Bronte Creek Maple Syrup Festival

Bronte Creek Maple Syrup Festival

This was not the ol’ fashioned, trek in the woods, maple-ly experience that I envisioned when I think of ‘maple syrup festival’.

We arrived at the Bronte Creek Maple Syrup Festival at 2pm on a Saturday during March Break.  It cost $17 to get in and we were told the festival closes at 3pm.  Really, 3pm? On a Saturday? During March Break?  Yes I know I should have planned our arrival time better and the times are clearly displayed on their website….

With the clock ticking, we raced to park in section D which is where the “pancake house” was located.

**EDIT:  Please take a look at the comment from Sheila @ Ontario Parks below this post.  She offers some good tips to get the most out of this experience!

Maple Syrup Festival – Fantasy vs. Reality

When I think of ‘maple syrup festival’ I imagine:

Maple Syrup Festival image from Google
Maple Syrup Festival image from Google
Maple Syrup Festival image from Google
Maple Syrup Festival image from Google

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The reality….

You park in a bland gravel lot and then walk across a bland field to get to the snack shop which is doubling as the pancake house.

Walking from the parking lot to get the pancakes.
Walking from the parking lot to get the pancakes.

As you come around the corner you see the line up.  It’s a long line up, snaking all the way through the building and outside the door.

While you wait in the cold concrete surroundings, you can enjoy the view of the park’s garbage wagon to your left, or the recycling bins to the right.

The view, while we wait in line for pancakes.
The view, while we wait in line for pancakes.
More of the view as we wait for our pancakes.
More of the view as we wait for our pancakes.

After 30 minutes, out of our ONE precious hour before closing, we reach one of only TWO cashiers.  We paid around $20 for our pancakes, sausages, juice boxes and a hot chocolate.

More lineup as we made it inside the building.
More lineup as we made it inside the building.

 

Pancake prices.
Pancake prices.

After ordering you have to endure another line up to get your food. The servers plunked our pancakes and sausages on the plate with about as much enthusiasm that my husband had when arriving for root canal day.

There are two outdoor eating areas with picnic tables (one area was covered) and when we finally sit down to eat we realize we picked up 4 knives and 1 fork.  I went back to get some extra napkins and forks only to find that the doors shut and lock behind you.  If you want back into the building then you have to go to the main door and squeeze and snake your way past the long line of people…

Eating area with picnic tables.
Eating area with picnic tables.

So how did they taste?

Pancakes were good, sausages were good, syrup was good.  Everything was good.  But so are the pancakes I make every weekend for about 50 cents worth of ingredients 🙂

Kids eating pancakes.
The kids seemed to enjoy the pancakes.

Activities For Kids

After the long wait to eat we had to rush to see the rest of the festival.  We had to go back across the bland field and get in our car to drive to another parking area.

There were booths selling different items, pony rides (for a fee), maple taffy (or whatever it’s called – for a few and the line up was too long so we didn’t get to try).  If you wanted to eat or drink anything, it’s an extra cost.  This was a big disappointment.

There is a barn with some old fashioned games, my kids enjoyed (free).

Kids playing wooden games.
Old fashioned games, my kids enjoyed them.

Cows and hay bales to see (free).

Hay bales for jumping.
Hay bales for jumping.

 

Checking out the cows.
Checking out the cows.

 

More cows.
More cows.

There were a couple of gift shops but we didn’t go in them.

Image of gift shop entrance.
Gift shop, due to festival closing, we didn’t have tome to go inside.

My kids enjoyed opening the lids of the maple sap buckets.

Kids looking inside maple syrup buckets.
Taking a peek inside the buckets.

The Bottom Line

My kids enjoyed themselves, so I guess that’s all that matters right 😉  But they would have probably enjoyed themselves on any regular day at Bronte Creek Provincial Park as well.  I didn’t find this experience to be all that much different from any other day at that park.  We showed up right before closing so maybe we missed a number of demonstrations and other events?

