Toronto With Kids

I have to admit I was a bit nervous about doing a city break with the kids, having never done anything like this with them before. But since we were flying into Toronto from Edinburgh we couldn’t very well pass up a chance to see at least a little of this beautiful city on the first stop of our break in Ontario.

Thankfully Toronto is an incredibly child-friendly city with so much going on for the whole family that there was really nothing to worry about (apart from the searing heat, which really affected all our energy levels).

I’ve detailed below some of the things we got up to that will hopefully provide a lil inspiration if you’re thinking about visiting with your kids.

CN Tower Restaurant

The CN Tower used to be the highest free-standing structure in the world (at 1815 feet) until the Burj Khalifa overtook it in 2008. The prospect of going to the top of a ridiculously tall building is pretty exciting for kids (our eldest at least) so we didn’t want to leave without doing this.

We opted to make a reservation at the restaurant for lunch as it means skipping the queues (which can apparently be up to 2 hours long) and, although a bit pricey for food, removing the stress of trying to entertain two children in a huge queue…well that’s priceless isn’t it!

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To access the Tower itself costs 38 CAD (ages 13-64) and 28 CAD (ages 4-12) so for 65 CAD per adult and 12 CAD per child to eat AND access the glass floor afterwards doesn’t make the cost seem so eye-watering. The restaurant itself sits on a revolving floor so no matter where you’re seated, you’re guaranteed to see every view! All in the comfort of your own space with no crowds surrounding you and, if you’re like me, you’ll enjoy it all with a large glass of wine in your hand. The restaurant itself is really child-friendly. They get their own menu, special cups to drink from and some colouring in to do if, like our youngest, they’re not interested in watching planes land at Billy Bishop airport just across the lake or attempting to spot ant-like people walking in the streets below.

After our lunch we were escorted down to the next level to check out the view again and then the next floor down for the glass floor. To be honest, after experiencing the view from the restaurant, we didn’t feel like this had the same level of excitement for us. However T enjoyed chilling out on the glass floor for a bit.

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To plan your experience check out their website here.

Toronto Railway Museum

Conveniently located just across the road from the CN Tower and with a really low entrance fee (5 CAD for over 14s and 3 CAD for under 14s), this was a perfect way to while away an afternoon. There’s a fab train simulator so you can have a go yourself at being a train driver, plus you can explore some of the real carriages.

Note that if the kids want to go on the miniature train ride outside this is an extra cost (3.50 CAD for over 14s and 2.50 CAD for under 14s).

The museum is also conveniently located just beside the Steam Whistle Brewery, so you can grab one of Canada’s premium Pilsners and enjoy the views before heading on your way.

You can find out more about the Railway Museum here.

Centre Island

A perfect way to escape the hustle and bustle of the city, and it’s only a 10 minute ferry journey (which in itself is an adventure for kids, well ours at least), you can easily visit Centre Island over a couple of days as there is just so much to see and do.

And why rush it? Take a picnic and check out the beautiful fountains, gardens, maze, Franklin Children’s Garden, beach, park and splash pad.

If that’s not enough for you, go along to Centreville Amusement Park for that carnival fun of times gone-by. Great for younger children, no scary rollercoasters, just great fun rides, including a Ferris Wheel with amazing views of the Toronto skyline, log flume, twirling teacups and pony rides. You can also pop along to the Far Away Farm petting zoo which is completely free.

For opening hours of both and prices for Centreville check out their website here.

If you have the time, and the funds allow, I would take a day to explore the Island and then pop back for another day just for Centreville and Far Away Farm.

You can get the Centre Island Ferry schedule and up to date pricing here.

Ontario Science Centre

We had THE best day out here. There is an entire floor of the Ontario Science Centre dedicated to children’s exploration and fun. There is genuinely too many activities to note. Our two didn’t even do everything there was on offer but they did have a chance to find out a little more about space, play with bubbles, water, torches and balls, help build some walls, play in the supermarket, play in the ‘vegetable patch’ and read books. And this is just some of the fun we had.

It’s a bit of a drive out of the city centre, but well worth a visit. There’s even an IMAX cinema!

For prices and opening hours and up to date info about what’s on, check out their website.

Chinatown

Head to Chinatown for dinner and let the kids explore the market stalls and enjoy the relaxed atmosphere of the restaurants. We chose a fabulous low-key restaurant and were surprised at how child-friendly it was. We got great advice on the right kinds of dishes for the kids in terms of spice and portion size and they barely blinked at the mess and noise we created, and not just by the kids. I managed to drop a scalding bowl of soup and wontons were flying ALL over the place! Needless to stay, we didn’t stay too long after this. Also, after some of the expenses of the previous days we couldn’t believe our entire meal came to less than 50 CAD.

Harbour

We happened upon the harbour a little by chance as we had some time to kill before our lunch at the CN Tower and we could have easily made an afternoon of our visit. There’s a man-man beach with Muskoka chairs to chill in while watching the planes landing at Billy Bishop Airport just across the lake, or to take in the amazing view of the CN Tower.

