Travel

5 Reasons to Plan a Staycation This Summer

How to Plan a Staycation

This post is generously sponsored by IHG® Canada. The opinions expressed are 100% my own and that of my family’s.

A few weekends ago, my family and I took a weekend staycation and we had an absolute blast! We loved it so much that we want to do it again—and soon. We think that you should too and here are five reasons why:

  1. Staycations are more affordable:

    With the Canadian dollar the way it is (as of today, $1.30 Canadian is only worth $1 US) it makes so much more sense to stretch your dollar by staying local and finding hidden gems within reach of home.

    We traveled to Toronto which is a two-hour drive from London. Though not too far, it felt like we were in a whole different country because we sought out things we had never done before.

  2. Staycations encourage you to think outside the box:

    Casa Loma

    My family and I have been to Toronto many times, (in fact, my husband was born and raised there) so we had to get creative in deciding what to do. Though funny enough, he had never been to Casa Loma before. Just shows you that sometimes we take the things right outside our doorstep for granted.

    So we decided to check out Casa Loma and I am so glad that we did. I wasn’t sure what to expect for Little S because I wasn’t sure it would hold her attention, but she was intrigued the whole time. And my husband and I loved the audio tour that we could take at our own pace.

    There is so much history in Toronto and I am so glad that we learned more about Ontario’s capital (that is practically down the street from us) through our visit to Casa Loma. I think it will be a lifelong memory for Little S too. Her favourite part was climbing all the stairs to the top tower. What little girl doesn’t love a real castle?!

  3. Staycations offer an opportunity to discover hidden gems within your part of the world:

    Poetry Jazz Cafe

    With a little imagination, your staycation can take you to faraway places without actually travelling too far.

    As I mentioned, my husband grew up in Toronto and I lived there for just over a year, so you’d think we knew a lot about the city and the best places to go. But we discovered an amazing hidden gem that we hadn’t heard of before: Poetry Jazz Café.

    My sister-in-law lives in Toronto, so we decided to include a date night in our getaway and left Little S in her care. We had done our research before leaving for the weekend and learned of Poetry Jazz Café. We knew that we wanted to go to a quaint little jazz club and PJC was just it!

    The atmosphere is indescribable. On one hand you feel like you’re at a friend’s place as the environment mimics an eclectic basement room and the service makes you feel at home. On the other hand, we felt swept away in the ambiance and amazing live music by Robb Cappelletto, and we felt like we were somewhere more exotic like Cuba or New Orleans. This is a memory that we will never forget.

  4. Knowing and loving a particular hotel line within your own part of the world, ensures that ‘home away from home’ feel every time:

    For our staycation, we stayed at the Holiday Inn Downtown Toronto Centre at 30 Carlton Street. It was the perfect location to access all the fun things we chose to do on our staycation. It is just a few blocks from the Eaton Centre, a six-dollar Uber ride to the jazz club and just five stops (with an easy transfer) to Casa Loma.

    Oh and there is a Starbucks attached – this is essential! The hotel staff was extremely friendly and helpful and with our package, breakfast was included (and kids eat free) and it isn’t your average continental breakfast either. Eggs, bacon, sausages and French toast were among the delicious choices. This really saved on costs for us and helped us start our day on the right foot.

    Holiday Inn Breakfast

    Holiday Inn is an IHG hotel which means you can earn IHG Rewards Club Points with each stay that you can use for your next staycation! Learn more about IHG properties across Toronto, see a full description and find ideas here.

  5. Staycations allow you to “vacation” more often:

    London Radius

    With the affordability, shorter travel time, less vacation time from work and the comforts of home at your fingertips, taking staycations allows you to do it more often; everyone loves to get away so the more the merrier.

    My suggestion: pinpoint your home on a map and draw a two to three hundred kilometre radius around it…and don’t stop ‘staycationing’ until you’ve covered all the great spots within that circle. Life is short…have fun!

