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When I was a kid, my parents would take my brother, sister and me on weekends away around the province. We would stay in a mid-range hotel that had a pool and usually some sort of family programming such as movie nights or board games – something that forced us to spend “quality time” together. Sometimes these mini-breaks were in major cities with lots of other attractions available, but more often than not, the pool and the novelty of staying in a hotel captured our childhood awe.
My sister recently suggested doing exactly this: taking our growing broods on a quick break where the kids will be as entertained with a hotel pool as we once were, and as parents, we will be happy with the price. In our research, we happily discovered that you can get a lot more for your money than you could in the mid-1990s. Canadian properties offer a great deal of family-focused programming including kids’ clubs, indoor waterslides, magicians and more. Such short escapes also have a new millennial-approved name: microcations.
If you want to experience one yourself, here are some of the most affordable, family focused hotels across the country that will please both you and your littles.
Granville Island Hotel, Vancouver
Not only is this property kid friendly, it is also pet friendly, meaning you can truly accommodate the entire crew. The hotel is located about 10 minutes from Vancouver City Centre and perfect for a weekend away from it all. Entire families can stay in one of their multibedroom suites, all equipped with mini-fridges and – should you need one – cribs.
Adult guests can rent bikes (including helmets) for getting around, while children’s bikes, bike seats and carriers are available to rent from Reckless Bike Store next door. It’s also easy to jump on a ferry to False Creek and Kitsilano for more outdoor adventure. The Granville Island kids’ water park is free and a five-minute walk from the hotel, with a grassy picnic area to enjoy lunch. The Granville Island Public Market is full of child-friendly eateries with menus to satisfy even the fussiest eaters. From $149 a night, granvilleislandhotel.com
Grey Eagle Resort, Calgary
This hotel, casino and event space is perfect for a group microcation and even caters to the tricky-to-accommodate family of five. With a mini-fridge, roll away beds, cribs and microwaves available on request, guests of all ages will be more than comfortable in the sleek, modern rooms. Those looking for a suite will find them roomy and comfortable, with separate rooms and a dining table. Add free Wi-Fi, on-site laundry and connecting rooms, and you know that this property is truly ready for playing host to families.
This resort is located on First Nations land, specifically the Tsuut’ina Nation, with gorgeous views of the Rocky Mountains just begging to be explored. Use of the resort’s mountain bikes are free, as is use of the 24-hour indoor pool, which looks out at those snow-capped peaks. Family packages include in-room movies, meals at the on-site restaurant, in-room snack bars and late checkout. There is also a canine-dedicated check-in with treats, food and doggie bags, should you bring your furriest family member. From $116 a night, greyeagleresortandcasino.ca
Chelsea Hotel, Toronto
Children under 18 stay free at this newly renovated hotel in the heart of Toronto, and those 7 and under receive a ‘Kids Essential’ package at the designated kids check-in. The hotel offers free Wi-Fi, on-site laundry, connecting rooms and family suites with kitchenettes so regardless the size of your crew, you will be accommodated and comfortable. Babysitting is available on request.
Located on the second floor is the Family Fun Zone boasting an indoor pool with a 130-foot corkscrew waterslide. The Kid Centre is home to two resident bunnies and the hub for crafts, games, indoor playgrounds and more. For the older kids, the Club 33 Teen Lounge features a vintage arcade and some newer gaming options. Over school holidays such as Family Day or March Break, the Family Fun Zone offers special programming with magicians, movie nights (with popcorn – of course), scavenger hunts and more.
Another bonus: Kids 7 and under eat free and ages 8-12 eat for half price. The newly renovated buffet is perfect for those looking to satisfy varied growing appetites quickly and without fuss. There is also a delicious sit-down restaurant on-site should families feel a tad formal one evening. From $149 a night, chelseatoronto.com
Le Square Phillips, Montreal
Unlike many hotels in Montreal, Le Square Phillips’ rooms are spacious and include a fully equipped kitchen. Each kitchen has everything a family would need, including a full-sized refrigerator, dishwasher, glassware and cutlery. Included in daily rates are breakfast, Wi-Fi, high chairs, cribs and playpens. The 40-foot heated rooftop pool is perfect for some family fun, as is lounging on the adjacent outdoor sun deck with magnificent views of the city.
Should you wish to venture beyond the hotel walls, shops, restaurants, museums and Old Montreal are a short walk away. The best part? On check in, a wagon full of toys and treats is wheeled in for every little guest. How’s that for a warm welcome? From $179 a night; squarephillips.com
Holiday Inn Express & Suites, Halifax – Bedford
Close to Halifax’s historic waterfront, this hotel has recently undergone huge renovations to all 113 rooms. Kids 19 and under stay here for free, and all suites are equipped with mini-fridges, microwaves and a separate living space. Every stay includes Wi-Fi, breakfast buffet, cribs (on request) parking and outlets for charging electric vehicles. On-site laundry is also available should you need to do some last-minute washing.
In terms of activities, families can splash in the hotel’s heated indoor pool or zip down the 80-foot waterslide before relaxing in the whirlpool. If parents can tear the kids from all the water fun, Peggy’s Cove, the Halifax boardwalk, Canada Games Centre and Citadel Hill with its performers and historical re-enactments are also close by. From $104 a night, hiexpress.com