Ontario Trippin' Around

A Bed & Breakfast for families

My husband and I love staying at bed and breakfasts. We love the special attention, the delectable breakfasts and getting the inside scoop from the hosts on the area we are visiting. Sadly though, since having our daughter eight years ago, our visits to quiet and quaint B and Bs have been immensely curtailed in favour of cookie-cutter hotels with plenty of family amenities, but none of the personal touches.

But just when we thought we’d never enjoy another B & B stay we happened upon Adam Farm Bed & Breakfast, located in Hastings, Ontario. This unique place not only allows children over the age of eight on the premises, they encourage it. But wait there’s more! Even the family pooch doesn’t have to stay at the kennel while the family is out having fun. This B & B caters to furry family members (and we’re not talking about dad) by even providing a doggie agility playground.

Just as the name indicates, this Bed and Breakfast is a working farm, making it even more fun for kids and their parents. Hosts Donna and Bill Adam have been farming for 32 years but decided a few years ago to establish a B and B.

“Bill’s got the smarts and I’ve got the arts, “ Donna proclaimed as she showed us the jewel in the crown on their property: a heritage cottage she decorated herself. It is truly beautiful with a mix of heritage pieces and modern looks. A fully fenced backyard is filled with beautiful artwork, toys for the kids and playthings for the dogs.

Donna isn’t sure, but she thinks the cabin was built in 1810. It’s thick stone walls are indicative of the story of Canadian settlers living without water and hydro. The cabin remains true to its roots, so expect to use oil lamps and candles to light up the night.

As well, there is no indoor plumbing, but outside visitors will find a private portable bathroom that’s definitely nothing like your great-grandparents outhouse. An outdoor solar heated shower ensures that guests won’t miss having an indoor bathroom.

But if the stone cottage is sounding a bit too rustic there’s another alternative. The Adams recently turned an old barn loft into a mini-apartment that’s perfect for longer stays in the area. With a bathroom and kitchenette, visitors will have all the conveniences of a modern home in a beautiful rural area that is largely undiscovered in Ontario.

There is a lot to do on the farm as well. Visitors can take nature walks through an enchanted wooded area with areas set up for meditating, or meander through wheat fields that seem to go on forever.

There’s also a very friendly pair of equines that are totally kid-proofed. A donkey called Tiny and Rocky the horse love human attention and families will enjoy meeting them as much as the two family dogs that wander all around the property.

The Stone Cottage can be booked from Friday to Sunday for $250, including two continental breakfasts. The Barn Loft is also $250 from Friday to Sunday but you will have to bring your own breakfast since the mini-apartment has its own kitchenette. For more info: adamfarm.ca.

The Adam Farm Bed & Breakfast is located two hours east of Toronto in Northumberland County. For info on events and attraction in the area: northumberlandtourism.com.

 

Images: Phil Raby
Article: Anna Augusto Rodrigues

© tripswithkids.ca – Unauthorized reproduction of this post is prohibited.

Events Ontario Toronto Trippin' Around

Toronto’s Carnival through the Lens


Have you ever wondered about the origins of the Caribbean Carnival in Toronto? If the answer is yes, you will have to check out the exhibit Toronto’s Carnival: Festival Photographs from 1967 to Today.

Running at the Royal Ontario Museum until August 1st, 2011, this exhibit explains the history of Carnival in Toronto through video footage, photographs and text you will find written on the walls along side the photographs. The quotes are from a 1967 article published in the Toronto Daily Star (now known as the Toronto Star) on the first Caribbean Carnival. The text is fascinating to read as you view the images taken by legendary Star photographer Boris Spremo, capturing the excitement of that first Carnival in 1967. The archival photos are juxtaposed with more recent images of this annual Toronto event.

Community activist and artist, Nation Cheong, documents present day Carnival with beautiful images that have an underlying social message as well. He not only showcases Caribbean culture through his photos but touches upon other issues, such as marginalization and emancipation, as well.

