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TRAVEL SLEUTH - FAMILY ATTRACTIONS NEVER FAIL TO SURPRISE
 
(2020 - Spring Issue)

Writer: JANE STOKES



Venture into magical places near or far for kids big and small.

Teachable moments might not be the first incentive for adding activities like rollercoasters, water slides, sports games, animal encounters and theme parks to a family vacation, but giving children so many fun ways to learn must surely be the bonus.

For instance, have you noticed that once inside just about any of the world’s most touted kid attractions, many exhibits tend to be eye-popping, colourful and larger-than-life? It’s the exact formula they say for a lot of brain exercise.

The idea of togetherness is enriching too, especially the type of togetherness that results in big grins. No doubt this year, these toothy smiles will happen at events such as the Vancouver International Children’s Festival held on Granville Island during the end of May. At the Ontario Science Centre in Toronto, KidSpark is a learn-through-play space for tiny tots. Meanwhile, Clic! The Zone for Curious Young Minds is where families engage in unusual tasks with lots of laughter inside the Montréal Science Centre. childrensfestival.ca; ontariosciencecentre.ca; montrealsciencecentre.com

For the countless fans of Canada’s Wonderland, your favourite theme park in Vaughan, Ontario, is introducing a courage-building, jumping feature called Mountain Bay Cliffs, as well as the Beagle Brigade Airfield ride so your little ones can go flying. In the heart of Toronto, consider a day at the medieval-like manor, Casa Loma, where families get to be the good guys in a series of fanciful escape games, even one activity requiring skills to save dragons. canadaswonderland.com; casaloma.ca

Florida Bound

Just like any magic spell worth its salt, a Florida experience always seems to make us want more. As many as 126 million people now visit Florida annually. Coupled with a magnificent shoreline, the sheer numbers of elaborate, high-tech, fantasy attractions in this one state alone make planning a cinch for any school break year-round.

At SeaWorld Orlando, for example, not only do we learn plenty of little-known facts about our oceans and marine life, but also waiting are several hair-raising, water-themed rides including the new Ice Breaker and other “floorless” and “face-down” rollercoasters. Over on the Gulf coast, Busch Gardens Tampa Bay is also intent on building kid-courage at every age. Among its 10 rollercoasters, the newest one, Iron Gwazi, a hybrid coaster, is touted to be North America’s tallest at 62 metres and is also the world’s steepest and fastest at speeds of 122 km/h with near vertical drops.

Parents are in luck, as well, not only with the abundance of family attractions worldwide, but also with the quality. Competition keeps standards high and that gives us more freedom when planning and better value for the buck. Some handy trip planning tips include researching the types of attractions in your vacation area; deciding what’s best suited to your family’s interests; and then, relaxing with a good measure of confidence about your choices. seaworld.com/orlando; buschgardens.com/tampa

Here’s a snapshot of the latest excitement on the world stage for family attractions:

Role Models in Sports

At the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis, visitors of all ages are learning about the excellence achieved by well-known athletes. These interactive experiences can help boost our own physical fitness. The museum’s Sports Legends Experience is an initiative of the local Riley Hospital for Children and the attraction comes complete with three indoor educational exhibits and 12 outdoor activities including skills training in baseball, basketball, long-distance running and more. childrensmuseum.org

Space Age Imaginations

Nurturing curiosity in the night sky is another good reason to put Orlando, Florida on the travel plan chart. At Disney’s Hollywood Studios, a fantastical trek across the Star Wars universe is waiting to begin for everyone. If your spaceship keeps on going, you’ll eventually reach the newly discovered “planet” called Galaxy’s Edge. Among its rollicking realm of surprises is Rise of the Resistance, a thrill ride said to be “unlike anything you’ve ever experienced anywhere else in the galaxy.” disneyworld.disney.go.com/en_CA/

Just Slothing Around

In Costa Rica’s rainforests, prehistoric sloths are giving kids an eye-opener on how different the world’s wildlife can be. Native to Central and South America, wild sloths are long-haired, monkey-like mammals, and since shyness makes them hard to spot, the Nayara Resorts have upped the ante by planting 300 sloth-favourite Cecropia trees. This sloth sanctuary in the Arenal Volcano National Park is home to at least 15 of the three-toed creatures who just sloth around, or do nothing but hang upside down all day. arenalnayara.com

Build a Windsor Castle

In England, the 11th century Windsor Castle certainly has that fairy tale appearance so once you’ve finished exploring it, why not give the kids something more to build on that experience? Windsor is on the River Thames just 35 kilometres from central London, and within six kilometres of its famous castle is the LEGOLAND Windsor Resort. Stay overnight, or just visit its grand amusement park for the day. Throughout the park explore brilliantly coloured LEGO architecture, which boasts a staggering 80 million LEGO bricks. Afterward, prepare for more fun with a choice of 55 interactive rides, attractions and live shows. Children can role play and choose to become a knight, an explorer, a test pilot, or they might like to participate in a LEGO-building workshop to build a Windsor Castle of their own. legoland.co.uk

Driving Us Around the Bend

Just 30 minutes on Motorway 2 northwest of Dublin, Ireland, is the sprawling Tayto Park, a multi-day family attraction with over-the-top excitement from rollercoasters to petting zoos to driving lessons. In Tayto’s newest Nissan Driving School, youngsters study the rules of the road followed by lots of practice in miniature cars on a realistic roadway track. Be reminded: all of the driving rules in Ireland are for driving on the left-hand side of the road but the accomplishment, plus the take-home “driver’s licence,” could easily add up to a lifelong boost in confidence. Taytopark.ie

 
 
 
 
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