Recently my family of five paired up with my sister’s family of four and we spent a few days touring local attractions in my hometown of Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada.
The goal was a memorable fun filled summer vacation for the kids and relaxation for the parents – a far stretch for four adults and five children under 8. With so many local options to choose from, we had to carefully weigh out the pros and cons of each activity and choose ones that were age appropriate and affordable.
While there are still several more local attractions we’d like to cross off our bucket list, the ones that we did visit were a good combination of fun and educational and most importantly – we all had fun!
*This post contains affiliate links which means that if you click on one of these links and buy a product, I may earn a small commission at no additional cost to you. Rest assured that I only recommend products that I love from companies that I trust.
Snacks are a must when travelling with little kids, in fact I never leave home without a little something in my purse.
Water bottles because it’s summer and whether you’re indoors or out – you’re going to need to stay hydrated.
A change of clothes for everyone (including the adults). Summer fun usually consists of something messy and or heat-relieving i.e. water. Packing a change of clothes to leave in the car is usually a good idea.
Wear Proper Footwear
Exploring local attractions usually means a lot of walking is involved so trade in the flip flops for a comfortable pair of runners.
Check out the attraction’s website or Facebook page if they have one. Familiarize yourself with their prices, policies, hours and map (wheelchair accessible = stroller accessible). Enter any contests they might have or take note of their hashtag so you can share pictures to their social media.
Ask for advice from friends – local attractions mean that someone else has been there before and will have some tips for you!
Make a Backup Plan
Rainy day? Mom’s got a migraine? Have a plan B so that no one ends up disappointed.
Timing is Everything
Try to schedule your visit in between meal times so that no one ends up “hangry.”
If it’s an all-day event then pack a lunch – don’t rely on finding something there unless you have lunch plans worked out ahead of time.
If the little ones need an afternoon nap then work that in somehow – whether it’s driving the long way there or back – or bringing a stroller that properly reclines.
Map Out Your Route
It may be unrealistic to expect to see EVERYTHING at a local attraction when you’re exploring with little kids. Map out your route based on the things you want to see and do MOST to LEAST. The kids will have the most energy and be most interested at the beginning so take full advantage of that.
Have an Escape Plan
Little kids and meltdowns are almost inevitable. Heat, cold, hunger and tiredness are all contributing factors but they can also happen for no reason whatsoever.
Don’t anticipate them but be ready for them and have an escape plan that is in-line with your parenting methods. Do you plan to ignore it and carry on? Remove the tantruming child from the situation? Call the entire visit short and try again another day?
Don’t cause yourself extra stress and be prepared.
Don’t Overdo it
It’s OK if you didn’t get a chance to read every single plaque under every single statue or if your kid missed out on most of the rides because they fell asleep. The great thing about local attractions is that they’re local and you can visit them anytime you like!
At the amusement park
Our local attraction: Tinkertown Family Fun Park – www.tinkertown.mb.ca
We have been to Tinkertown several times and what I love most is that there are rarely long lineups for rides since they are open all summer long and there is plenty of shade and places to sit down which is especially important on long hot summer days.
The window of opportunity for children to enjoy Tinkertown is quite small as it’s an amusement park geared towards younger children. While there are a few rides for older children, I strongly suggest that you take your kids while they still enjoy the “little kid rides.” I feel like the best age range for kids to enjoy Tinkertown is between 4 – 8, where they are able to go on most rides by themselves and still be thrilled by them.
TOP THREE TIPS for exploring an amusement park
Let the kids choose which rides they most want to go on first, rather than which one is next. They may not have enough steam to make it through the entire park and may miss out on some rides they especially like.
If the line ups are long, choose a different ride and come back. Unless it’s a ride that is notorious for having a long line, it could just be a matter of timing (ex. one ride finishes and everyone rushes to the next one)
Measure the kids and check the height requirements of the rides in advance. This way you will know if you need to accompany your child on the rides (and therefore buy extra tickets) and it will be less disappointing for your child if they already know they won’t be tall enough to go on a particular ride.
At the Museum
Our local attraction: The Manitoba Museum – www.manitobamuseum.ca
*** I was given free passes for the World’s Giant Dinosaurs exhibit in exchange for this blog post, however all opinions are my own.
The Manitoba Museum is another local attraction that I have been to several times but it never gets old (no pun intended). On this visit we went specifically to see their latest exhibit – World’s Giant Dinosaurs – and it did not disappoint!
My 7 year old son is a big fan of dinosaurs and always has been. He has several books about them and in each one he likes to look at the little diagram of the man standing next to the dinosaur and imagine how huge they must have been.
We never would have thought that we’d be able to experience that magnitude in person until we walked in the World’s Giant Dinosaurs exhibit. It is literally a jaw dropping experience.
In addition to the gigantic animatronic dinosaurs there were interactive activities for the kids like a chalkboard painted dinosaur where the kids wrote their names, a dinosaur to feed and a sandpit where the kids were invited to grab brushes and help dig for dinosaur bones.
My daughter’s favorite interactive dinosaur was the one with the foot pedal that made it pee…
Whether you enjoy dinosaurs or fear them – the exhibit did a great job of putting them into perspective and I couldn’t help but wonder what life would be like if these giant beasts were still roaming around the countryside.
TOP THREE TIPS for exploring a local museum
Talk to your children in advance about some of the things they’re going to see. You can look up some facts online or check out a book at your local library. Since it’s a local museum they will get a chance to learn about the place they live in and it’s history – something much more personal to them than a museum about the entire world.
Do your best to help the little ones understand what they’re looking at – especially the ones who can’t read. While it might be interesting enough to look at all the old artifacts or displays, kids will enjoy them even more when they know a little history about them.
Give your children a map or a guide that they can follow along in to keep them interested and exciting about what they’re going to see next.
At the National Historic Site
Our local attraction: Lower Fort Garry National Historic Site – www.pc.gc.ca
While I’m certain that I had been here many, many years ago, none of it was fresh in my mind and it was essentially a first visit for me and my children. I had an idea of what to expect but what surprised me was how authentic everything was.
There were characters dressed in full costume who spoke as if they were living in the 1850’s. The massive collection of real furs in the “fur loft” was a sight to see and made me appreciate the importance of the fur trade. The children enjoyed interacting with the characters and getting to touch and smell things like the sheep’s wool and the bricks of tea leaves.
Each little house and building in Lower Fort Garry had it’s own production going on, it was like walking back into time and witnessing a moment from history.
TOP THREE TIPS for exploring a national historic site
Get the kids involved by comparing some of the tools and equipment used in the past to what we use today.
Ask questions and encourage the kids to ask questions too – the characters play a part but they also know more about the site than anyone else.
Encourage the kids to role play as well – what job would you have liked to do in 1850?
Sometimes staying at home and exploring local attractions can be just as much fun as a vacation to somewhere else. The trick is to get your kids involved and interested in their local community and the history that comes along with it. Learning that their favorite playground was once an open field covered in grazing bison might open up a whole world of imaginative possibilities for them.