Woodbine Centre


by Festival Nomad, Gary McWilliams

"The following is an article written after our visit to the Woodbine Centre and its Fantasy Fair fun centre. To truly appreciate the Centre, you need to visit it in person. Have fun!"

Fantasy Fair…
A few weeks ago I was telling my friend Ross that I wanted to visit some unique Ontario malls. I wanted to add a few as an attraction visited. He asked me if I had ever been to the Woodbine Centre. I told him “no” and he said that Judi and I should visit it and write an article. He even offered to go with us. So here we went (Ross, Cathy and their 4 year old daughter and Judi and I) on a cold, lightly snowing Friday afternoon on our way to the west end of Toronto. The Centre is located in Rexdale right across from the Woodbine Racetrack, home of the Queen’s Plate. We dove around the parking lot to the Fantasy Fair entrance. After getting out of the vehicle we walked towards the entrance. We were right at the special parking area when Ross pointed out a special parking for Santa’s sleigh. From the parking lot you could see a giant Ferris wheel through the window. We walked into the Woodbine Centre and then took the escalator to the second floor. Here was a kid’s world come true! There were lights, noise and moment everywhere you looked. The 4 year old didn’t know where to look or go! We decided to have a look around before we tried to go on any rides. All around the Fair there was a variety of shops and rooms each contained something different, food, photography, washrooms, lockers, arcade, baby changing station and party rooms. In the centre of the Fair were the rides and children’s activities. It was now time to play…

Which One First??!!
There were so many fun rides and attractions to choose at the Woodbine Centre, from that it was difficult to decide which one to go to first. We needed tickets to go on any of the rises, so Ross purchased a day pass for his daughter. The first choice seemed obvious, the Dreamers Play Village. There were no moving parts, no loud noises and plenty of other kids. From there the choice wasn’t as easy. The train would have been fun, but it was down for maintenance. We decided to walk around to see what else might be of interest. The “Carousel” was one choice, but it seemed to fast and scary. We moved on. We kept on moving from ride to ride. The “Air Force” ride moved up and down. The “Ships Ahoy” and “Spinners” rides spun around too quickly. Relief was just around the corner. They announced that the “Fantasy Fair Express” was about to back in service. There was a long line up, but Ross and his daughter finally got on and boy did they have fun! So much fun that they road the rails 3 times! Now that they had one ride under their belt there was no stopping. Next came the giant Ferris wheel. Our three friends climbed into the wheel cab. The attendant locked them in and then up they went. The attendant loaded more passengers into the ride and then the adventure started. Judi and I watched from the sidelines while the three adventurers rode the wheel! The ride was over, but the fun was not. The attraction next to the Ferris wheel was the Bumper Cars. They called this ride the “Smash and Dash”. Once Ross and his daughter got into their car and the ride started, it was easy to see how they came up with the name. This ride really caught the imagination of father and daughter because they “Smashed and Dashed” at least 5 times. I think they would still be at it the whole area hadn’t closed! It was now time to explore the rest of the Woodbine Centre

The Woodbine Centre…
The second floor of the regular part of the mall is open and airy. The ceilings are high and have interesting skylights. As we left the Fantasy Fair we turned right and followed one of the Centre’s shopping corridors. The mall was bustling with Christmas shoppers looking for that perfect gift. The Woodbine Centre is fairly typical of a “big city” mall, lots of clothing stores and anchored by large department stores. As we walked towards the centre I thought I heard someone shouting “HoHoHo”. Who could it be? We came to a balcony that overlooked the first floor. All of a sudden I realized who had made the some! There in the distance was Santa! He was sitting in a big chair talking with three children who were sitting on his lap. I am sure they must have been good little girls and boys since he was smiling and nodding his head in agreement. I wanted to get a closer look I must have stayed there too long, because everyone else had moved off. I started off to find them. They were looking for a way to get down stairs to see Santa. Finally we found the “down” escalator and went in search of Santa. Ross found Santa and lined up with his daughter to have a chat with the jolly old man. Again, as they talked with Santa, I saw Santa smiling and nodding in agreement! Good news for both Ross, Cathy and their daughter! After that we headed off to find a restaurant. We had remembered that there was a JJ Muggs that was near the Fantasy Fair entrance. It meant walking through the Fair again. This time I noticed several flying machines attached to the ceiling! After dinner at JJ Muggs we headed out to the car. When we had arrived at the Woodbine Centre that afternoon, the weather had been clear. Tonight snow had fallen. It looked like it was going to be a long ride home from the Woodbine Centre. Fortunately the snow was local and most of the trip home was clear. Everyone was in a cheerful mood because we knew that Santa had smiled at us!