When you think about your family, what does it mean to you? To me, it doesn’t just include those who are related to me, like my parents or siblings, cousins, grandparents, aunts and uncles. And although I love them and they’re so important to me, I also think about those incredible people who I have chosen to be my family. Those closest to me who, with just one phone call, we would drop anything and everything to be there for each other.
Some of this extended family of mine includes Mike, Julia and their 2 kids, Cammy (2 years old) and Perry (5 years old). Although Mike and I the same age, I first met him through my parents because my step-dad was in a band with him. We quickly became friends, then bandmates and then basically like family – it all happened pretty fast. When I first met his wife, Julia, she was pregnant with their first child. Little did I know then, that I would become like an aunt to both of their kids. I’ve helped to raise them, we’ve all gone on family vacations together, we’ve been there for each other through so many wonderful and tough times in our lives. And they really stepped up and were there for me through one of the hardest situations I’ve gone through in my life. When I needed a safe place to stay, they let me live with them for 6 whole freakin’ months. If that’s not true family, then what is?
We take a lot of vacations together, all over the world, as they really do love to travel and are up for pretty much anything – especially with the kids in tow! So, that’s why it was a no-brainer to head out to Blue Mountain for the weekend, all together. Since it’s just a quick 90-minute drive from downtown Toronto, we all piled into the car (we even brought their dog, Lucy) and ventured out of the city. Blue Mountain resort is nestled between the shores of Georgian Bay and the heights of the Niagara Escarpment. Now, since this was such an awesome weekend, I thought I would put together a bit of a guide so that you and your family (chosen or by blood or both!) can experience this too!
WHERE TO STAY
One of the things I love the most about Westin properties is the consistency. Each location has special little touches, including the wellness programs, the RUNWestin and WestinWORKOUT programs, the facilities and the beautiful rooms. We opted for the 2 bedroom suite, which actually sleeps 6 people comfortably. When we arrived in the room, they had set up a cute little dog bed, since the hotel is pet-friendly (which the kids decided to jump all over, as they do). With one quick phone call to the friendly reception, we were also able to grab a crib for little Cammy to sleep in (which was less exciting than the dog bed, naturally… ohhh kids).
Boasting beautiful views from the big balcony in our suite, we were able to scope out the pool on-site, before hopping down to experience it for ourselves. I’ve convinced myself that Perry is half-fish. He loves being in the water, so we spent a long time practicing different skills, with or without floaties, different depths, diving for rings and blowing water at each other through pool noodles. It was the perfect, fun yet comfy home base for us for the weekend!
WHERE TO EAT
I’ve never met a kid who doesn’t love pizza. So, naturally this was the perfect place to bring the whole family. Modelled after a Northern Ontario Firehall, their building is quite an iconic part of the Village. The food was super tasty, offering many different authentic Italian options. With fire hydrant beer towers, a ton of paraphernalia and a beautiful patio overlooking the Events Plaza and Mill Pond. The casual, friendly and fun atmosphere delivers an experience to remember.
You can never go wrong with a breakfast from this iconic Toronto-based restaurant. Known as the best breakfast in town, they pride themselves on their consistent service and 5-star inspired quality food. All of their menu items are cooked fresh to order using healthier methods: flat top grills, pat dry bacon and nothing is ever deep fried. With choices like the famous bacon and 3 eggs for breakfast or their flagship Sunset Burgers for lunch, there are options for the whole family. Both of the boys opted for the pancakes with real maple syrup, yum!
Located right at the base of the mountain, Grand Central Café & Bar is a delicious and convenient place to grab that snack on the go, drink with friends or a family meal before or after your day’s adventure. I was a huge fan of the make your own salad station, to balance out the pizza and burgers! Having a variety of snack options while you’re having a busy day exploring with the family is absolutely key. Oh, and not to mention, they have a licensed patio for the parents. Yep, wine and kids.
Now, I’ve been to this restaurant before and knew that I wanted to go back for sure while we were visiting the Village! The original restaurant has changed a lot over the years, but one thing has remained the same – their commitment to fantastic food and service. With a bright, open, newly renovated space, it was the perfect setting for a more upscale meal with the kids. They work closely with the suppliers in the area, keeping things a bit more farm to table. Everything was beautifully cooked and presented, all with something special added to each meal. I would highly recommend making a stop to this special gem.
Since we were already staying at the Westin Trillium House, it just made sense to grab breakfast at the O&B on location! With full-service mountain dining, they offer an extensive à la carte breakfast, lunch and dinner selection, as well as some seriously indulgent culinary experiences. Next time, we’ll be sure to try the dinner so we can savour Chef Jeremy Korten’s diverse choice of appetizers, seafood, steaks, chops, ribs, pasta, fire-roasted pizza and gourmand burgers, complemented by a well-chosen wine list with plenty of good value and great splurges!
WHAT TO DO
If you’re going to make the trek to somewhere with the word “mountain” in it’s name, why would wouldn’t you go UP the mountain? With 360-degree views as you approach the top, this open-air gondola boasts beautiful photo-worthy views. One at the top, you can hang out at the lookouts above or have a picnic in the designated areas. You can also get a sense of where things are located in the Village, because you can truly see the whole thing! There’s an option to hike up and gondola down, or vice versa, if you wanna switch things up.
For the adventure-seekers, you can glide along 1km of track that speeds up to 42km/hr down the mountain. Great for all ages, this was Perry’s favourite thing to do all weekend (other than swim) – seriously, he rode it several times! The coaster keeps you on the track, but you’re the driver with options to control your speed with hand-brakes… thank goodness!
Imagine a playground, but in a pool! And that’s what you’re in store for at this indoor and outdoor swimming adventure. There are hot tubs, a dock where you can relax or watch the kids, water games, rope swings and even water slides. Popular during all seasons, as their pool is temperature-controlled, this place is great for swimmers of all ages. Once again, Perry was in heaven. I’m starting to think this was actually his trip!
Learning new skills while having fun is so important for little ones. Perry was able to feel like he was growing stronger while reaching new heights with his dad, as they scaled up the wall together. They provide you with all of the equipment that you need and even help to you get set up before setting off on your climbing adventure. No experience necessary, as there are different levels to try on each side of the wall.
Located at the base of the mountain, this is a fun experience for the whole family! Put your skills to the test and get competitive (in a fun and friendly way) by navigating bunkers and water hazards, just like a full-sized course on a smaller scale. This 18-hole, par-67 putting course has waterfalls, a limestone backdrop and features that truly highlight the surrounding beauty. And who won, you might ask? You might be thinking I’m gonna say Perry, but it was actually Julia. Ain’t nothing wrong with kicking your family’s butts at mini-put every now and then, right?
Who says a family vacation means no pampering? Julia and I left the kids with Mike and snuck off to get pedis in their custom pedicure bench with stunning views at this beautiful spa located right in the Village. Offering services in private spa suites, appointed massages and reflexology rooms. They even have garden or Gan•ban studio where you can practice yoga. The staff was so freakin lovely, it was exactly what we needed. We even got to take away small bottles of our polish colour so we could keep touching up.
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Catherine Sugrue, CNP
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