Gifts opened: check
New toys played with: check
Relatives visited: check
Okay… now what? How are we going to keep those littles busy so we can work / relax / recover and enjoy some down time of our own?
Here are some suggestions for post-holiday fun that won’t break the bank or have you counting the minutes until school resumes.
1. Meet a Real Viking at the Royal Ontario Museum
From December 26 to January 7, the ROM will have extended hours filled with live music and dance performances, themed activities, games and crafts. Other highlights include “real” Vikings who will be setting up camp in the Museum and interacting with visitors, and appearances by Hands on Exotics who’ll offer the chance to get up close and personal with exotic wildlife.
2. Let’s All go to the Movies
Little kid-friendly flicks like Coco and Ferdinand are out now and getting good reviews. For bigger kids there’s the new Star Wars: The Last Jedi, the Jumanji remake with Jack Black and The Rock, Wonder based on the best-selling book and, if two hours with Hugh Jackman is your jam, use the kids as cover and check out The Greatest Showman starting December 20.
3. Check out the Wildlife at the Toronto Zoo or Ripley’s Aquarium
My family hits the zoo every year during the winter break. I tell the kids it’s to wish the animals Happy New Year but really it’s about getting out of the house for some exercise and fresh air. Toronto Zoo is open 9:30-4:30 daily. New Year’s Eve at Ripley’s requires a special ticket and guests must be 19+ but there’s lots for families to do and see at other times. Buy your tickets in advance and get there early to avoid the crowds!
4. Hit up your local pool or skating rink
Get the kids moving inside a nice warm pool or a skating on a chilly rink, depending on your preference (and who has the comfiest chairs for mom!) If your local facility is attached to a public library, grab a hot chocolate after your skate or swim and curl up with a book.
5. Bounce off the walls
With locations in Toronto, Vaughan, Mississauga and Whitby Skyzone Trampoline Parks are a great way to burn off excess energy and introduce the kids to something new in a safe and fun environment. Jump with the kids, join an impromptu dodgeball game, or grab a coffee and watch while your little daredevils flip into foam pits and, literally, bounce off the walls. (PS. Skyzone gift cards and Sky Socks make great last-minute Christmas gifts and stocking stuffers.)
6. Try a New Restaurant
The Cheesecake Factory just opened at Yorkdale Mall and it’s everything we hoped it would be. The line-up have been huge so get there early or try one of the specialty food shops that seem to be popping up everywhere, like the obscene and delicious ice cream cones at Sweet Jesus or the monster milkshakes, decadent cupcakes and cookie sandwiches at Short & Sweet Bakeshop near Yonge and Eglinton.
7. Snow Tubing
Offered at several ski hills north of Toronto, including Snow Valley in Barrie, snow tubing is a great way to experience the outdoors without having to invest in expensive gear, wait for lifts or, well, ski. All you need to join the fun are tubes and helmets, which can be rented on site. At Snow Valley, single rides start at $5, with five rides for $20 or ten rides for $40. Mid-week is cheaper and tickets can be bought online in advance for extra savings.
8. Check out the Nations Fresh Food Experience
Am I the only one who’d never heard of this place until recently? Nations Fresh Food is part grocery store, part playground, part entertainment complex and all-around mind-boggling experience. Come for the groceries and stay for the 155,000 square feet of dim sum, hot buffets, fish market, arcade, ball pit, butcher, bakery, party rooms and – believe it or not – so much more. Locations in Toronto, Woodbridge, Hamilton are now open.
9. Experience a Winter Wonderland at Casa Loma
Nightly through January 7 (excluding Dec 24, 25 and 31 and Jan 6), Casa Loma will transform into a winter wonderland where guests can take in the beauty of the castle against the backdrop of a stunning outdoor light display. Magic shows, hot cocoa, a peek into Santa’s workshop and a 40-foot tall tree are the highlights, not to mention the castle itself.
10. Visit the Hockey Hall of Fame
Time is running out to catch the NHL Centennial Exhibit at the Hockey Hall of Fame before it ends on January 7, 2018. Featuring a tribute to 1oo years of NHL hockey, the Centennial Exhibit is a great addition to an already stellar line-up of history, artifacts, and interactive games. Located in the heart of downtown Toronto at Yonge and Front St., the Hockey Hall of Fame is easily accessible by GO Train and TTC, and is within walking distance of the Eaton’s Centre, St. Lawrence Market, Air Canada Centre and dozens of family-friendly restaurants.
11. Winter at Ontario Place
Bonfires, movies and skating, oh my! Okay, the skating is on a synthetic rink which might offend some purists but with free admission and lots of other seasonal activities, it’s worth adding Ontario Place to your list of winter outings. Winter at Ontario Place runs through March 18.
12. Take in a Show
Disney’s Beauty and the Beast has been extended to January 7, 2018 at the Young People’s Theatre and tickets are still available for most matinee performances until then. Good tickets are still available too for most performances of Dr. Seuss’s The Lorax at the Winter Garden Theatre and for Grease on its sister stage, the Elgin.
13. Stay put
And on the seventh day, they rested. Not up for an outing or just want to stay in your jammies all day? Keep cabin fever at bay with board games, DIY mani-pedis and facials, and baking contests. Showcase your mad fort-building skills and have a Star Wars marathon in the living room, or have kids choose old clothes and toys to donate. Make a chore list and set some simple, achievable family resolutions to get the new year started on the right foot.
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