My husband and I wanted more of an actual maple syrup festival feel (see images above 🙂 ) and we don’t feel we got that here.

What maple syrup festivals have you been to in the Hamilton/Oakville/Burlington/Milton area?  How do they compare?

  • The park areas we visited were stroller friendly
  • Washrooms in a few places throughout
  • Your park entrance fee doesn’t include any of the food or drinks
  • Pancakes and sausages were good, but nothing spectacular
  • Free parking with admission
  • The other park areas, not a part of the festival are still open (play barn, slides)

 

Westfield Heritage Village

Westfield Heritage Village

If you’ve never heard of Westfield Heritage Village, you’re not alone.  I happened to stumble across it while looking at the Hamilton Conservation site.   As usual, the descriptions online were lacking so we were a little apprehensive when deciding to visit.

They have some special Halloween evenings coming up and then some Christmas activities after that.

View of the street
View of one of the streets.

Great History (but your kids won’t give a crap)

I love it when I stumble upon a hidden gem like this.  My husband and I had a great time reading about the history of the buildings and exploring.

But –

If your kids are young like mine – they won’t give a crap about any of it!

There are things that they will like though, keep reading 🙂

Westfield Heritage Village is a pioneer village with a number of historical buildings including a blacksmith shop, homes, a school, a Queen’s Rangers’ cabin and many more.

Trading Post c. 1841
Trading Post c.1841
View from the bandstand in the centre of 'town'
View from the bandstand in the centre of ‘town’

I assumed I was going to see a bunch of re-created buildings, but most of these are the real deal.  Buildings from the time periods 1775 to 1925 are arranged here to make a very lovely experience.  This is not the original location of the buildings but they are cared for here by the Hamilton Conservation Authority.  You can see a map and descriptions here.

Queen's Rangers' Cabin c1792. One of the oldest log cabins in Ontario.
Queen’s Rangers’ Cabin c1792. One of the oldest log cabins in Ontario.
Blacksmith shop
Blacksmith shop
Historical building
It was very interesting to read about the history of these buildings. Most of them were open and you can go inside.

So many Facebook picture opportunities :)…..This would also make a nice outing for extended family (grandparents) as each group can get something out of this trip.

The Pioneer Theme

There are costumed interpreters who work in the buildings and mingle so you can ask questions about what you are seeing.

Ladies preparing bread to be put in the oven.
Ladies preparing bread to be put in the oven.

We stopped at Eddie. D. Cat General Store – very nicely done inside and the prices were nice as well – a large assortment of candies and goods for .25 to $2.

Some of the goodies for sale in the general store
Some of the goodies for sale in the general store

Hint:

I scored big points with the family by buying us all candy sticks – @25 cents each.  My son even told me I’m the ‘best mom ever’.   Best.Mom.Ever.  Makes the cavities and the sugar high all worth it!

To illustrate some of the hardships our ancestors had to endure, they don’t take debit or credit in any of the stores.  Do you know how difficult it was for me to scrounge up 1 single dollar in change to buy some candy??

You can use plastic to pay the entrance fee but once you are inside its pioneer livin’ with cash only and no ATM on site.

Continuing with the theme, the toilets we saw were port-a-potty style.

The Stuff Your Kids will Care About

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Hilton Falls

Hilton Falls

It’s heeeere….For all you Fall lovers out there, now starts the autumn fun!  Farms and pumpkins here we come….Many of the Halton Parks have their annual fall festivities lined up – you can find some info here.  Today we visited Hilton Falls.

Path to the falls
Path to the falls

Our main reason for going was to do marshmallow roasting at the bonfire that they have going near the falls.  Our son has been asking for camping activities and I thought this would be a good way to do something camp-ish, with little effort 🙂 More on this below…

My husband and I like hikes with waterfalls and have been to some nice ones in Hamilton, such as Sherman Falls and Tiffany Falls.  With a perfect 16c day before us we set out to explore the park.  Hilton Falls is located at 4985 Campbellville Rd in Milton.

