Spending time with your children shouldn’t cost a fortune. Though there is a plethora of activities to fill many March Breaks, such as the regular go-to places like the ROM or Ontario Science Centre, cash-strapped parents might want to look at activities that are slightly off the beaten path. Consider:
- If being outdoors with this lovely weather we’re having, is what you’re craving, try Cedarvale Park for a cycle, a run or a walk. It has brand new public tennis courts, a space for bird and animal watching, and off-leash dog zones. If you follow the Cedarvale ravine trail, you will end up at Winston Churchill Park on St. Clair Ave. West. While it’s definitely more exciting to go in the warmer weather, it still makes for a leisurely stroll. Oh yeah, don’t forget to climb the stairs at the mouth of the ravine; it leads to a bridge with a spectacular view. If there’s a change in weather (which we KNOW will happen. We live in T.O., right?) There’s supposed to be great cross-country skiing throughout the park, but BYOS – there aren’t rentals. See http://www.cedarvalepark.com/ for any events.
- No respectable March Break Freebie activity suggestion would be complete without a mention of High Park. I know, there’s so much to do there on a summer day, but there are equally good reasons to go right now. The zoo is home to llamas, mountain goats and peacocks and it makes for a short stroll for kiddies. High Park boasts a great playground, cycling paths and the large Grenadier Pond. Don’t forget to hike the trails with older kids and the dog, if you’ve got one (if you don’t, please borrow mine, she really needs a walk). There are even old signposts with exercises and physical activity suggestions along some trails. Look here more information about High Park.
- Art Appreciation or Gallery Walks on Queen Street. Yes, there is the AGO which is by all accounts fabulous. But there’s also Queen Street West between Dufferin Street and going as far east as you want, and a stretch of Ossington Avenue between Dundas Street and Queen Street, where one could spend a fair bit of time perusing through art galleries. Yes, you can buy the art too, if you have the cash, and beware, – there are many amazing local artists in T.O., – but its also great for browsing and involving kids in appreciating the diversity of art. PLEASE: This is for parents whose kiddies are composed enough to have a look without causing damage (only you know which type of kid you have). There’s also street art, plenty of it, no thanks to Mr. Ford, ahem, but almost anywhere downtown, you can catch a glimpse of graffitti art, not the tagging kind, but the kind that makes you want to grab a can and go to town. There you go, art appreciation at its finest and you got a nice walk too.
- At Allan Gardens, on 19 Horticultural Avenue you’ll find a set of greenhouses just south-east of Jarvis and Carlton Streets. The greenhouses hold enough plant life to make your little horticulturalist drool. Not only will you find tropical plants among the vast array of plant life, which relates to the Ontario Curriculum’s Grade 3 Plants unit of study, Grade 6′s can also think about Classification Systems by looking at the different characteristics of plant kingdoms (from the Ontario Curriculum). Young artists can also bring a sketchpad or camera to enrich their artistic side. Dress in layers because it tends to get humid. There’s a bit more info at: Allan Gardens. Edwards Gardens on Leslie and Lawrence Avenue is another botanical garden to visit where the same activities as above can be enjoyed.
- A trip to The Guild Sculpture Gardens is worth the trip to Scaborough and would result in some amazing art from kids if they enjoy photography or sketching. They can get much practice shading and cross-hatching as The Guild has some incredible architectural elements to admire. It’s definitely a beautiful place to visit and let your mind wander. A walking guide and brochure of the architectural objects and pieces is also available. Location information and the history of this unique place can be found here.
- Riverdale Farm to see the purdy animals (goats, sheep, cows, horses, ponies, pigs, rabbits, foal). Note the signs above the animals’ living quarters which gives you the male, female and newborn term for each animal. At Riverdale Farm you have curriculum connections to grade 3 Science (Plants). Don’t forget to visit the wetland areas with plaques to help you locate local plant and animal life (grade 4, Animal and Plant Habitats). Check details @ Riverdale Farm .
- …and the Necropolis Cemetery across the street from Riverdale Farm. Okay, so a cemetery might be a strange place for a field trip, but this place is quite calm and peaceful, and full of Victorian era elements. It was built around 1825 and housed the remains of many pioneers of what was then “Muddy York”, which later became Toronto. I understand that a couple, Lucy and Blackburn Thornton, who first developed the idea of carriage-run taxis in Toronto and ran a lucrative business doing this, are buried there (though I have yet to find their tombstones). They are also among the many Black settlers to arrive here as fugitive slaves from the U.S., and they were avid supporters of the Underground Railroad and active freedom-fighters. The Blackburns also lived on the grounds of a current public school (Inglenook C.S.), where an archaeological dig confirmed that their home was part of the Underground Railroad. (For those who thought that only Europeans settled here, many of the settlers who came to “Upper Canada” where from the U.S. and came to escape slavery or as United Empire Loyalists.) Also check out Toronto History.
- St. Lawrence Market is one of my favourites, though it’s not for every child. If you have a budding history buff, you can browse through tables upon tables of vintage and antique finds. You have no choice but to learn about history here and the vendors are very knowledgeable. There are many old strange-looking tools and objects that kids will have questions about and as well as prints of the “olden days”. There are many links to the Ontario Social Studies curriculum. It’s open on Sundays between 5 a.m. – 5 p.m. See St. Lawrence Antiques_Market for more on location.
- Don’t forget your local fire fighter’s station, which links with the Grade 1 Community Unit, but is just loads of fun for the younger set if they get to sit in the front seat of the fire trucks and have their questions answered. Be mindful that if fire fighters get a call, they will no longer be able to entertain the little ones.
Let me know how your free March Break panned out!