Don’t worry if you think kids will be bored with the exhibit. The images are bursting with colour and excitement and there’s a story being told in each one. As our eight-year old exclaimed after going through the exhibit, “It’s pretty cool!”

To participate in this year’s Scotiabank Toronto Caribbean Carnival check out their schedule of events.

For more information on this exhibit and others at the Royal Ontario Museum, click here.

To purchase this article or images please contact us for a quote.

Images: Phil Raby
Article: Anna Rodrigues

© 2007-2011 Trips with Kids – Unauthorized reproduction of this article, video and images is prohibited.…

Ontario Trippin' Around

PrimRose Donkey Sanctuary

“Wilson! Come here Wilson!” Sheila Burns, founder of PrimRose Donkey Sanctuary, a farm for abused animals, calls over to a donkey grazing blissfully in the grass. He looks up slowly upon hearing his name but then goes right back to his task. I wonder out loud if Wilson, along with all the other donkeys, can recognize their names. In a heartbeat, Sheila quips, “They do, they just have selective hearing.”

 

Image: Phil Raby

This sanctuary currently harbours 20 donkeys, four mules and one pony. There are potbelly pigs, sheep, a goat, numerous cats and one dog. Each of them has a name and each has a history, but often it’s a sad one.

 

For example, there is Joey, a lovely boy, as Sheila describes him. He was tied to a tree and beaten with a baseball bat by his owner before being rescued. But you would never guess the terrible abuse he’s been through as he stands patiently while visitors pet him.

Another one of the sanctuary’s mandates is educating the public. Sheila and her legion of volunteers work hard to dispel all the misconceptions that surround donkeys and mules. Popular culture portrays them as being stubborn and dumb, but those attributes couldn’t be further from the truth.

Sheila explains that donkeys are cautious animals, so it’s not obstinacy that keeps them from following directions. As well, their sense of loyalty may keep them from doing what they’ve been told to do.

Image: Phil Raby

Jed the donkey was such a case. Sheila was asked to pick up some neglected animals from a farm one day and a donkey was among the group. As she tried to load the hungry donkey into a trailer he refused to enter it and kept returning to his dirty shed, even though he was being enticed with tasty food to get him to leave. Perplexed, Sheila returned to the shed and found the reason Jed wouldn’t leave the farm: a pig was hiding in there. She loaded the pig into the trailer and Jed went in after without problem.

It’s no surprise that these animals are very good livestock keepers and will protect their flocks at all costs.

With all of these traits going for them one must wonder why donkeys have such a bad reputation.

“Donkeys are throwaway animals and are often sent to auctions to be sold for dog food. They can take a lot of pain and become easy targets for abuse,” Sheila explains with sadness in her eyes.

After moving to a six-acre farm in Roseneath, Ontario, Sheila wanted to get some barn animals. A friend knew of a pregnant donkey with a foal that needed a good home. Her name was PrimRose and she became the namesake for the sanctuary.

After that Sheila began getting calls from the Humane Society and the police letting her know of not only donkeys, but other animals in need of rescuing. It has become a huge endeavour that not only includes looking after the animals, but also rehabilitation and running an adoption program.

Throughout the years, Sheila has adopted out many donkeys to local farms to work as protectors of livestock or as companions to horses. Although they are adopted out, the animal still remains under the auspices of the sanctuary who will conduct inspections at these farms to make sure their former charges are happy and healthy.

Rehabilitation is an important part of the work the sanctuary does as well. Virgil, a miniature mule who was badly abused in the first year of his life, has been at PrimRose for a while, but it was only recently that he’s allowed people to pet his back. He’s slowly beginning to trust humans again.

Image: Phil Raby

Helping with all of this work are 35 dedicated volunteers, the youngest who is only 10 years old, who feel that the work they do benefits them more than the donkeys.

Without them, Sheila says, the sanctuary just wouldn’t exist.

PrimRose is open to the public on Thursdays and Sundays from 1 to 4 pm. Volunteers are on hand to give tours of the sanctuary where visitors can interact with the rescued animals. There’s no fee, but donations are gladly accepted. Check out their website to find out what type of donations the sanctuary is needing at the moment. Requests include apples, cat food and Canadian Tire money for farm supplies.