The Looong Trail to the Falls

There are a few different hiking trails here.  We did the yellow path – Hilton Falls Trail – and followed the trail markers from A to C to D (the straight line route between C and D) and then doubled back.

Nice tall trees along the path.
Nice tall trees along the path.

It was a long walk, especially for our 3 year old.  Our 5 year old was fine, but a bit impatient that it was ‘taking so long to get to the campfire’.  We seem to be moving away from using our stroller, but this was one outing where I wish we brought it with us.

Kids on the trail.
The trail was flat and wide most of the way. But it was a long walk for a 3 year old.

The terrain is flat and easy, but seemed even longer than it was due to 3 year old snail pace walking.  I saw  numerous families sluggishly carrying their toddler and muttering ‘almost there’.  Trust me, just bring the stroller.

Speaking of strollers, I would say that the path we followed was stroller friendly, but there is one small section at the beginning of the trail that will be a bit tricky.  It’s steep and rocky, depending on your ability you might need a helper in this small area.  But after that it’s smooth sailing.

There is also an additional viewing platform that is accessible via stairs – but you can avoid them and see the falls from the viewing area near the bonfire.

Steep part of the trail.
Pic of the steep part at the start of the trail. Everything else after this is flat.
Rocks on the path.
Close-up of some of the rocks at the start of the path.

However, there are a few entrances to these trails so another spot may have a smoother entrance.

I also saw many parents walking the trail with their very little ones in a carrier.

Beautiful Tree Covered Walking Trail

It was peaceful and the trees were very beautiful, the smell of pine in the air.

Trees on the path.
Lots of greenery. A pretty path.
Pretty trees.
Pretty trees.

It wasn’t crowded at all – so if your 3 year old has a mini meltdown because the nut she found on the ground has a line on it…there are very few people around to stare at you 🙂

Here’s my husband trying to find her a nut with no lines on it.

On the way to the falls.
The mini-meltdown on the long path to the falls.

My kids enjoyed spotting chipmunks and caterpillars and mushrooms growing on logs.

This trail was very nice, just a bit far for the little ones.

There is a picnic table off to the side, about 3/4 of the way to the falls where you can stop for emergency snacks if needed.  You will also find an outhouse style toilet en route as well (regular washrooms are near the park entrance).

Picnic table en route.
Picnic table for emergency snacks.

The Bonfire – hint: Bring Marshmallows

As you approach the falls viewing area, there is a nice bonfire area set up with benches and large rocks for sitting.

The bonfire area.
The bonfire area.

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Chudleigh’s Farm

Chudleigh’s Farm

Well here we are folks, the eve of pumpkin spice season!

If you happen to be a fern or a hydrangea then you probably loved the summer of 2017.  But alas, we now approach Autumn….time for farms, fall leaves, cursing yourself because you’re last minute with Halloween costumes again – even after the fiasco of last year when you swore you were going to be on top of things this time…

To help break up the stress of 5-year-old-halloween-costume-idea-changes every.five.minutes…let’s checkout a farm – Chudleigh’s Farm in Milton!

 Towers and slides at Chudleigh's Farm

Towers and slides

Apple orchard as seen from the wagon ride
Apple orchard as seen from the wagon ride

A Fun Milton Activity for Toddlers, Kids and the Whole Family

Towers, slides, tire swings, sandbox, animals, nature trail and more….

We haven’t been to too many farms as yet.  Last year we started to sample a few of them and this year they seem to appeal to our family a bit more.

Our 3 and 5 year old enjoyed Chudleigh’s Farm and I think it was a good age range for this farm.

We went on a very windy day in August.  It was too early for pick-your-own apples or any type of corn or pumpkin activities.  But possibly a great time to avoid crowds. I’m not too sure what this farm has in store once Sep/Oct rolls around.

Here’s the rundown.

Tire Swings

My 3 year old loved these! There are a few of them here.

Tire swing shaped like a horse.
Tire swing shaped like a horse!

