Fun for the Whole Family: Interactive Theatre with 6th Man Collective’s Monday Nights

Monday Nights is an interactive theatre experience that is one part choose-your-own-adventure, one part private detective role play, one part choreography, one part gym class and many parts fun.


The first thing that you need to know about Monday Nights is that it’s not just on Monday nights.  The play is a production by 6th Man Collective at The Theatre Centre, 1115 Queen Street West.  It runs nightly (excluding Tuesday) until Sunday, July 26th.  Click here to find tickets.

Members of the audience begin the night by going into the theatre and rifling through the players’ gym bags.  The bags contain clues about the personalities of the four players, and you choose your team for the evening based on what resonates with you among the things you find.  You then sit in the section that corresponds to the team you choose, and put on headphones that hang on the back of each chair.  The play begins with the audience observing choreographed basketball drills and skills while listening to information about their player from the three other players.  Then the four actors lead their teams in games and challenges, and the teams compete for points.  You do not have to participate at all, if you don’t want to, or you can participate by helping to keep score or by competing in a variety of basketball drills.  (Tip: if you are a good player, wait until the end to volunteer, as the skill level required for each drill gradually increases.) The actor who leads the team with the lowest number of points has to do the costume laundry that night!



My kids (boys, 10 and 7) had a blast.  They both play basketball, so I knew that the premise would interest them, but I wasn’t prepared for how much they loved being involved.  Even my more reserved child put his hand up to be a “volunteammate” several times.  They chose different sections to sit in, which was easy to facilitate because the theatre is small enough that I could see the child I was not sitting with easily.  I sat with Youngest, who wanted to volunteer for every single possible opportunity to hold the ball.  (Your team gets an extra point for getting new volunteers for each drill, so when he got to go up a second time, it cost the team a point!  Luckily he’s really good at sinking baskets and made up for it with points scored!)  Youngest got lots of cheers and support from our section, and he basked in the applause and high fives.  I was certainly not the loudest one cheering him on.

This play has been a highlight of our summer entertainment so far, and I can recommend it highly for a night out with kids.  For an added dimension of fun, go with a group and sit in separate sections and compete against each other.  It was a novel experience, and I had a smile on my face the whole night.  I had fun observing my kids’ enjoyment, and cheering my kids on when they went up to play, but I also really enjoyed taking in all the aspects of character development, props, script and choreography.

I love that the city has such a great range of arts experiences to take in during the Pan Am Games.  Monday Nights fits right in with the offerings at Panamania, and it harnesses all of that cheering, sports fan energy.



Explore: Evergreen Brick Works

IMG_4844Years ago my weekends were peppered with city-dweller activities: markets, neighbour explorations, festivals and art appreciation but then a string of pregnancies and little babies kept me nestled (chained) in my neighbourhood bubble venturing only outside to visit the zoo.  My youngest is now almost 4 (I still can’t believe it!) and for the past year, we’ve really been able to enjoy the city and all that it has to offer without the stress of strollers, naps and diapers.

It’s a whole new world!

Recently we explored an urban oasis: Evergreen Brick Works.

The Brick Works, as locals affectionately call it, was the Don Valley Brick Works from 1889 to 1984 and many of Canada’s preeminent buildings are constructed of bricks made from this site.  From 1984 until the early 2000s, the Brick Works deteriorated.  Piles of rubble and crumbling buildings are what most people saw when they drove past along Bayview Avenue, with the exception of a group of creative innovators who saw the potential to transform the site into a not-for-profit destination celebrating nature, culture and community.


The old buildings mesmerized the boys.  They imagined themselves heating clay in the giant kilns to make bricks.  They saw the old tracks used to transport the tons of coal from the various buildings.  We talked about the working conditions: how loud it must have been and oppressively hot from the steam, the kilns (and the humid Toronto summers) and how it probably wasn’t that safe in the early years.

