If you’ve decided to drive to Toronto with the kids – why not plan some stopovers that will give the kids something to look forward to and hopefully reduce their level of boredom and crankiness.
The distance between Montreal and Toronto is approximately 550 kilometres, but it can seem twice that distance if your kids are whining in the back seat. We all know that car travel can try the patience of little ones, so smart parents will look for ways to break up a journey with fun activities, especially ones that get kids moving and burning up some energy.
This city sits about halfway between Montreal and Toronto (or about a three-hour drive), making it a natural stopping point. There’s plenty here to keep the family occupied.
Fort Henry (Hwy 2 at the junction of Hwy 15) www.forthenry.com
Take your family back to the 1860s at this National Historic Site. Kids can join the ranks as a soldier in the Military Muster Parade and try out the fife, bugle and drums as part of the many demonstrations that take place throughout the day. At Jessup’s restaurant, located inside the fort, costumed waiters instruct customers not to say please or thank you. Now, there’s a first for the kids.
Kingston Family Funworld (1533 McAdoo’s Lane, Hwy 401 exit 619) www.funworldpark.com
Go-karting is the most popular activity at the Kingston Family Funworld. Children over the age of 10 and who are at least 52 inches in height may drive a car solo. Otherwise, they must be with an adult. The centre also boasts a batting tent and a miniature golf course.
Playtrium (541 Days Rd., The Atrium Mall, Hwy 401 exit 611) www.playtrium.ca
Children of all ages can enjoy climbing and jumping at this 3,000 square-foot play structure. There is also a secure toddler area plus arcade games for older kids. The centre offers a three-hour drop-off program for children ages 4-14, for only $20 per child. Lunch without interruptions anyone?
About two hours outside of Toronto, and about a 20-minute drive off Highway 401, this city is known for its giant replica of the Canadian two dollar coin, or toonie, which was designed by a local artist. Families can also enjoy a variety of different activities as well as shopping in quaint boutiques.
Empire Cheese Factory (RR#5, #1120 County Rd. 8, accessible from the 401 on either Hwys 30 or 33 exit 509-Brighton, or exit 526-Glen Miller) www.empirecheese.ca.
First built in the 1870s, this co-op produces award-winning cheddars and a wide range of specialty cheeses. Customers travel long distances to pick up supplies of their favourite cheeses made in the traditional open-vat method with no additives or preservatives. Their curds are a big hit with the kids and make for a nutritious car-ride treat.
World’s Finest Chocolate (103 Second St., Hwy 401exit #509 Campellford/Brighton to Hwy. 30 North to Campbellford) www.worldsfinest.ca.
If you really want to please the whole family, check out this store, which sells chocolate-covered almonds, mint chocolate and milk chocolate almond bars, along with gift baskets and bulk chocolate. They also sell factory seconds, which means you can get more cocoa delectables at discounted prices. Perfect for bribes, er, I mean rewards for good behaviour in the car.
Ranney Gorge Suspension Bridge (Highway 401 exit 509 Campbellford/Brighton and follow County Road 30 North for 15 minutes) www.friendsofferris.ca.
A more adventurous excursion is a breathtaking walk across the Ranney Gorge Suspension Bridge in Ferris Provincial Park. Inspired by the Capilano Bridge in Vancouver, adrenaline will surge as you feel the 300-foot-long bridge swaying under your feet and look down at the rushing waters of Ranney Falls.
As you continue to travel west, exit 509 and head south to Brighton, where kids with a fascination with trains will enjoy a trip to Memory Junction Museum. Set in a 1850s railway station that houses a lot of memorabilia, visitors can spend time walking in and around various box cars and cabooses.
Just south of Brighton is a provincial park called Presqu’ile (13 kilometres south of the 401). This park is a renowned hotspot for bird watching and other activities such as swimming, camping, windsurfing and various nature programs. You can also visit the oldest operating lighthouse on the north shore of Lake Ontario.
To find out more information about this area, visit www.northumberlandtourism.com.
Located about an hour and a half from Toronto, this city sits on the shores of Lake Ontario and makes for a pleasant break, either for a stroll near the lake, some shopping or a bite to eat.
Cobourg Beach (located in Victoria Park in the City of Cobourg. Hwy 401, exit #472/Regional Hwy 2 Southbound) www.cobourgtourism.ca.
White sand, clear water, a boardwalk, splash pad and an ice-cream parlour make for a perfect afternoon of swimming, building sandcastles and relaxing. The shallow water is ideal for kids, refreshingly cool instead of icy cold, and they can walk out 50 metres before the water gets too deep.
Stopovers can change the long journey from a test of endurance to a great part of your family holiday. With any luck, the kids will look back with fondness on their adventures on the road (and forget the squabbles in the car!).