Entertainment: Leisure Activities – Find Fun for Everyone

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By Consuelo Solar

Throughout our lives, our tastes and interests evolve, and what used to be fun to do with friends in college may not seem that appealing to your life partner, who prefers to spend some alone time with you; what used to make for unforgettable weekends when you first started dating may not seem like the right choice now that you have kids; what used to fascinate your children when they were in first grade, may seem dull now that they are about to graduate from high school; and now that they are gone and the house feels empty you wonder if they have invented any new pastimes since you were in college.

Even though it is difficult to find activities that can entertain young children, teenagers, and adults equally, Ontario has some of the best tourist spots, cultural events, recreational activities, and nightlife in Canada with entertainment for every taste and age group, whether you want to enjoy it as a family or go your separate ways. We’ve compiled a list of some great alternatives for you to consider.

A festival for everyone
The Toronto International Film Festival is a world-class showcase for movies often compared to Cannes, but it is only one of more than three thousand festivals staged every year throughout Ontario. The wide range of events that reflect the province’s great cultural diversity, in several disciplines, offers multiple options for a night out among adults or some family fun. Here are a few suggestions for this winter.

● Niagara Icewine Festival (January 14-30): Enjoy the Niagara Region as it turns into a wine-tasting party, honouring Ontario’s celebrated Icewine. “From gala evening toasts to chestnut roasts, ornate ice bars and winery tours,” the organizers promise plenty for every palate.

● Cabin Fever Petawawa (January 14-23): Trivia night, snow drag races, Yuk Yuk’s comedy night, seniors’ events, and an adult dance party with live music, are some of the activities offered by this annual celebration held in Eastern Ontario. (www.cabinfeverpetawawa.ca)

● Toronto’s Wintercity (Jan 28 – Feb 10): Every year Torontonians defy the cold weather to join an outdoor celebration of culture. Nathan Phillips Square is transformed into a stage for free arts events, while restaurants around the city offer especial deals allowing visitors to taste some of the finest cuisine in town for a reasonable price.

Festivals & Events Ontario has an Events Guide where you can find information about all festivals held in the province. To download a free electronic version, go to www.ontariotravel.net and check their Travel Guides section.

Who wants to be a filmmaker?

Shooting videos and making films is a hands-on creative pastime that is attractive to most kids, and it gives them a chance to express themselves while learning to work in team environments. The best part is that once the films are done, the whole family can enjoy the premiere.

Animation workshops for families at the National Film Board: The first weekend of every month, the NFB offers lessons on different animation techniques and themes for children ages 3 to 13. The session costs $5 per child. For information and registration, call 416-973-3012.

● Doc Camp: A week-long introduction to documentary filmmaking for aspiring directors, ages 14 to 18, offered by Hot Docs Documentary Festival (www.hotdocs.ca). Participants learn how to plan, shoot and edit their own short documentaries while also taking part in sessions with guest speakers. It is free, and no experience is necessary.

Diversity dancing
Because of Ontario’s cultural mixture, it is possible to find lessons on almost any dance style imaginable, and many dance schools have programs targeted to different age groups.

● Lindy Hop and Swing: At the Toronto Swing Dance Society, they love to party, and new guests are always welcome to their events. They offer large dance floors, live music, and many good dance partners who are willing to teach beginners. Go to their website at dancing.org/tsds/ to find out about their weekly classes, special workshops, and their Friday dance dates for 2011. Another good source to find out about swing events and lessons is www.torontolindyhop.com.

● Indian Dance: The Anjali Academy of Indian Dance in Ottawa is devoted to the teaching and performance of several styles of classical Indian dance. They have a beginners class for which no previous experience is required, and where students – from age 13 upwards – learn rhythmic beating of the feet, use of symbolic gestures, body positions, facial expressions, and so on. For more information call 613-745-1368, or visit www.culturalhorizons.ca.

● Dance Ontario: On their website, you can find a directory of dance related organizations and activities, including open-classes, courses, shows, and events. Dance styles included in the list are African, Ballet, Ballroom, Latin, Bellydance, Flamenco, Hip Hop, Jazz, Tap, Highland, Country and Folk, among others. You can browse the information by location to see what is available in your city. Go to www.danceontario.ca.

Enjoy your retirement in good shape
There are plenty of services and events that cater to senior citizens, who can usually benefit from special offers and discounts. Here are two suggestions for those who would like to spend their free time taking care of their body.

● Walking Club: Downsview Services to Seniors and the York West Active Living Centre have an indoor activity especially tailored to people over 55. The walk is held once a week during the morning at the Hangar at Downsview Park, and is led by a qualified instructor. For more information, call 416-633-9519 or go to www.downsviewpark.ca.

● Health Resorts: Taking care of your mental well-being goes hand in hand with staying in good physical condition, and with this philosophy, many facilities across Ontario offer luxurious relaxation treatments. House of Verona in Blue Mountain is an elegant health resort, with an anti-aging focus. The menu is 100 percent organic, whole gourmet food, and some of the activities in their all-inclusive packages (including 1-day retreats) are hiking by waterfalls, visit to hot springs, yoga, and spa treatments. Rates start at $350 per night. For details visit www.houseofverona.com

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