As a kid I might have gone to Canada’s Wonderland maybe ten times. It was far away, and a long, hot day. As an adult I’ve been more times than I ever went as a kid. This season, in fact, I’ve been 3 times, and we have plans to fit in at least one more. I feel like I’ve learned a few things, and am now ready to share my tips for enjoying Canada’s Wonderland!
I feel I am a seasoned Wonderland goer now, and I’ve learned many things as a Season’s Pass holder this year. We also waited to take the kids until they were old enough to go on the big rides. Or at least some of the big rides. And not being in the kid land makes for a better day as an adult! (Emma is too tall for some of the kid rides, so what’s the point in walking all the way back there so she can get on one or two rides?)
Here are my top tips for enjoying Canada’s Wonderland as a family.
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If you are travelling from afar to get to Canada’s Wonderland, I salute you. We travel almost 3 hours to get there. As a kid I always thought it was “in Toronto” but it’s really in Vaughn, which is north of Toronto proper.
Over the years we have learned that taking the 407 (which is a toll highway) saves a lot of time and stress, if you’re doing a long haul through Toronto. We get on at the 412 and just travel with no traffic jams through the GTA. We come from the east (Kingston) and the traffic is almost always terrible. The volume is much less on the 407, and there is rarely any stopping, unlike trying to travel the 401 through the Toronto area. Plus the park is not far once you get off the 407 in Vaughn (at the 400.)
Or Stay Over:
Our best visits happen when we can get to the park early. We routinely spend the night before our park visit in a hotel. This past trip we stayed in Brampton and it was a 20 minute drive to the park so we were able to get there shortly after it opened.
Be sure to search for hotels outside of Toronto or Vaughn – you may find something with a lower price in a less travelled area, but still be close to the park. We stayed at the Hampton Inn by Hilton and it was a lovely clean hotel with free parking, a pool, and free breakfast! Having a good morning (hotel or travel wise) is for sure the first tip for enjoying Canada’s Wonderland to it’s fullest.
Related: How to Enjoy a Hotel Stay with Kids
Get the most out of the day:
Get an Early Start:
Arrive early! If you are a season passholder, the park opens to you at 9am – the general public opening is 10am. If you’re travelling, you can still make it in the first hour if you get up early (5 or 6am) and just head out. (Pack your gear the night before, jump in the car early and grab breakfast along the way.)
The park hasn’t been really busy for us any time we’ve gone this year. But the day we showed up before 10am we got on about 4 rides without there being really any lines at all. I feel the busiest time is mid-afternoon for the rides. And if you’re taking the family to Splash Works, go early. It was quiet right at opening (11am) and there are lots of lockers for rental.
Around the Park:
You can rent a locker in Splash Works for the whole day – whether or not you’re planning on splashing. And it’s a one price, all day rental – if you go on the Wonder Mountain Guardians ride, you have to rent a locker for only 2 or 3 hours. (You can’t take a backpack on that ride with you – you HAVE to put it in a locker, or leave it with someone not going on the ride.) But getting a Splash Works locker (assuming you don’t need what’s in the locker) is a money saver for sure.
We use fanny packs unless we’re planning on splashing – you can usually wear the fanny pack on the rides, whereas backpacks need to be left on the platforms. We’ve never had an issue, but of course “Canada’s Wonderland is not responsible for lost or stolen items.” Plus, you can fit your glasses, or sunglasses, in a fanny pack for the rides that need you to take them off.
Get your kids checked by the Height Checker kiosks. This gives them a coloured wristband and keeps them from needing to be “measured” at every ride. Rose was a brown and Emma was an orange (that’s the last one before “full access”) this year. Having the bands means you know at a glance – before you get in line – if your child is tall enough for a ride.
Food and Drink:
You are not allowed to take food into Canada’s Wonderland. You do, however, have in and out privileges. Pack a lunch, take it in a cooler, and find a shady spot around the edge of the parking lot to eat. (Full disclosure – we didn’t do this, but we did bring snacks to eat in the car after we left the park.) I wouldn’t recommend leaving the grounds because you pay to park, and I don’t think there’s in and out privilege with that part of the day.
Pack an empty water bottle and fill it in the park. Bottles of water are ridiculously expensive, but you can fill your personal water bottle at most of the food vendors who have a pop fountain. The hot dog vendor by bridge and waterfall was always our first stop – even if the stall is not open, you can still get water from the pop fountain.
If you do show up early, be prepared to wait to buy lunch. Most of the food stalls aren’t open until noon – this can suck if you have hungry kids. Tim Horton’s is open early, but not much else is. We make sure to eat before we get there (stop on the highway beforehand, or come from our hotel right after breakfast or a good snack.)
Be Flexible, Let the Kids Choose (and Remember You Aren’t as Young as you Used To Be):
As seasoned attraction-goers, we have learned it’s better to get into a few (maybe less exciting) shorter ride lines, than stand for hours in one giant line. This worked well for us at Disney, and it works great at Canada’s Wonderland too. If the lines are really short, sometimes you can stay on the ride and just go around again. (The girls did that on the Swing of the Century on our first trip this year.)
We try to let the kids direct the show when we go. There are always a few things Patrick and I like to do, but luckily we’ve got the kids enjoying them now too. The first ride we get on is either Thunder Run or Vortex. And both girls love them both. After that we play it by line length, heat of the day, and wants.
As as almost 40 year old lady now, I’ve come to realize I can’t really do all the rides at Wonderland in one day. I’ve done it (okay, not ALL, but most) and it hurts my body. The wooden coasters – which I used to love – give me a splitting headache and some of the others are just plain uncomfortable. And thankfully most of us adults are too big to get into the rides in KidZville and Planet Snoopy, though there are a few fun ones in the back of the park. The last 2 times we went we didn’t even go back there.
Having two kids is great when we go to Canada’s Wonderland. They can both go on a ride and neither of us have to. Of course there are some rides that our youngest needs “accompaniment” for, but not very many. Emma’s not yet old enough to be the responsible one, and by the time she is Rose will be big enough to go on her own anyway. But when they see those smaller rides with no lines, we are plenty happy to stand on the sidelines and watch!
Have you been to Canada’s Wonderland? I’d love to hear your easy tips for getting the most out of your day. I was nervous that I would be too anxious with the kids at Wonderland, so I’m so happy I now have tips for enjoying Canada’s Wonderland as a family.
I still think my number one tip is to go during the week, and not on the weekend. All the times we’ve been this year have been during the week, and there haven’t been giant lineups!