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JUMP to ST. JACOB'S ONTARIO

Travelling to Green Acre Park, St. Jacob's Village, and Tim Murton's Twilight Zoo...

For the thanksgiving weekend, we decided to visit Waterloo, Ontario. I have always wanted to visit the well-known St. Jacob's market and since Waterloo was only an hour and half away from home, it was a perfect spot to spend the long weekend without feeling too run down from a long trip.
 
Before our trip to Cedar Point, Ohio (blog entry here), Kiarra became ill and so our trip was delayed. For this particular trip, both kids were sick and thankfully, neither had a fever (only a slight cold). Something else, however, happened - the system at work went down the night before. Our business website was down and we faced the risk of losing important data. Randy had to go to the office and elicit the help of a work colleague and friend who knew the ins and outs of the database. Needless to say, they managed to have the system working but I was convinced at first that this mishap would delay yet another trip. Our trip wasn't delayed but I started to sense a pattern when it comes to trip-planning and unforeseen calamities...which I hope ends with this trip!
 
Green Acres Campground...

One of the ponds at the Green Acre Campground

On the Friday before Thanksgiving, shortly before 8:00 PM, we reached the Green Acre campground. They assigned us a great site. Our site was close to the campground's playground and washrooms. We were also close enough to the fish pond to enjoy the view, but not too close. With a toddler in tow, the campground's website suggests asking for sites which were not directly beside the pond for safety reasons.
 
On first inspection, I found Green Acre looked more like a neighbourhood than your typical RV park. Most sites were seasonal which meant most had driveways and front lawns complete with quaint front lawn fixtures. The campground also featured impressive landscaping and lovely trees were scattered throughout the grounds.

Another view of one of the ponds at the Green Acre campground
 
Overall, during our stay, I found Green Acre had its pros and cons. And in no particular order, they are as follows,
 
PROS:
- Great amenities. Amenities included two playgrounds, two fish ponds, a picnic pavilion, mini-golf, tractor rides, hot tubs, pool and more.
- Affordable rates. For three nights including tax, our total bill for staying in the campground just totalled a little under $140.
- Very accommodating and nice folks worked there.
- Quiet environment. Honestly, our kids and dog were probably the loudest ones there.
- Free wi-fi. The internet connection slowed down in the evening but it was to be expected being in a campground full of people who were likely using it all in the evening.
- Gated community for extra security. We needed an entry code to re-enter the campground.
- Bathrooms were clean (when we first arrived anyway).
 
CONS:
- On Sunday, three out of the four bathroom stalls were horrifyingly disgusting (I will spare you the details). I did notice they were cleaned later on that day, and they were clean that same morning...which meant the three individuals (or one or two...who knows) used those stalls in between the morning and evening.  The campground did end up cleaning the stalls on the same day so I cannot really fault them entirely for the mess that was left behind. So, I am a bit conflicted in writing this as a con but thought I should mention it nonetheless.
- The showers on Sunday did not seem to have been cleaned from the night before. I noticed talcum or baby powder on the shower floors the night before which were still there the next night. The water pressure of the coin-operated (yes, it costs money) showers also left a lot to be desired. I don't recall thinking the same with the Cedar Point showers.
- The only laundry soap dispenser they had was broken and almost ate my loonie. Being the inexperienced camper, I did not bring laundry soap because I did not really consider that the kids will get messy while in a campground (doh!). The laundry soap dispenser would not dispense any soap, and a gentleman helped me fish out my loonie from the machine...twice.
 
Despite these perceived cons, however, we enjoyed our stay at Green Acres thoroughly. Ronan and Kiarra loved the playground. Because the campground was huge, we were also able to take the kids on long wagon rides and Riddick for a long enough walk to tire him out. No question about it...we would surely visit Green Acres again.
 
Kiarra swinging away at the Green Acre playground


Taking a wagon ride around the Green Acre campground
 
Trip's Lessons - What to do, What not to do
 
Finally but most importantly, our trip to Green Acre allowed me to learn a few things; namely, what to do and what not to do on our next trip which consists of the following...
 
1) Bring a GPS. The kids would always ask questions or act up during the most inopportune moments. Because I was the navigator, we would miss turn-offs and get lost in the process. I highly recommend getting a GPS for all families out there especially since kids tend to take frequent bathroom breaks which generally  means taking detours!
2) Always have an extra propane tank should the one you have run out. Our tank ran out Sunday night so Randy had to purchase one during the middle of the night.  He attempted to first put the kids on our bed underneath our warm comfy sheets (they never stay underneath theirs) instead of venturing out to grab a tank but that did not go over well since Kiarra is afraid of snoring sounds and Ronan happened to be tired and snoring that night...so each time he snored, Kiarra yelped :|
3) Never put kids to bed at the same time if they are sleeping in the same area of your camper. Two hours later, Ronan and Kiarra would still be giggling away at each other and calling out Riddick's name who kept going over to play with them. Randy eventually had to tell Riddick to stay beside him (he listens better than the kids thankfully) and eventually had to put Kiarra on our bed, and once she fell asleep, we placed her in the same area again with her already sleeping brother.
4) I knew this one fact already and yet Randy persisted - never give Riddick a bone to chew on at night if he is sleeping near you in the camper. During the first night, all I heard was Riddick chewing and chasing the bone all around the camper...stubborn Randy learned his lesson (which also unfortunately happened to be at my expense...yawn).
 
