A great family day out that isn’t too expensive is “Storybook Gardens”:http://www.storybook.london.ca/ in Springbank Park, London, Ontario. It is open all year round but some activities and food concessions are only open in the summer. We made it for the last day of the summer schedule. My aunt and I took her two granddaughters and her great-grandson. The little guy (four) had a blast and we did seeing him enjoy himself.
We arrived around 1:00 and it closes at 5:30; winter hours are 10:00 – 4:00 pm Tuesday to Friday and 10:00 – 5:00 on weekends. We could easily have spent the whole day there as there were things he didn’t get to and others he could have spent more time at. It is by no means as extensive as Disneyland or Canada’s Wonderland, but it is just right for smaller children. When you are walking from one end to the other it is larger than you think. You enter through a storybook castle and admission is only $7.50 for everyone who is over 2 years old; in the winter admission drops to $6.00. There are packages for families as well. If you want to go on rides you can purchase tickets inside or when you enter. We bought 20 tickets for $30 but there are also wristbands for $12 each with which you can go on anything as many times as you want. There is a Ferris wheel, swings and flying elephants and outside there is a carousel and a train all of which only cost one ticket. The tickets are also usable for the archery, a big slide (which was closed when we went) and the face painting though you need three of them for the latter. The tickets also do not expire so if you buy more than you use, you can use them another day.
As the name implies, there are storybook themed areas in the park. For example, there is a Humpty Dumpty sitting on a wall and there is a big shoe house for the little old woman who lived in a shoe. There is also a little village of houses where the kids can play. Our little guy enjoyed grocery shopping in the green grocers and taking the purchases to a little house to put them away in the cupboards. There is a waterpark where they can have fun on hot days – change cabins surround the waterpark so you can dry off and change if you want to before leaving. It wasn’t particularly warm when we went but there were still children having fun in the water. We managed to convince him that his face painted dragon would wash off if he went into the water, phew. We steered him away from the big sandpit as it had rained the day before but that would be a good spot after dryer weather. He did have fun playing with the life size Lego – he found the only ones that were in a puddle.
He liked the Ferris wheel so much he went on it twice along with his mum and his aunt. The swings and flying elephants also got a big smile out of him. He also had a lot of fun in Pirate’s Island playing on the various slides, some of which had a lot of stairs to get to – great, tire him out a bit more! He probably could have spent a lot more time playing on the Pirate’s Training Towers. The bouncing lily pad got some energy out of him and he mostly watched the dancers on the stage though he could have joined in – he was being a bit shy. He did not have time for the Pedal Car Racetrack or the archery.
You can pack a picnic and take it with you (there are plenty of picnic tables scattered throughout the gardens) or you can purchase food there and it isn’t ridiculously expensive. We had burgers and fries with drinks for $7.50 each and it was all very tasty. If you buy them separately the burgers are $4.00 and the fries are $3.50 and then the drinks on top of that so the combo works out to be a good deal. There is also ice cream at a few places and there is a café with hot drinks and pastries (elephant ears of various descriptions).
We ended our visit with a ride on the train that is actually outside the gardens which are along the River Thames – yes, a River Thames in London, Ontario. While waiting for our turn we watched the Canada geese disrupting traffic in the river park as traffic must stop to let them cross the road. They seem to know it and take their time. Speaking of traffic, there is plenty of parking in the park. The paths in the gardens are paved and are fully accessible. There are also wagons you can hire for the day ($6.00) in the summer if you want to use them to pull children and belongings around rather than end up carrying them.
All in all it’s a good family day out.