Canada’s Wonderland, a Toronto summer staple since 1981, is one of the biggest and most exhilarating attractions that the area has to offer. Featuring massive coasters (including Leviathan, Canada’s tallest and fastest rollercoaster), plunging waterslides, and can’t-stop-won’t-stop dawn-to-dusk park hours, you could be forgiven for thinking that the park was built for thrill-seekers…and you aren’t wrong. But there is another side of Canada’s Wonderland that is aimed specifically to the 6 and under set that will delight and entertain without the scares designed for the “big kids”. Just follow our 8 tips for visiting Canada’s Wonderland with small kids and start packing that park bag!
1) Take the subway
Thanks to an extension of Line 1, you can now take the subway from east, west, and downtown Toronto to the Vaughan Metropolitan Centre (VMC) Station located at Highway 7 and Millway Avenue. From there, hop on the 20 Jane St North bus from the SmartCentres Place Bus Terminal, located adjacent to the subway station. The Route 20 bus will take you north on Jane Street. Exit at Avro Road/Jane Street, which is at Canada’s Wonderland’s eastern border. Just remember: when you pay your fare, and before you get on the subway, pick up a transfer to show your bus driver. And kids under 12 are always free! For more transit information, please visit www.ttc.ca.
2) Pack Snacks. Yes Really!
Canada’s Wonderland has strict rules about what you can’t bring into the park, and that includes outside food, beverages and coolers. However, families with young children are able to take in limited amounts of food specific to their needs. Small containers of cut up fruit, boxes of raisins, small amounts of Goldfish crackers in plastic bags, and other healthy treats in individual serving bags are usually permitted. If in doubt, check with security as you enter.
3) Don’t Be Scared Of The Splash
Adding a waterpark to an already busy day could seem like a recipe for disaster. But you can be crazy like a fox by doing everything in the right order. If a visit to Splashworks (the attached waterpark that is free with your Canada’s Wonderland tickets) is an important part of your day, GET THERE EARLY. Check opening times, and arrive as the gates open, usually 11am. Proceed directly to White Water Bay at the far end of the park (do not stop to change!) in order to get chairs with shade which are available first-come, first-served. Once situated, use the change facilities and store items in lockers if required. Your shady home base is a jumping off point to explore the rest of the water park, including numerous Splash Stations, Spraygrounds, and the new Lakeside Lagoon, built for the small set in mind.
4) Don’t Miss The Hidden Rides
Kids 6 and under will likely prefer to stay in the two main children’s lands: Kidsville and Planet Snoopy. There you will find rides that are perfect for their size and speed, such as mini coasters, flying planes, swan boats, and small ferris wheels. However, there are a couple of fun rides that shouldn’t be missed scattered across the park. Riders 48” and taller will enjoy Swing of the Century, a soaring flying ride. The whole family will be thrilled (and maybe soaked) on White Water Canyon’s river raft ride (must be 46” or taller). And the Antique Carrousel is a delightful respite in the middle of the Action Zone for all ages.
5) Line Up Early For Lunch
If you haven’t brought a picnic to eat outside the park, make sure you line up early for lunch! Due to the popularity of all day meal deals and season’s pass promotions, lines can get very long. There are tons of outlets selling popular Pizza Pizza, Dairy Queen, Subway, Beavertails, and Tim Horton’s products, as well as dozens of restaurants for kid-friendly burgers, chicken fingers, and mac and cheese. Lowest lines tend to be found at the Planet Snoopy Pizza Pizza, Snoopy’s Suppertime, and Muskoka Craft Burgers and Beer. That’s right, I said beer; who said parents shouldn’t get a treat too?
6) Give Baby A Break
There are two main baby care facilities at Canada’s Wonderland. In KidZville and Medieval Faire, there are curtained feeding areas with rocking chairs in the delightful air conditioning. You will also find a microwave for milk and formula, and generous sized changing areas with sinks. Bottles can also be warmed at most food outlets, and there are change facilities in every main washroom area.
7) Beware Certain Rides
It sounded like a good idea at the time! There are a few rides in the park that lull you into a false sense of security, and then fake you out with a hearty scare or jerky ride. Worst rides for scaredy-cats include Ghoster Coaster (deceptively big drop), Boo Blasters on Boo Hill (some scenes could be construed as frightening in this “haunted house”) and Joe Cool’s Dodgem School, where kids not used to the concept of bumper cars (and getting stuck against a wall) have hearty meltdowns.
Don’t worry Mum and Dad, we’ve got your back. Our research shows that you should definitely avoid Woodstock Whirlybirds and Sugar Shack, as the “all the spin you want” dial in the middle will set you to hurl.
Finally, there is nothing worse than waiting in a long line for a ride that just isn’t worth the time. Our pick for most deceptively long line goes to Treetop Adventure, where even a couple of dozen people ahead of you can take 30 minutes or more due to the slow load and unload of this very tame helicopter track ride.
8) Beat the Heat and Take a Break
If the heat and excitement means a cool off is required, there are plenty of places to run out the sillies or just grab some shade. The outdoor playground area, Maple Park Treehouse, has plenty of shade, comfy Adirondack chairs, and a single entrance and exit, meaning your kids are generally in full view as you put your feet up. For air conditioned relaxation, take in the indoor Cirque Canadien show in the Wonderland Theatre. Arrive about 20 minutes early for best choice of seats. Less shady, but with plenty of lakeside breeze to cool you down, the Flying Frontenacs stunt and dive show at Arthur’s Baye will have you holding your breath. And finally, for a few extra dollars, check out Dinosaurs Alive! for a gentle walk through meandering pathways filled with animatronic dinosaurs. Parents be warned: there is a substantial sandpit / dig site in this area. Only enter if you have the time to spare or suffer your kids wrath!
All images courtesy of Canada’s Wonderland