If I mention Casa Loma to any of my European relatives I always get a snide comment in reply.
"It's not REAL a castle," they say. "It isn't old enough."
"It's not a REAL castle," they mock. "It isn't in Europe."
"It's not a REAL castle," they insist. "It was never home to a prince, a knight or a duke."
I could not disagree more. As we headed south on Spadina and the castle came into view my 8-year-old daughter's face was one of complete disbelief and awe. To my 8-year-old princess Casa Loma was and always will be be a castle through and through. She marveled at the well kept gardens, the bubbling fountain, the old furniture, the turrets and the grand ballroom. Her eyes sparkled with every turn we took and doorway we walked though. It's a magical experience seeing Casa Loma through the eyes of an eight-year-old.
On this day we were visiting so Isabella could take part in a cake decorating course with Le Dolci foodie studio. Since the age of 6 she has been absolutely obsessed with cake decorating. Isabella spends much of her waking day watching copious amounts of Buddy and Co. creating cakes on Cake Boss or online tutorials on how to decorate cakes. When I heard Casa Loma was offering this class as one of their ongoing events I knew it would be an absolute dream of hers.
We spent the afternoon learning about different cake decorating techniques before making our own delightful cupcakes to take home and show off to her siblings. She learned how to pipe delicate flowers, and realistic looking grass, and whimsical fondant bumble-bees. She left with a proud collection of cupcakes to show off to her siblings. She may have even shared some with them.
Casa Loma has a slew of events throughout the year including themed parties such as a Great Gatsby dinner or a Swing Band dance night. Ghost Tours and visits by dressed up knights are intertwined with classes such as archery, vegetable pickling, and cookie decorating. If you're looking for a brand new reason to visit Casa Loma check out their event website for some fun date ideas or family adventures at Toronto's REAL castle.
Visiting Washington, D.C. can be overwhelming with children. There are so many wonderful tourist sites to take in from historical sites, to museums, monuments, and the like. With all of them vying for your attention, it can be hard to come up with a kid-friendly itinerary that isn't going to overwhelm your little ones. Traveling with kids means that attention spans are limited, energy levels are high, and expectations are through the roof.
Here are some sure-fire ways to make sure you get the most out of your family visit to DC.
To ensure these suggestions are iron-clad I asked my 8-year-old daughter Isabella to weigh in on why she loved each of these stops on our visit.
Keeping travel times from your hotel to all of your destinations short is key when travelling with kids. It means less time sitting in the car to get to where you're going; or makes taxis and the Metro a feasible option. With kids there is also always the possibility of mad rushes back to the hotel mid-day. Required naps; forgotten hats; upset tummies; etc. make it really convenient if your hotel is always within striking distance.
In Washington, D.C., The Melrose Georgetown perfectly fits the bill. Located near Georgetown in the heart of DC it is an easy hop, skip, and a jump from many of the big sites you'll want to hit up on your visit. With Georgetown University and George Washington University nearby the streets are filled with local twenty-somethings and cafes and restaurant choices are a-plenty. The Foggy Bottom Metro station is a convenient 2 blocks away. This boutique hotel is extremely family-friendly with various sized rooms and suites, a 100% smoke-free environment with amenities like dry cleaning service, high-speed wireless internet, pet-friendly, and late check out! Your kids will make friends with all of the cheerful doormen who work at The Melrose Georgetown and greet them each time they pass through the front doors.
Isabella's take: "I liked all the friendly people who work there and our room was really nice. I especially like the bowl of berries with whipped cream you can order up from room service for breakfast!"
Like all Smithsonian museums, the zoo has no entry fee. Visit their all-star giant pandas Mei Xiang and Tian Tian or check out the bird house during feeding time for a fascinating close-up look at some tropical birds. As a Smithsonian zoo you'll find a lot more hands-on displays and learning opportunities than you might at a traditional zoo. Be sure to check ahead of time for their daily programs which include animal training, feeding demonstrations and keeper talks.
Isabella's take: "I LOVED the pandas and feeding time at the bird house was so fun! I learned lots of cool stuff."