Fun Haven (Ottawa)

Recently a trip to Ottawa took us to Fun Haven Indoor Amusement Park. It was our son’s birthday and he wanted to do something fun with BOTH his parents.

Fun Haven is a perfect place for all ages and we found it very accessible. It was spacious and the only area Shawn was unable to access was the Escape Room upstairs. They also have party rooms and even though they are mostly upstairs they have one on the ground floor. There is several accessible washrooms and even a companion washroom.

Fun Haven has an arcade, indoor roller coaster, mini bowling, laser tag, bumper cars and escape rooms. Shawn was able to participate in laser tag and had a great time. There is a second floor with steep ramps in the laser tag area. It would be fine for a power chair but a bit difficult for a manual chair.

Fun Haven does offer discount rates for attendants but you would need to call ahead to confirm.

Great place for the whole family.

Kingston, ON – Kingston Penitentiary

No visit to Kingston is complete without a visit to the historical Kingston Penitentiary.  It is the oldest and largest prison in Kingston and housed the most notorious and dangerous criminals in Canadian history.  Due to extensive repairs required to maintain the prison, Corrections Canada decided to close the doors and move the prisoners elsewhere.  KP, as known to the staff and locals, is a formidable presence along Lake Ontario.  The prison was closed in 2013, and since that time has become a very popular tourist attraction for the area.  Tours run seasonally (Spring to Fall) and we were fortunate enough to take a tour, which is fully accessible.

Upon entering the giant metal prison front doors, you are assigned a group based on your ticket time slot.  The tour begins in the visitation area, complete with glass separating the prisoner from the visitor.  This was the only place were we had to temporary separate from the group.  They left out a door with stairs so we were escorted by a guide down a ramp and met back up with the group.  The guide does wait so you don’t miss any information. Each stop on the tour was a former corrections officer that would provide a bit of history about the prison and answer any questions.  They tell you that out of respect for the victims, they will not talk about or answer any questions about the infamous residents of the prison .   Accessible companion bathrooms were found at the beginning of the tour and about halfway through the tour.

The tour takes you through the grounds, past the common houses for family visits, to the cells, solitary, outdoor playground, gym, work shop etc.  It was incredibly fascinating and if you ever get a chance to watch a documentary before your tour, I highly recommend it.  The tour takes about 90 minutes and if you are interested in learning more you can walk across the street to the Penitentiary Museum (former home of a past warden).  **Please see my previous blog about the accessibility of the museum**

 

 

Niagara Falls, ON

Niagara Falls has so much to offer for those needing accessibility, so we decided to plan a weekend away.  Typically our interests revolve around eating, drinking and just having a fun relaxed time–so that is what we did.

We decided to stay at the Four Points Sheraton Fallsview and I can’t say enough good things about this hotel.  The hotel offers either valet parking or off property parking but since we had a disabled permit we were offered valet at a discounted rate (about 50% off).  Our accessible room had 2 queen beds and a roll-in shower and the room was incredibly spacious.  The view was not a Fallsview but it was a city view that was decent enough.  The hotel had an indoor tunnel over to the Fallsview Casino however for wheelchair users you have to detour a bit through the parking garage.  The weather was warm but in the winter it would be chilly.  In addition there was no pedestrian walkway so you have to be mindful of the cars driving around.

It was our first time at Fallsview Casino and I found it disappointing for a wheelchair user.  It was very busy because it was Friday night so it was very difficult to navigate through all the people.  The slot machines all have stationary stools screwed in to the floor so there was no chance for Shawn to sit and play.  I could not find anything online regarding whether they had wheelchair accessible slot machines or not.  I tried to find an employee, to ask, but I couldn’t find one that was not working a table.  It was difficult to drive around–and very difficult to find an employee.  Next issue was the bathroom situation.  I tried to find a companion bathroom but after trying three of the bathroom areas I was about to give up and just go back to the hotel.  I was then told by a tables dealer that they had them in the mall area out front.  Shawn does not like to be brought in the women’s bathroom and I certainly do not want to go in the men’s so companion/family bathrooms are essential.  Once we were out of the casino we just decided to leave since there was no point in staying, so that was disappointing.

