The scent of deep-fried funnel cake, the wind on my face and the drop feeling in my belly. These are just a few of the things that take me back to summer in the ’80s at Canada’s Wonderland. When I became a parent, I knew I wanted to make visits to the park (and funnel cakes for dinner) a family tradition. Here are some tried-and-true tips for having the best day at Canada’s biggest amusement park:
The park is located at a highway exit just north of Toronto, which means it’s easy to access by car, and there is plenty of parking—though it will cost a good chunk of change (on my last visit, parking was $22). You may want to consider using public transit. Toronto has extended its TTC line to the city of Vaughan, taking you to a bus depot that provides a direct route to the park. Bonus: kids under 12 travel on transit for free!
Tip: If you opt to drive, snap a photo of the marked pole closest to your car or use the car finder function on the Canada’s Wonderland app.
Pack like a pro
From the top of your head to the bottoms of your feet, you’ll need to be prepared for a long day and a lot of walking. That means comfortable running shoes, lightweight sweaters, extra socks (to get your feet dry after the water rides), sun hats, Band-Aids and sunscreen. Throw it all into a lightweight, brightly coloured backpack that’s easy to spot in a crowd (great for keeping your group together when you’re moving from ride to ride). And don’t forget refillable water bottles (there are water fountains at all the restrooms). If you’re planning to visit Splash Works water park (entry is included with your park ticket), leave your towels and bathing suits in a locker inside the gates while you enjoy the rest of the park or head to the water park first, which also has lockers for stashing your stuff.
Tip: Toss a few Dollar Store ponchos in your pack—they’re the perfect hack for staying dry on water rides.
15 best day trips around Toronto for familiesThis park was built with families in mind, and there are helpful services throughout to make the day easier. Rent a comfy stroller (single or double) and take advantage of family restrooms with change tables. In KidZville and Planet Snoopy, you will find baby care areas that offer a quiet and shaded place to feed. Restaurants will happily warm baby food and bottles, and the park makes an exception for outside food, allowing parents to bring in meals for infants and for kids with an allergy.
Tip: If you have a child or guest with special needs, the park is accessible and offers programs like the Boarding Pass (you must fill out a Rider Access Form first), which gives guests alternative entrances to the rides with shorter wait times.
Where to eat
When it comes to food, there are plenty of options, but it can be expensive, especially if you’re travelling with a large group (outside food is not permitted in the park). If you come by car, pack a cooler full of sandwiches, veggies, fruit and refreshments. You can exit the park with a stamp for re-entry and take advantage of the picnic area just outside the gates. Save your money for treats like funnel cakes (we always end our day with one) and ice cream.
Tip: Don’t forget to pack a picnic blanket and/or some lawn chairs in case the picnic areas are crowded.
Maximize your ride time
The short answer: use the Canada’s Wonderland app. Download it before you head into the park for access to maps, show times (when your gang needs a change of pace) and up-to-date wait times for rides. Being able to check on lineups without walking over to the ride is a huge time saver. If you really want to get through the lines quickly, the park offers a Fast Lane pass that can be added to your ticket for an additional fee (there are two levels, with Fast Lane Plus giving you access to the really popular rides). If you have a child who’s too small to ride (or doesn’t care to), the parent swap card lets parents take turns on the epic roller coasters without lining up twice.
Tip: If you have the stamina, stay at the park until closing time to take advantage of shorter lineups in the evening. You’ll also be treated to the amazing light shows and special effects that come on once it’s dark.
For a one-time visit, buy your tickets online in advance. Make sure to check for discount offers available through memberships like Costco or CAA. If you think you’ll visit more than once a year, invest in a Season Pass, which gives you unlimited visits to the park, discounts on food and merchandise, bring-a-friend discounts and early ride access every Sunday before the park opens. The best time to purchase a Season Pass is during the off-season. The pass is sold at three levels, with each level giving additional access to things like special events, free parking and other amusement parks in the U.S.
Tip: A Season Pass makes a great gift for that hard-to-buy-for tween or teen.