When your 9-year-old son ends a family vacation by telling you that he learned he’s capable of more than he ever thought possible, you know you’ll probably want to go back to the same place again and again.
My family of five went to Horseshoe Resort this summer and experienced one adventure after another as we biked, hiked, climbed, and rolled our way through our days there.
Rolled? Yes, rolled. But I’ll get to that part later.
Horseshoe Resort, located an hour north of Toronto in Barrie, is familiar to many Ontarians as a popular winter destination. It’s a ski resort, but ski season doesn’t last forever in Ontario and so there is a lot more to Horseshoe than just skiing.
Where: Barrie, Ontario
Who: Family of five, kids aged 9, 6, 3
Activities: Cross-country biking, swimming, golfing, hiking, and more
In fact, there’s so much to do there in the summer that we were busy from early in the morning on the day we arrived until the next afternoon when we reluctantly left. We stayed in one of Horseshoe’s gorgeous, newly-renovated suites (with a full kitchen, which meant we could prepare all our meals if we weren’t eating in one of the resort’s restaurants) and loved how close we were to all of the action.
Here’s what our family loved at Horseshoe.
First, we biked
When we arrived at Horseshoe early on a weekday morning, we dropped off our two youngest kids at Horseshoe’s Kids Korral day camp and then headed with our oldest to Horseshoe’s new Bike Barn to get fitted for mountain bikes. Horseshoe’s head coach, Andrew, was on site to get us ready to go. We were lucky enough to have him show us around, but there are all kinds of ways to enjoy cycling at Horseshoe without a guided tour.
From full- and half-day bike rentals to a season’s pass at the bike park, there are plenty of options for new and experienced riders alike. A new partnership with Ride Guides means that inexperienced riders can book a guide to show them how it’s done. We spent some time on the pump track (and I’ll admit that I’d never even heard of one before going on it myself — it’s a continuous loop of dirt mounds that you ride without pedaling) which helped us get ready for trail riding, then Andrew took us single track riding through the trails in the Copeland Forest.
The incredible biking experience changed us all (and I’m not just talking about our aching muscles the next day) and inspired my son beyond his wildest dreams. With only the experience of riding in the city, all three of us were thrilled to learn what we could really do with a bike and a lot of determination.
Though we didn’t try it on our trip, if you’re looking for a wilder ride, you can rent a downhill bike (and armor) and take a lift to the top of the mountain for a daredevil descent. And if you’ve got any little ones who would like a riding adventure, Horseshoe rents run bikes (balance bikes without pedals) and there’s even a mini pump track (complete with helmets and run bikes) in the Adventure Park.
They were hiking
Meanwhile, while three of us were busy biking, the youngest two were busy hiking. Horseshoe Resorts offers full- and half-day camps for kids from about age 4 and up. What I love about Horseshoe’s Kids Korral Summer Adventure Camp is that they live up to their name. There is truly adventure packed into everything the kids do.
Our two youngest kids were grouped together at camp and on the morning they were there, they enjoyed an adventure hike and a nature craft (using cool things they found on their hike). On the same day, the activities for older kids were equally active and exciting: mountain biking for the 7-10 crowd and stand up paddleboarding for the 11+ crowd.
Parents looking for some time to enjoy Horseshoe’s facilities without interruption will rest easy knowing that their kids are going to be active and entertained the whole time they’re at camp. The fact that the kids will fall asleep at night as soon as their heads hit the pillow is just an added bonus.
We all climbed
From climbing the inflatable obstacle course ladder and climbing stairs to fly down the zip line, to climbing the Highlands Climbing Tower and climbing into a comfy bed at the end of a long day, there was a lot of climbing going on for our entire family at Horseshoe.
In the Adventure Park, my kids were in love with the climbing tower, trying it over and over. (And they could do it as many times as they liked since, with few exceptions, Adventure Park passes allow for unlimited use of the park.) There were appropriately-sized helmets and harnesses for all of us (and — bonus! — they even spray the helmets with tea tree oil between uses), and lots of levels to try on the wall.
Right next to the tower is the fun Commando Obstacle Course — it’s like a bouncy castle, but with ladders and slides — that is fun for all ages, even adults. While the kids were still in camp, my husband and I seized the opportunity to try the Skyline Zip Line, which goes 2,075 feet down and happens to be the fastest zip line in Ontario. It was scary making the climb to the top after we got off the chairlift, but the exhilarating ride down above the treetops made it all worthwhile. To avoid any upsets, though, parents should note that the minimum age for the Zip Line is 8 years and riders must weigh at least 75 lbs. The Zip Line is also an extra fee, though there is one ride included in some pass options.
About the rolling …
If you haven’t heard of an Aqua OGO, you’ve probably been missing out on the experience of careening down a huge hill inside an inflated plastic ball (a.k.a. an Outdoor Gravity Orb) filled with cold water. Why would anyone want to do it? Well, because it just so happens to be the most ridiculously fun thing around. You ride a magic carpet up a hill, climb into a giant ball (the OGO), and then bounce and roll and splash your way down. A group of people can ride together, or one person can ride alone. Either way, it’s crazy fun and if your kids are anything like mine, they will never stop talking about it. The OGO ride is an extra fee.
And that was just our first day
Our second day we swam in the salt-water pool, played a heated round of mini-golf, and visited the Adventure Park to do everything all over again. By this point we were a little less energetic (well, the parents, at least), and so we had fun trying some of the more laid back activities at the Adventure Park, too, including:
- paddle boats
- the Red Horse Maze (a giant timed maze you run through trying to reach certain targets faster than anyone else)
And my kids’ very favourite calm activity, the Red Horse Mining Co. For about $5 per child, you get a large bag filled with sand and hidden gemstones. Kids get to pan for gemstones at the sluice, discovering all kinds of treasures and then identifying them with the provided chart. “Relaxing” activities, aside, the kids also bounced and flipped their hearts out on the Euro Bungee trampoline — an amazing free-falling trampoline experience.
We had such an incredible time at Horseshoe Resort. I’ve spent the time since we’ve returned telling anyone who will listen what an amazing adventure it was for our family. If you’re lucky enough to live close to Horseshoe, it would even work perfectly as a family day trip.
Horseshoe has everything a family needs to be active and have a great time doing it. Gorgeous, newly renovated suites, on-site restaurants, indoor and outdoor swimming pools, day camp, an adventure park, equipment rentals, and, most importantly, all the fun in the world.
Our review was made possible thanks to Skyline Hotels & Resorts, which provided accommodations and Adventure Park passes.