Category Archives: Camping

Family Glamping

by Julie

In the tradition of Bradgelina (the nicknamed given to the celebrity couple Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie), jeggings (a pant that combines the fit of leggings with the look of a jeans) and tweeps (your “peeps” on twitter), we now have “glamping.”

Glamping is “glamorous camping.” The appeal of glamping is that one gets an immersion into nature but without (what non-campers consider) the annoyances – lack of toilets, uncomfortable sleep, no heat and basic food and drink. Generally, glamping is insanely expensive and accessible only to adults.

As example of how luxurious glamping can be, take a look at one of the tents at British Columbia’s Clayoquot Wilderness Resort, where celebrities like Scarlett Johansson have been rumoured to stay:

Photo credit: Clayoquot Wilderness Resort

As you can plainly see, this is far nicer than many five-star hotels I’ve stayed at! A three-night all-inclusive stay here, however, will cost more than $5,000 per person in high-season. So, yes, I’d love it. But it’s not happening any time in my future unless I win the lotto.

However, I was recently introduced to an amazing place that I will definitely be taking my family to. And if you’re like me – love nature, but simply don’t have the skills to survive out there – then I thought you might like to know about it too. Québec’s Zoo sauvage of St-Félicien offers a “Walking adventure in the Land of the Caribou” experience that is so ideal for a family that I can barely contain myself!

Whether you’re a grandparent, a camper wanna-be or just someone who wants to share an up-close nature experience with your children, the Zoo sauvage makes it all very accessible. The complete experience comes at a price tag of $265 per person, and is recommended for ages 6 and up. Although pricey, I see it being comparable to spending a full day at Disney Land, with accommodations, food and activities.  

First, you and your family will be provided with a guided tour through the wildlife trails in your own private vehicle with a guide. On these trails, I saw elk, moose, black bears, wolves, bison, and deer — all living and doing their own thing in a natural environment. It was really exciting to see these animals in such close proximity. One person would shout out “I see one!” and then everyone on the little bus would jump to their feet amid “oohs” and “aahhhs.”

Photo credit: Julie Harrison

For lunch, you will stop into a pioneer-era farm, where Philias Tremblay will greet you and show you around his property. While at his farmhouse, you’ll be treated to a traditional meal of soupe gourgannes (broadbean soup), roast pork and potatoes, and blueberry pie.

Photo credit: Julie Harrison

From there you leave “civilized life” and head into the forest. As you hike towards your campground, the guide enthusiastically teaches the kids (and adults!) about the different flora and fauna of the boreal forest until you arrive to the camp. While it’s no “celebrity glamp,” it certainly seemed like heaven to me. I walked into my traditional canvas prospector tent and immediately lay down because it was so inviting! A mattress and sleeping bag had been laid on top of a bed of balsam needles. I closed my eyes and inhaled the scent. In one corner of the tent there was a stove, while another provides a basin of water and hand-made blueberry goat’s milk soap.

In the picture below, you can see one of the prospector tents in the background as well as the center campfire area. And yes, that is a caribou in the picture that everyone is ignoring! You start to get so used to them wandering around that they just seem commonplace.

Photo credit: Zoo sauvage

Before dinner, you and the family can take a sunset canoe ride on a nearby lake. While the adults paddle, the kids can play “spot the animal.” We were surprised to find an enormous moose hidden behind some bushes on an island and we also saw the largest black bear I’d ever seen rambling along the side of the lake.

Back at our camp our guide (whom I adored), started a camp fire and offered us each a beautiful cold beer while she began to prepare dinner. Yes, you read that right – you don’t need to cook or clean out in this neck of the wilderness! That night, after I’d stuffed myself full of fresh salmon trout, potatoes, vegetables, and sugar pie, I sipped my wine and knew I’d found my type of camping!

After dinner, the guide invites her guests to don some night-vision goggles and go animal trekking. Unfortunately, it was pouring rain on the night we were there, so I didn’t get to do this activity. But I would imagine it’d be the highlight for any child.

In the morning though, I did get to go trekking for a moose in an activity called “telemetry.” One moose in the area has been outfitted with a GPS necklace. The guide lifts an antenna device into the air and the group tracks down where the moose is based on the loudness of the frequency it beeps back. (Okay, so this is not exactly the best technical definition, but I think you get my drift!). Here is a photo of our guide as we embarked on our “hunt”:


Photo credit: Julie Harrison

After this, the group starts to pack up. Your luggage is taken back to the front reception and you are able to have a “backstage” view of the zoo – areas where regular guests are not allowed, the most interesting of which is the veterinarian building. Here, one gets a chance to be very close to the animals and even pet some of them.  

After this, you and you and your family are free to wander about the entire zoo. Celebrating its 50th year, the zoo, in and of itself, is worth at least a whole day’s visit. Particularly fun for kids are its petting zoo area, splash park decked out with super-sized insects, and a viewing area where you can see the beavers inside their lodge. For the adults, getting to the chance to witness two polar bear cubs romping about with their mother was a major highlight.

For more info, check out the first 2 minutes of this YouTube clip and feel free to ask me any questions in the comments and I’ll do my best to answer them!

Julie is a married mother of two children aged 8 and 2. Although she used to be a big camping buff, time has changed her and she has been recently trying to resurrect this love for sleeping outdoors. You can see her daughter’s tips for camping with kids on Kids in the Capital, or read more at her personal blog Coffee with Julie.

