Last weekend, Hamilton and I visited a pretty popular tourist attraction here in Toronto, which for some reason (that I can currently see) doesn’t even make the top 30 list on Trip Advisor…
A wealthy man named Pellatt commissioned Casa Loma, which is a huge, historic house museum, built between 1911 and 1914. He lived there for a while until he ran out out of money, at which point it was purchased by hotel investors. It wasn’t a hotel for very long and went through a bunch of different phases of use, until finally becoming the visitor attraction it is today.
Coming from the UK, I can’t deny that I was expecting to look down on this ‘castle’ a bit, simply because we are absolutely spoilt for them and ours are a little older/more historic than this one. Honest to god though, the place was immaculate. It’s one of the best places I’ve visited since I’ve been in Canada.
It is absolutely massive and a big difference between British castles/stately homes and this one, was that this one seemed almost completely open to the public; we could walk around nearly every room, we went up the top through the loft, up secret staircases and even along the super long tunnel underground. I grew up near to West Wycombe House, where the Dashwood’s still live in the top part of the house, so of course you can’t go up there but I’ve always felt like there were a lot of other secret places that you rarely get to see. I was once fortunate enough to go to the top of the church across the road from there when it opened specially, where the Hell Fire club once met (google it if you like stories of debauchery among Lords and Ladies) but there are rumours of a lot of other parts of the house, like a tunnel for example. Also, in Windsor Castle, all of the door knobs are covered up with plastic so us paupers don’t ruin them with our dirty fingers.
Casa Loma was unapologetically opposed to this haughty taughty atmosphere… On top of all of the rooms we could wander round, we happened to visit on December 1st and it had been decorated for Christmas. Now when I say decorated, I don’t mean they just threw a few trees in and put some baubles up… They well and truly went all out. There were ballerinas, people doing aerial acrobatics, Christmas trees in every room, Santa, music… Pretty much, you name a festive thing, they have it.
Hamilton and I were like big kids running around the place, excited at every corner. We spent a hell of a lot longer than we intended to but really enjoyed ourselves. At first we thought the $30 (CAD) entrance fee was steep but we left thinking we would pay more.
The only negatives to the experience weren’t really anything too dramatic. One thing we noticed immediately was that there were supposed to be things up in the garden but they didn’t seem to be ready yet – perhaps by the time I’ve posted this, it will be done, but it seemed a bit behind schedule when we were there. The other thing (which is inevitable) was how busy it is there; it wasn’t too bad at all walking round the rooms, in fact there were plenty of times when we were quite merrily sauntering around empty rooms on our own. It was more when we tried to leave the vicinity and were blocked by hoards of people coming in. Perhaps we just tried to leave at the wrong moment but I can’t deny it was a pain in the bum.
So, yes. We entered Casa Loma with low expectations and ended up having a great time. I really don’t know why it isn’t higher on Trip Advisor considering some of the random things that are so high up but I well and truly recommend going to Casa Loma, especially at Christmas and with children. Well, children or just big kids at heart, like us.