City Mom

The Perfect Family Vacation: Melody Bay Cottage Resort {Video}

Parkbridge Melody Bay

This past Labour Day weekend, my family and I spent four relaxing and fun-filled nights at Melody Bay Cottage Resort in Buckhorn, Ontario.

Before I describe this beautiful lakeside resort, check out my (amateur) video highlighting a few of my favourite things about Melody Bay.

ABOUT MELODY BAY

Melody Bay

Melody Bay is an upscale, cottage resort and a Parkbridge property. You might be familiar with the Parkbridge name as we are big fans of their Lakes of Wasaga resort in Wasaga Beach and have featured it on City Mom before.

Melody Bay is situated on the scenic shores of Upper Buckhorn Lake, and is one of the newest and most exclusive resorts in the Kawartha Lakes region. Our upscale cottage resort is a mere 5 minutes from the artistic haven of Buckhorn, on the Trent-Severn Waterway and offers an extended season from April 1st to November 15th.

Melody Bay offers RV Cottage sales as well as a few rental units. We were fortunate enough to stay in a two bedroom, RV Cottage rental and it was perfect for the three of us.

LET’S GO #GLAMPING WITH PARKBRIDGE

source: dictionary.com

source: dictionary.com

Glamping really is the perfect term to use to describe cottaging at Melody Bay. On one hand you have luxury with stainless-steel appliances, flat screen TV, small BBQ, comfy beds and a full-sized bathtub and shower.

On the other hand, you have an “outdoorsy” feel with fire pit, treed lots and quaint accommodations. It’s the best of both worlds!

WHY YOU SHOULD STAY AT MELODY BAY

Melody Bay Cottage Resort

If you are looking for the perfect summer vacation for your family, with a cottage-feel, you will love Melody Bay. There are so many things that we love about this resort from the family focused feel to the beautiful beach to the plethora of outdoor activities, but my favourite part about Melody Bay is the swimming pool.

For our family, swimming pools are a must on vacation. Little S far prefers a pool over a lake so it’s an important feature. The pool(s) at Melody Bay are saltwater which makes for a nice swimming experience. But the best thing about the pool is that when they say “heated” they mean heated.

The temperature of the pool was 88° and it was the perfect temperature to allow for long swimming sessions. And what’s even better, we were able to last a long time playing with Little S too. Often we find pools too cold to play a long time and it often causes our fun to come to an end earlier.

Another thing we loved about Melody Bay was the staff and community. You will likely meet Doug and/or Jacqueline and they are both passionate about making sure that you have everything you need to make for the perfect stay. The permanent residents are also very friendly and welcoming.

FOR MORE INFO

For more information about Melody Bay visit: parkbridge.com/melody-bay

For rental info visit: parkbridge.com/melody-bay/rental-rates

To learn more about other Parkbridge properties visit: parkbridge.com

Disclaimer: we were offered complimentary accommodations in exchange for my review, however the opinions expressed here are completely my own.

City Mom

Marriage Monday: Couples Resort Review

Marriage Monday

A few weeks ago my husband and I were fortunate enough to visit the Couples Resort in Algonquin Park, Ontario for one fun-filled, relaxing and romantic weekend. Our adventure was so good for the mind, body and soul as well as a priceless bonding experience for our marriage.

That is why I have selected our review of the Couples Resort to include in City Mom’s first-ever Marriage Monday feature.

MARRIAGE MONDAY

On the first Monday of each month, City Mom will focus on a topic, product, service etc. that will help to contribute to the quality and health of marriages. In today’s fast-paced society it is often too easy to put all of our focus on our careers, children and social lives; we often forget to put importance on our relationship with our significant other and that can wreak havoc on the well-being of the entire family.

Marriage Monday is meant to act as a great way to start your week with an enjoyable read that can help to bring some focus to your marriage/relationship with tips, reviews and personal success stories.

Without further ado, I am thrilled to share our experience at Couples Resort.

