Updating the Awesome

I’ve been slacking off on my Summer of Awesome reporting, but that’s okay, because we’ve been busy having fun (and sadly, in my case, being really sick, UGH). I have a lot to say about our trip to Montreal last weekend but until then, here’s a quick report on a few places we’ve been so far this summer.

Saunders Farm

As fabulous as always – the kids and I were there for seven hours and had an amazing time. Saunders Farm features many really cool giant mazes, pedal cars, many many play structures, a giant slide, tractor and wagon rides, puppet shows, a splash pad, and this:

Jumping Pillows at Saunders Farm

Giant jumping pads! Seriously, SO much fun.

Here are my tips for a day at Saunders:

  • There’s an awesome attraction where you can buy a bag of semi-precious stones in sand, and then use a river to “pan” for jewels. This activity costs extra – between $6 and $11.50, depending on the size of bag – and they only take cash. The ice cream stand and grill also only take cash, so bring some money if you don’t want to have to hike back to the entrance to use the ATM.
  • It’s pretty exposed there so wear sunscreen and hats, and be sure to bring lots of water – you can refill your water bottles at the tap attached to the grill.
  • The Music Maze has all new instruments this year, and it’s often overlooked because it’s tucked back behind the pedal cars. So make it a point to check it out.
  • The Mile Maze is as impossible as ever – avoid if you have young children who can’t handle a half-hour trek through a maze. Speaking of which, idea for Mark Saunders: could you post “maps” of your mazes on the website, so we can either look at them after the fact to see just how wrong we were, or print them out and bring them with us just in case we get lost?
  • If you’re going on a wagon ride, and it hasn’t rained in many days, don’t sit at the front of the wagon by the tractor, as dust sprays up from the wheels. You’ll still be washing it out of your hair days later.
  • Don’t forget you can bring your own picnic, and their wristband system lets you go out to your car as often as you like so you don’t need to carry around a cooler all day (although some people park their cooler at a picnic table and just establish an internal base of operations, which is okay too).
  • Ladies who have had children may wish to wear panty protection before going on the jumpers. TMI?

I think that’s it. Have an amazing time – it’s pretty much impossible not to!

Museum of Nature

Here we checked out Whales Tohora, which will only be there until September so visit now while you still can. My kids were surprisingly into this exhibit, it’s fascinating and there’s also a map that leads you to interactive stations where you can learn something and do something fun, too. We also checked out both of their current 3D movies, one about turtles and one about dinosaurs – both were excellent, but both contain at least one “circle of life” moment, so make sure your kids can handle it. The National Geographic photography contest winners are still there – my one daughter is getting into photography and loves it when the winners come out – and we also saw the giant solid gold loonie (the “million dollar coin”) made by the mint (which is at the Museum of Nature…why?).

Anyway, it’s always a great time at the museum and they have a ton of good stuff on right now. Remember that Whales Tohora and the 3D movies cost extra, even for members.

Museum of Civilization

The Little Miss picked this as her destination of choice on her fifth birthday, and it was a surprising good time. I always think that we’ve been there and seen it all, but I forget how much the kids like to just play, and the Children’s Museum is really so big and complex that you can do something different every time. We were only there for three-ish hours but barely touched half of it, and the kids were sad to leave. Right now they also have an interesting exhibit about Queen Elizabeth, and there’s a fake throne that you can sit on with full costumes for a photo op in the afternoons.

Ray’s Reptiles

Here’s another place we’ve been dozens of times, but it’s still always a hit, particularly with Gal Smiley who is recently addicted to the TV show Python Hunters. This year they’ve really changed things up over at the permanent zoo. They have a new off-site warehouse where they keep most of the animals, including the caimans who used to have a huge pen. Where the caiman pen used to be is a brand new, much larger showroom for the hands-on shows and feeding shows that still run every half hour or so. However, the animals they use for the shows are brought over from the warehouse each morning and stay there all day – that means that, show to show, it’s the same set of animals, so the demonstrators don’t have the flexibility to bring out something new for the same crowd, or to bring out a different animal for the feeding show if one of the animals isn’t cooperating. I’m sure they will work out that kink at some point.

In the main section, where there used to be many aquariums with snakes and other animals, they’ve reorganized to display certain animals on a theme. Right now, for example, the theme is venom – most of the animals on display are venomous, and there are lovely display boards that give you interesting facts and explain the science behind venom. In the fall they’ll be changing the focus to camouflage.

