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I took my Grandson to Stratford for his Birthday

Evelyn Hannon

What gift does this globetrotting, travel writing grandma give her grandchildren on their birthdays? Each year my little ones receive 'a juicy adventure' tailored to suit their interests and age group. I began this ritual when they were each four years old by treating them to special activities and overnight hotel stays in the city. Then we graduated to destinations further a field. I believe intergenerational travel inspires meaningful bonding experiences and to my great pleasure the kids refer back to our excursions over and over again. Truly, it's a gift that keeps on giving.

This year my girlfriends scoffed at me when I told them I was taking Josh by train to visit Stratford, Ontario for his eighth birthday.

'He'll be tired and bored; he's too young for a lot of sightseeing and theatre,' they said.

'How will you keep him occupied?'

'Watch me,' I said.

I knew about Stratford and all its diverse family-friendly offerings. While the Stratford Shakespeare Festival bills itself as 'North America's leading classical theatre' that is only a part of their success story. There's a whole lot more going on in town.


Grandma scopes out the town...

I'd been to Stratford earlier in the month. It's a simple place to find your way around and most activities are in the city center within easy walking distance of each other (basic printable map and business directory). I confess that if there was a Journeywoman Hospitality Award, I'd bestow first prize to this picturesque city set in rural Ontario close to Toronto. Stop anyone on the street to ask for directions and they'll go so far as to say, 'follow me,' and then take you right where you need to be. That was my happy experience on several occasions when I was there. This goodwill and friendly atmosphere made my intergenerational birthday planning extremely easy. In one day I checked out VIA Rail Canada train schedules, a few kid-friendly restaurants, pinpointed all the toy stores, found the candy shops, figured out where to see Stratford's famous swans and decided on the best theatre experience and accommodation for Josh's age group. Grandma was ready.

P.S. For helpful pre-planning advice of your own, Journeywoman recommends Visit Stratford and Stratford Shakespeare Festival websites.


Little boys and trains...

What little boy doesn't love trains and train travel? The town of Stratford and the Stratford Shakespeare Festival are just a two hour train ride from Toronto. There was absolutely no time for boredom; the couple of hours onboard just flew by. Before we left the station VIA Rail Canada handed Josh one of their 'keep busy' bags filled with a book of games and activities plus cardboard cut-outs of ready to assemble train cars. We had a sandwich lunch from the selection on board and then Josh was allowed to choose extra treats from the goodies stashed in grandma's backpack. The conductors stopped by to chat with the birthday boy and he was emboldened to ask them train questions as they made their rounds. We were off to a perfect start.


Josh meets Randy...

My grandson and I expected to walk from the train station to Foster's Inn where we would be staying. We estimated a ten minute walk at the most. However, when we got off the train I spotted something that would be a lot more fun. EcoRiders, a high-tech bicycle taxi company had a few of their cabs parked and ready for hire. My grandson chose pony-tailed driver, Randy who pedalled his 21-speed bike pulling our rear carriage for two mounted on the back. It was a short $5.00 fare but in that time Randy made a strong impression on Josh as he explained the reasons for all the safety gadgets on his work belt. A new super hero was born and Josh told me he wished all taxis were like Randy's.

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