ABOUT COUPLES RESORT

Couples Resort Algonquin Park

As the name says, this resort if focused on couples meaning that there are NO KIDS ALLOWED! How refreshing right? This resort is set just outside of the Algonquin Park gates in Whitney, Ontario. This setting provides its breathtaking views that will keep you awestruck for your entire stay.

We visited in mid-October so we had just missed the true colours of fall which apparently are beautiful. We were however able to witness our first snowfall of the season and experience some chilly temperatures which made using the in-room, wood burning fireplace all the more enticing.

There are various types of rooms to choose from at Couples Resort. We stayed in a junior suite that included one extremely comfortable king size bed, large balcony with a lake view, in room Jacuzzi tub and wood burning fireplace (all the wood you can use included).

From the moment we pulled up to the entrance, to the moment we left (sadly) we were constantly impressed. Couples Resort is rated 5 stars and it’s very obvious why.

THE ROOMS

Couples Resort Room Review

The best words I can use to describe our room are cozy and rustic which combined, create an extremely quaint and romantic setting. We loved the romance that the fireplace and Jacuzzi added as well.

Other rooms that are available include a private outdoor hot tub, Chateaus, Master Suites, Chalets, Villas with Saunas and Exotics.

No matter the type of room that you should choose, they all include the following awesome upgrades:

  • Free – Internet high speed – WIFI & Hard Wired
  • Free – Netflix Video Streaming
  • Walkout Spacious Lakeside Balcony
  • Real Wood Fireplace (with FREE firewood and firestarter, 2 candles)
  • 2 bath robes, a cosmetic mirror
  • Hair Dryer
  • Irons/Ironing Boards
  • Keurig Coffee Maker (extra charge for coffee)
  • Phones – Free long Distance
  • 2 padded Chaise Lounge Chairs – Spring, Summer and Fall
  • Large Double Relaxing Soaker Jacuzzi Tub
  • Safes
  • Alarm Clock

ACTIVITIES

Couples Resort Activities

The natural beauties of Algonquin Park provide perhaps the best “activity” possible but Couples Resort offers a wide range of activities to enjoy during your stay.  A park pass is even included in your stay.

Depending on the time of year, the activities offered vary; dog sledding in the winter and horseback riding (extra cost) during the other seasons. Guests can enjoy the free use of mountain bikes, canoes and kayaks. In the summer you can make use of the salt water pool and lakeside patio with patio chairs and in the winter you can enjoy ice skating and snowmobiling (extra cost).

There are a lot of extras included that you don’t see at regular resorts. Check out the activities list to see all the inclusions.

My husband and I had a fabulous time making use of the mountain bikes and we rode the nearby trails. We also enjoyed a fun horseback riding experience.

THE FOOD

Couples Resort Food Review

I could not stop taking pictures and raving about the food at Couples Resort. If you follow City Mom on Twitter, Facebook and/or Instagram, you were probably very aware that I was having the time of my life at Couples Resort and the food was a huge contributor to that!

First, all meals (with the exception of lunch) are included in your stay. Dinner is a first class, five course meal. The culinary team is led by Executive Chef, Ronnie Coppens and the menu is full of fresh, seasonally available Ontario produced foods. It perhaps is the number one reason why you should visit Couples Resort.

We especially enjoyed having our meals delivered to our room (free of charge). It was pure luxury dining in our room for both breakfast and dinner with the warm ambiance of our wood burning fireplace. We got to eat in our plush robes and stay in the comfort of our cozy room.

THE SERVICE

From the moment we began our stay to our time of check-out, every single interaction with the staff was exemplary. Each was helpful, friendly and kind which contributed greatly to our feeling or relaxation and enjoyment. Something to note, that tipping is included in your stay, so while you will likely feel the desire to tip, it is not promoted.

OTHER AMENTIES

With only two short days, there were many things we didn’t have time to do such as the Spa which has been awarded one of North America’s top 100 Spas. This is definitely something I want to check out on our next visit.

