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If the kids are happy on vacation, then you can relax   

Story by Darcy Rhyno

Well, they just might if they find out about treatments like the cotton candy cleanser and the chocolate cream mask at Opal21 Boutique Spa. It’s in the family friendly Delta Beausejour Hotel in downtown Moncton. The upscale French brand Nougatine Paris has put together a tempting line of spa services and products just for kids, and Opal21 is happily spoiling them with these Parisian extravagances.

The treatments are all organic, mild and child-friendly, like vanilla strawberry face cream and hydrating caramel flavoured lip treatment. For first timers (and let’s face it, most kids will be) Opal21 offers the Royal Duo Massage for a child and one parent. For the little ones who prefer to act all grown up and go it alone, there’s the Sweet Dreams massage with honey vanilla lotion for the scalp, neck and shoulders or the Perfect Hands manicure that finishes with a nail polish application.

Moncton’s the place to spoil the kids

Sometimes, kids and travel just don’t mix. A parent’s worst fear may be that their little one could turn into that stereotypical whining child traveler of the “are we there yet?” variety. The best way to avoid the transformation of your typically contented child of mild disposition into one you no longer recognize is to design a trip that’s as much for them as it is for you. Go even further and create a family itinerary that will leave the kids feeling pampered and looking forward to the next road trip. Moncton appears to have everything required to do just that.

With the kids rejuvenated from their morning spa treatment, it’s time to head out on the town. There’s so much to do at Resurgo Place, a family could spend the whole day there. It’s a science discovery centre, museum, activity zone and visitor’s centre all in one. The interactive exhibits and hands-on experiences will keep even the most active little ones endlessly entertained racing cars, launching rockets, running the miniature railway and building things in the craft room. There’s a giant interactive map of Moncton that kids can walk around on and locate their hotel and other places they’ve visited.

Whenever Resurgo Place designers create a new exhibit, they include fun, kid-friendly activities. Watch for family day discounts and special events with names like “Construction Destruction” and “Chemistry Morning.” For those who have even more time, Resurgo Place puts on cool summer camps where kids can really dig into themed topics with activities like building robots. 

When it’s time for a child’s pick-me-up (otherwise known as an afternoon snack, preferably a sweet one) head across the river from Moncton to the community of Riverview. That’s where David Briggs and his staff at Briggs Maples whips up more sweet things from New Brunswick maple syrup than a kid could ever dream. Sample some of their many grades of maple syrup. See how maple cream and maple butter are made. Try maple sugar cotton candy or maple cream mini cones. Then, really make the children’s day—buy a litre or two of syrup to take home.

While you’re there, take a stroll along the Petitcodiac River where interpretive signs tell the natural and human history of the waterway. If possible, time your visit with the incoming tide to witness the free-standing, one-to-two metre high chocolate coloured wave called the tidal bore that travels nearly 30 kilometres upriver to this point from the Bay of Fundy twice a day. Captivate the kids with the story of the surfers who set a world record by surfing the entire length of the bore, and they did it at night.

Out of town and edge of town

For an even deeper dive into the natural history of the Bay of Fundy, join Anna-Marie Weir of Roads to Sea Guided Tours on a day trip out to the coast. Kids get a club card and Weir encourages them to check off ten things they learn during the trip to earn a prize at the end.

“There are two things on our guided tour that kids find most engaging—walking the ocean floor at Hopewell Rocks and hanging out at Cape Enrage,” says Weir. Both are spectacular settings sculpted by the Bay of Fundy, home of the world’s highest tides. At Cape Enrage, Weir sets kids on a fossil hunt. When they find one, an interpreter identifies it and the intrepid explorers can plant it in the “Fossil Garden.” The interpretation centre at Hopewell Rocks and the excellent restaurant at Cape Enrage will please everyone on the trip.   

If it’s a day at the beach that would most please your crew, take the short drive to the northeast just past Shediac to Parlee Beach Provincial Park. These ocean waters are reputed to be the warmest in Canada and usually very calm compared to more exposed coastal areas. One section of beach is supervised with lots of fun activities like volleyball, sand sculpting and Frisbee. On the way back to Moncton, ask the kids if they want their pictures taken with the world’s largest lobster sculpture. They can climb right into the giant crusher claw. It’s at the entrance to Shediac. 

For kids who just want to play all day long, Moncton offers two choices. The first is Centennial Park, a large urban green space. Open year round, there’s lots to do here for kids of all ages. The little ones will enjoy the playground and splash park while the older kids can shoot baskets, play some tennis or cycle the many trails. The highlight for the most active family members are the aerial adventure courses at TreeGO. Everyone will welcome a swim at the supervised beach on a hot summer day. 

At Magnetic Hill, you can start with that famous trick of the eye by piling everyone in the car and witnessing it roll uphill. But be warned, the kids will be hard to contain. That’s because they’ll spot the giant waterslides, wave pool, thrilling rides and other fun waiting for them in the “SplashZone” and “FunZone” at the Magic Mountain theme park next door. New this year, the Mountain has added four nine-hole mini golf courses and a Bumper Boat feature for older kids and adults.

" these are not the fruit wines your grandfather made in the basement."

While the kids play in the water park, parents can take shifts checking out the Magnetic Hill Winery just up the hill. It recently opened a state of the art winery in a restored ban on the property where the Everett family create unique wines, some of them with newer varieties of cold-hardy grapes, and others with local fruits like strawberries and blueberries. But these are not the fruit wines your grandfather made in the basement. Their sparkling rhubarb wine closely resembles a crisp Pinot Grigio, and the barrel-aged maple wine is as rich and complex as a cognac.

Secret stops in Moncton for everyone

For kids:

Crèmerie Bennic Dairy Bar for 24 ice cream flavours, cakes, milkshakes, frozen yogurt and more.

Butterfly World at Magic Mountain, a small but fun dome filled with butterflies.

East Coast Karting for the race car driver in every 10-year-old.

For parents:

A flight of craft beers and wild boar poutine at the Tide & Boar Gastropub.

Golf at Royal Oaks, Mountain Woods or the Moncton Golf and Country Club.

Live entertainment at the beautiful Capitol Theatre.

For everyone:

Irishtown Nature Park for hiking, wildlife and a museum.

Moncton Market for local produce and delicious ready-to-eat foods.

Thomas Williams House, a Victorian home and museum for afternoon tea.

Full circle

Next door to the winery is the perfect place for all family members—weary parents and exhausted kids—to bring the trip full circle. The USVA Spa Nordique is usually a 16 and older zone, but on the first Sunday of each month, the spa opens to kids five and up. Children walk around in robes, alternating between hot and cold thermal experiences while shushing their parents to maintain the relaxing ambiance of this mini retreat. For a child and parent, the price is just $50.

“Kids like it all,” says Giselle Doiron, Manager at Usva. “To unplug them, phones are off, so no photos, no videos.” Staff take photos before and after at reception for those who want keepsakes. “Teaching them how to relax is very important, as it is for parents to share that with their kids.”

There’s no better way to bring a positive end to a great family vacation than with an experience kids and parents can share, especially one that feels grown up to kids and indulgent to parents. Relaxing down time like this is equally restorative for every family member.   

Intro caption: Walking the sea floor at Hopewell Rocks.
Header caption: Briggs Maples

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