Attractions & things to do for the kids in your life


TOP-10 DIY gift ideas for mugs to make at the ceramic studio

DIY crafts | Pinterest


Good time to go to a ceramic studio to make some personalized gifts!

Have you ever found yourself staring blankly at a white piece while sitting at the table in a ceramic studio? I have! (I'm talking about ceramic studios such as All Fired Up). Here are a few ideas of mug ideas to make at a ceramic studio found on Pinterest. There's more where it's coming from! Check the DIY fun boards: M of Mugs, P for Personal gifts and P for Personalized gifts with photos.



TOP-10 suggestions for photo ops during school fairs

For parents | Pinterest | TOP fun lists

For parents involved with the school council

As a member of the school council, my job was to organize the year-end family parties. Based on my experience, here are 10 cool ideas for photo ops during a fair. They speak for themselves but you'll find the links to their source on my Pinterest board titled: School Fairs: Photo ops. I also recommend you check my School Party & Fair & Fundraising board.

It can simply be a free activity within the fair, encouraging family to share it on the social media of your choice. If you choose to make it a fundraising activity, here are some suggestions:

1) You could charge a small fee for the privilege of using an ambitious decor.

2) People can pay for the right to take their photo with a special person (costumed principal, local celebrity or... a cute dog) 

3) A volunteer could be the official photographer with a decent camera and take photos of people who make a small donation. Special props or decor could be used. Another volunteer would note the email address to send the digital photo to the donor with some detail about his/her clothing (in chronological order, so the photographer can match the photo with the right email).


TOP-10 fun things at Royal Winter Fair 2014


Royal Agricultural Winter Fair 2014 is on from November 7 to November 16!

It is a wonderful event for animal lovers of all ages where the best cows, horses and other farm animals are competing, then to be sold in auctions. It is an occasion for the agricultural industry to feature all kinds of farm-related activities and products for the benefit of the general public.

I've attended the Royal Winter Fair on many occasions with my family and we've always come across cool activities during our visits but it was often by pure luck. The truth is that if you don't explore the attraction's website prior to your visit (a time consuming task), chances are you will have the nagging feeling you’re missing out on a great activity while you're attending another.

I sifted through the Fair's website to find the 2014 activities that seem of most interest to children. (Note that the link to the Fair Map is in the top right menu on their website.)

TOP-10 fun things at the Royal Fair (check their schedule at the door on the day of your visit!)

In the President’s Choice Animal Theatre 

1) Rabbit jumping!

I’ve never seen big rabbits jumping over tiny obstacles. This activity is offered on two days only: Saturday Nov. 8 at 2:15 p.m. and 4:45 p.m, and Saturday Nov. 15 at 11:45 a.m. and 2:15 p.m. (Note that their activity Goats on the Go includes goats jumping and doing other tricks will be offered once, daily from Nov. 8 to Nov. 15.)


2) President’s Choice Superdogs 

Offered twice every day. The dogs are so eager, it’s pure fun to watch them go. (Note that there will also be Jack Russell Races on the weekends: Sat. Nov. 8, 5:30 p.m.; Sun. Nov. 9, 3 p.m.; Sat. Nov. 15, 1:30 p.m.; Sun. Nov. 16, 11:45 a.m.)

3) Santa Claus and his live reindeer 

Santa will be at the Fair but only on Sunday Nov. 16 from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m.. Note that there will also be decorated Christmas Trees competing in the Sheridan Nurseries Winter Gallery

4) Mounted Police

Another unique offer is the Mounted Police on Tuesday Nov. 11 at 11:15 a.m. where we will watch and learn about this surprising side of Toronto Police.

In Hall B

5) Pizza Pizza Petting Farm 

With 60 animals, a big hit with every one.

6) Giant Vegetable Competition

In the Harvest Path (wherever that is! they don't explain on the map). When we visited, there was a 1093-pound giant pumpkin! Apparently the biggest one they saw at the Fair was 1414.6 lbs! The competition takes place on Nov. 8. The vegetables remain on site until the end of the Fair.

7) Butter Sculpture Competition. Artists can be seen sculpting butter in the refrigerated Butter Sculpture Trailer (usually in the first six days of the Fair). In orevious years, after the competition, the winner got to create a new sculpture for the next three days. Try to tell your kids not to play with their food after that!

In Scotiabank Ring of Excellence

8) Many farm animal competitions take place in the barns during the Fair but two of them take place in the Ring of Excellence. The Rabbits and Cavies show is on Sunday Nov. 16 (your chance to see 600 rabbits and cavies!). The Poultry, Waterfowl and Pigeon show is also ineresting, featuring 800 birds. It is offered Tuesday Nov. 11 and Wednesday Nov. 12. (Note about the following photo: This photo was taken years ago, in a part of the Fair where we could admire the poultry waiting for the competition. I don't if it is still accessible.)

In the Horse Palace

9) Different breeds of horses compete in the Horse Palace. While you’re there, play an i-SPY game with your kids, trying to spot as many horse-theme details as possible in and around the building. 

In the Ricoh Coliseum

This is the part about the Fair that most confused me the first times I visited the attraction. Most of the Royal Horse Show performances are ticketed events not included with the ground admission to the Royal Winter Fair (they cost around $50 per person but include ground admission). But there are moments when you can see Royal Horse Show shorter free performances in the Ricoh Coliseum. 

10) Royal Horse Show FREE performances

Friday Nov. 7 from 8:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. and from 12:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.

Saturday Nov. 8 from 8:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.

Monday Nov. 10 from 6:45 p.m. to 10 p.m.

Tuesday Nov. 11 from 8 a.m. to 12 noon amd 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.

Wednesday Nov. 12 from 8 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. and from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.