The next day we headed out to Niagara-on-the-lake and visited several wineries and a brewery downtown.  The brewery, The Exchange, did have a small step to get inside.  Luckily we always have a portable ramp in the van.  It was quite busy, being a Saturday, but we did find a small bar height table to sample a flight of beer.  Parking is very busy downtown so parking can be a challenge.  Fortunately we found a spot not far from the brewery.  Next stop were the wineries and we decided to stop at Peller Estates, Jackson Triggs and Wayne Gretzky’s.

Peller Estates is a beautiful winery and we really enjoyed their outdoor patio.  There was accessible parking and the majority of the grounds were accessible.   The tasting counters are all high tops and no lowered counters for wheelchair users that I could see. The patio is very nice but very busy so I would recommend reservations.

Jackson Triggs was a bit of a disappointed for wheelchair users.  There was accessible parking but not much else inside.  There was no indoor tasting area available, just an outside area.  The outside tasting area was all high tops so we went to sit on the patio that had standard height tables.  Seating was limited and we could not see their wall mounted menu from our table. Their ‘Samples List’ was also wall mounted and far from where we were sitting–and it was so busy there was not much chance of us getting close to read it.  I tried talking a picture on my cell phone and showing Shawn the options but it was just too sunny out.  The hot sun and lack of shade and overall inconvenience of the set-up was just too much so we decided to leave and try another winery.

Wayne Gretzky’s was our favourite winery.  It was very spacious and modern and easy to get around.  There was lots of accessible parking and they had automatic door openers, which the other 2 wineries did not.  The tasting area was inside and very roomy.  We were able to sit in an area with couches and a beautiful view–and have a server bring the samples to us!  We spent most of the time at this winery and really were impressed with the layout and accessibility.

Our day ended with an evening boat cruise on The Hornblower.  The boat is accessible to the main deck only.  There is an upper level but no access for wheelchair users.  The evening cruise around the falls lit up at night was a first for both of us.  It was about 40 minutes and you do get wet so make sure to get a few extra rain ponchos to cover up the wheelchair.

Overall we had a great visit to Niagara Falls and would love to go back again sometime soon!

 

Skywood Eco Adventure (Brockville, ON)

Recently we heard about a zipline park that had an accessible zipline for those with mobility impairments.   St Lawrence Parks Commission opened Skywood Eco Adventure in the summer of 2016.   It consists of multiple self-led courses ranging from beginner to advanced as well as discovery courses geared towards those with physical and mental impairments.    The discovery zipline is the accessible zipline and it sits about 10 feet off the ground.

Upon arriving at Skywood we were met by the instructors and led to the area of the zipline.  Once you check-in you won’t have to park in the standard lot but are led down a gravel road to the accessible parking, which is closer to the courses.  The accessible parking is also right where the large accessible bathroom is located.   Once we parked, we were led down a gravel path.  I imagine if it had been raining a lot that path would get a bit muddy but for us it was fine and we had no issues.  Once we reached the course, Shawn was harnessed up and away he went.  You do have to be able to transfer from your wheelchair to a stationary chair for them to harness you up.  They may be able to harness up from the wheelchair.  Usually he is quite anxious doing something like this but he loved it and was allowed to zipline as many times as he wanted.  It was a lot of fun and would definitely recommend!

**for video of footage of Shawn on the zipline or any other of our accessible adventures please follow us on Facebook at Accessible Getaways or Accessible Kingston (for local Ontario information)

 

Kingston, ON – Family Fun Fest

CFB Kingston does a fantastic job with the Garrison Family Fun Fest held every year in September.  There is the typical carnival rides, food truck, community demonstrations and an air show featuring the Snowbirds.  This year they also put on a Canadian Rock concert featuring Sass Jordan, Honeymoon Suite and Trooper.

The website for the event had very detailed instructions on where to park for both the airshow and the concert.  It was very organized and since our vehicle has a wheelchair ramp we were able to park right at Fort Henry to watch the air show.  They did have a designated wheelchair viewing area but we opted to watch from the patio of the Battery Bistro and enjoy some burgers and beers while we watched.   As for the concert, they once again had special wheelchair parking that was right up close to the event tent area.  We were met by the event organizer and taken to an area that was reserved for wheelchair users.  The whole experience was so smooth and I felt that they really took care of the special needs of all the people visiting.  Luckily for us we have friends that are related to members of the band Honeymoon Suite so we were able to go backstage and meet the band.  They were all so welcoming and kind and invited us to watch the concert right up side stage with a perfect view.

