Great family day-trips (that won't break the bank)

With the arrival (finally!) of Spring, I decided to dedicate this week's CBC KW Parenting column to a very important issue: how to have fun with your kids! I snooped around, chatted with people, and took some inspiration from our own family outings to put together this list of family-friendly parks, hikes, and outings. 

For little ones: Guelph, Stratford and Dundas should be on your radar. 

  • Guelph's Exhibition Park is huge, has lots of amenities, and a great playground. Bonus: It's not far from the city centre, where you can also splash about in the wading pool right at the doorstep of town hall.
  • Stratford has parkland all along the river, easy paved trails to toddle along (or push a stroller), ice cream, and washrooms.
  • Dundas has a natural playground on Matilda Street, a big area for running around at the Driving Park, and dozens of waterfalls! Tews and Webster Falls on the escarpment can be pricey, but head to Ancaster and you can visit the Tiffany, Washboard and Sherman falls for the cost of parking.

For hikes: We're spoiled with the GRCA, but if you're after something different, set your sights on Halton. Rattlesnake Point on the Niagara Escarpment near Milton has short hikes, a lookout, and 800 year old cedars. Nearby Hilton Falls has two shortish hikes that have toilets along the route, great trails and a lovely waterfall. BONUS:  You can visit both on the same day using just one ticket. Score!

Accessible spaces: We want to make sure everyone can have a great time. While I couldn't find any outdoor spaces that were specifically autism-friendly, here are a few good options for families needing some extra accommodation.

  • Stait Park in Fergus is fully accessible, including accessible swing, and ramps instead of
  • stairs.
  • The Woodland Trail at Crawford Lake -- near Milton -- is completely wheelchair accessible. (Explore the Iroquoian village while you're there.)
  • At the south end of the Region, Churchill Park in Cambridge has a wheelchair-accessible playground and nature trails.

Special outings: Sometimes, you just wanna bust out of your comfort zone. My girls love the Mountsberg Raptor Centre, a Halton park that gives a "forever home" to raptor birds
that can't survive in the wild. Think owls, eagles, hawks, vultures. You can see them all,
watch a flying display, play in the adventure barn, explore the fields. Has a small snack
bar, but you can bring your own picnic (and good luck getting your kids to leave at the end of the day). It costs around $26 for a family of four (kids four and under free). BONUS: Your ticket gets you into all Halton Parks that day -- go on a hike, too!

Put your bikes on the car and go for a trail ride. The Cambridge-to-Paris rail trail feels a long
way from the city. Riding through Carolinian forest, beside the Grand River. 18km of trail
and three access points along the way. For littler legs, consider the Elora Cataract Trailway between Elora and Fergus. 

Have I missed something? Let me know in the comments! And happy Spring!