Berrylicious Fruit Farm © Courtesy of Ontario’s Southwest
The best-kept secret of families whose kids always seem to be having the best time on vacation comes down to one word: CHOICES.
Ask any kid on a screen if they want to go on a hike, and you’ll probably get a “not really” in response. However, giving them a choice between two activities takes the negative response factor right out of the equation. Offering young travellers choices around what to do allows kids to feel like they’re directing their day, and just like magic, they’re suddenly invested in having a good time.
Curious to put this theory to the test? This two-day trip idea in and around Norfolk and Oxford Counties is filled with choices that both kids and adults will love.
The First Choice: Hotel or Cool Campsite
Asking kids well before your trip to help choose where you’ll stay is a great way to get them geared up for your getaway.
Morning Activity Choice: Plants or Animals
If your kids decide on some plant-filled play:
- A late-morning picnic in the berry patch at Berrylicious Fruit Farm in Oxford County.
- Picking a variety of berries and vegetables at Thames River Melons in Oxford County.
- Building their own bouquet at Makkink’s, a you-pick flower farm in Oxford County.
- Exploring the 100-fountain amphitheatre and beautifully manicured flower displays at Whistling Gardens in Norfolk County.
If the kids opt for an animal adventure:
- Getting a two-hour taste of the farm life at Oxford County’s Udderly Ridiculous Farm, where the family experience package includes plenty of time to play with resident goats, meet alpacas, a llama and Highland cows, as well as a special ice cream treat.
- Feed the goats at Bre’s Fresh Market
Afternoon Activity Choice: Walk or Wheel
Amazing off-road trails, conservation areas, and outfitters with helpful guides make it easy to hike or a bike in the afternoon.
If the kids opt for a walk:
- Trillium Woods in Oxford County features a well-maintained one-kilometre loop that’s perfect for letting little legs explore a maple sugar bush. After your hike, be sure to stop across the road for some of the sweet stuff those trees produce at Jakeman’s Maple Products.
- Older kids will adore Grand Experience’s Guided Nith River Forest Hike, which will teach them how to track animals and build a campfire while exploring the backwoods of Oxford County.
For kids who prefer to explore on wheels:
- Norfolk County’s Elevation Mountain Biking offers two-hour guided tours of the fantastic trails in and around Turkey Point.
- Gopher Dunes, also in Norfolk County, is home to must-try tracks and trails for families who have dirt bikes and ATVs.
Dinner Choice: Pizza or Burgers
While getting kids to agree to either pizza or burgers for dinner shouldn’t be a struggle, it’s still fun to see what they decide.
- If burgers win out and you’re in Oxford County, tasty dinner choices include Fritzies and Brickhouse Brew Pub, which have great patios too. Should your travels have you in Norfolk County at dinner time, burger best bets include Mustard+Relish and The Arbour.
- If pizza is the dinner pick, Louie’s Pizza and Pasta, Kalos Restaurant, both in Oxford County, or Norfolk County’s Barrel Restaurant or New Limburg Brewery.
Morning Activity Choice: Trees or Cheese
Since the area is home to acres of Carolinian forest and the Oxford County Cheese Trail, give kids the option of picking which to explore.
In Norfolk County, tree-loving kids will find plenty to smile about at Long Point Eco-Adventure’s zip-line and canopy tour experience or Tree Climbing Canada, where expert guides teach caving, rock climbing and tree climbing techniques to help guests explore the canopies of the Carolinian forest.
If the answer is a “yes please” to cheese, hit some of the Oxford County Cheese Trail’s more kid-friendly stops:
- The old-time butter churning experience at Norwich Museum.
- The cheese-themed playground at the Ingersoll Cheese and Agricultural Museum.
- Book into soap felting workshop at Wild Comfort.
- A break at Habitual Chocolate for a taste of their Brie Ice Cream.
Afternoon Activity Choice: Paddle or Pole
With beautiful lakes and creeks so close by, spending an afternoon enjoying them is a must.
- If a day of splashing in Lake Erie’s waves and building sandcastles sounds like a plan, Port Dover and Long Point Provincial Park both have fantastic family-friendly beach options.
- If getting out on a boat piques their interest, Turbo Tubing on Big Creek, an Island Hugger boat tour of Long Point, or renting a Seadoo or boat are all excellent ways to float the afternoon away.
- If fishing sounds like fun, let Baer Fishing Adventures give you some help casting a line.
- If you’d prefer a self-guided fishing adventure, try your luck at Backus Heritage Conservation Area’s mill pond, which is stocked with Rainbow Trout.
Afternoon Snack Choice: Doughnuts or Ice Cream
Refuel after a busy afternoon with a well-timed treat. Let the kids choose between ice cream or doughnuts and see where the rest of the afternoon takes you.
- If everyone screams for ice cream, head to Bartley’s Dairy Bar or Heavenly Sweets in Oxford County. Twins Ice Cream Parlour is a fun choice if your afternoon wraps up in Norfolk County.
- If afternoon doughnuts are on the menu, Chickboss Cake in Woodstock has fun doughnut collections featuring chocolate bar and candy flavours. If you’re in Norfolk County, you must try its official doughnut, the Apple Cider Doughnut. The Apple Place and The Cider Keg both make a fantastic one. The Urban Parisian in Port Dover is another excellent choice for an afternoon pastry break with French flair.
Dinner Choice: Local or International Flavours
- For the final choice of the trip, let the kids pick the direction of your dinner. Offer them the option of fresh, local flavours or more globally inspired cuisine.
- If the kids are really embracing their love for all things local, a freshly caught Lake Erie Perch dinner is a must. Try the Perch and Chips at Port Dover’s Erie Beach Hotel or Perch Tacos at Marshview Patio. In Oxford County, the menu at Charles Dicken’s Pub features several dishes that showcase cheeses made by local producers.
- If your crew is feeling worldly, Sushi Cove or Tandoori Knight, both in Oxford County, dish up delicious flavours from Japan, Korea and India. In Norfolk County, The Blue Elephant’s menu offers a tasty selection of Thai dishes.
Once your family has all their adventure choices selected, you’ll want to take a moment to plan out the most efficient driving route in advance. The distance between activities will vary depending on what fun you choose, but you’re in for a relaxing rural drive with plenty of pretty scenery along the way, no matter which way you’re headed.
We can’t wait to see which choices your kids make on your Ontario’s Southwest Kids’ Choice Adventure! Include #OntSouthwest in your social posts so we can follow along on the family fun! Check out Ontariossouthwest.com for more trip ideas.
Combine the shorelines of Lake Erie, Lake Huron, and Lake St. Clair offering up world-class freshwater beaches, the rich biodiversity of the Carolinian Forest region with some of the most productive farmlands in the province creating a rapidly evolving wine and culinary scene and the friendliest communities on the planet and you get Ontario’s Southwest! Now that we’ve let you in on the secret, it’s time to come and discover it for yourself.