There is also a games room/lounge area that includes pool tables, ping-pong, shuffleboard and darts.

BOOK WITH COUPLES RESORT

Regardless of the time of year that you should choose to visit, you will absolutely love your experience at Couples Resort. There are a number of seasonal packages available so be sure to check them out.

WHY YOU SHOULD GO

Taking time out from your busy lives and spending some “adult time” is a much needed activity to do with your partner. It allows for a deeper connection and stronger bond. While it can be difficult to find sitters for the kids and finances for the trip, it is something that you will not regret and something I highly recommend making a priority for your relationship.

My husband and I came back feeling refreshed, happy and connected. This is priceless and will last a lot longer than a single weekend.

Thank you so much to John and the rest of Couples Resort staff for helping to make our weekend so amazing!

Disclaimer: I received complimentary accommodations in exchange for my review but the opinions expressed are 100% my own.

City Mom

Lakes of Wasaga: Our Favourite South Western Ontario Travel Destination

Lakes of Wasaga

This past weekend we spent three relaxing nights at Lakes of Wasaga Resort. This was not our first time visiting Lakes of Wasaga; in fact this was our fourth time staying at this amazing, family friendly resort.

Last year my family and I were invited to visit Lakes of Wasaga for our first time. From there we were in love. After our first visit we were smitten so we booked another stay over the Labour Day weekend. Again, totally in love, we decided to book this summer’s two week vacation there as well.

In total we have spent 21 nights at Lakes of Wasaga and you sure don’t spend that much time somewhere that you don’t love; so why do we love LoW so much? Here’s why (in no particular order):

THE COMMUNITY FEEL

Lakes of Wasaga

Lakes of Wasaga is set in a spacious neighbourhood-type community. One of the things we love the most is that the speed limit within LoW is 15km/hr and everyone seems to follow this rule. This sense of security has given us peace-of-mind to allow Little S to walk and ride her bike around the resort on her own and this is something she doesn’t get much of at home.

Of course no neighbourhood is complete without your neighbours and we always love the friendliness of the owners and other renters.  We met a wonderful family from Quebec that were renting for a week and we enjoyed campfires together while the kids played. Everyone, including the staff, is extremely welcoming and helpful.

THE AMENITIES

Lakes of Wasaga Amenities

Lakes of Wasaga features many family friendly amenities which make it impossible to get bored. There are four swimming pools one of which is set inside which is great for rainy days.  There is also one adults-only pool which we haven’t spent any time in ourselves but it’s nice if you ever take a break from parenting.

Among the multiple swimming pools there is also an 18-hold mini golf course, tennis courts, basketball court, playground and more. There is always something to do whether it’s making use of the resort amenities or participating in the planned activities for children and adults.

ACCOMMODATIONS

Lakes of Wasaga 2 Bedroom Chalet

In terms of the different types of accommodation available at LoW we have been lucky enough to try almost all of the varieties and they are all top-notch.  Last year we stayed in a 3 bedroom chalet which was more than enough space for our little family. We then booked a RV Cottage for our second weekend and our two-week stay and our most recent stay saw us in a two bedroom chalet.

It’s hard to say which has been our favourite as they all have their pros; the 3 bedroom Chalet is spacious and luxurious yet maintains the cottage feel. The RV Cottage is quaint and has everything we need but remains very affordable. To risk sounding like Goldilocks, the 2 bedroom chalet is just right for us in terms of space but still has a nice spacious feel similar to the 3 bedroom chalet.

LOCATION

Georgian Bay Sunset

Even though Wasaga Beach is a three and half hour drive for us from London, we still consider it to be a reasonable distance. That is likely because of what is at the end of it. Wasaga Beach boasts wonderful public beaches as well as a lovely, less busy beach that is part of Wasaga Beach Provincial Park that is a 5 minute walk from LoW.

