Canada’s first major theme park, Canada’s Wonderland opened its doors in 1981. Today it continues to thrill locals and tourists alike with its amazing attractions, from seventeen rollercoasters – the second-highest number in the world, and including its newest addition, the scream-inducing Yukon Striker – to the enormous Splash Works water park and a whole host of rides, stalls, shows and events spread across its massive three hundred acre site. The scale of Wonderland is something to behold: more than two hundred attractions are within its walls, bringing in almost four million visitors every year.
Tucked amongst the suburban sprawl of Vaughan, Canada’s Wonderland is a short forty-kilometre drive north of Toronto’s downtown that’s pretty easy to get to. It’s easily accessible from Highway 400 and boasts excellent links whether you’re travelling by car (Wonderland offers ample spaces for guests), York Region Transit buses or via one of TTC’s choices – for example, you can take the TTC to Vaughan Metropolitan Centre station and hail a cab or Uber from here to the park – as well as riding the Go Train to Maple GO Train Station which is just a short hop from Wonderland itself. For visitors flying into Toronto, there are accessible car routes from Pearson airport, as well as for US tourists travelling north from the United States.
So now you know what Canada’s Wonderland has to offer, where it is and how to get there, what are you going to eat when you arrive? Enjoying all those attractions can be hungry work, after all, so here we take a look at what’s available to eat before, during and after your adrenaline-filled visit to one of the country’s biggest tourist attractions…
Early riser? Can’t wait to load up on pancakes and get going as soon as the park gates open? If you need fuel before stepping foot inside Wonderland, there are numerous eateries dotted around the outskirts of the park that provide excellent breakfasts, guaranteeing you at least a few hours uninterrupted ride time before lunch. Here’s our list of pre-park haunts:
- Boom Breakfast – just southwest of Wonderland and close enough to hear the screams from early-morning rollercoaster riders, Boom Breakfast is a fast-growing enterprise, and the Vaughan location is its newest – and largest. Great for groups, families and kids (their motto is ‘Where friends and food collide’), Boom’s menu is an extensive mashup of smoothies, salads, burgers and more, as well as the all-important breakfast choices – from omelettes to salmon and cream cheese ‘breakwiches’ to the Boom Power plate, there’s enough here to ensure you’re raring to hit those rides.
- Sunset Grill – when a restaurant has survived more than three decades in the restaurant business you know they are doing something right, and the Sunset Grill is doing it very right indeed. With its first eatery opening in 1985, this ever-popular breakfast place has several franchises across the region, with the Rutherford Road branch closest to Wonderland. Wood-panelled, bright and welcoming, the Sunset offers a huge variety of meals including pancakes, waffles, omelettes and French toasts, with its Famous All-Day Breakfast the star of a very packed show.
- Denny’s – a long-running diner chain is known to many across Canada and the US, Denny’s does what it says on the tin and provides a relaxed, casual foodie experience and offers a raft of much-loved classics. The Vaughan branch sits just southeast of Canada’s Wonderland, and amongst its lengthy menu of mains, desserts, sides and drinks, there are an awe-inspiring selection of breakfasts plates, including poutine, Belgian waffles, Philly cheesesteak omelettes, sizzling skillets and even a T-bone steak affair, all of which are available around the clock.
- Cora – two miles south of the park lies Cora, whose owner – the redoubtable Cora Tsouflidou – has been in the breakfast business for more than thirty years, and it shows. With a considerable number of branches across the area, Cora provides hearty plates of comfort food with a smile, typically amongst sunny, colourful decor within its restaurants. A full belly is guaranteed when you eat here, with some huge breakfast platters available along with excellent fruit offerings.
- Symposium Cafe Restaurant & Lounge – opened in 2015, this latest addition to Symposium’s fast-expanding portfolio of restaurants is just five hundred metres from Wonderland and is as packed with food choices as the park is with thrill rides. Open from morning ‘til late every day of the week, it is a relaxed and relaxing spot for casual dining, and its breakfasts will really hit the spot. Symposium’s ‘early bird’ is served from 8 am to 11 am, while its all-day offer runs until 4 pm, with the latter offering a huge selection of juices, omelettes, French toasts and waffles, as well as gourmet options (including fillet of beef medallions) and Benedicts.
As you would expect given its size and popularity, Canada’s Wonderland offers a huge range of restaurants and fast food places inside its walls, from Subway to Pizza Pizza and a whole host of others, including International Buffets, Pretzel & Beer Bars and a large choice of dessert stalls and diners. Coupled with the park’s ‘Dining Plans’ and ‘Meal Deals’ you’re never going to miss out on a bite to eat if the fancy takes you. As we all know, however, prices can be a little steeper once you’re inside any type of park or centre. Instead, especially if you’ve arrived later in the day and need something to eat before entering, it’s just as enjoyable to grab lunch from one of the myriad eateries that dot the streets and ‘burbs around Wonderland itself. Often they are cheaper, sometimes healthier, and quite a lot of the time far more enjoyable while offering that something a little bit different. Here’s a handful to whet your appetite:
- Zona Caffé – a little tucked away beneath the glassy office block of Mackenzie Health Urgent Care Centre on Jane Street, southeast of Wonderland, Zona Caffé is a sleek, contemporary café owned and run by Lina and Silvano DeRocchis. At Zona, the emphasis is on traditional Italian fare, with authentic dishes via a hot table and a pride-of-place Victoria Arduino espresso machine serving patrons. Breakfast-wise there’s everything from breakfast bagels to ham and cheese omelette pizzas, while a whole host of Italian favourites such as hot sandwiches, Paninis and risotto round out the alternative choices.
