Tales from Toronto – Family travel review
By: the Mamma Fairy
We have finally settled back to normality after what I can only describe as the trip of a life time. I’ll admit I was pretty nervous about flying long haul with two young kids but it turned out to be totally fine (some tips here and here). ‘We landed into a cold (-8!!) Toronto on a Thursday afternoon in March. We had pre booked our taxi via Aeroport as I wanted to prebook car seats plus paying in advance saves any surprises!
The driver was prompt and efficient and provided some lovely commentary as we made our way to the Grand Hotel & Suites. He left us with the comment that “The only thing that will hurt you in Toronto is the cold” and he wasnt wrong there!
Where we stayed – The Hotel
First impressions of the hotel was wow, the beautiful entrance and reception is very welcoming. I booked a double room via booking.com and was delighted upon check in to be upgraded to a 2 bedroom suite. The suite was just beautiful, full kitchen, 2 big bedrooms and a sitting room with a sofa bed. There was a huge balcony with outdoor seating that would have been amazing in the summer time (see view opposite). Breakfast was included in the room rate and it was fantastic, kept us going for the day.
The location of this hotel is very central, we walked everywhere something which was a key requirement for me when booking a hotel when traveling with kids.
In terms of facilities this hotel has everything we needed for a really enjoyable trip. There are hot tubs on the roof of this hotel – see picture opposite of the view from them. I wasn’t brave enough in -10 weather to try them but hopefully we visit again in summer time and ill have to give them ago. We popped up one evening to see the view and there was music on the big TV and a few brave souls in the hot tubs!!!
Without question the highlight of our stay here was customer service. My youngest son takes goats milk and I emailed in advance to see if there was somewhere local I could get it when we arrived late. Nicole who was a pleasure to deal with all along sent me the details of local places however when I got the room there was a note on the table saying check the fridge and in it was a litre of goats milk. For me this gesture epitomises what the hotel is about the attention to detail was just fantastic.
We ate in the onsite resturant one of the days and it was very tasty. Service was attentive but not instrusive and very child friendly. We had a fire alarm one of nights which ended up in us making our way to reception at 2am which seems to be the kids highlight of the holiday, not sure I agree!! While a little chaotic at the start, the night porter did his best to reassure everybody it was a false alarm and we made our way back to bed. Thankfully the kids went back to sleep!
What we did – the activities
We were very fourtunate to be provided with media passes to Toronto’s top attractions. We had decided before going which attractions we really wanted to see, the kids had spent weeks pouring over YouTube clips and the short list was drawn up. Short summary below of our favourites:
- Ripley’s Acquarium for me this is top of the list, an absolute must do in Toronto, huge place with fun interative exhibits and so much to keep the kids entertained we surprised ourselves and spent almost 3 hours here. Do go early it is popular and gets very busy. We arrived at opening time but by the time we left the queues were forming. What I liked about this place was it really is fun for all ages. Next door is to the Aquarium is….
- CN Tower this is an iconic Toronto landmark and no trip to Toronto would be complete without a visit. We took the high speed lift to the top. There is a small glass floor area, an outdoor viewing area and an indoor area with lots of vantage points. You can also eat and drink at the revolving restaurant here but we didnt get the chance this visit. Its a fun way to pass an hour the adults really enjoyed the kids were a bit meh however they had just left the aquarium so expectations were high.
- Hockey Hall of Fame this ended up being a surprise hit. We didnt know
anythingmuch about ice hockey before we visited. However the kids thoroughly enjoyed the interactive exhibits here. There are 2 main ones, one where you take shots on a goal the second where you are the goal keeper. So much fun and so unexpected. Location wise these three attractions are located within a short walking distance from each other.
- Medieval Times This was a really fun evenings entertainment. It’s set up as a banquet where you eat as they did in medieval times i.e with their hands!! Kids loved this! A three course meal is served while you watch knights dual on horse back. Each area has a colour and you cheer on your knight. Depsite the fact our knight didnt win we thoroughly enjoyed the experience. Food was plentiful, staff were friendly and so efficient. There was a falcon display which really has to be seen to be believed. Its was incredible, there wasnt a sound when it was going on. This is the type of event all ages will enjoy and the food was suprisingly good too. We did the afternoon show so it was busy but not packed.
Hints and Tips
- Like any city rush hour traffic can be unpredictable so give yourself plenty time especially if like us you have an evening flight home
- Plan ahead for the weather!
- Toronto CityPass works out great value for family visits when doing the main attractions like we did above
- Attractions can be busy so plan ahead – keep an eye on their websites for updates etc
- Its a very safe city
- The locals are really friendly and helpful
- Its really child friendly, kids were welcomes in resturants no issues at all
For more information on Grand Hotels & Suites see here.
Note: Special thanks to Nicole at the Grand Hotel and Suites for her assistance and to Michele at Tourism Toronto for organising the passes for us.