by Stephen Johnson
I knew the Chelsea Hotel in Toronto was a different kind of place when we were greeted by a robot, and staff were giving out lemonade and popcorn.
Normally when we visit Toronto, we stay at the far fringes of the GTA taking a long transit ride into the city. On a recent visit, we decided to switch things up and opted for a downtown location. I checked online and saw that the Chelsea Hotel catered to families. The only things our son, David, cared about was the mention of a corkscrew waterslide and swimming pool.
The day we checked in, the hotel was buzzing with Toronto Blue Jays fans ready to take in the big game. Staff were excellent at processing the line and we were given lemonade and popcorn. As we were gathering our bags in the lobby, we saw a group of people gathered around a robot. It was asking everyone general questions like where they were from or what they were going to see in Toronto. David loved interacting with the robot as it asked him his age and interests.
We collected our bags and relaxed in our room for about two seconds. David was ready to go swimming and watersliding. We put on our swimming trunks and hit the pool. After checking in with the lifeguard, David went splashing down the corkscrew waterslide. Of course, I was the next to hit the waterslide. My splash into the water was considerably larger and less graceful than David’s. Since he still had a lot of energy, he impressed us with his swimming.
The swimming pool and waterslide are part of a larger family fun zone which includes a kid centre and teen lounge. Even though I am about thirty years removed from my teen years, I enjoyed the video games and foosball in the teen lounge.
Next it was time to check out more of Toronto. I have always been interested in medieval history so the Toronto dinner theatre Medieval Times was a natural fit. It’s a family-friendly attraction that features medieval-style games, sword-fighting, and jousting, and when we arrived we were immediately transported to a different world. The hall featured suits of armor and swords on display. Flags and coat of arms adorned the ceiling. The audience was divided into various teams and we were seated in our color-coded section. We were part of the green team.
The show started with great pageantry as the knights entered the arena on horses accompanied by smoke and lights worthy of a rock concert. The king introduced himself to the audience encouraging the crowd to cheer for their knight. At the top of his lungs, David was cheering for our green knight. The knights proceeded through a series of competitions including jousting and sword-fighting. I particularly enjoyed the jousting as it combined horsemanship with the raw power of the jousts.
At the end of the competition our knight was facing an evil competitor from another kingdom. Of course, good triumphed over evil and our knight was victorious. Normally, David is somewhat reserved at sporting events but he was cheering as if he had won a gold medal at the Olympics.
During the show, we were treated to a medieval feast where you ate all the food with your hands. Luckily, the food was finger-friendly like corn on the cob and chicken. David loved the no fork and knife option and even proposed it for supper at home. My wife and I are still taking it under consideration.
At the end of the show, there was a chance to buy souvenirs and take photos with the knights. After leaving Medieval Times, we were quickly jolted back to the realities of 2016, taking our streetcar to the hotel with smart phones and neon signs lighting up the night.