Our family recently spent eight sunny days in southern Ontario, visiting my dad and stepmom. While it was a vacation away from my writing, I apparently couldn’t last eight days without getting paint all over myself.
I hadn’t planned on DIYing on vacation, but my stepmom said she wanted my opinion about buying a new coffee table and end tables for their family room.
She mentioned maybe getting some build-it-yourself ones from a certain popular big-box store, and I squawked in protest.
Their current tables were solid oak with glass panels, and all three pieces were in great condition. They’d had them since I was six, and they were secondhand finds back then — making the tables at least 30, but probably closer to 40 years old.
Since my stepmom was sick of them and wanted a change, I insisted we could paint the tables to modernize them. She was on board right away, but we knew the challenge would be convincing my dad to take a chance on a little paint.
“Dad, we have a proposition,” I started diplomatically, later that day. “What would you say if we could get a brand-new coffee table and two end tables for the family room … all for the low price of about $27?”
“Ah, sure. Where are they?”
An Adirondack chair — a Muskoka chair here in Canada — can be anywhere from $20 to $400, depending on materials. You can get them in all colours and sizes. Some fade quickly, while others look great for years. There’s an overwhelming number of options.
While I really like the composite and plastic options that come in pretty colours and never need to be painted, it made more sense for us to build one ourselves.
We always love Ana White’s easy-to-follow woodworking plans, so I popped over to her site and grabbed the free plans for her classic 2×4 Adirondack chair.
We recently came back from our annual family trip to Ontario, and this was the first summer we took the kids to … drumroll, please … Canada’s Wonderland! (Or, as we told them, “Canada’s Disney World.”)
Darling Husband and I had been there together several times, and I went a lot as a kid, but neither of us had been in at least 12 years so a LOT had changed. New rides, different restaurants, new systems. We were experiencing the park as parents, rather than kids ourselves!
Enough about us, though — you’re here for advice! From food and drink hacks to managing ride wait-times, here are a few tips (and even a hack or two) for your next visit to Canada’s Wonderland …
There are deals online that you won’t get if you purchase your park tickets when you arrive at Canada’s Wonderland.
The best deal is a four-day advance ticket — it’ll save you $24 per ticket if you decide ahead of time which day you’re going to visit the park. We wanted to choose this option, but just couldn’t get our schedule figured out early enough. #bummer
We did, however, take advance of the two-day ticket. For only $10 more per person than a one-day ticket, you can spend TWO full days at the park. The second day can be any other day in the same season, so don’t worry about needing to go two days in a row if you don’t want to.
Although I didn’t love the idea of spending two full days at the park, it felt like the right call since we were spending so much $$$ on just one day. Spending a tiny bit more and getting two days = better value!
I ended up being sick on the second day we planned to go (awful summer cold) so Darling Husband went solo with the kids, but it was still well worth it.
Darling Husband LOVES roller coasters and knew he wanted to hit up all of the news ones, as well as his old favourites. I *used to* love roller coasters, but when I hit my 20s I suddenly couldn’t tolerate them anymore. (I get a headache from the jarring movements and/or feel super nauseated. It sucks.)
Since we bought two-day passes, we agreed that we’d buy him a Fast Lane Plus pass for one of the days. They’re $80-$90 depending on when you buy them (and this is ON TOP of your ticket price) so they’re NOT CHEAP. But his pass meant he’d be able to essentially “skip the line” to on 21 of the park’s best rides, including the brand-new ones he was excited about: Yukon Striker, Leviathan, and Behemoth.
While I did grumble a bit about the $90 we paid for it, the Fast Lane Plus pass was worth it. I spent the whole first day with the kids doing kiddie rides, and he was able to spend it going on dozens of rides. (I think he did one three times in a row, all within less than 10 minutes!)
He’d enter the special Fast Lane line and walk straight up to the front, past all the people who might have been waiting an hour (or more) for their turn. Because he was a single rider, he got on even faster than some of the people in the Fast Lane line! (I kept asking him if he felt like a total V.I.P. because I would have been all over that.)