- Ichiki Japanese & Thai Restaurant – another eatery within spitting distance of the theme park’s gates, Ichiki Japanese & Thai is a hip, thoroughly welcoming space decked out in dark woods and black leather, with an impressively comprehensive menu. With a choice of a la carte or All You Can Eat – niftily ordered via an iPad at your table – diners can enjoy more than two dozen appetizers and noodle dishes, a large choice of sushi and sashimi, plus speciality rolls, combos and enormous party trays guaranteed to fill a group of empty stomachs prior to venturing into Wonderland.
- Bamiyan Kabob – located just across the road from Wonderland’s large parking areas, this Afghani restaurant sits amongst a clutch of other businesses in a nondescript strip mall but don’t let that put you off. Inside its walls, the Bamiyan chefs rustle up authentic, fresh and delicious Afghan cuisine, and the restaurant is still growing in popularity – there are now seven branches across the GTA. Wraps, kabobs, kabob dinners – rammed with rice, salads, and naan bread – as well as a smattering of desserts means you can stock up before walking across to the park.
- Pizza Depot – like Bamiyan above, Pizza Depot is within walking distance of Wonderland’s entrance gates so is ideal for loading up on pies before you ride. Found at the end of a row of businesses on Jane Street, it’s a blink and you’ll miss it place if you’re speeding by, but it’s worth dropping in to check out its selection of meat, veggie and international pizzas, chicken wings – with over fifty flavours – and burgers, plus salads, sides and loaves of bread. There’s plenty here for those who like it fast and enjoyable, just like those rollercoasters. There’s no indoor seating though, just takeout.
- Eli’s Table – just a few doors down from the aforementioned Pizza Depot, Eli’s Table looks an unassuming eatery from the outside, but this family-owned and operated restaurant serves up excellent Mediterranean cuisine and is an instant hit with whoever eats here. There are salads, cheese and chicken burgers if you want them, but the stars of the show are the homemade, authentic shawarmas, souvlakis and falafel dishes that customers are falling over themselves to praise and which the owner clearly – and rightly – takes pride in serving.
- Champion Doner – if you like fast food but are looking for something different to McDonald’s then Champion is another restaurant serving super-tasty grab and go food that you can fill up on before enjoying what Wonderland has to offer. Fresh, tasty Mediterranean cuisine, huge portions, and choices such as shawarmas, doners kebabs, platters, wraps, salads, desserts including baklava and a ton of delicious sides such as tzatziki and hummus – plus the option to eat in or take away – mean Champion is one of the go-to places in Vaughan.
- Kelseys Original Roadhouse – just northeast of the park, Kelseys is something of a Canadian staple and almost guaranteed to satisfy with its selection of belly-warming favourites. Burly burgers, steaks, ‘fall off the bone’ ribs, a fish selection plus a cornucopia of pasta picks, salads, sides, wings and dips are on offer for hungry Wonderlanders, meaning you can load up on lunch so you’re ready to hit the attractions straight away.
Once you’re done thrill-seeking for the day it can often be the case that you need to refuel before heading home, so luckily the streets around Wonderland are jam-packed with places to top you up with food and drink. Here’s our selection of eateries – plus a rather unique bar – to enjoy post-park so your journey home is a content one:
- Sal’s Caribbean Grill House – Caribbean and Canadian fusion food is the order of the day at Sal’s, found just west of Wonderland in a small strip mall on Weston Road. Offering something a little different, the eatery has a full menu of Caribbean and West Indian dishes such as goat and shrimp served on beds of rice, along with an array of appetisers, salads, soups and mains that include jerk wraps, braised oxtail and pan-fried red snapper. Eat-in or take out your choice of rich, flavourful food.
- Dave and Busters – aways south of the park where Highway 400 meets the 407 at the centre of Vaughan, Dave and Buster’s is perfectly placed for a stop-off once you’re done for the day at Wonderland and is conveniently close to Highway 407 TTC subway station for plenty of transit connections. A sports bar on steroids, Dave and Buster’s interior is a cavern of neon, music and wall-mounted televisions where the whole family can relax and choose from an enormous selection of food and drink favourites: there’s everything here from cocktails and beers to ‘Shareable’ and ‘Snackable’ platters, sliders, burgers, steaks and ribs, and so much more.
- Scaddabush Italian Kitchen & Bar – across the 400 from Dave and Buster’s, the Vaughan branch of Scaddabush Italian Kitchen & Bar sits amongst dozens of other restaurants and stores in the enormous retail development on Colossus Drive. A stylish interior, outdoor seating plus an extensive menu of Italian-inspired main dishes such as chicken Parmesan and crusted Pacific snapper, along with a solid clutch of pizzas and pasta, make this a worthwhile stop before you head home.
