Dispatch from Collingwood, Ont.: Family Fun at Blue Mountain

Like most people these days, we staycationed this summer. The furthest we’ve been away from home was a weekend in Collingwood, about an hour and half north of Toronto. It can be hard to find a place everyone in the family can enjoy, but if you live in Ontario or will be visiting nearby, this area has tons to offer. Here’s what we did:

Scenic Caves Nature Adventures

I had visited this tourist destination years ago, but it is perfect stop for families with kids over 5 and even better for those with a bit of adventerous streak. The big draw is the labyrinth of caves and crevices which were a sacred place for the local First Nations people. The walk takes about two hours and is not stroller friendly, but bigger kids who don’t mind a bit of a walk will love trying to squeeze themselves into tight spots and exploring the deep, cold ice cave. My fearless daughter loved the suspension bridge, which provides a beautiful view and the thrill of being 300 metres above Georgian Bay. After a round of mini golf, Charlotte tried her hand at panning for mineral treasures. Using rushing water to sluice through her bag of mining rough, Charlotte was thrilled with her strike of 10 minerals and semi-precious stones. No, really, she hauled her treasure around all weekend and showed them to the neighbourhood kids when she got home. Finally, she played on the attraction’s brand new playground which got her stamp of approval as we could barely tear her away from it. For teens, check out the EcoAdventure Tour ($95 for adults, $75 for youths) which includes zip-cable rides, a tree-top canopy walk and admission to the caves. For more info, click here.

The Westin Trillium Blue Mountain—Famarama

For those who don’t know, Blue Mountain is known primarily for its skiiing which is why this hotel’s proximity to the hills (it’s honestly a ski-in, ski-out address) is so popular. But this spot is great in the summer. We stayed during Famarama weekend (to watch for dates for next year go here) which featured a movie under the stars (Bolt!), breakfast with Max & Ruby and kid-friendly performances and music in The Village at Blue Mountain. Rooms at the Westin either overlook the ski hills or the village filled with shops and restaurants. We stayed in a suite, with a big bed for mom and dad and a pull-out couch for Charlotte who excitedly proclaimed “I get to sleep on the couch!” It also had a kitchenette so we could keep a stash of snacks and enjoy a meal in our room.

The biggest draw however was the Plunge! Aquatic Centre attached to the Westin. This mini-water park has indoor/outdoor pools, a water playground, hot tubs and slide. We spent four hours a day here. Charlotte could have spent eight. While Famarama only happens once a year, The Village at Blue Mountain often has theme weekends like the Apple Harvest Festival (Oct 9 – 12) with horse drawn carriage rides, street performers, pumpkin carving, guided hikes and more. For more info on the Westin, click here.

Le Scandinave Spa Blue Mountain

I love my family but mom needed a little alone time, and I found it at this spa, tucked in the woods about five minutes from The Village at Blue Mountain. Open to those 19 and older, you can visit for a few hours or stay for the day ($44), to enjoy the Scandinavian Baths including saunas, steam baths, thermal and Nordic waterfalls, hot baths, cold plunges and relaxation areas. No pedi/manis here. The only other extras the spa offers are massages, yoga classes and a bistro. And leave your Blackberry behind because this tranquil spot is a cell phone- and PDA-free zone. You’ll know why when you go. This is as Zen as it gets. It’s a great spot for a girls’ getaway or for couples looking for a romantic break. For more info, click here.

-Robin, CF’s senior editor

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