PrimRose Donkey Sanctuary is located about two hours northeast of Toronto.

For more information, including directions from Highway 401: 905-352-2772 or primrosedonkeysanctuary.com

Images & video: Phil Raby
Article, reporter & editing : Anna Rodrigues

© Trips with Kids – Unauthorized reproduction of this article, video and images is prohibited.

Ontario

Long Point Eco-Adventures

Image: Phil Raby © tripswithkids.ca

If nature walks are a little too tame for your tastes, how about scanning treetop vistas in a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve while sailing along a steel cable at speeds up to 60 km/h?

Long Point Eco-Adventures, located just west of Port Dover, Ontario, offers an exhilarating zip line adventure that passes through a world-renowned Great Lakes coastal ecosystem.

Eight zip lines and two suspension bridges take participants on a two-hour, guided odyssey through pristine woodlands and alongside wet meadows and marshes. But before anyone can strap themselves onto the taut lines zig-zagging through the trees, they must first pass something called Ground School.

 

Like the name implies, the first lesson takes place on terra firma where expert instructors help you gear up with your safety harness, helmet and sturdy leather work gloves. Up to eight adventurers can accompany the two guides on each tour, but our group consisted of a married couple, a mother and her 11-year-old son, and one middle-aged journalist.

After a brief explanation of the basics, it’s a short stroll over to the first zip line for a short, low-altitude practice run where you can try your hand at sliding, braking and self-rescue techniques.

If you successfully navigate your way through Ground School, you head back to the main building and up a two-storey metal staircase for your first real challenge.

As the would-be adventurers soon find out, stepping off into thin air at a serious height takes a little more bravado and a good deal of faith in the harness cinched tightly around your waist and legs. But despite some hesitation and a few shaky starts, we all manage to reach the first treetop platform with little trouble.

Next up though is the tallest stretch of the tour, a dizzying 100 feet (30 metres) above the forest floor. Our destination is shrouded by leaves and barely visible at the other end of the line. But with the assurances of our zip guides we head off one-by-one into the green abyss.

This time we race much faster along the line and our hearts keep pace. Once safely clipped onto the safety lines on the next platform, our lead guide Josh Tchorek takes a little time to explain all the local flora and fauna in abundance at Long Point.

From the treetop platforms you can see a great deal of the more than 26,000 hectares that make up the area, which was designated as a Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO in 1986. It earned that designation with its unique blend of habitats that attract a diverse list of songbirds, spawning fish, turtles and frogs.

Long Point is also world-renowned as a refuge for migrating birds in fall and spring, as well as a late summer resting spot for thousands of monarch butterflies on their way to warmer, winter climes.

After the brief education, we’re off again to the next set of zip lines and landing platforms. Like over-grown Ewoks, we race from one stop to the next, then scurry across the “Skybridges,” a pair of wobbly suspension bridges that lead us towards the end of our tour and the big finale.

All of our other zipping pales in comparison to the “The Bomber,” an 800-foot (244-metre) stretch of cable that vanishes into distance. It’s a daunting expanse but even our youngest tour member, 11-year-old Braeden, takes the plunge without hesitation.

At more than twice the length of any other line, the scenery screams by in a blur and small bugs become airborne missiles aimed at your eyes and teeth. And when you finally reach the end safely and think the best is behind you, the guides inform you that the only way down from the final platform is a 40-foot (12-metre) rappel.

With no other option, one by one we all bravely hitch ourselves to the rappelling rope, which in turn is wound through something called a belay device. This bit of climbing gear creates friction on the rope, allowing you to lower yourself by hand without straining against your full body weight.

When we’re finally back on the ground, it’s all over except for the congratulations and exchanging of email addresses for those of us who snapped pictures along the way.

Info: lpfun.ca or 877-743-TOUR (8687)
Reservations are recommended and participants must be in good health. Zip liners must weigh a minimum of 70 lbs. and no more than 250 lbs. Tour cost is $87.95 for adults and $69.95 for youths aged 8-17 years.