- St. Louis Bar & Grill – taking up a prime spot across the street from Canada’s Wonderland, the St. Louis Bar & Grill is a diner-cum-sports-bar that has no pretensions other than to make sure you’re full of hearty favourites when you leave. Casual, comfortable and with a smattering of widescreen televisions showing games, you can stuff yourself with wings, tacos, poutines, ribs and plenty more here.
- Zafferano Ristorante – just a couple of miles south of the park, Zafferano is a family-owned and run restaurant where you’ll be made to feel right at home. With lovely décor and a relaxing ambience, the food just adds to the overall feel of sitting in an authentic upscale eatery somewhere in Italy – there’s something for everyone here with their varied and creative menu, offering much-loved Italian classics along with a good selection of inventive dishes that are a twist on the traditional.
- Astoria Shish Kebob House – there are times when, post-rollercoasters, all you need is a filling, delicious hand-to-mouth wrap of Greek goodness, and this is where the Astoria comes in. Tucked a little out of the way in a small mall where Highway 73 meets the 400, it’s worth making the trip due to the great choice of dishes and takeaways, including mixed grills, seafood favourites, sandwiches, sides and salads, as well as those all-important staples, the souvlakis and stuffed pita bread.
- JR Sports Bar & Grill – a new kid on the block having opened in 2018, JR Sports Bar & Grill is aiming for the top and describes itself as ‘one of Ontario’s top sports bars’. Located around two and a half miles south of the park and just off Highway 400, the eatery is bright and spacious with an open-plan interior making it ideal for families and large groups that like a bit of noise and plenty of atmospheres – plus the novelty hookah pipes available to patrons. Food is the usual hearty fare of bar favourites such as wings, burgers, pizzas and kabobs, along with a good choice of appetisers, sides, salads and desserts.
- Tandoori Time – one of the top twenty restaurants in the area, Tandoori Time can be found tucked away in Norwood Plaza, just a few hundred metres east of Wonderland’s parking areas. Serving up delicious halal Pakistani and Indian cuisine, this eatery may be on the small side, but it has some serious credentials, including numerous awards for its food. Dine-in or take out from the extensive choice of dishes, including kebabs, curries, fish meals and biryanis, as well as the full complement of sides, desserts and drinks to wash it all down.
- The Keg – situated just off Highway 73 and a short drive south from the theme park, The Keg Steakhouse & Bar is plush and welcoming, and ideal if you fancy dropping in with a large group of friends or family. Logs of dark wood, lots of low lighting, and lots of delicious shellfish and aged beef sirloins mean The Keg will not disappoint if you’re looking for something casual yet thoroughly enjoyable.
- Canyon Creek Chophouse – another foodie option in the commercial sprawl south of Wonderland, Canyon Creek Chophouse is an upscale steakhouse chain restaurant serving up some terrific dishes and a relaxed, relaxing vibe amongst its wood-heavy interior décor. Eat-in or take it home with you, the menu offers some mouth-watering options, including ‘Carved and Crafted’ items such as steak frites or filet & lobster, ‘Signature Aged Prime Rib’, ‘Handhelds’ (or high-end sandwiches), as well as starters, sharing plates, green dishes, ‘Craft Your Own’ steak meals, plus desserts and drinks.
- Green Dragon CVR – a niche eatery, but for those who enjoy sipping on fantastic craft beers while riding through the landscapes of Red Dead Redemption II, this is the place to go. Literally down the street from the park, Green Dragon is ‘Vaughan’s first video game bar’, a small-but-perfectly-formed stop off where you can hang with friends, relax on sofas, and either buy or play a massive selection of video games while enjoying excellent, locally-brewed craft beer. It’s like being at home before you’ve even arrived there.
Just for Kids
Overdosed on one of the park’s ‘Meal Deals’ and don’t need to eat, but your children are still – somehow, despite all those chicken wings they devoured at lunch – crying out for food? The good news is there are a ton of well-known fast food places around Wonderland for a quick and easy fix for the youngsters. McDonald’s are well represented in the area, as you would expect, with at least four restaurants within a few miles of the park, while eateries such as Hero Certified Burgers, A&W, Pizza Hut and Wendy’s are handily placed for a stop-off if you need something quick. If it’s something to eat before you enter Wonderland, breakfasts are also served at the majority of the aforementioned big-name chains, while a large number of our restaurant choices also serve something for the little ones in the form of separate kids’ menus.
Places to stay
As you would expect in the suburb of a major metropolis, Vaughan and its nearby areas possess an impressive choice of hotels and places to stay, so if your Wonderland visit morphs from a one day visit to a three-day weekend mini-vacation, you’re not going to spend it sleeping in your car. Aloft and Novotel both have hotels just south of the park, while the Hilton and Marriott Residence are a little further towards the junction of Highways 400 and 407, but there are numerous locations towards the centre of Vaughan. Wonderland itself offers a ‘vacation package’, which provides entry to the park plus a choice of nearby hotels, so if it’s a two-day visit with an overnight stay, for example, both your needs are catered for.
Photo: Jeremy Thompson / Flickr