There's so much to do in Ontario, so the trick is to know where to go and where to stay. Here's a roundup of some of the best travel destinations that'll not only thrill the whole family, but provide an educational experience for the children, too!
African Lion Safari
Treat the kids to an animal adventure at the African Lion Safari. Located one hour west of Toronto, this Canadian-owned family business was created to "maintain self-sustaining populations of species in decline." The animals wander free in five- to 50-acre reserves and visitors drive through in their cars to witness the animals at their leisure. First opened in 1969 with 40 lions, African Lion Safari is now home to over 1,000 animals of more than 100 species. Along the safari trail, witness the wonder of lions, baboons, zebras, rhinos, giraffes and so much more. Kids can also enjoy a number of activities including a parrot show, a jungle playground, a pet corner and a birds of prey flying demonstration. Admission varies by season, but children aged two and under are free. Visit www.lionsafari.com for more information. For an extended stay, there are lots of great hotels in the surrounding area. Visit www.lionsafari.com/hotels.asp to find out more.
Considered one of Ontario's best-kept secrets, Manitoulin Island is the largest freshwater island in the world. If you and your family are up for an exciting outdoor adventure, this is the vacation spot for you. From hiking trails to fishing trips, there's no shortage of things to keep you busy. Kids will get a kick out of the Kicking Mule Ranch, where trail and wagon rides are offered. Plus, for a dose of something educational, Manitoulin Island offers numerous museums and art galleries, which showcase the history and talent of the people of the island. For more information and for accommodation options, visit www.manitoulin-island.com.
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Ontario Place isn't just for the kids -- it's fun for the whole family in the heart of Toronto, along the shore of Lake Ontario. You'll enjoy a variety of rides and attractions -- go pedal-boating on Adventure Island, take an exhilarating ride on the Super Slide or free-fall from a drop tower ride that will thrill kids and adults alike. For a real learning experience, take the kids to the Cinesphere, where you and the family can enjoy an educational film on an IMAX screen. Programming is always changing; visit www.ontarioplace.com for feature film descriptions, show times and admission fees.
Upper Canada Village
Take a journey back in time (to the 1860s, to be precise) and introduce your children to a piece of Canadian history. Situated in the heart of Eastern Ontario (just east of Morrisburg and west of Cornwall), Upper Canada Village is a learning experience for the entire family. Spend the day watching how wool is spun in a log home or learn how wheat is ground into flour in a steam-powered mill. The village is unique because of its beautifully preserved history and architecture and you'll experience what life was like in the 1860s. There are lots of special events and activities to enjoy. You can tour the village on a ride in a horse-drawn carriage or take the Miniature Train to Heritage Park and the Queen Elizabeth Gardens. Visit www.uppercanadavillage.com for additional information. There are many accommodation options in the area, some of which may offer special Upper Canada Village packages. For more information and to book accommodations, visit www.uppercanadavillage.com/packvil.htm.
Storybook Gardens are located in Springbank Park in London, Ont. The attractions at this kid-friendly venue are all designed to enthrall children between the ages of two and 12. Kids will be thrilled with a visit to Pirate's Island, where they can explore a sunken pirate ship or check out Old McDonald's Farm, which features a Heritage Rare Breeds Program where you can meet barnyard animals and get a taste of rural living. The Enchanted Forest and the Frog Pond are other must-see attractions at Storybook Gardens. For further information, visit www.storybook.london.ca.
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