Attractions & things to do for the kids in your life


Christmas fun is not over!



No need to feel blue after December 25. It's not over, yet! You can still take your family to big-ticket events... or their smaller (more intimate) version.

Pantomimes are my favourite kind of shows for the whole family. Children enjoy them and actors always make sure adults enjoy the show as much as their kids with tong-in-cheek jokes. Around Christmas time, any version of The Nutcracker ballet is always good for the soul!


You can enjoy the Christmas tradition of a Ross Petty Productions. In 2014, they play Cinderella with great decors, choreographies, silliness and... the funniest ways to acknowledge sponsors (cheapest $34 tickets are sold out but you can still buy tickets for all presentations) or the truly intimate setting of 50-seat Red Sandcastle Theatre in Leslieville, playing Sleepy Beauty ($59 for family of 4, call 416-845-9411 to reserve tickets).

Dates and hours:

Cinderella/Ross Petty Productions: Still playing Dec. 26, 2 p.m.; Dec. 27, 2 & 7 p.m.; Dec. 28, 1 & 6 p.m.; Dec. 29, 30 and 31, 2 p.m.; Jan. 2 and 3, 2 & 7 p.m.; Jan. 4, 2 p.m.

Sleepy Beauty/Red Sandcastle Theatre: They offer 7 p.m. presentations on Dec. 26, 27, 29, 30, and Jan. 2,3; and 2 p.m. matinées on Dec. 27, 28, 31 and Jan. 3, 4.


The Nutcracker:

Their Markham performances are sold out but there are still $42 tickets available for Ballet Jörgen's Nutcracker in Kitchener on Dec. 28 at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. (click here to watch an except from their ballet). Of course, there's also the splendid version of The Nutcracker by the National Ballet of Canada in The Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts in downtown Toronto (click here to see backstage footage of their ballet). TIPS: At 11 a.m. on the day of the performance, you can try to book a maximum of two RUSH tickets per person online (using the promocode RUSH) or in person at the box office. Good luck!

The Nutcracker/Ballet Jörgen: Dec. 28, 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. in Kitchener

The Nutcracker/National Ballet of Canada: Dec. 27, 2 & 7 p.m.; Dec. 28 and 30, 1 & 5:30 p.m.; Jan. 2 and 3, 1 & 5:30 p.m. (As of Dec. 26, there were still many tickets in the $107-$135 range, available on the same day for the RUSH price of $40.)



Gorgeous model railway in St. Jacobs

December 27 and 28, 2014: their last weekend of the year!

Aberfoyle Junction was previously located in Aberfoyle along the 401. A year ago, it moved to St. Jacobs and changed its name to St. Jacobs and Aberfoyle Model Railway. Utterly charming, the country side and small town are both filled with detailed little scenes to observe and plenty of train action to watch. There's something for everyone.

Here's the photo gallery of my last visit in December 2014. I was thrilled to see that they've kept the same lovely layout and made some improvements. Compare the two following photos (the first one taken 10 years ago in the old location and the second taken in December 2014). 

Combine this with a visit to see the Flight of White at Cambridge Butterfly Conservatory!

In December, Santa's train runs on the tracks!

In the small gift shop, I found one of our favourite train-related storybook: The Caboose Who Got Loose.Check it out!

Click here to access our page with all the information on this attraction. While you are in this area, I strongly recommend you turn this outing into an I-Spy day trip by first going to Cambridge Butterfly Conservatory (a 25-minute drive from St. Jacobs), to spot the butterflies. It is better to start with the quiet butterflies and finish with the busy trains in St. Jacobs.(Better to print out the Google route to navigate the two destinations from Hwy 401. It's a bit tricky.)

King in St. Jacobs is a quaint street with many shops, not really interesting for children but fun for the moms! Across the street from the parking lot where you'll find the Model Railway are intriguing silos. They host a few stores set within the round walls of the silo. Note that the Farmer's Market is 3 kms from this part of St. Jacobs.



Flight of White at Cambridge Butterfly Conservatory

Christmas | For animal lovers

For six years, the Cambridge Butterfly Conservatory has been offering the Flight of White where they bring in extra butterflies (Rice Paper) and add white lights and white poinsettias. In 2014, the event goes on until January 30. Note that the conservatory is closed on Mondays (except December 29). It is also closed December 22 to 26 and on January 1st.