Wasaga Beach offers lots of restaurants, grocery shopping and other activities to enhance your stay. From Go Karts to Paintball and Farmer’s Markets to Spas, you will find lots to do in the area.

AFFORDABILITY

Whether you’re looking for a beach getaway to rent for your summer vacation or looking to buy a summer residence, we highly recommend visiting Lakes of Wasaga. Rental rates start as low as $1095/wk during peak season which if you’ve ever rented a cottage you’ll recognize this as a very affordable rate.

RV Cottages are also extremely affordable to buy starting at $79,999 which is in large part thanks to the affordability that land leasing allows.

We have really enjoyed our time at Lakes of Wasaga and I know this won’t have been our last visit. If you have any questions about our stay(s) feel free to ask in the comments below. If you visit Lakes of Wasaga, let us know what you think!

Disclaimer: I received complimentary accommodation in exchange for my honest review. The opinions expressed here are completely my own. 

City Mom

Summer Day Trip: African Lion Safari

A few weekends ago our family ventured worlds away and set foot on an African safari. Well, it wasn’t actually worlds away, in fact it was just over a one hour drive (from London) but it felt like a whole different world.

The African Lion Safari, in Cambridge, Ontario, is the perfect spot for a fun, summer day-trip.  In the past, Little S has not been a fan of “theme parks” with large animals, but since she is approaching six years old, we thought it was the perfect time to try again, and we’re so glad we did!

SAFARI BUS TOUR

Safari Bus Tour

The highlight of our adventure was most definitely the Safari Tour Bus that travels through the big game reserve. I love the fact that you can choose to drive your own car through the seven wild animal reserves, or if you’re like my husband, you can save your car and take the organized bus tour.

There is also a third option, which allows you to drive your own car, but bypass the baboons section to prevent scratches to your car. And speaking of baboons, this was definitely Little S’ favourite part. We had a number of good belly laughs watching the four-legged animals helping themselves to the roofs and side mirrors of guest’s vehicles.

In the game reserves we got to see (close up) all sorts of animals from Zebras and lions to rhinos and ostriches. Little S has studied these animals in great detail at school but she has never seen them in real life. It was so much fun to watch her awe at seeing them close up. It was a truly fun and educational experience for all of us.

OTHER FUN ATTRACTIONS

JunglePlayground

After our safari we headed over to the “Nature Boy” scenic railway, and while this attraction isn’t designed to see a lot of wildlife, we did get a rare look at many reindeer. This was another highlight of our trip as we imaged that is what Santa’s reindeer must look like too.

We visited the African Lion Safari on a very hot day, so it was such a relief to cool off at Misumu Bay Wet Play area. There are water slides, water guns and splash pads for all ages. It was very busy but we had plenty of room to enjoy. There are also dry areas within this attraction so that those who do not want to get wet can enjoy too.

Little S also really enjoyed the Jungle Playground and I was pleasantly surprised that there were a variety of activities to participate in other than animal viewing. Some of the lines for the more popular attractions were pretty long, so it was nice to be able to just “play”.

SHOWS

Elephant Round-Up

We chose to watch the Elephant Round-Up show which was really cute and entertaining and a favourite for the kids and adult alike. There are also other shows offered including Parrot Paradise, Birds of Prey Flying Demonstration and Elephant Swim.

TIME TO EAT

It’s not just the animals that get treated to delicious meals, we too enjoyed lunch at the Mombasa Market Restaurant which is nicely air-conditioned and serves a variety of foods. We had pizza and salads but you can also choose from hotdogs, hamburgers and fresh-made wraps…and guess what? This restaurant is even licensed so if you’re in the mood to grab a “cold one” you can!

There are nine other food stops that you can make for refreshments from ice cream to coffee and everything in between!

TIME TO SAY GOOD BYE

African Lion Safari

Of course, all good things must come to an end but not without a stop at the souvenir shop. There are so many great items to choose from for your memorabilia needs and very well priced too.