Thursday Nov. 13 from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. and from 12 noon to 4:30 p.m.

Saturday Nov. 15 from 8 a.m. to 12 noon.

Sunday Nov. 16 from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.



Pumpkin Parades! What a great concept!


The Pumpkin Parade fever is catching on in Toronto!                                                        

Many communities have found a way to stretch Halloween fun by organizing a pumpkin parade. The concept is simple. On the evening of November 1st, everyone is invited to bring their sculpted pumpkin to the local park, where they are arranged in an interesting display and lit, for everyone to admire. It usually starts at dusk and lasts a couple of hours. 

Apparently, it's the Pumpkin Parade taking place at Sorauren Park (east of Roncesvalles Street) which started it all, ten years ago. On their website, I read that "the Sorauren event has sparked similar events across Toronto, Montréal and this year in Upper Manhattan." 

I attended the event this year. The evening was cold and windy, probably not the best conditions for the parade but I still counted at least 1,200 pumpkins! Under the lamp posts, there's too much light to appreciate the candle lights and the carvings but when you make shadow over the most ambitious ones, it totally changes their look.

I left the event at 8:30 p.m. and the ambiance wasn't winding down. You can probably expect action until 10 p.m.

5 TIPs to better enjoy Sorauren Pumpkin Parade                                                                    

• You don't need to bring a pumpkin but if you do, bring your own candle and preferable a long gas lighter so you don't burn yourself lighting your jack-o'-lantern. While you're at it, be nice and light up your neighbours' candles if the wind has blown them off!

• Bring a small flashlight for the kids so they can admire the carvings on the pumpkins without a lit candle. It adds to the fun of the exploration.

• There's no washroom on the premises.

• You will easily find free street parking all around Sorauren Park if you arrive before 6:30 p.m.

• The Ideal Coffee (221 Sorauren) closes at 7 p.m. but a 5-minute walk down Geoffroy Avenue to Roncesvalle, you'll find Timothy's (327 Roncesvalles, one block north of Geoffroy) and Tim Hortons (175 Roncesvalles, four blocks south of Geoffrey).

About other Pumpkin Parades

Kew Gardens Park

Last week I had noticed this sign on the waterfront of The Beach. In the Friends of The Beach Parks' Facebook page, there were some photos from last year's Candlelit Pumpkin Parade, taking place near the picnic tables in Kew Gardens Park (they are nested in the middle of the park). I arrived at the event at 9:15 p.m., after my visit to Sorauren, and it was over. I saw some fifty pumpkins displayed on the tables, some still lit.

East Lynn Park

East Lynn Park's Pumpkin Parade was in its 5th year in 2014. I think its layout makes it the perfect spot for such an event. I arrived there at 9:30 p.m. and volunteers were already loading the pumpkins into a City bin for compost. It seems that there were approximately 100 pumpkins in their parade.


Trinity-Bellwoods Park

At Trinity-Bellwoods Park, they were at least in their second year of offering a Pumpkin Parade in 2014. Since the friends of this park are usually quite involve, I suspect it's a great place to enjoy this kind of event. And the path running across the park is perfect. 

Wychwood Barns Park

I was there for their Boo! at the Barns last Saturday. I saw on their Facebook page that they also organize a Pumpkin Parade on November 1st.


Riverdale West Park

I just saw a sign in Cabbagetown, promoting their Cabbagetown Pumpkin Walk in Riverdale West Park. This park overviewing the Don Valley includes a paved path that is also very suitable for such a parade.



Badlands near Belfountain: Great for all ages!

Cool parks | Fun fall

This weekend, I went back to Cheltenham Badlands with two teens, two girlfriends and one 7-year old. It was a success!

The Badlands are approximately 1-hr drive from Toronto. To go there, take Hwy 401 to Hwy 410 towards Brampton (it becomes Hwy 10). Turn left (westbound) on Olde Base Line, at the light in the little hamlet of Claude along Hwy 10. The Badlands are on the left-hand side (south) of Olde Base Line. We drove past them to first go have a bite in Belfountain (hungry teens oblige). It's less than 10 minutes away, turning right on Mississauga Road, off Olde Base Line.

Belfountain_Higher_Ground_6_torontofunplaces.comHigher Ground Coffee Co. in Belfountain, is self-described as a "hub of caffinated activity" and "a cyclist friendly espresso bar nestled in beautiful Niagara Escarpment country". Last time I was in Belfountain, there was a smaller coffee shop serving delicious soup at this location. It's been turned into a larger café and shop serving Reunion Island coffee and delicious tasty grilled paninis. They also carry coffee beans, preserves, home-made treats and more. 

It's the first time I visit a café with a helmet shelf. The place is indeed popular with cyclists... and motorcyclists as well. Every time I've been to Belfountain, there were many motorcycles nearby. (No scary Hell's Angels here, just some relaxed baby boomers equipped for leisure rides.)

Warning: The Badlands are very popular in the summer and during the fall weekends (especially during the Thanksgiving weekend, I recommend you try to go on another time). You will probably see flashing "No parking" signs going up the westbound and eastbound hills around the Badlands (there were even policemen when we visited) but don't worry. They just don't want people to park where the hill hides the view from the incoming cars. You should be able to find parking spots along the road between the two hills.

Driving back from Belfountain, we parked before the Badlands (western side), which allowed us to see the entrance to the Olde Base Rd Side Trail. The trail features blue marks and leads eventually to the Bruce Trail but turn left on the first fork you see to reach the Badlands. Walking up the hill and towards your left will take you to a very cool spot to admire the Badlands.

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On our way back, we could have continued along the side trail of the Bruce Trail. I wonder what lies ahead...


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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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