We were greeted by a tall Christmas tree. Which made us think of Christmas. Which led us to thinking about gifts... So we went to the gift shop first! I could not resist buying a $5 bag filled with the wings of the conservatory butterflies which died peacefully at the end of their full life span of a few weeks!

The store sells a wide selection of butterfly-themed merchandise. Amongst others: Ontario butterfly maps and guides, butterfly hair clips, pinned butterflies for collectors, decorative garden flags... They also sell a $1 map of the butterflies and birds found in the conservatory. On our way out, we were invited to find Papilio the Elf, hidden in the greenhouse.

At our feet, we saw a few dead butterflies (which explains the bags of wings).

The photos don't do justice to the soothing effect of flying butterflies around us. Flight of White is not a flashy event. The white lights are discreet. Hundreds of extra Rice Paper butterflies spread out in the large space so don't expect to be walking through a shower of white butterflies. The visit turns into an I-Spy game where kids are thrilled to show to their parents each insect they found. 

The Blue Morpho are sturdy and really quick. The Rice Paper butterflies are light and fly leisurely. They're close cousins to our own Monarchs.

Metamorphosis is a fascinating section of the Conservatory where we can observe butterflies and moths at different stages of their emergence. What's the difference between a moth and a butterfly? Moths rest with their wings open and their antennas are feathered. Butterflies' wings are closed when they land to rest and their antennas are wire-like.

When the insects emerge from their chrysalid (or cocoon if you're a moth), they rest for a few hours to fully deploy their wings (at the beginning, their body is bigger and the wings smaller).

The sound of a fall and chirping birds feels the air. (We eventually found Papilio the Elf!)

If everyone starts to take your picture, you'll know that a butterfly has just landed on you. Another close encounter you can have with insect is when one of the staff members shows up with a specimen on hand. Outside of the conservatory, you will find a few rooms with additional insects to admire. They're all dead except for a bee wall and a few terrariums. Some of them are terrifying to imagine in your house (such as the Longhorned Beettles) but most displayed on the walls are like gorgeous jewels or enchanting little piece of arts.

A large mural in the main hall illustrates the Monarchs migration south.


Hilarious idea for cash gifts!


Ten days ago, at The Bay (Queen and Yonge), I found an $8 musical cookie jar (which you crank up at the bottom so the inside drum rolls and reveals a scene through the cut out windows of the outside drum). Tadam! 

This would be perfect for small bills for small kids and big checks for big kids. And you can eat the gingerbread cookies in the box and replace with whatever extra gift you want. I used it to give money and left the cue "Think outside the box" inside the box, for the birthday boy to figure out. He did!



What about my own mom?

Christmas | For parents


Now that I have kids, I understand what it means for a mother to have her kids really wanting to spend some time with her. Not just because it is convenient nor expected. Not just because she's footing the bill.

When I saw this press release about Ballet Jorgën's combo of dinner and a modern dance show (offered for January 23 and 24, 2015), I thought about my 70-year-old mother and it occurred to me that this is exactly the kind of gift we need to offer to our moms: the gift of a night out, together, outside of the routine and the family kitchen.

2014-04-28_Hi_Res_IMG_7701-Edit_photo_by_Kamal_Daid_smallIt's usually outside of the routine of our daily life (and away from our phone) that we become truly present. The gift of our presence has to be the best gift we can give to our moms. I know it is already the best gift my teens could give to me.

About Ballet Jorgën's combo:

Ballet Jorgën Canada will perform Ballet 360, An Evening of Contemporary dance (featuring different, current contemporay dance pieces) on January 23 and 24. Their dinner combo includes dinner at The Blake House, the restaurant across from the Betty Oliphant Theatre (404 Jarvis Street), where the show takes place.

I love my mom!

I found another cool way to give time to our moms at Labour of Love, a gift shop in Cabbagetown (242 Carlton). When I visited the boutique last week, they carried a little book titled Why I love my mom, by me. You get to sit down (with a glass of wine), to think and fill out the blanks in the book which prompts you to come up with thoughtful things to tell to your mom.


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Buy the book Toronto Street Art Strolls

Nathalie's tips for a smooth outing

After years of doing all kinds of outings with my children, I can assure you the secret to a perfect outing lies in the details, not the destination.


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