St. Jacob's Market...
 
Well, now that I have yammered on about our camping and trailer experience in detail, it's now time to write about our St. Jacob's Market experience. First of all, I need to commend the incredibly nice vendors at the market. Because of our 'high-spirited' kids, I am used to getting a few glares from older folks in public when our kids act up. At the market, the vendors smiled in admiration at Ronan and Kiarra even when they were not being their...ahem, finest. The attention they got was honestly a welcome change for parents like us who would already be stressing out when kids are not cooperating.
 
The market had an abundance of reasonably-priced food selections from pies, chocolates, fruits, vegetables and so forth.  The only irk I had about the market was that the indoor market in particular was not stroller or child-friendly.  It was impossible walking through the crowded market with a stroller and a five year old lugging behind.  At times, the crowd would be at a stand-still where there would be no movement for minutes. I don't consider myself claustrophic but I started to feel pangs of panic whenever this would happen.  We arrived at the market 9:30 AM and it opened 7 AM that day.  On hindsight, we should have visited the market bright and early to beat the crowds, and should have taken our baby bag for Kiarra which would have made for easier strolling...next time.

Dutch Apple Pie from the St. Jacob's Market
 
For those of you interested in Ronan and Kiarra, and their experience at the Market, keep on reading...for those of you who are just interested in the next thing we did at Waterloo, skip on down to the Twilight Zoo section.
 
At the market, Kiarra freaked out and covered her eyes with her blankie when she saw a giant inflatable chicken.  'No chicken!' she screamed.  Even though free popcorn was next to the chicken, she insisted she did not want to be near that scary chicken.  Kiarra has these interesting fears lately - she is afraid of scarecrows, carved pumpkin heads, snoring sounds, and Humpty Dumpty. My sister and mother are already wondering how she will fare during this year's trick or treating with all the scary ghouls walking about and carved pumpkin heads which will be lining the streets that evening.  
 
Ronan insisted on grabbing some Halloween chocolates despite the claustrophic atmosphere in the indoors market.  He and dad managed to squeeze their way through to the chocolates and lo and behold, he ate a few bites and did not like them :S  He ended up purchasing freshly squeezed mango juice which Kiarra insisted on having as well. When I bought a juice just for her, she demanded her brother's...aiyaaa...I remember looking up and seeing vendors smiling at her (it was one of those nice comforting moments I mentioned earlier).
 
Tim Murton's Twilight Zoo
 

Ronan at Tim Murton's Twilight Zoo

And now on to the best part of our trip...the exhibit Ronan was absolutely looking forward to. On a side note, we almost did not make it to Twilight Zoo. Our car's steering started acting up to a point where we were convinced we would need to call CAA and/or stay an extra night to find a mechanic in the Waterloo region. Needless to say, it ended up correcting itself and we did make it back (phew)...potential crisis averted.
 
So, off we went to Twilight Zoo on Sunday after Kiarra took her nap. Tim Murton's Twilight Zoo did not fail to impress.  The 'paper monsters' as Ronan would call them were magnificent, intricate and incredibly atmospheric. It would have been amazing to see them lit up at night but we had to work around Ronan's and Kiarra's bedtime schedules (which were not consistent during the trip anyway as it turned out, sigh). Ronan loved these monsters. He insisted I take a photo of each one for him to look at later. Kiarra, on the other hand, which was to expected, insisted on staying away from the exhibit - 'No monsters!' she screamed. So, Randy and I took turns taking Ronan around the exhibit, and walking jubilant Kiarra (who loves to take walks) around the neighbourhood...and I must say that the neighbourhood in that section of Elora was beautiful. 

Elora's Centre for the Arts invited Ronan to join their Halloween Parade scheduled for the 21st. Randy had to decline and tell them that we were from out of town. Maybe next year, we will try to make the parade for Ronan and hopefully, Kiarra would have grown out of her fears by then.
 
Tim Murton Twilight Zoo
A monster at Tim Murton's Twilight Zoo in Elora, Ontario


Another monster at Tim Murton's Twilight Zoo

Resources:
Green Acre Park
St. Jacob's Market
Tim Murton's Twilight Zoo