© Trips with Kids – Unauthorized reproduction of this article, video and images is prohibited.

Ontario Trippin' Around

Horseplay Niagara Perfect for Absolute Beginners

I catch my breath as I settle in the saddle. Sunny, the horse I’ve been given to ride at Horseplay Niagara, shifts under my weight and my heart jumps into my mouth. At the moment she seems bigger than a dinosaur.

“Don’t pull the reins until I tell you, OK?” Karen, a guide in chaps and a long leather coat is giving me instructions, but what she’s telling me isn’t quite computing. I’m too terrified. A variety of scenarios that involve falling off and being stomped on by heavy hooves rush through my mind.

“Pull the reins, yes…” I mumble incoherently.

“No, I said don’t pull the reins yet,” the guide corrects firmly.

I had a bad horse experience when I was just eight-years-old. While vacationing in a village in Portugal, some kids thought it would be fun to put my sister and I on a horse and then see if they could get it to kick us off.

While we were on, someone began swatting the horse’s hindquarters with a stick, causing it to buck. Everyone was laughing, even my sister thought it was fun, but I was terrified and began to cry. Finally taken off the horse, I swore never to get on another one again.

 

So why am I doing this? Well, it’s time to make peace with the fear; to show it who’s the boss. But I quickly find out that it’s Sunny who is in charge. After being untied from the post, she quickly falls into a line of 15 other horses as our trail ride begins. It turns out all I had to do was relax.

“We spend a lot of time with our horses getting them ready for beginners to ride,” explains Kathy Buttigieg, the owner of Horseplay Niagara.

Originally a lesson and boarding stable, Kathy began offering recreational horse riding twelve years ago because no one else was in the area. It turns out that was the right thing to do. The horse riding took off and now that is all Horseplay Niagara offers all year long.

 

With about 35 horses to choose from, they can pretty much accommodate any type of rider, but they specialize in first-timers whose nerves can’t take a frisky mount.

“We teach the horses that no matter what, they are to follow along and stay with the group,” says Kathy.

That’s exactly what Sunny is doing as she turns onto the Trans Canada Trail. I don’t have too much to do. I just hold onto the reins and try to stay in the saddle with my boots in the stirrups. With a guide at the top of our line, one in the middle and one at the end, there’s no chance of getting lost in the woods. My hands relax and the colour returns to them as I begin to appreciate the scenery we’re riding through. The clop-clop of the horse’s hooves play a soothing, rhythmical song and I can imagine drifting off to sleep with the slow rocking of the ride.

Within a few minutes we arrive at a quarry where we stop to get pictures. Flying high above us is a red-tail hawk and Tony, the only male guide on this trek, tells me that garter snakes are around too.

My heart takes a leap as I recall every western I’ve seen where a horse gets spooked by a snake on the trail and makes a run for it. I express my fears to Tony who immediately calms my nerves.

“These horses are used to everything,” he says. And the horses that don’t pass all the distraction tests don’t make it out to the trail, he adds.

 

On our way back to Horseplay, we begin to gallop at a slow speed. No need to dig my heels into Sunny’s soft belly – she starts and stops as our front guide leads. The galloping is fun and I realize that this was a great idea. As we slow down my hand leaves the horn for the first time and I pat Sunny’s soft neck.

“Good girl, aren’t you a good girl,” I whisper.

Unfortunately though, I’m beginning to feel the effects of the saddle on my rear end. We arrive back at the ranch and my slow descent from the horse and subsequent painful gait is noticed by one of the guides.

“Take a nice warm bath tonight, you’ll feel much better tomorrow,” she promises me.

Horseplay Niagara is located 90 minutes southwest of Toronto in the town of Wainfleet. They offer a variety of riding packages. Beginners may want to take the one-hour trail ride, which costs $35 per person and can be taken by kids six and up. The Sunset Trail Ride runs for 90 minutes, costs $50 per person and is recommended for children older than nine.