Streetcars

The Toronto Streetcars are not only a fabulous way to get around the city, for children they are pretty darn exciting to hop on and off. The routes and pricing are really easy to get the hang of so don’t be afraid of trying them out. We loved this guide to the Streetcars when we were doing our research ‘How to Take a Streetcar in Toronto’ so do check it out.

There’s obviously soo many other things to do in Toronto with kids…Royal Ontario Museum, Ripley’s Aquarium, Hockey Hall of Fame and Riverdale Farm but we didn’t want to feel as thought we’d rushed around simply to tick things off a list. We had so much fun doing the things we did that we left the city feeling like we would happily visit again and again and always find something new to do.

Have you visited Toronto with your children? What are your recommendations?

Cx

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How to do Vienna in 2 Days…and not break the bank

If you read my post How to Do Budapest in 2 Days you might have been wondering what we did with the rest of our trip. Nope, we weren’t stuck in customs attempting to bring home copious amounts of Hungarian sausage and wine! We hopped on a train and headed for Vienna….to sample Vienniese wine and sausages instead!

I hadn’t banked (geddit?) on how expensive Vienna would be and what a difference it would be in terms of culture to Budapest. So we had to think a little more carefully about what we would spend our money on while in the city.

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We stayed in the beautiful Appartment-Hotel an der Riemergasse which is a cross between a hotel and an apartment. With all the services you’d expect from a hotel (including the option to have breakfast brought to your room) but with the feeling of being in your own flat.

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The rooms all have their own little kitchen area if you need it. The hotel is extremely central and meant that we were just minutes from all the main sights. As we were visiting in Spring and not during peak time we were able to get a good deal on our accommodation and obviously being centrally located meant we didn’t have to spend any money on transport while we were in the city.

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We opted not to go into some of the main sights so that we didn’t have to budget so much on eating out. It’s all about the food and drink for us.

We ate at 3 Hacken Magazin on our first night and, though not cheap, the food, wine and service were faultless. Not a great choice if you’re a vegetarian as it is predominantly traditional Viennese food, ie meat. Fabulous if you’re looking for Bratwurst and strudle and we had a great waiter who helped us pick a Viennese wine within our price range and to match our preferences. It was absolutely delicious and worth every penny.

Fro breakfast on our first morning we tried Café Englaender, and found ourselves in what you would have expected The Ritz to look like 50 years ago. Grand, in an old fashioned way. We had a prosecco breakfast, with eggs, breads, yoghurt, continental meat and cheese, and fruit.

It was a bit of an extravagance but hey, when in Vienna…

Dinner this evening was street food as had stumbled upon a wine festival.

Yes indeed our luck was in…

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When wandering around checking out the architecture we genuinely just stumbled upon the Steiermark Frühling Festival situated right in front of the magnificent Rathaus building. If you can time your visit for this one, DO IT . A whole weekend of Lederhosen, fabulous food and drink from the Styrian region. And best of all, it’s free! Giving you extra spends for all the wine. Hurrah! Grab a seat on the grass, or indeed on a hay-bale, and just soak it all in. We had the best time of our entire visit here!

Vienna is another of those cities that is dripping with beautiful architecture so don’t feel like you have to go inside all the main attractions if you don’t want you. You can easily spend a day being awed by the buildings from the outside. Which is exactly what we did.

The only attraction we spent money to visit was the Jewish Museum, 12 Euros, but this allows you entry into both of their museums within a 4 day period so it’s a really good value for money.

As much as the architecture is stunning, and exactly what you would expect when you think of Vienna, if you’d like to see another side of the city, head down to the Danube to check out the street art. We spent an afternoon drinking coffee and people watching and it was great to experience a completely different vibe to that of the city centre.

Finally, if you do happen to stumble upon a wine festival and do happen to have a slightly sore head the next morning then Stadtpark is the place to go to relax, read a book and clear your head. It’s the biggest park in the city centre. You’ll find lots of monuments of famous Austrians, the most famous being Johann Strauss, as well as an abundance of picnic spots, a benches to rest weary legs. Once again, it won’t cost you a dime (unless you grab a coffee, which, if you did happen to visit the wine festival…is a must!)

Vienna isn’t the cheapest of cities but don’t let this put you off. It’s relatively easy to spend a few days here and not spend the earth. Hopefully this has helped you with some ideas of how to do it.

Have you been to Vienna? What would you recommend?

Cx

 

 

 

 

Why You Should Travel Without Children

I realise this topic is going to be controversial but let me start by making it clear I’m not saying NEVER TAKE YOUR KIDS AWAY WITH YOU. If you read my blog or follow me on social media you’ll see that I love going on adventures, near and far, as a family.

We’ve been away the four of us, with friends, with extended family and, shock horror….either just the two of us or each with our own friends.

All the trips we’ve been on have been amazing in their own ways.

Aside from work trips I’ve only ever gone away for 1 or 2 nights in the past to go to birthdays, weddings and hen do’s. Until I recently went on a trip with my best friend. A trip for no reason other than we wanted to go away for a few days together.

