With March Break approaching, school-aged children will have a week off - but that doesn’t mean everyone else will. If you are looking to stay near London, Ontario this March Break, here is a list of 10 nearby things to try!
1. Explore Springbank Park
Springbank Park, which hugs the Thames River through Byron, is a beautiful sight in every season. Even if it is a little frosty in March, this huge park is still one of London’s most popular attractions.
The main feature of the park is the trails along the Thames River. Paths pass through the beautifully forested area of the park with a view between the trees of the flowing Thames in the distance. The trails are a great way to experience the park as they can be traveled by foot, bike, or with your dog. Taking the trails will lead you to public washrooms, food stands, and Storybook Gardens. Another way to enjoy the park are the various picnic spots available in the park - some of which are covered.
Storybook Gardens has been a staple of Springbank Park since 1958. This all-season adventure park has play-structures, rides, and activities that seem to have popped out of famous nursery rhymes. The most beloved features of the gardens are the Carousel and the Springbank Express, both of which can be seen from the Springbank Park trails. Guests have a chance to refresh during their visit at Family Washrooms, Baby Care Stations, and Picnic Sites all within the gardens. No family trip to Springbank is complete without a visit to Storybook Gardens.
2. Head to a Local Museum
London is fortunate to have three museums, the London Children’s Museum, the Museum of Ontario Archaeology, and the Museum London, each with their own programming and unique activities. Any one of these three museums would be an edu-taining place to spend the day with your family.
The London Children’s Museum is designed with youth audiences in mind. They offer many interactive experiences like sitting in a 19th century classroom, crawling through a network of caves exhibits, preparing for space exploration in Mission Control.
Museum of Ontario Archaeology offers a pretty rare experience in Canada: Virtual Reality Exhibits. Visitors can strap into the VR Gear and explore a 16th century longhouse, handle digitally recreated artifacts, and try an archery range. Interactive exhibits continue outside with the Lawson Archaeology Site, a tour around a reconstructed longhouse, maze, and gardens. On March 14th, 2020, the museum will also be holding the Maple Harvest Festival with more kid-friendly activities.
Museum London houses exhibits dedicated to art, artifacts, and history. The galleries are filled with paintings, photography, and ceramics as well as details about their artists and history. The museum offers weekend Imagination Stations and a March Break Camp to help foster creativity for kids and teens.
3. Check out your Local Community Spaces:
Your local library is always a good resource for families; they have weekday storytime programming for pre-school ages and special weekend activities for older children as well. During March Break, most branches of the London Public Library offer special programming over the time off of school. Some examples of local programs are daily March Break Scavenger Hunts, Introductions to Chess, and family activities like guessing games and mystery bag craft challenges.
Also pay a visit to your nearest community centre or arena to find out about their public programming. Many facilities offer extended hours or increased opportunities for recreational swimming or public skating. The best part? These indoor facilities are great on a rainy day, so unpredictable March weather can’t dash your plans!
4. Take the Family to Palasad
Looking for some healthy family competition? Your search should start with Palasad. This family-friendly indoor complex has bowling, laser tag, arcade games, and food all under one roof - well, technically two since Palasad has a London Social Bowl and a South London location.
Palasad South has bowling lanes, billiards, ping pong tables, a 2-level laser tag arena, karaoke, and a bright arcade with basketball, racing, shooters, classic arcade cabinets, and an Airstream trailer prize booth. Palasad Social Bowl has bowling, billiards, and an arcade as well, but is located right next to the Escapology Escape Rooms for a different kind of group activity.
Both locations have extensive menus that are great for sharing with a group. The Palasad South location offers build-your-own pizzas and burgers to customize your meal while the Social Bowl offers a lot more appetizers and share-able meals to try a little bit of everything.
5. Book a Play Day at The Factory
Based out of the old Kellogg’s factory in East London, The Factory is an indoor adventure for visitors of all ages. Older (or just taller!) guests can test their strength on the intensive “Warrior Course” which features a variety of mobile obstacles like spinning discs and sweeper arms, a giant treadmill, and a massive stunt airbag. Other challenging courses with height restrictions can be tackled by high ropes and zip lines, including a free-fall 75-foot drop. There is no age restriction for the trampoline park, the arcade, laser maze, interactive Trampoline Ninja Game, or Virtual Reality gaming zone. Younger children can enjoy the facilities as well with the “Lil’ Climbers” playground for children as young as 2 years old. The Factory is a popular spot - especially over March Break, so it’s recommended that you book ahead of time for your desired courses.
6. Take an Escape Room Challenge
Test your family’s quick-thinking and teamwork skills at one of London’s many Escape Rooms. An escape room is a giant puzzle made up of hidden combinations, secret codes, and riddles that need to be solved before you can escape the room and win the challenge. Most rooms are timed, adding an element of pressure to beat the room - or to beat a rival team if you plan a session with a large enough group. Here are a few of the top-rated game rooms in London:
Escapology - 604 Oxford Street East
Escapology is a global chain of escape games with an award-winning location in London! Each of their four games are presented with complete backstory and immersive setting, all with thematic puzzles and win conditions. All escape games here are 60 minutes long and must be booked in advance.