Such a great day and I encourage anyone living close by to check it out next year.  It was a lot of fun!

 

 

 

Toronto, ON – Blue Jays Game

Every summer we say we are going to make it to a baseball game.  Every summer by the time I get around to getting tickets all the accessible seating is sold out.   My issue with the accessible seating is that they usually just allow one other person with a wheelchair user and that is boring!

We wanted to go to a game with a few friends and make a fun night day of it one Saturday afternoon.  Someone told me out Sightlines restaurant and that seemed ideal.  Sightlines is a buffet, fully licensed restaurant out in centre field so we decided to give it a try over Father’s Day weekend.  We took the VIA train (first time with Shawn) to Union Station and it was a great experience for Shawn.  VIA has their wheelchair seating in business class so it was a complimentary upgrade and one companion is free with a doctors note stating an attendant is required.

We were attending an afternoon game and got to Toronto just in time to get our seats, have lunch and drinks and wait for the game.  It is pricey because you pay for the buffet and the ticket is extra.  However, if you want to have an uncrowded and fun experience it is so worth it.  You are served right at your table and the restaurant has it owns washrooms equipped with an accessible washroom.  We are not crowd people so it was perfect for us.

Overall a great day and we would do it again in a heartbeat.  Go Jays!

Vancouver & Penticton, BC – July 2016

Vancouver

This time around we chose to fly out of Ottawa for the second time this year. Last March we travelled with Westjet but this time with Air Canada. I prefer Ottawa over Toronto hands down but the options out of Ottawa do not work for us most of the time. By that I mean the airplanes used are often small aircraft that does not accommodate large power chairs and/or not direct flights.
Last time we flew out of Ottawa and I parked at the airport I was able to leave a photocopy of the handicap parking permit in our vehicle and a copy at the parking office. This time I was told by the parking office that I had to leave the original permit or else I would be ticketed for leaving our vehicle there. I tried to explain we need to take the original so that we could use it in BC on our wheelchair accessible rental van. The person I dealt with was not helpful at all and told me I could leave it and then fight the ticket from the city. Ridiculous. I put the original permit back in the van because I was not about to deal with a ticket upon my return. I spoke to a city parking commissioner that was standing out front of the airport and asked her what someone was suppose to do in this situation. She told me that it was her understanding that I could leave a photocopy of the permit with a copy of our flight itinerary on the dash and we should not get a ticket that way. I don’t understand why this was such a hassle this trip. I am going to follow up with the city upon my return to find out what the actual procedure is. Surely we are not the only people to leave out of the airport with this situation.
Something new that we are trying this trip is bringing Shawn’s own commode. Everytime we have travelled we have rented one and it gets to become very costly. Not only do you pay the rental charge but also a pickup and delivery charge unless you are cruising and not spending any overnights at a hotel before and/or after your cruise. I did a ton of research about what would be the best commode to travel with. Since Shawn is 100% dependant on a commode for personal care we need something sturdy and on wheels. There are many options of portable travel commodes out there and we even have owned one in the past but they are just not sturdy for someone of Shawn’s size (225 pounds). So after trying about various options we decided to purchase an Invacare Ocean to take with us on trips. The commode breaks down into several pieces to pack in your luggage easily. It worked out great because it was all Allen keys to put together.
Upon arrival we made our way to the taxi stand since it is the law in the city that every minivan taxi has to be wheelchair accessible. The max passengers in any of these vans is 4 people plus the wheelchair user. Since we were 6 we had to get 2 separate taxis. It was not a long wait for the taxis and then we made our way to our hotel.
I booked the hotel for its location to downtown, Sky train and price. We booked a wheelchair accessible king bed room.
Pretty disappointed in the room as the roll-in shower was very narrow and the arm rest of the commode was right up again the towel bar. It was not an overly spacious room and there was a long narrow hallway from the door to the bedroom. Our view was awful and I was tempted to change hotels but this hotel I chose for affordablity and location. When you are a big family and travelling with a caregiver you have to be money conscience.

