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Face the facts: most of us aren’t fortunate enough to have vacation properties to summer at, and we will have to find our own fun at home during the hot school-free months. And as much as I would love to lounge on the shores of a lake while the kids romped on the beach and Daddy drove the waterski boat, that’s just not the kind of life we lead.
So we plan lots of great outings and fun activities to keep ourselves busy and entertained in our home city, and we have a great time. There are four main ways we fill our long summer days with fun: day camps, city attractions/staycationing, amusement parks and pools.
Most cities have great Parks & Recreation programs, and school boards often run excellent summer day camps as well. If you’re lucky enough to live in a city with a University, check out their day camp programs, too; I know here in Calgary that the U of C runs some of the best kids’ programming around. In fact, my kids are enrolled in a two-week arts-based program in July and they can’t wait. You should also check local sports clubs for introductory or intensive skills programs; our local hockey club runs great multisport camps for kids as well as power-skating for the more serious athlete. And Canada Olympic Park offers an excellent program with everything from archery to wilderness hikes to ski jumping, rock climbing and mountain biking. Check out a local parenting website or magazine for other great suggestions in your area.
Here in Calgary we’re lucky to have a fabulous zoo with an excellent reputation for conservation and education. Annual passes are very affordable (a family of four will make the cost of the pass back on the second visit) and when you don’t feel pressured to get your money’s worth in one visit, you’ll be happy to go back again and again. We visited the Calgary Zoo four times during this year’s spring break, and my kids never tired of it. It’s a great way to spend some active time walking around outdoors, and there’s so much to learn. In Vancouver you definitely cannot miss the aquarium and Toronto also boosts an excellent zoo.
Don’t forget about science centres and museums, too. Even the smallest towns usually have some kind of museum or historical centre – a heritage home, old town hall or railway museum. I’ve travelled all across Canada and have visited spots like this absolutely everywhere. Sometimes the smallest places have the most unexpected treasures, so don’t overlook the old LeRoi Mine in Rossland BC, for example, because it’s well worth the visit!
Here in Calgary we have two big ones: Calaway Park and Heritage Park. Both boast affordable season’s pass prices (as with the zoo, you’ll get your money back on the second visit) and this helps make the trip more manageable. You can go just for the morning, or right at dinner time and for a few hours before closing, when the crowds are thinner and the weather’s not so hot. If you’re in the GTA, Canada’s Wonderland is a truly world-class amusement park and again: the season’s passes are super-affordable and make it a great option for a regular summertime haunt. If you don’t live near Wonderland but you plan to visit, I recommend the two-day pass, which is also a great value and takes the pressure off spending an entire day from open to close in the park. Remember, the more meals you eat there, the more money you will spend!
Ahhh…summer by the water. Well, if you don’t have the luxury of a cottage (or cabin or camp, depending on which part of the country you hail from) consider visiting your local municipal pool. You can have loads of time splashing around with your wee ones, and when the sprites are old enough to swim on their own you can relax in the shade with a good novel and a water bottle while they use up some of their excess energy.
Tips for Summering in the City:
1. Be sun safe. Wear a hat. Cover up. If you can’t (or won’t) cover up, do not forget sunscreen. You need to apply it about 20 minutes before exposure to the sun so remember to slather it on before you head out to your destination. Then remember to reapply every few hours and after swimming. You just can’t be too careful when it comes to the sun.
2. Keep hydrated. Don’t forget to pack water bottles (although beware that some amusement parks will not let you bring commercial beverages onto their premises so you’ll want to bring your own reusable bottles). And I know it’s heavy to carry water around all day, but bring about twice as much as you think you’ll need. You won’t regret it.
3. Know your environment. Nothing can ruin your day more than having to head home early because of an unforeseen accident or illness. I’ll never forget the day we had to turn around and head home from the zoo less than half an hour after we got there. My oldest daughter has environmental and animal allergies, and she started to sneeze and cough almost right away, and pretty soon her eyes were watering and she was coming out all over in hives. So now we always give her a dose of antihistamine before we go to the zoo, the farm or anywhere there might be hay or fresh-cut grass.
4. Pack more than they’ll need. If you’re sending your kids off to a day camp for the first time, make sure you go over the checklist they send and don’t miss anything. A change of clothes is never a bad idea and I always pack them an extra big lunch or snack, because they are so busy they’ll be extra hungry. I always include a bottle of sunscreen and a hat (as well as instructions to reapply sunscreen at lunchtime) and a card with emergency numbers in their backpacks, too.
5. Be prepared. In the event you’ll have an unforeseen emergency, keep a properly stocked first aid kit in the car, stroller or backpack that
includes all of the essentials you might need in case you hit some bumps along the way. For example, keep a good supply of bandages, antibacterial cream and an antihistamine for unexpected allergic reactions. Make sure your products aren’t passed the expiry date!
Check out these great summering in the city tips!
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