Towers and Slides

This is a big attraction here.  The slides on each of the towers are wide enough for my bum + my kids to fit comfortably!

Tower at Chudleigh's Farm
One of the towers at Chudleigh’s Farm.
Towers and slides at Chudleigh's Farm
Another view of the slides

These structures are quite tall and some of the slides are pretty steep.  My 5 year old was a bit apprehensive at first, but warmed up fairy quickly.  At 5 years old, he could climb the latter to the towers and navigate the structures and the slides.

Kids running on structures
5 year old had no problem climbing and navigating.

I think they were a touch too big for my 3 year old though.  Some of the slides are not as steep, so she was ok with those ones, but she struggled with some of the ladders to get up to the towers – which meant I had to wedge myself up there to help her out.

3 year old climbing ladder.
3 year old had a bit of difficulty getting up some of the ladders.

If you have a 3 year old (or younger) I don’t think they could navigate independently.  So be prepared to climb up there yourself, or direct them to one of the many other activities…

View from the top of the slide
This slide was too steep for my 3 year old.

Sandbox

Decent size, with a shaded area plus a little ‘house’ and a few sand toys.

View of the sand box area at Chudleigh's Farm.
View of the sand area. A bit of shade, as well as sand toys are provided.

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Valens Lake, Hamilton

Valens Lake, Hamilton

You may have read in my first post, or even here, that I really hate packing up all the gear needed for 2 kids, driving all the way to wherever, and then ….it’s a let down.  It was the main reason for starting this blog!

Well, Valens Lake Beach is the perfect example of a place that I’ve heard of a number of times, but due to lack of concrete reviews and info, I decided it wasn’t worth the trouble to take a chance.

It’s only about a 40 minute drive from Oakville, and the kids were craving a beach and rain was supposed to hold off for 4 hours….so we decided to take a chance and give it a go!

Valens Lake Conservation Area is located in Flamborough, ON and is part of the Hamilton Conservation Authority.  There is a beach, canoe rentals, swimming, fishing, trails and camping.

The reason for our visit was the beach and the trails.  You can google reviews for Valens Lake, but they mostly focus on camping, with only brief mentions of the beach.

Depending on what I read, the beach was either a hidden oasis or so bad that I will need to take a shower immediately upon one toe touching the water…..

Valens Lake Beach

It was nice….but…(more on that in a minute).

First the pros – the beach area was very relaxing with lots of trees and shade and lots of room for the kids to wander and explore.

Trees and green space around Valens Lake
Lots of trees and green space around the lake.

 

Lots of shade and open areas for picnics or lounging. At 10:15 in the morning we had the beach almost all to ourselves!
Water in Valens Lake
Perfectly still water on Valens Lake.

The water was ‘Canadian-warm’, you adjust-ish after a few minutes.  This is a man-made lake so the water gets cloudy when you move around, but it wasn’t polluted.  I saw lots of kids and parents swimming here.  I waded into the water a bit but I personally like to swim in water that isn’t as cloudy – you just never know when lake-sharks will surface, and I want to be prepared 😉

Kids exploring Valens Lake
Our kids enjoyed wading into the water and exploring.

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Sherman Falls and Tiffany Falls, Hamilton

Sherman Falls and Tiffany Falls, Hamilton

It’s obvious why Niagara Falls gets all the attention, but did you know there are a TON of other Waterfalls in the Hamilton area?

They’re not as big and thunderous as Niagara Falls and they don’t come with an abundance of overpriced trinket shops, but they’re still a great little excursion for your family.

A few weekends ago we visited two waterfalls.  Tiffany Falls and Sherman Falls.

