For Vivian's summer trip this year we trekked up to Bracebridge and Huntsville to see Santa. My mom and I took Vivian and L up for the night and it ended up being a quick but awesome trip. Santa's Village is in Bracebridge because apparently it's on the 45th parallel, putting it squarely between the North Pole and the Equator - obviously the perfect location for Santa's summer cottage!
The best surprise of the trip was our hotel. Mom randomly grabbed a room off of hotels.com and it ended up being amazing! Since we were only there for one night, we didn't need anything spectacular - just a room and a pool for the kids. We ended up getting an awesome rate at the Hidden Valley Resort in Huntsville and we can't say enough good things about it.
It was right on a beautiful lake and had a private beach - the kids would have preferred to just hang out there all day.
They had lots of canoes, kayaks, and paddleboats free for anyone to use. Miraculously we managed to take the kids out for a canoe ride and they both stayed still. The lake was amazing, and even though it was stupid hot the whole time we were there it felt so nice and refreshing to be out on the water, even if it was only for a little while.
The resort really showed their excellent customer service when mom went down to get dinner. They didn't have a room service option, but you could get takeout from the on-site restaurant. Since the kids were whipped, she just ran down to get a bunch of appetizers for us to share while I hung out and with the sleepy ones. The goal, of course, was really to get a beer for mom and I since we desperately needed a drink after the long drive north with a 5 year old and 2 1/2 year old who watched Madagascar 3 about four times in a row. The only problem? We got the LCBO after it had closed (damn our shortsightedness!) and the restaurant wouldn't let mom bring alcohol through the hotel and up to our room. Damn. So while mom waited for the food, she was having a sneaky beer at the bar by herself and feeling really badly that I wouldn't get one. When the food was ready, they had it plated instead of in take-out containers so the manager offered to help carry the tray of food up for mom. She explained how she just had to finish her beer, and how her daughter was going to kill her for having it. The manager took pity on us poor travellers and let her bring the rest of her drink up to the room and let her bring a nice, frosty beer up for me too. I swear, seeing that tray loaded with nachos, chicken fingers, calamari and that sweet bottle of Coors Light was about the sweetest thing I've ever seen.
The actual visit to Santa's Village the next day went about as we expected - I think L had three meltdowns before we even walked into the park, and Vivian was on meltdown number two. Damn those handstamps at the entrance!
Once we got in there though, the kids had a great time. We went for a boat cruise on Santa's Summer Sleigh (where we had to assist another boat that was on fire. True story - their motor was smoking, people were swimming to shore, their fire extinguisher had run out so we had to give them ours and then tow them to a public dock. Good times.) and Vivian couldn't get enough of the rides. Everything there is really geared to little kids, so she could go on whatever rides she wanted as long as she had a parent with her. We went on the rollercoaster three times in a row, and I think she would have ridden it all day if I'd let her.
I love these pictures of her coming down the slide. I'd watched her come flying out of it twice already and she faceplanted both times. Here she is in the middle of faceplant number three...
But she's okay! Heading back for more.
Of course the main reason for visiting is to see the big man himself. L did well and sat on his lap and chatted for a bit, while Vivian clung to me and was literally shaking in fear. Christmas is going to be a blast this year.
A word of advice? If you're parked adjacent to the woods surrounding Santa's Village, DO NOT LEAVE YOUR DOORS OPEN TO COOL OFF THE VEHICLE AND LOAD THE KIDS IN THE CAR. The van ended up full of mosquitoes in a matter of minutes, which left mom freaking out and me trying to swat them from the passenger seat.
It was really a great trip for kids this age - I would definitely recommend it over something like Marineland. This was just the right size for these two - we'll definitely be heading back. Hopefully next year we can go back to Hidden Valley for a full week and enjoy a real vacation!