The African Lion Safari is well suited for the entire family. Depending on your child’s interests my recommendation is that it is best suited for children from the ages of four to ten. But of course there is so much to do for all ages.

PIN IT TO WIN IT

African Lion Safari Promotions

Right now, until August 1, 2013, you can enter to win a family VIP pass to the African Lion Safari. Check out lionsafari.com/promotions for more details and contest rules. Note that you must have a Pinterest account to enter.

Disclosure: we received complimentary admission in exchange for sharing our experience on City Mom. All opinions are my own.

Have a wild time!

City Mom

Family Vacation Time: Lakes of Wasaga

ParkbridgeThis past weekend, this city family packed it all up and moved to cottage country. We spent four sun-filled days at one of Parkbridge’s RV & Cottage resorts called Lakes of Wasaga.

We were so lucky to have an absolutely beautiful weekend weather-wise and the rest of the weekend followed suit. From the moment we set foot in our rental chalet to the moment we left, we were constantly impressed.

Check out our gorgeous chalet:

Lakes of Wasaga Chalet

ABOUT PARKBRIDGE

Parkbridge Lifestyle Communities Inc. is Canada’s leading owner, operator and developer of residential land lease communities, recreational resorts and marinas.

If you’re like me, you’ll find the term “land lease” to be a new one. In a nutshell, land leasing means that you are able to “rent” a piece of land in one of Parkbridge’s resorts, but the “home” you put on it is yours.

The benefit of this style of ownership is that you are able to spend your money on home ownership, not the hefty price tag that often comes with owning the land.

For example, on our visit we were given a comprehensive tour of the resort including a few model units of the chalets and RV Cottages. We were taken aback by the grandeur of these units, particularly the RV Cottages.

In this case, as an owner, we would buy the RV Cottage (that comes complete with furniture, plumbing and deck and more) and lease a lot through Parkbridge to house our unit. This way, you don’t have to come up with a huge down payment or burden yourself with a big mortgage.

Unlike renting an apartment or buying into the politics of condo living, you get your own home with your own yard and rely on Parkbridge Community Managers to manage the day-to-day needs of the community.

The ultra-modern RV Cottage:

Lakes of Wasaga RV Cottage

ABOUT LAKES OF WASAGA

Even if you’re not looking for ownership now, there are great and affordable rental opportunities for a fun summer getaway with your family. Lakes of Wasaga definitely fits this bill with three swimming pools, a splash pad, mini golf course and children’s playground, there is so much for the entire family to do.

There are also daily activities planned like crafts, dances for the teens and sporting activities like basketball and tennis. There are also two paths from the resort that lead to a quiet, family oriented beach on Georgian Bay; this was one of our favourite activities.

Lakes of Wasaga Activities

THE COMMUNITY

If you enjoy the sense of community, you’ll love a Parkbridge resort. Even as a visitor you can see the friendliness and pride of ownership that comes with being part of an organized community.

The staff at Lakes of Wasaga are all very friendly and helpful. We couldn’t get the TV system in our chalet to work and we had a team of people who came in to make it right and there was always someone eagerly waiting to answer any questions we had.

With an easy drive from London (3.5 hours) this makes a great destination for a family vacation this summer. It is also easily accessible from Toronto, Barrie and other surrounding cities in South Western Ontario.

And if you haven’t been to Wasaga Beach before, you’ll love the town. There is a Walmart with grocery store, LCBO, The Beer Store and restaurants all very close by. The main beach of Wasaga is also a very vibrant and fun spot to enjoy all that our Ontario summers have to offer.

FOR MORE INFORMATION

You can find out more about Parkbridge Lifestyle Communities on the web and Facebook. You can also view the full list of rental properties and resorts.

Disclosure: My family’s stay at Lakes of Wasaga was complimentary in exchange for my post. The opinions and experience expressed here are completely my own.

City Mom

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