So in general: nice new digs, but fewer animals. Still, my kids had a great time. It’s perfect for a two to three hour getaway on a rainy day, or a day when you have some errands to run and want something shorter to fill out the rest of the day.


With the heat, we’ve been hiding in the movie theatre. We saw Brave (I loved it, I totally cried, my daughters were a bit scared but are now obsessed with archery – thumbs up all around) and Madagascar 3 (hilarious – probably my favourite of the series, we all loved it). Sir Monekypants also broke down and took the Captain, age 9, to see The Avengers. We had classified it as a firmly PG-13 but it seemed like everyone we knew in the world was taking their preschoolers, so Sir Monkeypants decided it would be perfect for a little guys’ afternoon out. Turns out it was, the Captain adored it, only now we have to listen to endless discussions on whether or not the Hulk could lift Thor’s hammer, and whether Captain America would make a better leader than Iron Man. Sigh.

A Gym Tale

We had Little Miss Sunshine’s birthday party here, at her request, and it was OMG SO EASY. I basically did nothing but take photos and eat cake. It’s an indoor playground, where kids can slide, climb, and swing, and then there’s an organized playtime with an obstacle course, parachute, freeze dance, and bubbles. Afterwards, your party host serves lunch (pizza) and cake. We brought in some extra fruit and chips to round out the lunch, as well. Our kids were such slow eaters that there wasn’t time for much of anything else, but we did have a game and some colouring in reserve just in case; we didn’t even have present opening time!

It’s a small play structure and I think the age limit is 9 years old, but any kid between 3 and 9 would have a blast there, really. Aside from birthday parties, you can just drop in for some playtime on the structure or attend one of their day camps. Totally worth it.

We’ve also been the pool daily for swim lessons these past few weeks; been to our local splash pad park and to a wading pool park with a friend in Westboro; spent a weekend at a another friend’s cottage, and hosted a couple of barbecues at the house (featuring: PIES, ME SO HAPPY).

Next post: all about Montreal.

6 thoughts on “Updating the Awesome

  1. Ah-mazing. I’m breezing into town for a few days in August and need to hammer out a plan to keep me/kids happy, wallet relatively intact. If you could recomment ONE thing, what would it be? Grace and Edie are 7 and 10 now. I love Saunders Farm, except I have to practise my Keigels before going on those big bouncy pillow things 🙂

    1. I really, really love Saunders Farm. It’s just different than anything else. If you can make it out there, then it would be my recommendation. If you’re looking for something that is more in-town, my 9-year-old son actually really enjoys the Science Museum in the summer. The displays inside are things we’ve seen a million times (although they do have a new energy exhibit, and I think the Sex exhibit is still there if you want to have a Deep Family Discussion), but the cool thing about the summer is that they have a bunch of outdoor experiments to do. You can launch bottle rockets, take a tour of the lighthouse, ride the steam train (Wednesdays and Sundays only). If you’ll be around for August 9-11, there’s Fortissimo – a massed military band concert on Parliament Hill in the evenings, and afterwards there’s Mosaika, which is a light and sound show where the Parliament Buildings are all lit up and look amazing.

      Apparently I can’t choose just one!

  2. We are planning to head to Saunders Farm this weekend so I am so glad I caught this post. Great, great tips. We’ll definitely check out the Music Maze – sounds cool. I’ll let you know how our adventure at the farm goes!

  3. Nikki

    It all looks awesome! Thanks for posting. We need to find a way to squeeze in Saunders Farm this summer.

    My hubby, who knows stuff like this, says that the million dollar coin is actually owned by a gold company (Barrick) which has loaned it to the Museum of Nature. It’s not owned by the Mint and apparently that’s why it’s not on display there, although I agree that thematically, it would make a little more sense. (It was, however, a showpiece at the Mint’s pavilion at the Vancouver Olympics.)

  4. Marianne

    Sounds like you’re having a great summer. We’re currently enjoying the wonders of Vancouver, and the kids are loving the non-stop attention from the grandparents, but I know that I’d better have some great things planned for August, or it’ll be a loooong month until school resumes! We already plan to visit a Gym Tale, but I’d forgotten how much fun we had at Saunders last summer. This year, we’ll pack a picnic lunch and stay until the kids (or Mom) melt down!

  5. Sara

    Great tips for Saunders! We just spent the day there and it was loads of fun. The boys loved the mazes and pirate ship.

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