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Things to do in Toronto, Vancouver, Whistler and Seattle with 5 and 7 year old

(24 Posts)
hmc Thu 13-Aug-09 11:46:48

If anyone has been to these destinations, I would be grateful for your recommendations about things to do and what is worth a visit.

We set off tomorrow night so I won't be able to check the thread after Friday at 18.00


hmc Thu 13-Aug-09 11:51:01


vinblanc Thu 13-Aug-09 16:27:01

We are just back from TO this very morning!

There are loads of things to do in the city, very little of which we did as we were focussed on family visiting and a holiday in Muskoka.

A must for TO is to make a day trip to Niagara Falls if you have never been before. It is really an excellent day as the town has really been improved by the Park authority to give you far more than just a look at the Falls (although that was enough for me first time round). The journey is about 2 hours each way with the summer roadworks on the QEW.

You can get a good day out at Ontario Place and the CNE. If you are willing to be parted with copious amounts of cash, then a trip up the CN Tower is something to do (don't go to the space level, but do go the movie about how it was built).

Toronto is an OK tourist destination if you like cities, but the main thing that puts it in the top rank of North American cities is the facilities for residents. They have great museums, theatre, shopping, restaurants and live sports.

Be careful about driving around the GTA. The city is completely clogged and what should take a few minutes can easily take an hour.

hmc Thu 13-Aug-09 18:09:40

Thanks vinblanc - is there a subway (as in the underground train meaning of the word, not fast food outlet grin) in Toronto?

We are only there for 3 days before we do indeed visit Niagara (pleased you said it is worthwhile), Vancouver, Whistler etc...

We went to Boston last year for 3 days and enjoyed all the museums etc so I think 3 days in Toronto is going to be about right (i.e. enough time to visit a few places of interest etc and not so much that the kids are going to get bored)

How uncanny is that you've just got back from there on the day I post this!!

TrinityRhinoIsInDetention Thu 13-Aug-09 18:11:36

have a meal in the revolving restaurant at the top of the cn tower
bloody amazing

hmc Thu 13-Aug-09 18:12:45

Sounds great. Does it get really busy with delays at certain times? - i.e. is there a good time to go up the cn tower?

weegiemum Thu 13-Aug-09 18:19:35


- Brunch at Sophie's Cosmic Cafe in Kitsilano
- Stanley Park - especially the aquarium, but also the (free) water parks and just hanging out in the park (with the chipmunks)
- Science centre which you can get to on a water taxi
- kids market on Granville Island - also good food in the indoor market, buskers, great place to hang about and watch the boats.
- Linn Canyon suspension bridge and riverside walking
- many many of the city parks havea water park/great play areas - we went to a couple of really good ones in Dunbar? I think.
- just riding on the electric buses kept our guys happy.

We went first when the children were 18 months and 3, then again when they were 5 and a half, 3 and a half and 17 months. And I was also there alone with dd1 when she was 6 and a half. All these things went down well with them at all these ages.

Lots of people will tell you to go to Victoria when you are in Vancouver, but we found it pretty disappointing, though we did like the Bug Zoo.

Bowen Island, which you get to from Horeshoe Bay on the road to Whistler, is supposed to be nice but I think in a wee country sort of a way, not a lot to do unless you like walking around. We've never been.

Hope you have a great time - we loved Canada with the children, they had a ball, and everyone was really friendly and helpful. envy

vinblanc Thu 13-Aug-09 18:22:07

There are a couple of Subway lines - Yonge and Bloor. They cover everything downtown. There are also trams and buses, and you can get daily transit passes to cover everything.

One of the really cool things about Toronto is the PATH. It is an underground network of tunnels linking the various subway stations but is full of shops. It is very handy in the winter, and something to just experience as a tourist. It runs from roughly Yonge/Dundas (Eaton Centre) to the West and South.

My kids hate cities, so we limit our time plodding the streets and looking at shops. However, they do like to experience North America, so quite like the kind of restaurants they have there, for example. In our time in Toronto, we went to an awful place called Chuck E Cheese, which was heaven for little ones, and Dave and Busters, which was a similar offering for older kids.

Kids may also be interested in going to a sports game. My boys would have loved to go to a baseball match, however we were never available when the Blue Jays were having their home games. I was hoping to go to the ATP tennis this week, but they alternate between Montreal and Toronto and this year it is Montreal - so Andy Murray had to do without us in the crowd.

hmc Thu 13-Aug-09 18:25:28

All of this is great advice / tips! Thanks smile

weegiemum Thu 13-Aug-09 18:27:30

hmc - if you can get it before you go, our best tips in Vancouver came from Frommer's 'Vancouver With Kids' if you could get your hands on a copy.

I think it might also deal with Whistler, it certainly covers bits of Vancouver Island as well.

hmc Thu 13-Aug-09 18:56:54

There's a chance I could get to Waterstones tomorrow in the day - thanks

PfftTheMagicDragon Thu 13-Aug-09 19:00:05

Playmobil clearance shop!

hmc Mon 31-Aug-09 06:59:48

Back from the holiday. Feeling completely knackered. Been up since 04.20 today (difficulties in body clock adjusting). Advice very helpful and a good holiday was had by all - thanks

vinblanc Mon 31-Aug-09 10:21:40

Details, please!

WebDude Mon 31-Aug-09 11:07:47

Ah, glad you had a good time, and yes, body clock is pushed out for a bit, isn't it!

