Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Family Travel is All About New Experiences in St. John's

Disclosure: This post is brought to you by the InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG). All opinions on this blog, as always, remain my own or those of my family. I love my home town :)


I love to travel, and I wish I could do a whole lot more of it. Depending on your preferences, travel can bring rest and relaxation, adventure, learning, quiet time with family, or even some combination of all that. Whatever your inclination, travel is always a break from the every day and a chance to experience something new.

Because my parents and extended family live in Newfoundland, and my boys are being raised here in Ontario, we have made a lot of trips "back home." It's important to spend time with the grandparents and cousins for sure, but I also want my boys to have a feel for my home province, and to experience some of the things I knew growing up, that are important to me. I needed them to spend time on the North Atlantic, smell salty air, see whales breech, hear the music, and eat the food. When we go to Newfoundland, my kids have experiences most kids growing up here in Southern Ontario just don't get. I think great benefit of family travel is exposing our kids to special experiences and new ways of viewing the world.

Of course, it is funny to see their reactions to things I've taken for granted, like icebergs. If you haven't grown up with icebergs, the first time you see one in person is pretty spectacular. It’s true they are amazing and beautiful, but while growing up in St. John's, icebergs just mean a stretch of bitterly cold weather with the winds blowing in across them for weeks. Ugh.

This is a picture of the first iceberg our eldest ever saw. He and his dad went out on a whale tour from Bay Bulls. It was June and the ice was "in," as we say. I think this was a first for both of them actually, and they were thrilled to be out on the water and get close to it. Boo saw it from the shore. He was a little too young to appreciate the tour, so we stayed back. However, on that same trip, we were able to experience another truly Newfoundland event — capelin rolling in at Middle Cove Beach.

Ever heard of capelin? They are small fish that come ashore to spawn on the beach. And when the spawning time arrives, they come in huge numbers, rolling up on the beach in waves. This leads to huge numbers of people heading to the beach with nets, bags, and buckets to catch them. It's quite the scene, and there's always lots of excitement when the capelin start to roll, with updates shared widely on the news, and now on social media. Boo was thrilled with the fish all around him, squealing with delight as he held them while they squirmed and flipped.

Most years, it's just me and Boo heading home and we stay with my parents, but when we go as a family we stay in an IHG St. John's hotel. That's always fun for kids too, especially when there's a pool. If you’re travelling as a family, I recommend always picking a hotel with a pool and a good family-friendly restaurant. Boo's favourite restaurant is East Side Mario's, and with their location in St. John's at the Holiday Inn, it makes the hotel an even greater choice for us. The pool features an awesome water slide, plus there's a playground just down the road at Kenny's Pond Rotary Playground. Local playgrounds provide great, free fun when you are looking for a low-key day. Check out this online listing of St. John's playgrounds and skate parks to locate one near you.

Things to Do in St. John's

I could likely write a book on what to do with the kids in St. John's, but here are a few top choices that have been given the “Boo Stamp of Approval” after many years of visits.

Middle Cove Beach
Middle Cove Beach is Boo’s happy place. A pebble beach on the North Atlantic, just a few minutes outside St. John's, with lots of parking. There's a little stream to splash in, as well as the ocean, but no swimming is allowed because of the currents. There are lots of rocks to climb (his favourite!), and if you are lucky you might catch the capelin run. It's a well-used beach, so not great for beach combing, but we often find sea stars, urchins and jellyfish. It’s also a popular spot for bonfires at night. (FREE)

Ocean Sciences Centre
The Ocean Sciences Centre is a research facility of Memorial University. During the summer they run a public education program, with a touch tank set up outside the building. The touch tank is home to numerous local sea creatures, including crabs, urchins, sea cucumbers, sea stars, scallops, and more. You can touch and hold the creatures, and interpreters are present to answer questions and teach you and your children about these wonderful creatures. Be sure to visit the three harp seals that live here as well. (FREE)
Middle Cove Beach and the OSC - do these on the same day 
The Fluvarium provides insights into freshwater life. Located in Pippy Park, on Nagle's Hill Brook, this facility has 9 large viewing windows where you can watch brown trout in their natural habitat, underwater. There are also tanks with other freshwater fish and amphibians, plus an extensive display on the upper level where you can learn about water ecosystems and watersheds. (Admission fees apply)

Cape Spear
Just a short drive outside of St. John's, I consider Cape Spear a must-do. Cape Spear is the most easterly point in North America. Take a picture with the sign and explore the WWII bunkers and cannon. I also recommend hiking the trails and visiting the lighthouse. Humpback whales are known to frequent the waters off Cape Spear as well. (Site access is free, admission fees for lighthouse entry)
On Signal Hill

Signal Hill
Come see the spot where Marconi received the first transatlantic wireless message in 1901 (and then Instagram it to make a statement on advances in communications technology), hike the trails, climb to the top of Cabot Tower, and take in the stunning views of the city and the ocean. Signal Hill has a long military history of guarding St. John's Harbour, dating back to the 17th century. Be sure to walk out to the Queen's Battery and barracks and see where and how the soldiers lived in the 1800s. (Site access is free, admission fees apply at the Visitor's Centre)

Johnson GeoCentre
This is a geological interpretation centre, built into the 550 million year-old rocks of Signal Hill. It offers a fascinating look into the geological history of our planet, fossils, volcanoes, how earthquakes work, and more. There are permanent exhibits on the Titanic and the oil industry, a playroom, and film screenings. Boo has always loved the displays of geodes and semi-precious stones, as well as spraying water on the exposed rock wall to bring out the geological features. (Admission fees apply)

Where to Stay

The numerous hotels in St. John's include two with InterContinental Hotels Group. The Holiday Inn St. John's Conference Centre is located in the centre of town, close to bus routes, walking trails, and two ponds. Each room has a small fridge, which is excellent for families, plus they have a selection of suites with kitchenettes or a kids' area with bunk beds and an extra TV. The Holiday Inn Express & Suites is located right next to the airport (still a short drive from downtown — everything is close in St. John's). Again you'll find a mini fridge in your room, and both locations have free wi-fi and a pool.

About IHG
IHG is a global organization of hotel brands including Intercontinental® Hotels & Resorts, Kimpton® Hotels & Restaurants, HUALUXETM Hotels and Resorts, Crowne Plaza® Hotels and Resorts, Hotel Indigo®, EVEN® hotels, Holiday Inn® Hotels & Resorts, Holiday Inn Express®, Staybridge Suites® and Candlewood Suites®. IHG also manages IHG® Rewards Club, the world’s first and largest hotel loyalty program with more than 92 million members worldwide.

No comments:

Post a Comment

I love to know you're reading! What's on your mind?


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...