The park’s website includes details for each ride, including how tall a person needs to be for it. We measured our daughter before the visit to see if she was tall enough for some of the rides.
She was 49″ so we knew she could go on all of the kiddie rides as well as all of the family rides, with the exception of needing to ride with someone for the Krachenwagen (bumper cars) and The Fly (a family-friendly roller coaster).
I refused to go on The Fly because I remember it being SUPER jerky and hard on my head/neck, but Darling Husband took them on Day 2 and they loved it.
There’s also a measuring station in the park where your child can be professionally measured (and they get a special bracelet to show which category they’re in, height-wise) but we didn’t bother to do that.
Canada’s Wonderland includes a massive water park called Splash Works, which of course the kids wanted to do. It was hot as BALLS in Ontario when we were there, so these breeze-loving Maritimers were positively sweltering in the heat.
One of the WORST parts of Day 1, however, was when we decided to go to the water park after lunch and needed to change into our suits. The line-ups in the bathrooms in the waterpark area were enormous, and it felt like thousands of people were queueing up in a hot, wet, crowded bathroom for the chance to pee and change into their swimsuit. I had frustrated tears in my eyes by the time C and I had gotten changed, seriously.
I’d strongly recommend wearing your bathing suit UNDER your clothes while you’re in the main part of the park, and then just stripping off your shorts and T-shirt when you’re ready to hit the waterpark. We ended up keeping our bathing suits on afterward, actually — and just throwing our clothes on overtop — since we dried off so quickly in the sun.
SPECIAL NOTE FOR MY GIRLS WITH THIGHS FOR DAYS: Don’t just wear your bathing suit around the waterpark area. This has nothing to do with how you look (which is awesome) and everything to do with the fact that a bathing suit + wet legs + lots of walking = awful red welt-like pain on the insides of your thighs from chub rub. I realized this while changing into my bikini and decided to keep my knee-length leggings on over my bathing suit and wore them in the pool, down the waterslides, everything. IT SAVED MY LIFE. Yes, it probably looked a little weird, but it felt amazing.
You can’t bring sandwiches (or anything) into Canada’s Wonderland (see below) but you’re welcome to bring coolers and keep them in your vehicle. If you get your hand stamped, you can come and go as often as you’d like.
We made a bunch of peanut-butter sandwiches and packed them into a cooler with ice, bottled water, juice boxes, cans of pop, and apples. Around lunchtime, we all met up and walked out to the car — which was parked super close to the gates, thanks to arriving 30+ minutes before the park opened — and ate a little picnic in the air-conditioning.
Parking-lot meals are super common at Wonderland. Some people eat at the picnic pavilion (a bunch of tables) or on the grass under the trees. I’ve heard that some people will even BBQ out there!
But when it comes to bringing a few snacks into the park, well, that’s a different story …
The official rule is that you’re not allowed to bring ANY outside foods or drinks into the park, except for sealed (brand-new) plastic water bottles. We brought four new water bottles and just swapped them for new ones whenever we went back to the vehicle.
(There are exceptions for baby food, but there’s a whole section on the website about how there’s really no excuse not to buy the park’s gluten-free, peanut-free etc. foods, so don’t bother trying to fake a special food requirement.)
Now, I’m not advocating for ripping off Canada’s Wonderland. We certainly bought some food in the park — incredibly expensive cotton candy + chicken fingers & fries on Day 1, and massive hot dogs on Day 2 — but we also, um, secretly brought some food in. Shhhhh!
They WILL check your bags thoroughly as you’re going through the gates to get in. You walk through the metal detectors and then have to hand over / open up any bags, fanny packs, etc. so you need to be cautious. (There are bins everywhere of stuff that’s been confiscated, like half-full water bottles, pop, cans of Pringles, etc.)
I had forgotten about the no-outside-food rule until I noticed it on the website the morning of our first trip there, so I had to rush around at the last minute finding ways to conceal it. Googling wasn’t much help, as most articles are about how to sneak alcohol into amusement parks and music festivals, not fruit snacks.
