Littered with billboards and dilapidated shacks, the abandoned 6-acre gravel pit looked like the last place you'd want to plant a garden. But from 1930 to 1931, the Royal Botanical Gardens transformed the area by arranging weathered limestone rocks from nearby quarries into linked paths and staircases winding around ponds and waterfalls. Since then, the 2,700-acre nonprofit facility has continued to display approximately 40,000 plants and 50 living plant collections in its five gardens.
The property also hosts three nature sanctuaries. The largest, Cootes Paradise, encompasses 16 creeks and a 320-hectacre river-mouth marsh on more than 600 hectares of land. Visitors can explore stream crossings or check out the gardens from above on 31 scenic trails that range across more than 21 kilometres with more than 20 lookouts. After long expeditions, visitors can make their way to the three onsite restaurants, browse gardening tools in the shop, or attend one of the garden's many monthly events.
The chocolatiers at Chocolate Tales love a sweet bit a cocoa, but they love bringing people together even more. That's why they created the Chocolate Social, an innovative event that combines the hands-on fun of chocolate making with the laid-back ambiance of a happy-hour bar. The vision for this new social experience comes from David, the founder of Chocolate Tales. Inspired by his time in Europe, he brought back the continent's shared love of quality chocolates, social camaraderie, and a few stiff drinks before adding his own, unique spin.
During these two-hour sessions?held at bars and restaurants throughout the GTA?groups loosen up with a drink and chocolate pairing, sipping on wine or cocktails in between bites of delicious confections. Then, they listen to enthusiastic chocolatiers share their knowledge of generating fine, cocoa-based creations as well as tasty tidbits of chocolate history. Finally, it's time to get hands-on; participants bond while creating impressive sweets such as hand-rolled truffles.
Every year since its founding in 2006, more than 20,000 players arrive at Paintball Nation's three locations to playfully trade paint across outdoor battlefields or among towering indoor obstacles. Sniper towers overlook Mississauga's urban scenario field, where misfired paintballs splatter against trucks, tires, and wooden boxes. At Burlington, players hide behind plastic barrel towers as they compete in three zones encompassing a total of 20,000 square feet. During summer months, Brampton's outdoor facility hosts paintball squadrons as they launch technicolor salvos amid fresh air and sunlight.
Whether games take place indoors or out, Paintball Nation's referees make sure simulated battles remain safe and good-natured. To that end, they brief every visitor on field rules and etiquette, such as never using nonfield paint or unlicensed Blackhawk helicopters.
Burlington Fitness & Racquet Club earned the Burlington Post's 2011 Readers' Choice Award for Best Fitness Club by challenging exercisers with trainer-guided workouts or solo sweat sessions inside a 70,000-square-foot facility. Racquets propel balls year-round at indoor squash and tennis courts, where certified instructors improve fledgling players' backhands and prepare athletes for humanity's imminent war with pitching machines. Licensed personal trainers help fitness seekers navigate rows of cardio and weight equipment, and energetic instructors lead classes such as yoga and boot camp—a high-intensity combination of tae bo and power drills. Welcoming staff slings healthy snacks at an on-site café, where occasional events such as cooking classes and muscle-trading parties entertain club members.
It's a good thing Cedar Springs Health Racquet & Sportsclub is open 24 hours a day, because it takes a long time to explore everything it has to offer. Fresh off a two-million-dollar? renovation, the Burlington location measures in at 200,000 square feet, including seven swimming pools, four water slides, courts for tennis, squash, and racquetball, a 24-hour gymnasium, and even an onsite restaurant. Classes operate more than 12 hours a day, and range from the strength-building Group Power program to the Latin dance?inspired Zumba class. Thanks to an assessment by a professional trainer, tennis and racquetball players can be paired with opponents of appropriate skill.
At 10,000 square feet, the Ancaster location is considerably more compact, but it still manages to house plenty of exercise equipment and host lots of spin, Zumba, and other group exercise classes.
The kitchens at KidsCanCook fill with the chatter of whisks against bowls and hands clapping in excitement at new abilities. The instructors introduce children of all ages to the fundamentals of cooking, focusing each and every recipe on nutrition to forge healthy habits. The interactive weekend and after-school classes impart the basics of cooking to children or young adults, from measuring ingredients to keeping chef hats from becoming tangled in chandeliers. The chefs also offer private lessons, and full- or half-day summer camps with included meals engage students with hands-on activities and help build new friendships.