 

 


Day 1 – Granville Island. There was a nice walking path close from hotel to the area. It was a bit downhill at first to get to the walking path but very accessible. The steep hill would be tough for manual chair users but no problem for power chair users. We decided to check out the Canada Day celebrations at Granville Island but not for long because it was too crowded. We then took a taxi from Granville Island to Kitsilano Beach. The beach has a paved boardwalk and we ate at The Boardwalk Restaurant, which has an elevator to the second level and a great view.

 

 

Day 2 – Next stop on our vacation was Stanley Park horse rides. I had gone online prior and found out that the Companion fare was complimentary. The horse ride was great and Shawn was able to sit right up front with driver. The tour was about an hour and half. After the horse ride we walked about 20-25 minutes to English Bay and down to Second beach. There were paved walking paths. Second beach has a grassy area and plenty of shade. Accessible bathrooms companion ones that are separate. At night we decided to book a Harbour Boat Cruise after receiving confirmation that it would be accessible. I made sure to Ask for companion fare and we got a discount. It never hurts to ask when bringing along a support worker. I also asked to be reserved at a table on the main floor by the window. Bathrooms on the boat are tight but are accessible, there are no companion bathrooms. The dinner buffet was served on the second floor so the staff was more than happy to get a plate for Shawn if we needed them to. Overall the staff were very accommodating. The ramp getting on and off the boat was an issue but we asked for a ramp upon departure and they did have one so not sure why it was not there to begin with when we went on.

 

 

Day 3 – From the hotel we took a taxi to Olympic Village to walk around and have brunch at a nice restaurant on the water. It was a great spot to sit and relax and read or just hang out with friends. We took the accessible aquabus to Granville Island. Not all the aqua buses are accessible but just let one of the staff know you need one and they will make sure one comes quickly. We waited no more than 10 minutes. The nice thing was that because of the wheelchair they skipped all the in between stops and took us directly to Granville Island. Granville Island was still busy with crowds but not near as bad as Canada Day. We attempted the public market but we left quickly. It was extremely crowded with narrow aisles and just difficult for Shawn to drive his chair. We headed over to the Granville Island brewery tasting bar and tried several local beers instead.

 

 

Day 4 – This day we decided we wanted to walk around Gastown. Gastown has many shops and restaurants and for the most part they were accessible. We didn’t spend a lot of time here but there were walking tours that are available to book if you want to go on a ghost walk or historic tour. We headed back to Granville Island for some fresh seafood at Sandbar for dinner. The restaurant has an elevator so the patio is accessible and has a nice waterside view

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Day 5 – Since we were renting an accessible van for our trip to the Okanagan I had to get a drive about 30 minutes outside the city to pick up the van. Luckily I had family to drive me since the van rental place says they deliver but apparently not when I was travelling. I sent Shawn and the kids to Science World. I was bummed I couldn’t go but time wise it just wasn’t feasible. Shawn found Science World a really interesting place and very accessible. That night we visited an Organic Japanese Restaurant that was close to hotel and it was delicious!

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Science World

Day 6. – Since I had picked up the rental wheelchair van the day prior we woke up early and drove to Penticton in the Okanagan Valley. I had booked this Pentiction hotel because on their website they had a accessible roll-in shower room. However, as we have discovered time and time again the accessible room is not completely accessible. There was a lip into the shower so we were not able to roll the commode in but had to lift it in to the shower. The room also had a balcony that was completely inaccessible. Otherwise the hotel was a decent place with lots of paths around the grounds. We only went to the beachfront once since the weather was not great but there was lots of wheelchair access and accessible parking. The highlight of this part of the trip was visiting all the wineries and breweries. We found all the ones we visited accessible and very accommodating. Some wineries even had lower counters for wheelchair users.

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Riding in the passenger seat in the wheelchair van rental

 

 

 

 

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Overall we had a great time in BC. Even though we took taxis a lot (for convenience) the sky train was very accessible. To visit Penticton you would need to have a rental as we could not find any options to get there otherwise.