Exploring the kiln building was a favourite but not only because of its historical significance.  The walls are lined with an evocative gallery displaying artistic photography and, perhaps the highlight for me; it is where The Sustainable City installation is currently on display. City school teams have imagined and created a future Toronto that encompasses the core values of Evergreen: nature, community and culture.  Not only are the projects incredible but also they are inspiring!  To think that our city is home to such innovators . . . lucky for us!


There is a lot to see and do at the Brick Works.  Every day people explore the extensive trails where local wildlife abounds!

The weekdays are quieter but the weekends are chock-full of activities including an impressive farmer’s market, pottery demonstrations, bike rentals, a flea market and the children’s garden.  The Brick Works hosts seminars on the weekends that appeal to bikers, gardeners, wild life enthusiasts and artists.

Wednesday evenings (from July 2- August 6) enjoy pizza from Pizzeria Libretto from the outdoor wood-fired oven (to.die.for.) and a small seasonal salad for $3.

It’s summer and there is no shortage of activities in Toronto.  There is a reason it’s called The Living City, so get out there and live!

Exploring Casa Loma With Dora The Explorer by Corinne Simonyi

imgres-1A 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.

Canadian Air and Space Museum

It used to be all about cars and trucks.  Then it was trains.  Now it’s airplanes.

Old-fashioned paper planes soar around the main floor of the house causing me to shriek, “Watch the baby!” about a gazillion times a day.  A remote control helicopter was a favourite birthday gift and is quickly becoming a Saturday morning play ritual with daddy.  And of course, Santa didn’t disappoint leaving a battery-powered hovercraft under the tree.

To say that the boys are deep into an “airplane stage” is probably a gross understatement.   To satisfy their love for all things aviation we headed over to The Canadian Air and Space Museum at Downsview Park.

I live about 15 minutes away and I didn’t even know that this gem existed!  The large hangar is home to several to-scale replica planes (including one of the Avro Arrow) and some are even the real deal.

Unlike other museums where I panic that we are going to be the new owners of a priceless Picasso, I wasn’t the least bit anxious when the boys, excited beyond words, ran from airplane to airplane.  Simple cord ropes keep the children back from the exhibit but many of the displays have metal, ladder-like stairs that children can climb in order to get a better view of the cockpit.

A cross-section of an Air Canada passenger jet is tons to fun to explore.  The boys eagerly took their seats and belted up, all the while flicking the tray in front of their seat up and down.

The highlight was sitting in the fighter jet.  The buttons!  Oh, the buttons!  If your kids are anything like my boys, they love pressing buttons and this dashboard is guaranteed to keep even the busiest of fingers occupied for a good five minutes!

What You Need To Know:

  • Admission is $11 per adult and children under 5 are free.
  • Parking is plentiful and free.
  • The hangar is spacious with lots to see but after a few hours you will find yourself ready to head home.
  • There is a flight simulator for older children (and grown-ups too!).
  • Definitely stroller friendly but washrooms are upstairs and no changetables were to be found (of course, I learned this the hard way and had to change an explosion diaper on the front seat of the car . . . in minus ten degree weather!).
  • Looking for some down time?  A quiet colouring station is the perfect place to unwind before packing in the car and heading home.
  • The only way to access the museum is to go through the gift shop, so be warned that this could result in lots of incredibly annoying begging polite requests for a keepsake.
  • I didn’t see food or drink for sale anywhere on the premise, so pack a snack (like your purse isn’t a sink hole of nibblies, crayons, hand sanitizer, Kleenex, etc. anyway).

Check it out!  Let me know if your kids enjoyed it as much as mine.

Do you have an aviation museum in your city?  Share with the rest of us . . .


The Royal Agricultural Winter Fair

Every November the country comes to the city.  Horses, cows, goats, sheep, pigs and a host of other barnyard residents pack up and make the trek to downtown Toronto.  For ten days urbanites like myself get a chance to intermix with the farmers we depend on for our food.

