I am beyond excited to share my life experience and a little nervous to be so vulnerable. Please click below to read my new piece for Yahoo Travel! For all you parents out there, why not give this tradition a try. 🙂
Click here to read my Yahoo Travel article,
Writer and comedian Carey Reilly heads to Toronto with her daughter. (Video: Carey Reilly)
Growing up my parents started a tradition for our family; when we hit our 10th birthdays we were given a trip with my dad to celebrate the milestone of turning the “the double digits.” He allowed us to pick wherever we wanted to go within reason. So, when my sister turned 10, she chose a father/daughter beach getaway to Miami, Fl. When my brother turned 10, he bonded with my dad in the Big Apple and saw his very first Yankees game.
I had big plans for my 10th birthday, I wanted to walk hand and hand with my dad straight into the lights of Times Square, see my very first Broadway show, and check out the Statue of Liberty. Unfortunately, my special weekend didn’t happen because my father passed away suddenly when I was 8-years-old. On my 10th birthday I made a pledge to myself that when I had my own children I would honor his tradition of a special getaway.
Mother-daughter selfie in front of Toronto’s iconic CN Tower. (Photo: Carey Reilly)
This summer, my oldest child turned 10 and it was time for us to celebrate with a special birthday trip. When I told Ava that we would be going to Toronto she was thrilled and asked, “Is that in New Jersey?”
We got her a passport, packed our bags, and boarded a plane headed north for what we called “Ava’s BIG 10 in Toronto.”
With Toronto only a little over an one-hour plane ride from New York City, it was the perfect place for a quick weekend getaway. This Canadian city is situated about 100 miles north of Niagara Falls, bordering the coastline of one of the Great Lakes, Lake Ontario. You can also drive from the U.S. into Toronto with just a valid drivers license — but if you are flying you must carry a passport.
Toronto gave us the taste of Europe minus the jet leg and time difference. Right away, Ava felt like she was in another country when she read the airport signs welcoming us in English and French. She was fascinated by the colorful Canadian currency and wanted to know all about the “old lady” on the dollars. We were also charmed by the cool accents and were quickly schooled by the locals on how to speak Canadian. Apparently instead of saying ‘out and about’ in Canada you say, “oot and aboot.”
Birthday wishes at the Chelsea Hotel. (Photo: Carey Reilly)
Where to Stay
We stayed at Canada’s largest hotel, the Chelsea Hotel, located in the heart of Toronto near the shopping district and and many subways. The Chelsea recently underwent a $40 million renovation and no one loves a comfy mattress more than me. We felt right at home at this family-friendly property. We pet the bunnies at the kid’s fun zone, ate the fresh popcorn popped daily in the lobby, and hung out with an awesome interactive robot who greeted us when we arrived.
The birthday girl in Centreville. (Photo: Carey Reilly)
What to Do
It’s impossible to see all the city sites in one weekend, but what we did see we loved — including taking a ferry over to Centre Island and exploring the old school amusement park called Centreville. Here, we drove the old-fashioned rail cars and found a barn cat that Ava fell in love with.
We rode the high-speed elevator at the iconic CN Tower and laid on the glass floor looking down 1,322 feet to the city below. It was cool experience, but for sure, it tested our fear of heights. Of course, no trip would be complete without some birthday shopping and the Eton Centre was the place to do it. Ava was born to shop and loved the huge selection at this shopping mall, which is Toronto’s number-one tourist attraction, with over one million visitors a week. Since the American dollar is strong, we were able to stock up on some cozy sweaters for fall.
Where to Eat
Toronto’s cuisine reflects its cultural diversity. Walking around the city all day made us hungry, so we headed back to our hotel to sample the delicious pineapple fritters from the Chelsea Hotel Food Truck. Ava’s favorite drink in Canada was the Bubble tea and my favorite drink was Canada’s signature cocktail, the Caesar. It’s basically a Bloody Mary but with clam juice, topped with a pickle, a slice of bacon, and a boiled egg. I winced when I heard about the clam juice, but it was actually very tasty.
WATCH: Best Snack Ever? Learning to Make Pineapple Fritters in Toronto
A visit to a Toronto food truck for fritter-making lessons. (Video: Carey Reilly)
Our last night we got dolled up and headed over to the posh neighborhood of Yorkville to a charming restaurant called Sassafraz, where we enjoyed one of our first sophisticated dinners together. I was also a little taken aback when I realized that I didn’t have to ask the hostess for the kids menu or crayons. Instead, I watched this once picky eater sit across from me with her napkin in her lap and order a steak with rosemary sauce and a board of artisanal cheeses. After our meal, we sat for a bit listening to the piano player. And it was right there in a restaurant in Toronto, that I noticed my baby acting less and less like a baby and more like a young lady.
Celebrating at Sassafraz. (Photo: Carey Reilly)
Our celebratory weekend was a blast and we were sad when it ended. I’m so grateful to my parents for passing down the tradition of a destination celebration. It really allowed us to escape the bustle of our everyday lives and enjoy each other’s company as we explored Toronto together. In one weekend my life had come full circle. I’m thankful to have passed my 10th birthday trip along to my daughter and it was well worth the wait. And in three more years I look forward to doing it again but with my son, John Michael and let’s hope he loves the pineapple fritters, too.