Hamilton Waterfalls Close to Home

Hamilton is known as the waterfall capital of the world and there are some good sites out there to help you navigate them.  Such as http://www.waterfalls.hamilton.ca/ and http://tourismhamilton.com/hamilton-waterfalls and http://www.cityofwaterfalls.ca/

I chose Tiffany Falls and Sherman Falls for a few reasons;

  1. Easy access to the falls from the parking area (no long/difficult hiking with little ones and one of the paths is stroller friendly)
  2. Easy to get to these falls from the highway and close proximity to each other
  3. Free and almost free (Sherman Falls is free, Tiffany Falls was just 2 bucks for parking)
  4. Prettiness

As I mentioned in my About page, my husband and I are originally west-coasters and we still love spending time there.  We are always on the lookout for hikes and trails in the Halton area that come close to that beautiful scenery (not fair I know, but we still look!).

These 2 waterfall areas are pretty close to meeting that criteria!

Tiffany Falls
Tiffany Falls
Sherman Falls
Sherman Falls

 First up – Tiffany Falls

I really liked the trail to the falls and I would definitely go back.  I’ve seen some pics of this area in the winter and I think it would be a neat spot to check out when everything is frozen over.

Path to Tiffany Falls
Path to Tiffany Falls

Tiffany Falls is located near Wilson St. E. and Lower Lions Club Rd. in Hamilton.  There is a very small parking lot and if you are coming north on Wilson St. E. there is not a lot of warning that it’s coming up.

The trail to the falls is really beautiful and stroller friendly.  It is not perfectly flat and you will encounter a few spots with some rocks and uneven ground.  When you arrive at the falls, there is a viewing platform with stairs, but everything before that should be easily navigated with a stroller.

kids on trail
3 and 5 year old can easily walk the trail

 

Viewing platform at Tiffany Falls
Viewing platform at Tiffany Falls
Rocks on the trail
A few rocks on the trail but I would still consider it stroller friendly up until the platform.

 

I think it took us a leisurely 10-ish minutes to reach the falls from our parked car.

Path to Tiffany Falls
Leisurely stroll to Tiffany Falls.

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LaSalle Park and Wading Pool

LaSalle Park and Wading Pool

So Many Reasons to Like LaSalle Park

There are many reasons we like LaSalle Park in Burlington.  In a nutshell –  6 bucks entertains our kids for a few hours!  Specifically, a great wading pool, really nice nature trails with great scenery and a good playground.

Nature trail
Nature trail in LaSalle Park

 

LaSalle Park is located at Lasalle Park Rd and North Shore Blvd E.

There is no charge to get into the park , to use the playground or explore the trails.  The wading pool has a small fee of $3.35 per child and parents don’t have to pay (bonus)!

Finally, a real wading pool!

My kids hate splash pads.  Hate.  Back in my day, wading pools were everywhere, but now, not so much.  Bronte Provincial Park has a sort-of wading pool, but what I don’t like about that pool is that it starts out shallow and just gets deeper and deeper…

The LaSalle wading pool is a nice sized square pool that is shallow (only goes up to my knees!).  There is a lifeguard on duty and even a small splash pad area for normal kids who like that sort of thing 😉

lifeguard
Lifeguard at LaSalle Wading Pool

 

Wading pool
Nice size wading pool with shallow water.

 

Swimming pool
Water toys are available (but limited).

The small pool size + shallow water + lifeguard means us parents can sit back and relax a bit.  We can let our kids wade in the pool without having to constantly be right beside them.

They even have some comfy chairs available for lounging – but they are very limited, so I recommend bringing your own folding lawn chairs.  The deck around the edge of the pool is cement, but you are free to put a blanket down if you like.

deck chair at pool
Deck chairs are available or bring your own lawn chairs or blanket.

I’m a shade lover, so there is a decent amount of shade from the umbrellas and the trees.

There are signs that say no food or drinks but I see lots of parents feeding their kids so I”m not sure if it’s fully enforced.  Outside the pool area there are lots of areas to sit and have a picnic so that’s always an option as well.

Bathrooms – last year they had a portable thing inside the fenced area of the pool.  We went there on opening day this year (2017) and it wasnt there. Not sure if it’s will be back, but if not there are bathrooms located at the gazebo/shelter.