We planned and saved small amounts for two years. Two whole years. But as the time to go away became closer I had a serious case of the mum-guilt.

How selfish were we to go away and leave our children for 5 days!

It wasn’t a work trip, we didn’t HAVE to go away, it was 100% because we wanted to. And this knowledge did make me feel bad. I found myself pre-empting the judgemental questions and defending myself before anyone had even said anything, explaining that I see the kids more than ever now that I work from home. I also didn’t want to seem like I was ‘too excited’ about going away without the family.

That, coupled with a lot of the conversation being about how dad would ‘cope’ stopped me in my tracks.

It’s interesting that there still seems to be this notion of dads being babysitters, as opposed to joint caregivers. There’s certainly none of the ‘how will you cope’ chat whenever Alan goes on a trip.

I also remembered that I’ve spoken before about mum guilt, how we need to stop beating ourselves up and how society as a whole needs to back off and let parents make their own choices. So there I was, not listening to my own advice.

The last time Alan went away he had said how it was a nice break not have to think about anyone other than himself for a few days. Quite right! And he reminded me of this before I went and said I should do the same. Enjoy being a bit selfish.

So I did!

 

We stayed up late, drank in the middle of the day, read our books, walked and walked and walked without having to stop ten million times with snack bribes…actually finished sentences. Utter bliss!

Taking the children to see new places and experiencing trips with them is of course amazing. I love seeing their little faces when they see something new. And I love being able to relax the rules and let them run around wild.

But likewise, if you’re lucky enough to be given an opportunity to go away for a few days without them, do it. It’s a great chance to let your brain relax, to see sights that you may otherwise miss, eat where and when you want….and to have as much vino as you fancy. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with being a little selfish now and again. It’s self care isn’t it. We all deserve to look after ourselves a little.

So, I’m already planning the next girls trip and I can’t wait.

Cx

 

 

Top Tips for Travelling with Children

The thought of travelling with children is pretty daunting. I’m by no means the most experienced of travellers, however we’ve been on a fair few trips both in the UK and abroad, with Tom and more recently, Lois, in tow.

So here’s my top tips to make those journeys a little less stressful:

  • First of all lower those expectations. I mean, get them right down. To the point where your goal is simply to get to the other side alive, and having not committed violence against another member of your family. By doing this you aren’t going to be disappointed are you?! I say this, because we’ve travelled in the past with lovely ideas of how it’s going to go down and it just never goes this way. For example, we decided to drive back from Cornwall to Scotland in a day, with a stop in Manchester to go to the LEGOLAND Discovery Centre for a few hours. Setting off and stop off times were planned around Tom’s naps. We didn’t factor in leaving on the first day of half term in England and being stuck in traffic for the entire day, missing LEGOLAND and Tom staying awake for the entire 12 hour journey. Actually, that’s a lie, he fell asleep 45 minutes from home, then we had the added fun of the car to bed transfer.  It stressed us right out but the funny thing is, looking back, Tom was completely chilled out. If we’d had no plans for how the day SHOULD go, we might have been the same.

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An Unexpected Trip to Disneyland Paris

So it goes a little something like this. We’re having out usual Friday night – G&Ts at the newest hip bar in town, watching a really cool up and coming band. Not believable? Ok, fine. We’re at opposite ends of the couch in our pjs, eating too much, watching The Walking Dead and my phone rings. It’s my friend. I have a bit of a phobia of talking on the actual telephone since the advent of texting. So I confess I did take a wee moment to decide if I should answer. Upon thinking something bad must have happened I decide I should. Imagine the guilt of ignoring it to continue stuffing popcorn down my throat and she needed my help? She greets me with the bad news that disaster has struck her upcoming trip to Disneyland Paris with her husband and two sons. Son number 2 has chicken pox. There’s an issue with their travel insurance and it’s going to cost a fortune to switch the dates so unless I go along with Tom in place of husband and son 2, she will be going to Disneyland with son 1 alone. I should note before you read on that son 2 is fine, and was fine at the time – neither up nor down, just unable to travel. Just fine.

They leave Monday. In 2 days!

What a dilemma! What a quandary! What is one to do? I mean, I want to help a friend in need of course, but to not go to work for a couple of days and go on a paid for trip instead? It really is a lot to ask! But I sucked it up and took one for the team and Tom and I dragged ourselves along for the ride (pun very much intended).

Check out some of the fun we had. Obviously I haven’t shared any pictures of our friends but they were there, promise. I didn’t just go ‘cheers for the free trip, we’ll catch you for the shuttle bus home on Wednesday’. Honestly!

We had such a blast, I honestly couldn’t fault it. Except maybe the temperature, but I won’t hold that against my friend. Other than that though everything about it was amazing. We were there at the coldest time of year so of course we needed a few extra layers, but it meant no queues for anything. The staff were great, the food was great, and seeing how excited the kids were about literally everything was just amazing!

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