School ends and you have exactly 10 summer weekends before Labour Day arrives. Forget the lawn; head for cottage country! At these lakeshore resorts, you get to decide what you want to do instead of what you have to. Will it be tennis or hiking? Swimming in the lake or the pool? All have water sports, games rooms and organized activities, including supervised kids programs. Or maybe you’ll choose a book or a nap.
Santa’s Village, Bracebridge
During his off-season, Santa resides in this old-fashioned amusement park set amid a pine forest. The Rudolph roller coaster and other rides, climbing structures, splash pads and animals (including reindeer) have entertained young kids for generations.
Bayview-Wildwood Resort, Severn Bridge
This classic family-run resort has been operating on Lake Sparrow for 110+ years. All-inclusive packages include supervised age-specific kids’ programs and three nut-free meals a day, with breakfast and lunch served buffet-style. Cottages, rooms and suites have a TV, mini-fridge and balcony or deck.
The Deal: Summer weekend specials from $300-360 per person per night (one child under six stays free); includes five meals.
Deerhurst Resort Huntsville
Host to the G8 world leaders, this upmarket resort on Peninsula Lake offers the ultimate family vacation. Its 300 family-friendly rooms come equipped with fridges and cooking facilities, with 10 different options of suites and condos available. Both the fine dining restaurant Eclipse and more casual Maple have kids’ menus. The local YMCA provides child-minding ($7/hr) and full-day programming ($45).
The Deal: A junior suite in August is $299 per person per night with two kids free. Meals and some activities are extra.
Patterson-Kaye Lodge, Bracebridge
This smaller, more laid-back resort takes guests back to a simpler era with talent shows, marshmallow roasts, bocce ball tournaments and games like capture the flag and shuffleboard. All-inclusive packages include breakfast and dinner, water-skiing lessons, wakeboarding and tubing.
The Deal: About $700 for two adults and two children (age 3–12) in a one-bedroom cottage for a weekend.
The Muskoka Riverside Inn, Bracebridge, entertains kids with a pool and bowling alley ($169/night).
Santa’s Whispering Pines Campground across from Santa’s Village has tenting ($30 per night), yurts and unserviced cabins ($89/night); weekend camping package includes two nights of camping and two days’ admission ($199).
The Wolf Centre gives kids a chance to observe an unsocialized pack of wolves through one-way glass. It’s just one part of this private conservation area, with 346 kilometres of recreational trails. Cottages and camping are also available.
Located on Lake Kashagawigamog, this popular resort provides a peaceful setting and a shallow sandy beach that’s ideal for kids. Packages include supervised complimentary kids’ programs, as well as a hot breakfast and three-course à la carte dinner daily. All cabins and cottages have air conditioning and fridges.
The Deal: Two days in summer costs $377 per adult, $160 (children age 11–14), $120 (children 5–10).
Also on Lake Kashagawigamog, this 28-room inn is known for its relaxed atmosphere and amazing food. A supervised kids’ program runs nightly from 5:30–9:30, while parents enjoy gourmet three-course dinners in peace. Choices include basic rooms, suites (with living rooms, fireplaces and lakefront views), private chalets and cottages.
The Deal: A weekend in a suite is approximately $700–800 for two adults and two children including programs, most activities, breakfast and dinner.
Scenic Caves, Collingwood
With dark caves and caverns to explore and crevices to squeeze through, hide-and-seek has never been so much fun. The 126-metre suspension bridge that looks down 300 metres at Georgian Bay is pretty cool, too.
Blue Mountain Resort, Collingwood
It may be known for its skiing, but summer at this large resort village has lots to tempt families, including gondola rides, hiking trails, mountain biking, a private beach and an indoor/outdoor water park. Grab an ice cream and relax by the fountain, or check out the shops, restaurants, cafés and entertainment. Adventure Camp keeps kids 18 months to five years busy ($45–$55/day; $30/half-day or $12/hour). Multiple properties and hotels ranging from rooms at the Blue Mountain Inn and suites at the Grand Georgian Hotel, to condos and homes. The Westin Trillium House boasts all amenities and special treats for kids.
The Deal: Approximately $400 for two nights in a basic suite. Village activities are extra unless part of a package.
Some summers the rain never seems to stop. Here are a few hotels closer to home where weather doesn’t matter (as much).
Nottawasaga Inn, Alliston
Inside a massive dome, kids can careen down the 30-metre water slide, and challenge their parents on an 18-hole Jungle Quest mini-golf course and arcade games. Missing winter? There’s an arena with two NHL-size ice surfaces. The 269 units range from standard rooms to two-bedroom suites. Add a fridge for an extra $10.
The Deal: Summer packages start at $99 per person per night with buffet breakfast and dinner. Two kids stay free, but there’s a charge for their meals and supervised programs.
Great Wolf Lodge, Niagara Falls
Even with one of the great wonders of the world outside, you’ll have a hard time dragging kids from this extreme water park with seven pools, water rides and a lazy river run. At night there’s a show and a bedtime story in the lobby, or register the kids for the supervised PJ Party from 7–9:30 p.m. (extra cost). All of the 406 suites are geared for families, but kids will especially enjoy the Wolf Den Suites with fort-like tented bunk beds and their own TV.
The Deal: About $380 and up per night for a Wolf Den Suite on summer weekends.
Delta Chelsea, Toronto
The 40-metre corkscrew waterslide and the activity-filled kids’ centre make this a family favourite. Parents can take advantage of the babysitting and grab a show, or escape for a couple of hours at the adults-only pool. In summer, Camp Chelsea is a supervised full-day activity program for kids age five to 12. The family fun suite includes a play area, kids’ bathrobes, step-up stools and cookie jars. The hotel is located near the Eaton Centre. Back-to-school shopping, anyone?
The Deal: About $150 dollars per night for a basic room; slightly more for a family fun suite.