We went inside a Big Red Apple and lived to talk (write) about it

So we lied to our three-year old son. It was innocent – I think. We told him that for his birthday “experience” we were talking him somewhere very special. For weeks we built up the anticipation about his visit; a stop at a famous Canadian highway rest stop – The Big Apple.

The lie? Well, we had long planned a road trip to Montreal on his birthday weekend and figured that since we were going to stop there anyway on the trip, what better way to make the kids excited for the road trip than tying his birthday into it. #brilliant.

He told everyone; from his daycare teachers, to his grandparents and family. And, when all was said and done, the visit didn’t disappoint as a great way of breaking up the first part of a long road trip with a five and three-year-old.

Never been to the Big Apple on the 401 highway? It’s North American tourism at its finest. Highway rest stop transformed into tourist destination, complete with petting zoo, mini golf, climbing up a giant apple for a good view, locally made yummy pies, other apple type food and clean washrooms – all just 1.5 hours East outside Toronto.

You should give yourself about 30-45 minutes for the whole experience and to help, I put together a user-guide as you plan your summer road-trip visit to The Big Apple.

Suggested itinerary:

  1. Play eye-spy in the car as you approach the big apple seeing who can be the first one to spot it from the 401 (note: I won).IMG_0131

2. Go visit the animals – yup, real live animals! Note: this is not a full scale zoo. There are like 10 animals; chickens, a few goats and a lama! Given that the kids won’t really expect to see a lama they’ll enjoy it.


3. Take the obligatory face in the big wood panel shot


4. Head up the small hill and start climbing INSIDE THE APPLE. The kids will think this is awesome. There are historical pictures along the way, and a video explaining the history of the big apple.


5. Climb out the top of the apple and check out the view


6. Head back inside for a bite to eat. On our visit, they had local fresh milk and apple juice samples. My boy was brave and tried (sporting his skin art colouring efforts from the car trip)Watch them bake pies.


7. Normally this spot is buzzing with people baking the zillions of pies they make a year. We were there near closing time, so it was empty.


8. Save time for a tantrum


9. There is a bar area! We tried a local apple cider mixed with cranberry. Drink responsibly – it is a highway rest stop.


10. Change your older daughter’s life – introduce her to poutine for the first time ever! Every Canadian mother’s dream; sharing a poutine with their daughter.


Author: Adam Grachnik

I am a 30-something father and husband, proudly raising my two little maniacs (girl and boy) in a happy suburban home in Richmond Hill, Ontario.

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