area until October 27!

Fun fall

Fall colours at Belfountain Conservation Area until October 27, 2013!

Belfountain Conservation Area opened later this year and it will close later as well (it usually closes after Thanksgiving). The conservation is a lovely destination to admire the fall colours. (Read our description with general information on Belfountain Conservation Area.) Many will be satisfied with the small loop trail running around the place but those who want a longer walk to get some fresh air will be glad to know that you can access the Bruce Trail from the Belfountain trail past the suspended bridge. Learn more about this walk with photos and informative captions in this blog post

Note that our last week's Outing of the week, Cheltenham Badlands, is a 10-min. drive from Belfountain Conservation. Exit the conservation and turn left towards Belfountain hamlet. Drive through the village on Old Main Street (Mississauga Road). Drive a little while on Mississauga Road. Turn left into Olde Baseline Road. You'll see the Badlands on your right.

Belfountain Conservation Area escarpment

Belfountain Conservation Area

Bruce Trail beyond Conservation Area

Belfountain to Cheltenham Badlands

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Back-to-school blues

For parents

Last week, many parents of school-age kids felt the sting of back-to-school stress. This week, it was my turn...

On my son's first year at York

I remember where the stress came from when my kids were in elementary school: my own procrastination and denial as I wanted to hold on to the summer until the end. Reality would kick in on Labour Day evening, when I'd have to face the fact that my kids had outgrown their shoes, that they had nothing clean to wear and that our school supply was scattered all over the house.

By the way, I think yummymummyclub.ca put together a useful line-up of articles to ease back-to-school.

You'd think it gets better, right?

This week, I couldn't believe how close the apple fell from the tree when it was time to drive our 3rd-year university student to his residence.

We thought he was quite ready. But Friday, when his 10 a.m. doctor's appointment turned out to have a 3 hour delay, and we learned that he only had until 3:30 p.m. to get the keys to his room, we ended up having only one hour to pack... everything! Clothes, sheets, mattress, fridge, kitchenware, personal care items, books, speakers, amplifiers, computer, phone, chargers, extensions, school supplies. Name it.

As he got in the car, his dad double-checked with him if he had everything. Turned out he had forgotten to pack his guitars... You'd think that the fact he's in the Music program at York, majoring in guitar would have helped him remember that, wouldn't you?

The day before, I helped a friend move her (3rd-year university in Maths) son to his apartment in Waterloo. Before we left Toronto, I heard her ask him to grab "clean stuff to put on the bed". In Waterloo, when she asked him to put the sheets on his bed, he had no sheets, had thought she meant a bed cover, and had forgotten his pillow.

See? Our job is never done.

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Top-10 Lego Ideas on Pinterest

For artsy kids | TOP fun lists

TOP_10_Lego_ideas_on_Pinterest.com_NathaliePrezeauThere are hundreds of them! I checked.


When I was writing my article on Legoland Discovery Centre, I decided to create a Pinterest board on all the fun stuff I could find about Lego. I came across hundreds of boards from Lego fans.
Lego bricks have been used to create: artworks, public art, jokes, architecture, games, education, collective projects, miniature cities (including Toronto at the Legoland Discovery Centre in Vaughan Mills)...


Here are my top-10 Lego ideas you'll find on my board "Writer's (Lego) Block" on pinterest.com/NathaliePrezeau (you'll need to have a Pinterest account in order to access the boards, it's easy!). The fun thing about Pinterest boards is that when you click on an image on a board, it leads you to the original source of the image (website or blog).

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TOP-5 tips to better enjoy Ripley's Aquarium

For animal lovers | TOP fun lists

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Get the most out of your visit to Toronto's new aquarium!

We went to visit the new Ripley's Aquarium on Sunday December 29 at the end of the afternoon. I assumed the crowd would be thinning by then. Wrong! We waited 90 minutes in the line-up, and the place was packed. But we loved it all the same.

The Dangerous Lagoon is an obvious favourite (we loved it so much we retraced our steps to see it one more time before leaving) but here are a few tips to help you get the most out of the rest of the atrraction.

1) Buy your ticket online!

When we visited, ticket holders got in twice as fast as people who were in line to buy their ticket on the premise. (And that was on a day where their timed-ticket system had a glitch. It seemed like they had sold more timed tickets than they could process.) Today, when I checked online, their system indicated when a time slot was sold out, which should solve the problem.

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2) Arrive at the end of the day

This won't work for young families but a good tip if visiting with teens. Someone wrote on the Ripley's Aquarium Facebook page that they arrived at 8 p.m. on a day when the aquarium was open until 9 p.m. and were allowed to stay a couple of hours past closing time. I called to confirm this with the attraction's staff. I got their answering machine but it indeed said that the LAST ADMISSION was at 9 p.m. (a fact that is not mentioned on their website) with enough time to enjoy the attraction. (As a bonus, at night, you get to admire how the building looks like... an aquarium.)

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3) Attend a diving session at the Ray Bay

At the entrance take note of the schedule for the diving sessions in the Ray Bay (the underwater window on the lower level) and try to get to that part of the aquarium 10 minutes prior to the session. The diver's mask was set with a microphone and she could talk to us as she fed the graceful rays. At one point, she threw food at a ray by the window so we could clearly see how it sucked in the food.

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4) Take the time to explore some exhibits.

We liked the sound effect when we stand right under the large tube filled with tiny silver fish. My son found out he would be worth $3,931 if he were a tuna. By the tank where we could admire starfish, there was a fun video with a handle which you could spin to speed up or slow down starfish in action. In the shark section, another video with such a handle allowed us to view the shark attack in slow motion. 

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5) Allow your kids a $10 budget to spend at the gift shop

Kids feel really empowered when they have a little spending budget. I was glad to see that the gift shop offered many options under $10 (including many under $5). I noticed The Sea cool cube book and a Pocket Genius on Sharks, each for $9. There was a bag of fake but realistic shark teeth for $1. (Don't miss the trompe-l'oeil of the ocean horizon (to the left of the gift shop.)

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For more pictures, see our photo gallery.

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Buy the book Toronto Street Art Strolls

Nathalie's tips for a smooth outing

After years of doing all kinds of outings with my children, I can assure you the secret to a perfect outing lies in the details, not the destination.

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