Nature trails

The nature trails at LaSalle park are a nice little trek in the ‘woods’.  Stroller friendly and very scenic. It usually takes us about 30 minutes to walk the trail.  The trail is somewhat of a loop, starting at the main parking lot (if you are facing the playground, the start of the trail will be behind you).

The trail loops around and ends near the boat launch area.  You can then walk up the hill (or the stairs) to get back to the shelter/pool area.

kids on the boardwalk
A lovely boardwalk with great spots to view ducks, swans and geese.

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Lions Valley Park

Lions Valley Park

Lions Valley Park – A peaceful spot in the middle of Oakville

If you’re like us, any place that can entertain your kids for a good amount of time and is FREE, scores big points on the must-do list!

Lions Valley Park in Oakville is indeed free and you will find a playground, a creek, stroller friendly walking trails, a nice pedestrian bridge, frogs, birds, picnic areas and fishing.

This park is often referred to as ‘Oakville’s best kept secret’.  Wanna take a sneak peak?

Here’s a short 23 second clip that was intended to show you a bit of the scenery near the creek.  Instead;

This video perfectly sums up what every.single.outing.ever. is like with a toddler or preschooler…  Ever!

 

Sixteen Mile Creek Trails

Despite the park’s list of features, our kids weren’t (initially) enthusiastic about any of it (more on that later)!

Lions Valley Park is located at Dundas St. W. and Lions Valley Park Rd (although it stretches down to Upper Middle and their are various entrances).

The trails in this park are part of the Sixteen Mile Creek trail system.  You can find some additional trail info on the Town of Oakville website. http://www.oakville.ca/culturerec/sixteen-mile-creek-trail.html.

There are a number of ways to get on to these trails.  We chose to start at the parking lot on Lions Valley Park Rd and Dundas St. W.  The parking lot is directly underneath the Dundas St. bridge.

Bridge in Lions Valley Park Oakville
Underneath the Dundas St. bridge in Lions Valley Park

From the parking lot, there are a few different trails.  There is a map in the parking lot outlining the different options.

Most normal humans would have read those maps before heading out.

Unfortunately we weren’t those people…..

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Cherry Hill Gate

Cherry Hill Gate

Cherry Hill Gate – Family fun in Burlington

What parent doesn’t want a cool photo of their kid feeding a chipmunk or a bird?  (hint: every parent wants this 🙂 ) and so Cherry Hill Gate delivers!

Chipmunks, birds, beautiful tall trees, a nice stroller friendly trail, and a scenic boardwalk await you at Cherry Hill Gate.

Feeding chipmunks at Cherry Hill Gate.
Feeding chipmunks at Cherry Hill Gate

 

A fun family activity in Burlington. Feeding birds and enjoying the boardwalk.
Enjoying the scenery and feeding the birds on the boardwalk.

A fun Burlington activity for toddlers, kids and the whole family

The trails here are very scenic and just the right length for small kids in tow.  It’s stroller friendly, but the first hill, right inside the entrance, is a bit steep (easier down than up J).  We’ve taken our stroller here the past few years and never had a problem.

Entrance to Cherry Hill gate with view of the hill.
Main entrance of Cherry Hill Gate. This hill is a bit steep but we did it with a stroller no problem.

 

Beautiful scenery. Water with swans.
A great nature walk in Burlington. Easy scenic trails.

 

Fun kids activity. Feeding the birds.
The kids feeding the birds

To get the most fun out of this trip, you absolutely must bring a big bag of bird seed.  To get the birds and chipmunks to eat from your hand, just grab some bird seed, and hold out your arm.  Wait a few moments and …voila!

Hold out your hand and the birds will come.
Feeding the birds at Cherry Hill Gate

 

Birds eat right from your hand.
Just hold out your hand and the birds will come right to you.

A hidden gem in Burlington

Cherry Hill what? Is the most frequent question I get when I mention this place.  It’s somewhat of a hidden gem tucked in between the Burlington/Hamilton border.  It’s part of Royal Botanical Gardens (RBG) and is located at the intersection of Plains Rd W and Botanical Dr.

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