We didn’t even end up eating all of the snacks that made it through the gates, but I was glad to have them. The kids were total troopers and I was glad to be able to quickly offer them a little snack to keep them going, rather than balking at the prices of buying snacks in the park.
I always love the indoor theatre shows (hello, air-conditioning!) but they only run a few times a day. The same goes for the big diving shows. Look up the times and set an alarm on your phone so you can make it over there in time.
When you walk into the park, employees are right there with cameras to snap a photo while everyone’s still smiley and not that sweaty. Let them take your picture (it’s free), and then you can review it later at one of the photo stations.
If you like it, buy it. It’s a nice keepsake and you didn’t have to bother asking someone else to take a photo with your phone. I bought two (one of all four of us, and one of just the kids) for $25 and it was worth it.
We brought a lot of bags to Canada’s Wonderland, but we mostly left them in the car. Because we knew we were hitting up the water park, we had a backpack of dry clothes (a full dry outfit for all four of us, which stayed in the car), a backpack with four towels and our bathing suits, and backpacks for me and Darling Husband to carry with us (water, snacks, etc.)
When it was time for me and the kids to hit the water park, we rented a medium-sized locker for about $25. It was annoyingly expensive, but I couldn’t take my wallet, phone, etc. on the waterslides with me, not to mention our clothes, hats, shoes. We were able to squeeze two backpacks in there, and I saw a LOT of people struggling to fit anything in the tiny “small” lockers that were a bit cheaper.
If you don’t want to pay that much for a locker, your options are (A) having one person sit out and hold onto your stuff — there were lots of people hanging out on the lawns of the water park doing that, (B) having someone carry your bags around while they go on rides, (C) leaving everything in the car and going back and forth as needed.
Towels, of course, are a different story. The kids and I tossed our towels onto a grassy lawn early on, and then just went back and picked them up later. If someone had bothered to steal them, it wouldn’t have been a big deal, but no one did.
If you’re going to stand around in line for a ride, it’s the perfect time to eat something, reapply everyone’s sunscreen, tie a shoe, adjust your baseball cap strap, fix that falling-out ponytail that’s been bugging you, chug some water, etc. Two birds, one stone.
We made line-waits our “snack time” (more on that down below) and would eat something to keep us going while we waited. Thankfully, most of the lines at Canada’s Wonderland involve some shade.
When you’re really, really hot? Make your kids take you on Jokey’s Jalopies. You can sit in the backseat of an antique car (with a nice shady roof) and let them cruise you around a track, nice and slow, under the shade of trees. The car moves just quickly enough to give you a breeze. It’s heavenly.
When you’re hot AND willing to get wet, go on White Water Canyon. These boats hold six people and you get to go rafting down a river, complete with rapids. Usually half of the people get soaked and half remain dry, but it’s refreshing either way.
We only discovered this midway through the afternoon on our first day, and it was STILL an amazing deal — especially considering that ONE bottle of pop in one of their vending machines is literally $5-something!
You buy a Canada’s Wonderland souvenir bottle (it’s really a cup with a bendy straw and a lid) for $15.99 ($12.99 if you buy online), and you can fill it up as often as you want* at any of the Coca-Coca refill stations throughout the park. You’re never far from a station, and they are clearly marked on the map.
BONUS: If you’re coming back to the park another day, it’s only $1.25 to refill your existing cup. We went on two different days, however, and the cup colour was identical so … how could they know it wasn’t just your first day with the cup? 😉 It’s a pretty loosey-goosey system and an EXCELLENT deal.
*The website says you need to wait 15 minutes between refills, but no one enforces that. We’d all chug a few sips, drain the cup, refill, repeat, etc. until we were ready to keep walking.
All in all, we had a solid two days at Canada’s Wonderland and I’m sure we’ll go back next summer when we return to Ontario. You can bet that I will be wearing my damn bathing suit under my clothes!