I don’t know if I should cry, scream or laugh hysterically. I’m standing on a small disc platform at the top of a large tree, with nothing but a harness to catch my fall. I’ve passed through two of the most challenging segments of rope course, high a top the trees, my hands are shaking and I know there is no way I’m going to be able to make it across the next stretch. Staring down at the rough ground below all I am thinking is “What am I doing here? How did I get here? and how the heck are they going to get me down?”
This was the second last stop on an amazing press trip sponsored by Central Counties Tourism. A not-for-profit organization formed by the Ontario Ministry of Tourism and Culture to work with existing tourism offices in the region to promote all local tourism attractions. Central Counties includes York, Durham and the Hills of Headwaters regions, in a large and diverse area filled with urban and rural adventures.
I was invited to take part in a bloggers press trip with fellow bloggers from the TBEX Conference held in Toronto, June 2013. Shout out to my Central Counties adventure partners Ian (Borderless Travels), Stephen (Shameless Traveler ), Amanda (DudeMom.com), LiLing &Brennan (Trekaroo.com), Vanessa (Turnipseed Travel), Cheryl (Kids on a Plane) & Dani (GoingNomadic.com).
Here’s a recap of the stops we made – full detailed posts will follow.
Albion Hills Conservation Area
Caledon, Ontario, 905-880-4855 Website
Located in Caledon Ontario, this conservation area has it all, hiking trails, mountain bike trails, swimming, camping and cross country skiing for the winter enthusiasts. There is something here for everyone. (more on this stop soon.)
We were treated to a picnic lunch by Jo from What’s Cookin’ who was bursting with enthusiasm about the menu she was presenting us. No detail was missed. (The full post on my visit to the Village of Erin can be found here.) Every bite was a culinary explosion. I feel like Jo should be on Masterchef and knowing that those Gluten Free Nanaimo bars and salad dressings are on sale in her shop means I will have to visit real soon! I’m still dreaming about that lunch!
Mackenzie our knowledgeable Albion HIlls guide walked us through a trail at the park where we fed the mosquitos. It was a perfect clear day, not too hot and sun gleamed through the leaves in the trees as we walked through.
LEGOLAND® Discovery Centre
1 Bass Pro Mills Drive, Vaughan, ON (Legoland® Website) | Vaughan Mills Shopping Centre (Vaughan Mills Website)
I’ve always wondered what was inside the Legoland Discovery centre on my visits to Vaughan Mills. The small store front just adds to the mystery. I always knew that what was behind the store was so much bigger and I was right! We walked through a small activity centre where we learned how Lego is made. We got to save the princess on the awesome ride Kingdom Quest (I won by the way) and enjoyed the great film in the 4D Cinema. Of course the Lego built city of Toronto display was an amazing sight. The scene switches from day to night every five minutes and the more you look at it the more details you catch. We also attended a Lego class to learn how to build a model plane. The crew at LegoLand including the Lego professors are all on hand to teach everyone the best building techniques which can be tested in activity displays like the racecar hill or the Earthquake. Finally we got to take a spin on Merlin’s Apprentice a cool ride in which you control how high you fly by peddling as fast as you can.
2316 Major Mackenzie Drive, Maple, Ontario (www.farroristorante.com)
Located in Maple Ontario, we were delighted to sit down to dinner at this lovely Italian restaurant. Roberto and Carmine ensured we had a fantastic meal. The neighbourhood restaurant offers an elegant yet still casual place to enjoy an impressive selection of Italian cuisine. The plates were filled and I got the impression they were not going to let us leave without a full belly!
Aloft Hotel Vaughan
151 Bass Pro Mills Dr Vaughan, ON (905) 695-0500 Aloft Website
I loved the Aloft hotel vibe. The hotel is funky and modern and has a great atmosphere. Rooms are modern and designed with a boutique hotel in mind. It was a short stay but an awesome nights sleep. For a full review see our Hotel Review of Aloft Vaughn Mills here.
