A new interest in knights and dragons had my son, Hugo, asking all summer to visit Casa Loma. But our busy schedule meant we never made it beyond a couple of nighttime drive-bys of Toronto’s historic castle on a hill. And I’ll admit, bringing a four-year-old and his two-year-old sister to a place where objects of historical worth might be within climbing reach sounded like a recipe for…something breaking.
When I was invited to a meet-and-greet at the castle with Dora the Explorer, to kick off the tour of the show Dora the Explorer Live! Search for the city of Lost Toys, it seemed the perfect opportunity to visit the landmark—and assuage my guilt. And Dora’s a popular gal in our house. Possibly because she’s unavoidable, seeming to pop up everywhere and on everything. She’s on at least two pairs of Anna’s shoes. I think I saw her face on a yogurt container the other day. But thankfully, she’s a not-too-bad female role model. I’ll take her over the Disney princesses any day.
The event was a chance for kids from Make-A-Wish Foundation, along with other invitees, to meet the plucky adventurer. It was a bright and warm September day, and the castle and surrounding gardens looked particularly fetching. The children were invited to sit and colour at a long table set up on the terrace. When the backpack-wearing guest of honour finally arrived, Hugo and Anna were the first to bombard her with handshakes and hugs. They then photo-bombed their way through the rest of the meet-and-greet. I truly hope some families got pictures of their kids that don’t include Hugo or Anna pawing at some part of Dora’s anatomy.
As a bonus, we were able to see a good chunk of Casa Loma afterward. The multilevel garden is beautiful, and probably the best place to spend time with preschoolers. Inside, the kids spent several minutes emptying the contents of my change purse into the fountain in the conservatory. This seemed fair, since we hadn’t paid admission (which, at $18 for adults and $10 for kids over four, isn’t cheap). We then watched a few minutes of a movie on the castle’s history, before Anna’s stage whispers of, “What’s dat? What’s dat?” got a little irksome. I opted not to venture to the second floor, since we were all getting hungry and I wasn’t sure what to do with my stroller (though there are small elevators in the castle, strollers are not permitted on them). I was also getting tired of pulling the kids off the velvet ropes that block off certain rooms.
So I parked the stroller and went down to the lower-level cafeteria, which offers plenty of kid-friendly options. And finally, the tunnel leading to the stables. This was definitely a highlight for the kids. Though to me it was kind of creepy, and slow-going since Anna wanted to be carried the entire 800 feet and back. We never actually made it to the stables. I’ll leave that for a visit when I’ve got backup.
By then, Hugo had reached his best-behaviour limit. After they both ran several laps around the fountain in front of the castle, we were off. We’ll definitely visit again, but next time I’m bringing a husband instead of a stroller.