My husband and I celebrated our 11th wedding anniversary this past weekend! I’d say that time flies but it feels like an understatement; somewhere along the way we collected a couple of kids, a home or two, and hundreds (thousands?) of incredible memories I’ll always hold dear.
Last year, for our 10th, we returned to Niagara-on-the-Lake where we were married. At the time, we couldn’t envision making the destination “family friendly” – but perhaps that’s just because all our memories tied to region were pre-kids. However, when invited to check out a new adaptation of C.S. Lewis’s The Magician’s Nephew at The Shaw Festival, and scanning over a masterfully-planned itinerary, we quickly realized that we can enjoy our favourite getaway as a family! Here’s how to spend a magical weekend in Niagara-on-the-Lake.
1. What to Do: See The Magician’s Nephew by Michael O’Brien.
“Tricked into using his Uncle Andrew’s (Steven Sutcliffe) enchanted rings, young Digory (Travis Seetoo) and his new friend Polly (Vanessa Sears) stumble into a magical portal that takes them to other worlds. Before returning home to Victorian London, they travel to the desolate world of Charn and unwittingly unleash Queen Jadis (Deborah Hay), a malevolent sorceress bent on domination. With the assistance of Aslan (Kyle Blair), Digory must undertake a valiant quest to the mysterious locked garden that holds the key to defeating evil and defending the new world of Narnia.”
If you or your children are fans of The Chronicles of Narnia franchise, the play serves as a valiant prequel (or introduction, if you’re new to the series). The actors are engaging and the storyline is simple to follow for school-aged kids (while I did spot quite a few small ones, I’d suggest a minimum age of eight years).
The best part? There are quite a few ways to enhance your child’s experience:
– Take part in Creating The Magician’s Nephew – A Pre-Show Workshop. Held before all matinee performances, for just an additional $5 per person with a ticket to the day’s performance, the entire family can enjoy an hour-long interactive experience which directly contributes to the action of the play! You’ll build a keepsake prop, create a soundscape and get the 411 on what a Dream Detective really is.
– Participate in a backstage tour. An hour-long guided, backstage tour of the Festival Theatre includes a behind-the-curtain peek at the costume workshop, dressing rooms, rehearsal halls and trap room. It’s a fascinating way to introduce your children to the mechanics of putting on a play – you may even have a chance to meet some of the performers! Once again, the tour is only $5 with a ticket to a performance.
– Chat with a Dream Detective. Before the play begins, you may spot a Dream Detective “collecting” dreams – the premises being that the detectives are looking for shared dreams. Both boys had a chance to chat with David Andrew Reid (part of The Magician’s Nephew ensemble cast); I think it added a whimsical touch and kept the boys invested in the storyline, waiting to see if their dreams were somehow incorporated.
Overall, the boys quite enjoyed The Magician’s Nephew and confirmed they’d absolutely recommend the play to their friends. I found YouTube searches of “The Chronicles of Narnia” following our weekend – mission accomplished! Looks like I have two future fans on my hands.
Let a visit to the Shaw Festival be the main event for your weekend of family fun. For more information, www.shawfest.com.
2. Where to Eat: Pieza Pizzeria.
Quite possibly the best pizza I’ve had all year; prepare yourself for a gastronomic awakening, Italian-style. Don’t let my son’s classic pepperoni pizza distract you from the fact that the selection of entrees is modern, unexpected and inspirational.
Case in point: I ordered the special (I always order the special). Now I can’t be certain of the exact toppings because I can’t find access to a menu online, however, it included a combination of black truffle cream, fresh ricotta, sautéed mushrooms and a salami-type spread.
It was incredible. When you visit, just show them the picture below. They’ll know what to do.
3. Where to Stay: Great Wolf Lodge.
Of course you’re going to stay at GWL! When travelling with kids, especially in the Niagara region, it’s the perfect place to cap off a great weekend. Great Wolf Lodge provides the ultimate water park experience rain or shine, and also offers arts and crafts, buffet dining and other activities that change on a daily basis.
And that’s how to spend an epic weekend in Niagara-on-the-Lake! Special thanks to The Shaw Festival for hosting my family – we had a blast!
This post is sponsored by The Shaw Festival. The opinions on this blog, as always, are my own.