For anyone else planning to go up the CN Tower, I'd suggest going early evening if possible (as you can get to see the city with sunlight, and without, two completely different impressions, in one visit, for one entrance fee). Don't know what it costs these days, I went there over 20 years ago...

For anyone with teens (or anyone that may be interested!) there's the Ontario Science Centre which has a virtual tour online so you can see if it appeals...

weegiemum Mon 31-Aug-09 11:10:02

Did you have a good time?

Did you do anything I anyone suggested?

hmc Tue 01-Sep-09 00:10:50

Yes we did have a good time - but tbh it felt a bit like work occasionally!

We did Toronto, Niagara, Whistler, Vancouver and Seattle in 14 days. I packed and unpacked 5 times, and we twice had to adjust to different time zones (Toronto 5 hours different to UK, and Vancouver another 3 hours difference on top). We had 1 internal flight, and three 2-3 hour car transfers including one delayed border crossing between Canada and the US.

We have some good memories and did some great stuff (black bear eco tour around Whistler etc) but I did make my feelings plain to dh once or twice when dc's were incredibly over-tired and over-stimulated!(My fault for not getting more involved at the holiday planning stage)

Next year we are doing Venice for 4 nights followed by a sumptuous Italian villa by the sea for a week or so. Somewhat simpler and more relaxing!

We didn't manage all of your recommendations but included the majority of them, so

Toronto: CN tower, Toronto islands and brilliant Museum whose name escapes me (it's late and I'm tired!) with fab natural history bit
Niagara: self explanatory
Whistler: Black bear tour, pony trekking
Vancouver: The childrens science museum, Stanley Park, and Grouse Mountain (with 'world famous' lumber jack show - phwoar)
Seattle: The Space Needle, Sci-fi museum, acquarium, harbour tour and the dc loved the sky train monorail to Seattle Centre...


Have any of you got holidays coming up soon?

WebDude Tue 01-Sep-09 12:56:49

No, sorry, no hols anytime soon (need to get a dratted biometric passport at near 80 quid). My last holiday was 1999.

Surprised at doing east and west within 2 weeks. I only wandered in Ontario (and a few nights in Montreal) when I was there in '87, with plan to see western coast another time.

Past neighbours spent a month there, allowing them time to visit both east and west, with a lot of driving (shared between Chris and his BIL) so they could get to Edmonton, Calgary and Regina.

They took internal flights both ways (so they didn't have the 700++ mile drive from Saskatchewan back east.

I am sure you'll enjoy your holiday next year, less of a time zone issue, and not 15,000 mile (just a guess, you do the figures !) round trip in 2 weeks - you need a holiday to get over that

WebDude Tue 01-Sep-09 13:03:12

Must add - I went in mid-March when there'd only have been 2000 miles of snow to look down at if I had gone to west coast.

Central Ottawa bus shelters were double "glazed" (inner and outer sliding doors with 8-10" between them) and Ottawa buses have their own road network so don't get affected by traffic jams on regular roads.

Remember if going in chilly weather, it is very chilly, folks. They can have skating contests on the canal in Ottawa! Montreal (like Toronto) has miles of underground shopping so you can stay in a nice comfy environment even if cold outside.

Toronto is one of the most cosmopolitan of cities in the world, and seems to work well. Very relaxed atmosphere, but as with many places in N America, v cold in winter, v hot in summer, at least compared with UK.

(Relaxed opening hours, too... pizza shop told me in summer they can be open until 5 and 6am if they have holidaymakers still coming in after a walk by the lake, etc)

hmc Tue 01-Sep-09 15:18:33

Toronto was indeed very hot when we were there webDude - I find the stark contrast between their winter and summer climate quite fascinating....(when here all that differs is that the sky is a lighter shade of grey in summer grin)

vinblanc Tue 01-Sep-09 16:45:34

You were lucky, hmc, as I'm sure the locals told you. It has not been a good summer in Ontario. We were there the two weeks before you and had decidedly iffy weather.

hmc Tue 01-Sep-09 16:48:26

They did mention that, but it was 30 degrees when we were in Toronto (and mid to late 20's in Whistler)- phew! (bit too hot for me)

WebDude Tue 01-Sep-09 17:54:41

Certainly too hot for me, though oddly when I was in Toronto in mid-March '87, there was still ice for skating on in the area near their 'city hall' and piles of snow at ends of car parks, but temperature was about 50-60F - something of an unexpected 'heatwave' for the time of year, and I had taken a very fleecy lined jacket... got into the shopping area near the Eaton Centre and felt sweltering as if in a sauna, everyone else in less 'thick' clothing, of course!

I've found climate in San Francisco about the closest to European and comfortable for me. One visit I made in 97 I went down to San Diego to visit friends (early March, around 6th/7th) arriving Thursday and returning Tuesday, but it was well over 80F and sunny of course. Gave me most awful headache.

My friends had made arrangements to host a neighbour's daughter's 'wedding shower' at their (large) home, so I was banished all afternoon on Saturday rather than be in their way while she was given lingerie, etc, etc! Still Cardiff-on-Sea had a few small shops and I don't mind a bit of walking...

hmc Tue 01-Sep-09 20:28:39

On a boat trip over to the Toronto islands we passed an exclusive sailing club and the captain of the boat told us they have to lift the boats out of the water and dry dock them over the winter, because the huge expanse of water freezes solid. That was hard to square with the 30+ temperatures we were experiencing that day.

Must say I agree - climate in San Fran most equitable and easy to deal with....and its a totally charming and beguiling place (although visited pre-children when holidays were actually holidays wink)

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