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“Historical gem”

Parkwood National Historic Site
Ranked #1 of 35 things to do in Oshawa
Certificate of Excellence
More attraction details
Attraction details
Owner description: An Autobaron's home of innovation and inspiration, and one of Canada's last grand estates. Immerse yourself in the era and lavish lifestyle of R. S. McLaughlin - founder of GM Canada. Beautifully preserved and so evocative of the jazz age & big band styles in automobiles, fashions, sporting life and garden parties. Get up close and personal with extensive access to historic spaces and fascinating stories of achievement and a life well-lived. Learn about the daily life of the large domestic staff that made this grand estate possible, and take a wander through the staff quarters to get a glimpse into the life of service.
Useful Information: Bathroom facilities, Food available for purchase
Toronto, Canada
Level 5 Contributor
71 reviews
12 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 39 helpful votes
“Historical gem”
Reviewed August 16, 2010

We thought the guided tour for $10 was a bit steep, but we decided to do it anyway because there wasn't much else to do within walking distance. What a delight it was! Our tour guide was knowledgeable and painted a vivid story of the life of R.S. McLaughlin and his family. The rooms are decorated in their original furniture, which spans decades and are a delight to the eye. The tour brought us to approximately 30 of the mansion's 55 homes and lasted about an hour, and was definitely worth it.

The gardens themselves are quite nice and well-groomed in most spots. If you don't have time for the tour, the gardens are worth a visit.

Thank TorontoCanadaEh
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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274 reviews from our community

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English first
Level 1 Contributor
3 reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 4 helpful votes
“A beautiful place you would not expect to find in Oshawa- great location”
Reviewed February 26, 2009

I was surprised to see the other comment on Parkwood that placed it in such a negative light. As a resident of Oshawa, I have been to the site numerous times, and have never had anything less than a pleasant experience.
I have been on the tour, the tearoom, and have attended a wedding of a friend here, and found all areas to be overall, quite enjoyable.
The weddings can be both inside and outside, and the one I went to was outdoors, in August. As the other reviewer mentioned, the service was in the Sunken Garden. The distance is not as far away as was made seen. Also, while the it is true that the site does not provide microphones, I think it is true that you can bring your own things for weddings- they just provide the location.
Also, I am not sure when, but I know that the area has undergone renovations to make it more wheelchair accessible. Other paths have been made and paved, doors are automated, and when I was on a garden tour this summer, I was told that the residence is under a long-term project to make it more wheel-chair accessible. Also, while it is true that more washrooms are needed, I was told that they were planning on adding more facilities... the problem is, that because of the historical integrity of the property, changes can take a long time.
The dinner was pretty decent- somewhat bland. But the caterer was not connected with the mansion itself, from what I understood- so they could not be blamed.
As well, the tents were brought in from elsewhere, I would not expect Parkwood to be responsible for brining in fans.
Also, I learned that Parkwood is not run by the city of Oshawa, but rather a non-profit organization that only recieves limited funding from the city.
While I was there, I did notice that many of the staff were younger, however, I found it incredibly rude to suggest that they were no way professional. My tour guide was intelligent and respectable, and I learned a great deal. Every time I go, even just to look around, the staff is always very kind and interested, and I would definitely recommend the site.
The tours are definitely my favourite aspect. The house is INCREDIBLE! The mansion and history are amazing, and I always bring visiting family and friends here. One of the best, often overlooked, things to do in Oshawa!

1 Thank SarahBrighton
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Level 5 Contributor
37 reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 106 helpful votes
“Beautiful place for events but food and services terrible”
Reviewed July 30, 2007

Early July we attended a wedding at Parkwood Estate in Oshawa, Ontario just outside Toronto. We were excited to see this place. It is the estate home and property of auto baron R. Samuel McLaughlin (founder of General Motors of Canada), many years ago and it's situated on a large city block, multi acre estate that is used for weddings, parties, tours, etc.

Most weddings here in summer, like the one we attended, are outdoors. I believe they have indoor functions too, but not sure of that.

The service was in the SUNKEN GARDEN which was at the extreme corner of the property, a long walk from parking. It was totally exposed to the weather elements and this day was extremely hot and humid, well into 90 degrees F and no breeze. The sunken garden is set up with a gazebo area at the front where the bride & groom sign the register after the service while the guests sit out in the open on churchlike benches. The faciility does not provide microphones for the service and because it is located at a busy traffic corner only the first couple of rows could hear anything the minister said. Not a good start.

After the service everyone moved as quickly as they could for cover from the sun, heat and humidity only to find there are very few park benches available. The walking paths around the areas look nice but are flagstone rocks and you had to be careful about tripping on them. Walking on the grass was safer and more direct but caused some problems for women in heels.

The FORMAL GARDEN was where they had dinner served -- it was in the other extreme corner of the property - quite a hike from the sunken garden and down about 30 stairs with no railings. It was a beautiful location especially with the fountains on, and a large tent beside the fountain was where the dinner was served and dancing. But what a sweatbox! They didn't even have a ceiling fan in the tent to move the air and it spoiled the whole event. Obviously the estate cannot be blamed for the weather, but you would expect a professionally run place to be prepared for all conditions to keep their guests comfortable ... but Parkwood Estate did nothing. Also, because the formal garden area is sunken there were no breezes -- just dead hot, humid air.

Surprisingly, there was little provision for people in wheelchairs and lots of stairs to climb down to the gardens and back up. You had to climb all those stairs and walk about 3 football field lengths just to go to the bathroom (3 stalls for 100 people). Very limited parking on the grounds but you can park at a school across the street on weekends, which increases your walking distances.

The food served was just terrible, and not what was ordered by the wedding organizers. The steaks were small, full of gristle and overcooked. The chicken choice was like rubber. Vegetables were mush and cold. Nobody said anything to the bride and groom, of course, but it was probably $100 a plate and a complete rip-off. I doubt that anyone there would recommend this place for a dinner wedding function.

Parkwood Estate is run by the City of Oshawa, and they are killing it without proper food service and facilities. They need professionals rather than kids, washrooms near the outside function areas and gardens, microphones for speakers, more covered areas in case of extreme sun, heat and rain, and a more genuine attitude for customer service. If you are considering this place for a wedding or special function, I suggest you go elsewhere.

24 Thank MunnyMan
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

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