Toronto can boast that The Royal Agricultural Winter Fair, known to locals as The Royal, is the world’s largest indoor agricultural and equestrian competition.  Since 1922, farmers and breeders from all over the globe meet in Toronto annually to share unique breeds (the miniature horses are always a favourite), showcase one-of-a-kind vegetables and discuss emerging trends in agriculture (like using canola oil to power automobiles).

We have attended six consecutive fairs and this year has shaped up to be the best!  The many improvements to the layout and an increase in family-friendly events made this year’s fair better than any before.


–       The President’s Choice Superdogs Show

  • Dogs of all breeds perform tricks; zoom through an obstacle course and parade around an arena.  Seats fill-up fast and once you have taken your place, you are not able to leave.  Make sure everyone has used the washroom before settling in to watch the show.  Strollers must be left in the “stroller parking lot” and be warned, there are close to a hundred Bugaboos, Mountain Buggies and Gracos, which makes exiting the arena seem like rush hour on the 401.

–       The Royal Horse Show

  • This year The Royal has added a unique twist to the show.  In addition to the usual dressage competitions, spectators can watch professional NHL legends play hockey upon horseback!  Be sure to check the schedule and purchase your tickets in advance to avoid disappointment.


–       The Pizza Pizza Petting Farm

  • My favourite exhibit at the fair is the petting farm.  Watching the kids feed llamas, goats, calves, sheep and lambs make the trek downtown worth it.  Five dollars will buy three Dixie cups worth of pellets to hand feed the animals.  Make sure that your little one holds their hand out flat to avoid getting their fingers nipped.   
  • Thank you to Dyson for sponsoring the hand washing station.  All of us germaphobes are able to better enjoy our lunch knowing that goat saliva is no longer caked on our hands.
  • Improved!  In previous years strollers had to be carried up a long flight of stairs and this year the exhibit is located on the main floor.   


–       University of Guelph’s Equimania

  • An exhibit all about horses.  Children have the opportunity to ride mechanical horses, pet live horses, braid a horsetail, and complete a series of horse-themed crafts.


–       Family Fun Stage

  • A variety of children’s entertainers are scheduled to perform and provide the perfect break from roaming the fair. 

–       Kubota Tractors

  • My boys love this exhibit!  Kubota allows kids to climb in and pretend to operate a plethora of tractors.  Great photo ops but be warned that you may have to drag your little farmer away with the promise of ice cream.

–       Santa

  • November 14th is the final day of The Royal and Santa makes an appearance.  His elves dish out shortbread cookies and candy canes while the man in red listens to children’s Christmas wishes.

–       Food

  • Seriously yummy treats of the fare one would expect to see at a fair (ice cream, cotton candy, fried foods, etc.) to fresh vegetables and fruits, homemade fudge, kettle corn made on premise, freshly made donuts, gourmet lollipops, churned before your eyes butter . . . Oh the list goes on and on!


General admission for a family pass is $46.  Each adult ticket is $20 and each youth ticket (5-17 years) is $16.

Tickets to the horse show and horse hockey are additional.

Parking is $15.

Petting Farm pellets are $2 for one cup, $5 for 3 cups.

Riding the mechanical horse is $5.

Various food stations and artisanal vendors with goods ranging in price.


  • It is actually cheaper to buy your tickets at the fair compared to on-line.
  • Get to the fair either right at entry time or wait until the afternoon.  The line-up for tickets can be long on the weekends.
  • There are two entrances.  Scope out which line up is shorter.  It was worth our while to walk to the main entrance to The Royal as opposed to using the Direct Energy Centre entrance.
  • Parking underground is the same price as parking above ground but by parking indoors jackets can be left in the car.  The fair is entirely indoors making coats cumbersome.
  • Consider using a carrier for infants or babies and using a compact umbrella stroller for toddlers.
  • Bathrooms are few and far between so use them when you come across them.


  • Go after 5 pm for the reduce rate.  We did this one-year and changed the kids into their pajamas for the ride home.
  • Many of the food stands offer free samples for you to enjoy.
  • Take public transit or look for parking away from the Direct Energy Centre.

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