I love me a good staycation. You still get the thrill of a getaway and new scenery without having to spend much to get there, and you’re close to home, so if something goes awry it’s easy to race back.
Now that we don’t live in Toronto anymore, there’s something about sneaking off to the city (with our whole family or by myself like I did last week) that lights a little fire in me. I love the energy of the shopping, restaurants and people — all racing to get…somewhere.
And with March Break just around the corner, I thought it would be fun to tell you what’s happening in the city and feature a standout hotel that you could make “home base” while you’re off discovering all that Toronto has to offer families.
First, let me tell you a bit about the InterContinental Yorkville. It sits at the most western end of the Bloor-Yorkville area, a few steps away from Avenue Road. If you happen to find a couple of hours just for yourself, take advantage of the shopping. I rarely make it up to that end of Bloor and forgot about the great shops like Club Monaco and InterMix, but the Winners on Bloor with its Runway section is pretty fab.
It’s part of the IHG group of hotels, which boasts the world’s first (and largest) hotel loyalty program. The next time you’re at an IHG property, grab a free rewards card; you’ll be closer to earning free hotel stays and it also gets you free WiFi in your room — ahem…around the world.
But back to the family stuff. The InterContinental is itself a nice place to spend time. There’s a pool — and not just any pool but a lap pool located on the penthouse level. You’ll feel posh. Even if your kids act like monkeys.
The hotel is pretty compact. With only around 200 rooms, you won’t feel like you can get lost in the hallways and there’s a distinct customer service flavour at the InterContinental that you can taste the minute you’re ushered through the revolving front doors. It’s a very personal, intimate feel that you often get only at a really high-end five-star property like Langham Place in NYC or the Waldorf Astoria in Orlando. I love that feeling — the one that makes you feel cared about as a person rather than just another customer.
The rooms are very quiet! There were kids staying a few doors down from me, and although I could hear them in the hallway, as soon as I retreated to my room and closed the door, there was nothing but silence and sunshine. I always hate the guilt that overcomes me when we bring our kids to a nice hotel and they’re loud at 6:45 a.m. and I know the guests beside us are affected. I wouldn’t worry about that here.
Oh, and it’s pet-friendly, too, which is now more important to us since bringing a pup into our home.
Best of all, the March Break package gets you a night at the hotel with valet parking (hello!) and early check-in/late check-out, a free in-room movie, popcorn for the whole fam (and pop, too, if you drink the stuff), a four-person family pass to the Bata Shoe Museum or the ROM. Just use the booking code “IKLS2” online.
OK, so what’s happening in and around the city if you don’t want to swim all day at the InterContinental? PLENTY. This is just the tip of the March Break iceberg:
- Royal Ontario Museum: it’s a “Futurology” theme at the ROM — which is located right across the road from the InterContinental — with most family activities happening between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m., all of which are included with your museum admission. I strongly suggest you buy tickets in advance online because March Break is usually a bit of a circus when it comes to ticket lines at the city’s top family attractions, but the ROM is so worth a visit. We’ve been twice and our kids had an absolute blast each time. We’ll be heading there during March Break and I’m excited to check out the new Douglas Coupland-inspired exhibit “Build a city of the future,” and my water babies will be stoked to learn more about whales in the “Exploring whales” area. And I’m already brainstorming ideas to “Create a slogan for the 22nd century”
- Wizard World 2015: I have to admit that I’ve never even heard of Wizard World, even though this is apparently its twelfth year. It’s a self-proclaimed “indoor March Break extravaganza” and it’s happening from March 15 to 22, 2015, at the Better Living Centre (Exhibition grounds). There are a couple dozen rides, a little tots area (kids under five only), arts and crafts, what’s supposed to be a hug exotic petting zoo, pony rides, shows and mascot meet and greets. Tickets appear to include unlimited rides, which is music to any parent’s ear who’s had to buy tickets at the fair
- Glama Gals March Break Camp: It’s a beach tour, y’all! And who doesn’t need to feel a little sand and sun after the winter we’ve just had? You can send your little princess in for a day or a whole week of glam camp, and trust that she’ll be pampered AND empowered. If you don’t know much about Glama Gals and its philosophy, you can read all about it in my Glama Gals review. But trust me — it’s not all unicorns and nail polish. There’s a lot of confidence-building and girl power stuff happening, too, and for $275 a week, it’s not much more than even the community-run camps and I trust this program implicitly
- Ripley’s Aquarium: If you haven’t been to the Aquarium yet, be sure to put it on your Toronto bucket list. Because it’s great. Like, really great. I’ve been twice and still feel like I need to go back a third time to dig even deeper. My kids ooohed and ahhhed at the marvels they discovered there and it’s one of those great attractions at which you can spend three hours or the whole day and feel like you got a lot out of the experience. Be forewarned, though: buy tickets online before you go, and get there EARLY. This is no joke, friends. It gets busy. The good news? From March 16 to 20, 2015, the Aquarium opens its doors at 8 a.m. so you have every opportunity to be the early bird. Don’t make me say “I told you so.” Get there before 9 a.m. during March Break and you get a cup of coffee and a SunRype snack…see? Even the Aquarium staff want you to come at the crack of dawn
- Meet Thomas the Tank Engine at Ontario Science Centre: Spending the day at the Science Centre will be all the more merrier on Monday, March 16 if your little ones are Thomas fans. There’s a live, interactive show — which lasts about 20 minutes, so even the most impatient kids should be able to manage — at 11:30 a.m., 1 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. We’ve been to these shows before and they’re great fun, bubbling over with more energy than you’re probably able to muster in a whole month. Just arrive early to secure a spot; in our experience, people line up an hour before the show to get into these things! And remember, it’s a free show but you still have to pay for Science Centre admission and parking. You’ll want to do this on your way home from your Toronto staycation since it’s quite far from the downtown core
Have a fun March Break activity to share? Feel free to leave it in the comments.
DISCLAIMER: I work for the public relations agency that represents IHG, however I would never share positive news/products/services/travel destinations with you if I didn’t genuinely feel positively. Because that’s how I roll.