Summer time is here and that means pools and splash pads! Forster Park is a nice little neighbourhood park in Oakville with a good playground, splash pad, tennis court and washrooms. There are lots of nice tall trees, shade and a few picnic tables.
We’ve been to this park many times before but this was the first time our kids have ventured into a splash pad. Our previously splash pad hating children finally tried a splash pad!
I loved that the splash pad area was right next to the playground. We set up our blanket on the grassy area in the middle and then didn’t have to exert any energy moving around to different parts of the park 😊 It was a perfect spot for me to be lazy AND have a good view of my kids in each area of the playground.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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…
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 🙂
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).
Cows and hay bales to see (free).
There were a couple of gift shops but we didn’t go in them.
My kids enjoyed opening the lids of the maple sap 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)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
If you are not quite ready to spend each weekend at a farm and want to head out to a good ol’ fashioned park before the weather turns, you might want to consider Lakeside Park in Oakville. We were pleasantly surprised by Lakeside Park, 6 years in Oakville and this was our first visit!
In our search for nice bike paths for young kids, I thought Lakeside Park and surrounding areas might be a good choice.
Lakeside Park is located at 2 Navy St. in Oakville, and as the name suggests, it’s right beside the lake.
Our Plan: Take the kid’s bikes; go for a short ride and then end up at the playground.
Our Reality: bike chain came off 30 seconds into the trip and we couldn’t get it back on. Kids saw the playground first and didn’t want to leave…so that’s where we spent our time.
There is nothing extraordinary about the playground here, regular swings, slides etc. but what made this a neat park were the small heritage buildings on site.
Oakville Historical buildings FREE to take a look
There are two historical buildings here. Oakville’s first post office and Thomas House (a farm house from 1829). Lakeside Park was not the original location for either; they were moved there by the Oakville Historical Society. https://www.facebook.com/OakvilleHistoricalSociety/
I had no idea these buildings were at the park and I was very excited to take a look! Both are FREE to go in (they are very tiny structures).
The post office has a staff member who can answer questions and provide you with information. There are also plaques along the wall with interesting facts (young kids won’t give a crap about these though J
But they do have a couple of small activities that kids might enjoy. Colouring pages and writing with a feather and ink. My kids really liked this and they seemed to be a natural at it!
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
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.
My 3 year old loved these! There are a few of them here.
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!
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.
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.
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…
Decent size, with a shaded area plus a little ‘house’ and a few sand toys.
A sandy beach with clear water, so close to home! If, like us, your trips to the beach usually include one of the non Lake Ontario popular destinations (Crystal, Dover, Wasaga etc) and you are looking for something a little closer to home, then you might want to give Bronte Beach a try.
Our family really enjoys the beach and we’ve visited Bronte Beach a couple of times in the past. I’m not quite sure why we forgot about it this summer – up until now – but perhaps it’s because I heard it was a victim of the 2017 summer flooding of Lake Ontario.
But as we were driving back home from Shell Park one day, I noticed a bunch of beach umbrellas so we decided to investigate….
Right in our own backyard
If you’re a fellow Oakville dweller then you’ll appreciate the closeness of this beach. I recently wrote about our trip to Valens Lake in Hamilton and thought that it was a fine place if your kids were just looking for a beach. If I compare these two places, on beach alone, I prefer Bronte Beach.
Bronte Beach is just west of Bronte Rd, south of Lakeshore Rd. W. off of W River St.
If you turn left into the driveway that leads to the beach (just off W River St.) you will get to an itsy bitsy teeny tiny parking lot. Don’t go there.
Instead, park in the little ‘park’ area just south of Lakeshore Rd W. When you turn left onto River St. it will be on your left. This is your best bet to find a parking spot. Learned that the hard way! All parking is free!
Nice Sand and Water and the fish were alive!
I didn’t see a single dead fish! 🙂 Seems like most of us have been conditioned to have an aversion to Lake Ontario beaches, but the water quality checked out and the beach area was nice. We saw schools of little fish near the shore, my son enjoyed trying to ‘catch’ them.
The water is clear and the temperature varies from ‘Canadian warm’ to freshly melted ice age glacier (as it was last weekend). Lots of people are swimming or wading in the water each time we’ve been there.
I decided to give Shell Park a try based on the description of the flower garden. This is a simple park, no extraordinary attractions here, but it was a decent area for my kids to practice riding their bikes.
It was a mostly pleasant drive across Lakeshore Rd. in Oakville to get to Shell Park (3307 Lakeshore Road West).
I say ‘mostly’ because, we were coming from the east along Lakeshore, meaning we pass Coronation Park.
Meaning my kids saw Coronation Park from the car window.
Meaning they wondered why we weren’t stopping where all the other kids were playing.
Meaning we had to listen to ‘no fair!…’ a hundred times as we drove to our destination. (Repeat the process on the way back home too…)
My kids are fairly new at bike riding so we were looking for a relatively safe, enclosed area for them to take a spin.
There weren’t any formal bike trails here, just a winding road that made it’s way around the different areas of the park. We were there on a hot summer Saturday afternoon and the park was pretty empty.
Although the speed limit was only 10k along the road, it would have been nice if there was a dedicated bike area.
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.
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 😉
I chose Tiffany Falls and Sherman Falls for a few reasons;
Easy access to the falls from the parking area (no long/difficult hiking with little ones and one of the paths is stroller friendly)
Easy to get to these falls from the highway and close proximity to each other
Free and almost free (Sherman Falls is free, Tiffany Falls was just 2 bucks for parking)
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!
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.
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.
I think it took us a leisurely 10-ish minutes to reach the falls from our parked car.