Trapdoor - 248 Dundas Street
Trapdoor features two different rooms: Volcano’s Ruin for 3-8 players and A Brief Mystery of Time for 3-7 players. Both rooms have a 60 minute time limit, but online leaderboards boast top scores under 35 minutes for both rooms. Games need to be booked ahead of time, but Trapdoor’s central location in downtown London offers plenty of entertainment while you wait for your game time.
Exodus - 520 Wellington Street
Exodus offers the most unique experience with three game rooms and a special Virtual Reality room. All rooms are designed to be beaten within an hour, but if your team is bested by the room, Exodus offers a second try at half price. These rooms feature an apartment escape, a school heist, a den of family secrets, and a Space Station VR mission.
7. Watch a Game at Budweiser Gardens
Game Night is an exciting thing to look forward to and it makes for a fun family outing too! Over March Break, both the London Knights, the city’s CHL team, and the London Lightning CBL basketball team are playing regular season home games at Budweiser Gardens. Tickets for the London Knights will run you anywhere between $20.00 and $40.00 for a single game while London Lightning tickets usually range between $20.00 and $75.00 depending on distance from the court.
If you’ve never been to Budweiser Gardens, you’re in for a treat. The downtown arena seats over 9000 people for hockey and closer to 10,000 for other events that don’t use the ice. Evening games take place after 7:00pm, the perfect time to explore your dining options around the arena. There are restaurants along Dundas and King on either side of the arena, with even more dining options in the nearby Covent Garden Market. The closest restaurant is the Talbot Bar & Grille, located in the arena itself, you won’t have to worry about rushing around the city before the game starts.
8. Celebrate the Maple Syrup Festival at Kinsmen Fanshawe Sugar Bush
This spot will take you a little ways out of London, about 25 minutes northeast to the Kinsmen Fanshawe Sugar Bush in Thorndale, Ontario. There is good reason for the drive, though, since the Sugar Bush Maple Festival takes place all throughout the month of March! The Sugar Bush is open to families looking to learn and celebrate Maple Syrup every weekend in March and all of March Break.
Admission to the Sugar Bush also gets you and your family a spot on the tour of the facilities where you will learn how maple syrup is collected and processed into the glass bottle on your table. In addition to the tour, admission also covers horse-drawn wagon rides through the grounds. Itching to try some? There is a Pancake House serving up breakfast dripping with authentic Sugar Bush Maple Syrup! You can even purchase syrup and other products to take home with you once the day is done.
9. Make a Day-Trip to St. Thomas
Got the travel bug? You don’t have to go far to experience a change of scenery. St. Thomas Ontario is only 30 minutes south of London, the perfect distance for a day-trip!
Known as ‘railway city’, St. Thomas is the perfect destination for any young train-enthusiast. That reputation is thanks to the city’s deep connection to its railroad roots. Visitors can see that heritage represented in the Canadian Southern Station, various building murals, and the ‘Jumbo’ The Elephant monument around town. You can continue a heritage tour with a visit to one of St. Thomas’ museums: The Elgin Military Museum, The Elgin County Museum, or the Elgin County Railway Museum.
If you’re spending the day, picking some spots to stop and eat are just as important as the attractions. Scoop up a hearty breakfast, brunch, or lunch at the Country Charm Cafe, then venture out to Chick Cake Boss or Shaw’s Ice Cream for a mouthwatering treat.
10. Plan a Luxury Staycation
Do you want to get away without leaving the city? Then a staycation is an excellent compromise. Even if it is just for a weekend, book some time at a local family-friendly hotel and unwind after that action-packed March Break.
With most hotels these days offering complimentary hot breakfast and wi-fi with the cost of a stay, why not book a night out of the house? Hotels downtown can put you close to attractions like Grand Theater, the Covent Garden Market, and Budweiser Gardens - not to mention shopping - all with free parking back at the hotel! Other convenient spots to look for hotels would be near Masonville Mall or White Oaks Mall, both great hubs in the city for shopping and easy family dining.
Most importantly, hotel amenities! If you’re looking for a great pool for your family, then Delta Hotels or Best Western Plus would be excellent choices. If relaxation and convenience are your priorities, then The Park Hotel has a sauna, a hot tub, and is very close to Victoria Park. No matter where you stay, being in the city gives you a chance to relax and be pampered without the stress of navigating a new city on vacation.
Staying in London, Ontario this March Break can be just as fun as a big family road trip or long-distance flight - but without any of the hassle of travel. Since these destinations are all local, you can mix and match until you find the best combination of things to do for your family this year!