As kids, we called it ‘The Fair’ – the annual weekend carnival that set up shop on the outskirts of my small hometown. There were ten rides (if that) and a lot of dirt and dust. But we loved it, creaky rides and all. It signalled the start of summer and end of the school year.
So what a crazy contrast to my kids growing up with the country’s best and biggest amusement park at their fingertips all summer long. First opened in 1981, Canada’s Wonderland is a massive 300-acre fun park that welcomes the young and the young-at-heart from May to October. There are over 60 rides and 300 attractions, tons of food and a huge water park. All together, it’s enough to blow the minds of visitors of all ages no matter where they grew up.
From afar with its racing roller coasters and mega drops, it may seem like much of the park is geared to the fearless tweens and teens in TOw. Not so. For families with smaller thrill-seekers, there is a lot to keep them flying and smiling. We recently visited for our first time. Here are some Trip Tips on how to best enjoy Wonderland with kids in TOw.
1. Arrive early. Gates Open at 10 am, so be among the first to get there (Vaughan at Major MacKenzie Dr and hwy 400) and park in one of the 10,000 spots. (It’s also do-able to get there on Go Transit and on weekends and holidays on TTC.)
2. Buy tickets online. For quicker and cheaper entry, buy online. It’s $39.99 if you buy 3 days in advance ($62 otherwise.) If you plan to go more than twice a season, consider a Seasons Pass that gives you these perks. (FYI – Extra admission for Dinosaurs Alive – $5. It was a huge hit with our kids.)
3. Avoid the crowds. When to go? Less people if you can manage a go midweek in May or June. During our Tuesday visit, there was plenty of room to wander without getting lost in people. There were never line-ups and we often stayed on a ride again and again and again.
4. Bring wheels. There is a lot of walking for little legs. The park is stroller-friendly but you also can rent single ($15 plus $5 deposit) or double stroller ($25 plus $5 deposit.) Cannot be reserved in advance.
5. Get measured. Rides are rated for children’s safety. Head to a Height Check Stations located on both sides of International Street to get your child’s colour-coded wristband.
6. Head to the family and kids rides. We beelined to KidZville and Planet Snoopy. Without really planning the circuit, we went from low thrill Swan Lake to high thrill Ghoster Coaster for our first two rides. (Both are rides that opened in 1981.) The hands-down favourite was the Taxi Jam (pictured above). We spent most of the day in this area. Before the “last ride” we took a scenic route and weaved our way through the rest of the park to watch what all the “big kids” were screaming about. There are printed maps onsite and a mobile app.
7. Plan to eat there. There are lots of options (mostly fast-food) all over the park. No outside food or drink is allowed (other than baby food and bottled water) but you can exit the park (get a stamp for re-entry) and eat your packed snack or lunch outside the gates. Check their list of restos that cater to some dietary needs.
8. Play & Chill. If you need a break from the rides, head to the playground in KidZville, switch gears and do some mini-golf at the Peanuts Putt-Putt or take in one of the live presentations. There are Family Washrooms and Baby Care Centres in KidZville and Medieval Fair.
9. Cool off at Splash Works. The 20-acre water park is included with park admission and is open daily starting mid-June til Labour Day. (Opens on weekends end of May.) This year they added Typhoon water slide and the children’s play area Splash Station.
Here are just a few shots of the little kid friendly rides and attractions.