Horseplay Niagara is extremely family-friendly and all trail rides include access to an outdoor playground mini-golf, a zip line and a mini climbing wall.

All riders under the age of 18 must wear a helmet. Helmets for children and adults are available at no extra cost. They are open all year long and will ride rain or snow.

For more info: horseplayniagara.com/905-834-2380

© 2007-2010 Trips with Kids – Unauthorized reproduction of this article, video and images is prohibited.

Ontario Toronto

Go Batty at the ROM!

When I was a child, spending my summer vacations in rural Portugal, a distant relative of mine pointed to the bats flying around their house and told me to be careful. The story was that the bats were bloodsuckers, who would latch on to any warm-blooded animal, including myself, for a nightly snack.

 

Of course when I saw the creatures on their nocturnal flights, I was afraid. Well, it turns out someone was wrong or just trying to scare me because I found out recently that while there are bats that feed on blood, they are only found in Mexico, Central America and South America. Those vampire bats are no where near Western Europe!

That’s only one of many fascinating facts you’ll learn about bats when you visit the Royal Ontario Museum’s re-vamped Bat Cave Gallery. An already popular spot for kids and adults at the ROM, the new and improved area has much more to offer and will definitely leave visitors astonished as they uncover surprising information on these flying mammals (yes, they are mammals!)

Here’s what you will experience:

  • get personal with bats by seeing extreme closeups of their faces. Pretty spooky stuff especially when you get a nice look at the Ghost-faced Bat.
  • want to learn how bats navigate in the darkness? The whole echolocation process is on display.
  • find out what bats eat while looking at taxidermied specimens.
  • learn more about the history and the research done at the St. Clair Cave in Jamaica, home to thousands of bats. This is the cave the ROM’s bat cave is replicating.
  • be prepared to enter a world where bats rule. In the dim light you will see over 20 specimens and more than 800 models in the cave. There’s so much to see, it’s a good idea to spend some time exploring all the different recesses in the cave where the daily (and nightly) activities of the bats are on display.

As Batman would say: “Come on, Robin, to the Bat Cave! There’s not a moment to lose!”

Story: Anna Rodrigues
Images: Phil Raby

© 2007-2010 Trips with Kids – Unauthorized reproduction of this article, video and images is prohibited.

Ontario

Ottawa: Easy on the Environment

Story: Anna Rodrigues
Images: Phil Raby

If you’re looking for a family vacation that will allow you to ditch the car for a few days, try Ottawa.  The downtown core of our Nation’s Capital is both pedestrian and bike-friendly, so getting around isn’t a problem.  In no time at all you’ll see your carbon footprint become smaller while your wallet gets thicker with all the cash you’ll be saving on gas and parking.

Market Watch

Although it is comprised of only four street blocks, the historical ByWard Market area, also known as the birthplace of Ottawa, is jam-packed with things to see and do. There are restaurants, specialty shops, and of course, one of the oldest and largest farmers’ markets in Canada where home-grown flowers, vegetables and delicacies can be found.

If you have a sweet tooth there are two must experiences to put on your ByWard Market list.  The first one is to have a piping hot BeaverTail, the perfect indulgence to eat while listening to live music in the market.

As well, if you are curious about the Canadian Obama cookie, stop by the Le Moulin de Provence bakery to check them out.  President Obama purchased these maple leaf sugar cookies last February while in Canada for a visit and the rest, as they say, is history. The bakery has a lot more to offer than cookies, and with an outdoor patio, it’s a great place to have a coffee in the market.

A Day at the Museum

The Canadian Museum of Civilization is located in Quebec, just across from downtown Ottawa, but it is a definite must see for families visiting the area.

It is considered Canada’s largest cultural institution with over 25,000 square metres of display space all housed in an award-winning building designed by Canadian architect Douglas Cardinal.  Its permanent exhibit, the Grand Hall, is absolutely stunning with over 40 authentic totem poles in a vast gallery that also doubles as a theatre where performances take place.