9580 Jane St Vaughan, ON (905) 832-8131 (https://www.canadaswonderland.com/)
Its been a long time since I’ve been at Canada’s Wonderland and I’m happy to report they still serve up thrills, chills, and good old fashioned fun. However, they do so with continuing to upgrade the park with awesome new attractions year after year. We had a VIP “First Ride of the Day” on Leviathan the fastest 3 and a half minutes of my life. The first drop from 306 feet at an 80 degree angle happens at such unbelievable speed it is hard to keep your eyes open. Now when I see their commercial with everyone’s faces getting blown by the wind I laugh because I’m guessing that’s how we all looked! The coaster is so fast (reaching maximum speeds of 145KM/hour) it will definitely get your heart racing.
Our Guide Matt took us around the park to see some of the “Classic” rides you remember and some new attractions like Dinosaurs Alive. This is a manicured path amongst some amazing Dinosaurs that move and screech as you walk by. Kids love these dinosaurs and the sand pit at the end of the walk where they can dig for bones.
We ended our morning at Wonderland with the well known Canada’s Wonderland Funnel Cake. With all the fixings, ice cream and strawberries. It was delish!
17 King Street East, Oshawa, Ontario (Website)
Yum more Italian cuisine. Still full from my funnel cake excursion and a bit nervous about our next stop, I decided on a light lunch which for me was the Caprese salad. The restaurant has a lovely patio a great menu with too much to choose from.
Tree Top Eco-Adventure Park
On arrival we were helped into our gear by our guides Randy and Jenna. I thought I was about to enjoy a zip-lining adventure, but soon discovered this was much more. The Tree Top Eco-Adventure park is the only one of its kind in the Greater Toronto Area, an aerial ropes course with zip lines a long the way. We started off on the demonstration course and then made our way to the beginner’s course. This one was way higher off the ground. I made it over the suspended bridge taking each step across the shaking wooden planks as the wires attached to my harness moved above me. The second phase in this course is known as the “Multi-Activity” which can be described as floating moving platforms that you have to walk across. Every time you are ready to go from one board to the next the one in front of you starts floating away. I don’t know how long it took me to walk across this section but when I got across I was drained. My hands were shaking from hanging on to the wires so tightly and there was no way I could continue.
But not to worry. As Randy assured me every step of the way – there is a way down. Jenna our second guide was well trained in high angle rescue and she gently lowered me to the ground. So the moment of panic, the devastation that I couldn’t finish, the relief that there was a resolution was all felt in a manner of a minute. But, then as I was being repelled down the side of the tree, I smiled to myself because now I could write about repelling down a tree! That’s the travel writer in me thinking about how I’m going to share this awesome experience. For the full post see Swinging in the Trees at Tree-Top Eco Adventure Park. Have to mention the Big Zip – a 728 feet zip line that is a total thrill. Just one more adventure to check off my bucket list an awesome zip and…err another Jenna rescue – details on the full post here.
After the drive from Oshawa to Pickering we started down the road of Pickering’s Nautical Village. It’s a street with small shops and eateries heading down towards the marina and the Waterfront Dining Bistro and Bar. Located at Frenchman’s Bay on Lake Ontario, this bistro features a great menu and nightly entertainment on Friday and Saturday. It was too chilly for us but the restaurant has a pretty phenomenal patio overlooking Lake Ontario. The entire waterfront area in Pickering looks delightful and I can’t wait to go back and explore it further.
Central Counties Tourism
I want to thank the team at Central Counties for this awesome experience. It was great to get out in my own backyard and find so many different types of adventures to participate in. Kelly, Dalia, Katie and Chuck put together a fantastic adventure for us and I’m so grateful that they invited me along for the ride!
This trip was sponsored by Central Counties Tourism. The region encompasses the municipalities of York, Durham and those within the Hills of Headwaters Tourism Association area.