MAKE A SPLASH!By Stephen Johnson
Imagine hurtling down a water slide with your in-laws? On a trip to the Eastern Townships, I actually took that plunge with my mother-in-law, father-in-law, wife and son. Believe it or not, we had a blast.
My wife is from Mexico, so when her parents decided to visit us it was a great excuse to hit the road for a family vacation. We packed up the car and headed for the picturesque area in southeast Quebec. In spring, the Eastern Townships region beckons with its delights from the sugar bush; in fall, it offers the best of wine country and in winter it’s Ski Central. We went during the summer and our bucket list included an outing to the Granby Zoo. It’s recognized as one of the top zoos in Canada and my six-year-old, David, was thrilled about the prospect of seeing lions, giraffes and huge snakes all in one place.
Out first stop, in Granby, was at Daniel Johnson Park. There were numerous playgrounds to explore, it was a hot day and, in an instant, David was running through a splash pad fully clothed! It looked like so much fun, David’s grandpa and I decided to do the same. Yes, it was a refreshing introduction to this part of the country. (It was also a bit of a rehearsal for the waterworks to come.)
Going to the zoo, zoo, zoo …
Next day, we were off to the zoo. As first impressions go, what struck me about this place was its sheer size. It’s home to almost 1,000 critters from over 200 species and a person could easily spend two days and not cover everything. The site is organized based on parts of the world and the animals that live there, so visitors trek to exotic locales such as South America, Asia and the South Pacific. We decided to start our day with a trip to Africa—without the jet lag and airfare. As travellers, we were handed mock passports providing information about the countries and their different animals. We could collect passport stamps along the way. We saw lions, gorillas, elephants and numerous other animals native to the continent. I particularly enjoyed the Hippo River where a huge bay window allowed viewers to see the giants underwater.
Next, there was an eyeful of another type. Departing Africa, we were greeted by a zoo employee holding a ball python. Naturally, David was eager to get his hands on the slithery reptile and just as eager for his grandmother to join in the tactile fun. After much encouragement, Grandma put her hand out and braved a close encounter.
At the South Pacific Odyssey Pavillon, a recent addition to the zoo, you can get up close and personal with sea creatures such as sharks, clown fish and seahorses. David particularly enjoyed the interactive tank where he could touch the ray fish as they swam by. A couple of times, I thought he was going to jump in with them.
Realizing we would not have time to take in everything, we hopped on the Orient Express monorail to cover more territory and see more of this world. It was the perfect way to experience a large part of the park in a short time and we were able to view tigers and bears from the comfort of our seats.
I knew we could not leave the Granby Zoo without visiting South America to check out its alligators and giant anaconda. David has been a huge fan of reptiles since he was three, and it has been his dream to set eyes on this massive snake. Since we won’t be heading to the Amazon any time soon, David was delighted to have some anaconda time our on family vacation. Grandma? Not so much; she took a detour around this part of the zoo.
The next day, we traded our safari shorts for swimsuits and headed off to explore Bromont Water Park. Famous for its ski terrain, Bromont offers plenty of thrills and chills in the summertime too, thanks to this family-friendly destination. Generally at a water park I plant myself in a wave pool or try a mild ride. Not this time, though. When my son and my father-in-law launched themselves down a fast slide without fear, pride got the best of me. Yes, I did have a few doubts at the top, but when I pushed off it was exhilarating.
Newly brave and full of adrenaline, I suggested we all go on an inner-tube ride. Next thing you know, the five of us were squeezing ourselves into an inflatable for some family togetherness of a sort we’d never imagined. Starting off slowly, the ride quickly gathered dizzying momentum. David was yelling and screaming with delight; I was just yelling and screaming. And although my in-laws are typically stoic, even they seemed elated by the breathtaking run.
You don’t have to be an adrenaline junkie to enjoy this water park, though. Bromont offers slides and pools for all ages, including a wave pool. Chairlift rides, mountain bike rentals, a restaurant and several fast food options are all available on site. You are also allowed to bring a picnic.
For us, the attraction was a big hit and David still fondly talks about going water-sliding with his grandparents.
As for accommodations, we had an enjoyable stay at the Hotel Castel in Granby. It has an excellent restaurant that serves fine French food without pretension. For details about these destinations, see www.hotelcastel.ca/en, www.zoodegranby.com and www.skibromont.com.