Inside you will also find the Canadian Children’s Museum, a place where a child’s imagination can run freely while they explore the world, literally.  This children’s museum is divided into different international experiences so kids can experience driving a Pakistani bus, playing in a Nigerian home or watching short, animated movies in a Canadian cinema.  In all there are over 25 areas of interactive fun in this one place.

Getting to the Canadian Museum of Civilization is an easy 20-minute walk from downtown Ottawa by simply crossing over the Macdonald-Cartier Bridge.

Who’s Afraid of the Dark?

There’s no need to wait until Halloween to hear a good ghost story. The Haunted Walk of Ottawa is a good way to find out about the city’s ghoulish side while learning some history as you tour all over the downtown.

You can learn all about the scary antics going on at City Hall that don’t involve any politicians.  It turns out that part of City Hall used to be a Teacher’s College, and unfortunately a ghostly school marm still thinks she’s teaching in the empty rooms.  As well, there’s a frightening story involving a historical building with an eerie attic where too many people have seen strange things. That story might just leave you looking over your shoulder.

Before going on this walk, make sure your kids are up for it.  It’s recommended for children six and up who are prepared to walk for 90 minutes and aren’t too sensitive to scary stories.

For more info: ottawatourism.ca / 800-363-4465

Where to Stay

Since a lot of Ottawa’s main attractions lie in its downtown core, the perfect place to stay at is the Westin Ottawa, located a stone’s throw from Ottawa’s jewel in the crown, the Rideau Canal.  The Westin is offering a Family Escape package starting at $179 for a family of four.  This package includes coupons for BeaverTails Pastries, an in-room movie, but even better, kids under the age of 12 will eat for free for each paying adult at the Westin’s restaurant, Daly’s. To book: westin.com/Ottawa / 866-716-8101

© 2007-2010 Trips with Kids – Unauthorized reproduction of this article, video and images is prohibited.

Ontario

Up and Away with Niagara Helicopters

Story and video: Anna Rodrigues
Image: Phil Raby

My heart is pounding. A high-pitched scream wants to escape from my mouth but I don’t bother. It wouldn’t be heard over the powerful din of the rotors circling above my head. An attendant extends his hand with a smile, letting me know where I should sit. He locks me in securely with the seat belt, hands me a headset and then the cabin door slams shut.

There’s no going back now. I am afraid of heights. Add speed to that fear and you will understand why I haven’t been on an amusement park ride since I was a young child. In mere seconds though I will be experiencing anything beyond the fastest ride I could ever imagine. I will be flying high on a Bell 407 helicopter. The pilot, Rene Huessy, introduces himself and with a whoosh, I find myself up in the air.

 

In 1985, a young Swiss pilot named Ruedi Hafen found himself the new president of Niagara Helicopters Limited, a business that had been around for more than twenty years under a variety of owners. The company’s main purpose was training, but Hafen decided to focus more on sightseeing and charter flights. To do this, he began adding more helicopters to his fleet of two and expanding his base of operation. Over the years, Niagara Helicopters has grown to five Bell 407 helicopters, paved helipads, and several hangars all housed in a beautiful, park-like setting that includes an indoor-outdoor snack bar and gift shop. Last year, more than 100,000 passengers from all over the globe flew in the comfortable helicopters and enjoyed discovering the Falls in a completely new way.

The beautiful Niagara landscape stretches out before me as the helicopter soars upwards. My fear of heights evaporates as I listen to the taped commentary through the headset. Below me, a variety of Niagara Falls landmarks, such as the Whirlpool Rapids and the Rainbow Bridge, are recognizable and look extraordinary from this point of view. The nine-minute aerial tour ends too quickly as the helicopter lands expertly where it all began. The attendant opens the cabin door with a smile and I hope he sees how the fear in my eyes, from a few minutes earlier, has been replaced by exhilaration.

Hot Tips:

-Call for tour group rates and reservations. Parking is free.

-The tours run year-round (except for Christmas Day) from 9:00 a.m. until sunset, weather permitting.

-A certificate of flight is provided to all passengers.

-For less mobile passengers, a wheelchair ramp provides access to the helicopters.…