I have been wanting to check out the Vaughan Mills mall http://www.vaughanmills.com/ for quite some time. So when I discovered that Build-a-Bear http://www.buildabear.ca/ has a store there, I jumped at the chance to go seeing as this is where I decided we would buy the supplies for Little A's birthday party.
First I'll start by saying Build-a-Bear is a very cool concept! You can do on location birthday parties at their stores, which we are not doing since the Vaughan location is the closest one to downtown Toronto and is almost 30 minutes away. So instead, we bought the bears and some white t-shirts for each of them and the kids will decorate and personalize the t-shirts for their bear. For free, each bear comes with a birth certificate so each child can name their bear, and a little cardboard house that you can put together.
But the possibilities at this place are endless! You have a wide variety of stuffies to choose from, and then you can customize your stuffie with an astonishing array of accessories: sports equipment, shoes, elaborate outfits and costumes, hats, sunglasses, sports cars, beds, etc. So say you have a kid who is obsessed with hockey. You can choose a stuffie and then suit it up like a hockey player. The girls went bananas in this place! In fact, when Little A saw the bear-carriers they had (i.e. like Baby Bjorn style baby carriers), she HAD to have one, so we bought it for her as her birthday gift which she'll get on her birthday.
We were also quite impressed with the mall. It is mostly outlet stores of big brands like Tommy Hillfiger, Mexx, Gap, Banana Republic, Old Navy, etc. Unfortunately, because we got to the mall so late (Little A actually napped on Saturday for the first time on a weekend in ages!), and spent so much time at the bear place, that we didn't have a chance to check out any other stores. Instead, we took the hungry girls to the Pickle Barrel there and bought them dinner.
As far as chain restaurants go, the Pickle Barrel www.picklebarrel.ca is pretty good in terms of quality and healthy options. Even the kids menu has better options than most other places. In fact, a whole segment of their menu is devoted to healthier options, developed by nutritional consultant, Rose Reisman. These items are generally low in fat, and made with whole grains (like brown rice) and the calorie content is listed on the menu.
I was able to request that Big A's tuna sandwich be made on whole wheat bread and we ordered her the side of veggies option, along with a glass of milk. Littles A got a huge platter of scrambled eggs that she gobbled down, along with fresh fruit and potato latkas (which she didn't touch). Unfortunately, I could only order her "multigrain" toast, which looked more like caraway rye, actually, and was most definitely not whole grain.
It has a huge menu and lots of options, so its a good place to take the kids because just about everyone can find something to suit their tastes.
Generally, I am not the biggest fan of malls. Being just 5 feet 2 inches, and somewhat claustraphobic, I easily get antsy when they are crowded and I always find them overheated. But as far as malls go, we were pretty impressed. Vaughan Mills is spacious, clean and kid-friendly. Even Adam said that we absolutely have to get back there to check out the other stores!