It was the best of times, it was the worst of times...actually, it was totally just the worst.  Last week was my birthday and I foolishly decided to take both kids (let me remind you of their ages: 2 years old and 2 months old) to the Islands by myself -- even though there was a 40% chance of thundershowers.  I packed lots of snacks, diapers and an umbrella and off we went, blissfully ignorant of the tempest that was brewing.

For both locals and tourists, the Toronto Islands are a must-visit destination. 

The Islands are a network of several small islands and, according to Wikipedia, is the largest urban car-free community in North America.  Two of the islands are actually residential and have gorgeous, eclectic cottages on them, and well worth cycling through for a look.  But if you've got young kids with short attention spans and a love of adrenaline, then you'll probably want to head straight to the main attraction, Centre Island, which is home to an amusement park, called "Centreville".  If rides aren't up your family's alley, you can stroll around or rent single or tandem bikes, explore Franklin's Children's Garden or have lunch at The Rectory Cafe on Ward's Island - a wonderful little spot - or just pack a lunch and a blanket and soak up the wonderful summer weather.

The ferry departs from the foot of Bay Street (click here for fares and schedules) every 15-30 minutes and once you're across, you feel as if you've entered a completely different world, as evidenced by this sign which greets all visitors:
Oh!  Okay, then...we accepted the polite invitation and walked to a quiet place (of which there are many) under some trees, next to the lake. JR proceeded to happily chase pigeons while we waited for friends to arrive.  It was all downhill from there.  The rest of the day involved several meltdowns:

1. After buying the 'ride all day' pass (which, by the way, is a good value at $21.90 (or $19.90 if you buy online before you go as individual tickets are $1 each, and each ride is between 4 and 6 tickets). JR melts down when the cashier attempts to put the wristband on him.  I finally wrangle it on his ankle.  He spends the next 10 minutes screaming, trying to rip it off like it's actually acid being poured on his skin.
2. After trying to gently prod him toward the bouncy castle
3. After his friend decides to go on the roller coaster without him
4. After he waits in line for a pony ride but decides he doesn't actually want to ride it
5. After he drops a piece of his granola bar
You get the idea...

Less than 90 minutes after arriving I decide to pull the plug when I hear thunder.  Huh.  Guess the weatherman was right after all!

It starts raining when we're half way across on the ferry.  And by "rain", I actually mean "torrential downpour".  We dash from the ferry to our car.  And by "dash", I actually mean "clumsily careen the stroller while carrying an infant who throws up on me from all the jiggling while toddler screams from rain that is pelting his face".
A passerby was kind enough to take a photo of me:
Happy birthday to me!
So yeah, it wasn't my favourite birthday, that's for sure.  But it hasn't changed how I feel about the Toronto Islands.  It's such a great place and (usually) always feels like a mini-vacation, getting away from the hustle and bustle of the city. 

Does your city have an 'escape from it all'?  Tell me about it, I'd love to know!

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