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Filed under Camping, Out of town ideas

Summer of Awesome – Backyard Camping

by Lynn

It’s no secret that I despise camping. I’ve blogged about it many, many times. I hate being outside, I hate cooking over two tiny burners with a pint-size pot, I HATE the bugs. I really hate getting up in the middle of the night and having to make my way with a flashlight through a cloud of mosquitoes to the “comfort station.” Assuming there even IS one.

My kids have been camping twice with their much hardier father, and as a result, they’ve had a taste of the joys of sleeping outside. And of course, they love it (maybe I brought home the wrong spawn from the hospital?). This summer, they bugged us and bugged us to go camping.

I believe I’ve come up with a genius solution: backyard camping!

Here’s what you’ll need to do.

1. Check the weather forecast and pick out a nice, sunny, warm day for camping. No need to book your site months in advance and take a gamble that it won’t rain – your private site is ready and waiting for you whenever you want. Just say the word and it’s yours. This must be what Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie feel like.

2. Get up early and pitch your tent in your backyard. Then kick back with your first tall lemonade of the day while the kids spend an hour running in and out of the tent like it’s the greatest thing since sliced bread.

The Tent

3. Reflect on your brilliance.

4. My kids like camping for two reasons only, and the first one is the ability to gather a huge amount of sticks from the surrounding woods. So now’s the time to take them for a walk in the woods, in a nearby park or in the green belt. We are lucky to live within walking distance of a few green belt trails – you can see a full map of them here and get driving/parking information here. We like to bring chunks of fruit and baggies of birdseed to scatter around, and sometimes we’re lucky enough to catch sight of birds, ducks, or chipmunks. If you’re really ambitious you can take them out to Gatineau Park, but if you’re willing to go hiking in Gatineau Park, why don’t you just go camping for real, FREAKS.

The Woods

5. Head home for lunch. Make lunch in your own kitchen. Use your own bathroom. Reflect on your genius.

6. The afternoon is time for the second thing my kids love about camping: the beach! We live closest to Britannia Beach, and we like it – the beach is really nice and they have a big play structure set back from the water a ways, so you can alternate between fun in the sand and snacks in the shade. You can get information about all the city’s beaches here. Be sure to check the Swim Advisory Site before heading out to make sure that the beaches are open – the city site is updated every morning around 10 a.m. or so with details on the bacteria levels.

The Beach
The Beach

7. Head home for a BBQ dinner. Hot dogs, hamburgers, and corn on the cob will serve you well. Be sure to eat outside, at your patio table or even a picnic on the grass in front of your tent. Afterwards, finish up with smores – not having a fire isn’t a problem, you can make them in your microwave. Here’s my recipe: put a graham cracker on a plate and top with 8-10 chocolate chips. Microwave on high for around 15 seconds. Add a big marshmallow on top – it’s best to place it on its side – and then microwave for 12-13 seconds on high (your kids will get a kick out of watching the marshmallow swell up like a balloon). Remove from the microwave, top with another graham cracker and enjoy with many, many wet cloths nearby.

Indoor Smores

Mmmm. Gal Smiley prefers her smores made with two chocolate chip cookies instead of graham crackers and chocolate chips, and you really can’t argue with that, either.

8. As it gets dark, light some candles and break out some board games or books. Let the kids run around with flashlights, they LOVE that.

9. Time to sleep. Now, those that are truly wimpy can use a real bed, but even a dedicated non-camper like myself can handle a night in the tent. Either way, if you need to get up in the night for a pee, I can recommend a close, clean, private “comfort station.”

10. Get up in the morning to a fun breakfast made in your own kitchen. Reflect on your smartitude.

I almost forgot a critical component of backyard camping – unplugging. No computers, no phones, no video games, no movies. It will be hard to resist – the family room couch is RIGHT THERE – but it’s camping. There has to be SOME hardship.

My kids do still pine for the real thing, but backyard camping is just about as close to nature as I am willing to get. So for that reason, it’s a Summer of Awesome Must Do, and my kids can love it or lump it.

Lynn is mom to three tombliboos aged 7, 5, and 3, and blogs over at Turtlehead.

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Filed under Activities for kids, Camping, Free

Surviving the cottage with kids

by Vicky

On a bit of a whim, I booked a week’s holiday at a cottage with a friend and her family. I found it on www.cottagelink.com, and it looked beautiful. One of the features that sold me instantly was that it was owned by a family with young children, so everything we needed was already provided: highchair, crib, change table, toys, toys and more toys, picnic table, wagon, playstructure etc. Also the water was only a foot deep off the dock, so despite not having a beach, it was shallow enough to enjoy with my 1 year old.

This was my first experience renting a cottage with kids. I’ve been lucky to have friends with cottages and have enjoyed many summer holidays by the lake since I was a teenager. But this time was different. It was great to see the kids enjoying the water and playing outside, but it wasn’t what I would call a relaxation vacation. Someone still has to cook, clean and get the kids in bed so it’s not exactly a break for the parents.

That being said, I definitely think I’ll try it again next summer, and I’ll be better prepared for it with this list of tips on how to survive a week at the cottage with kids.

  1. Portable DVD player – your best friend. If you don’t have a built in DVD player in your car, this is the next best thing. Throw a movie on, with headphones, and you’re guaranteed a quiet trip. Also this is great for a bit of quiet time in the afternoon if the cottage has no TV or cable.
  2. Plan your meals ahead of time. Make a quick menu for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and pack food items you already have at home. Make a grocery list and pick up what you need before you go or in the closest town if that’s possible (or if space in your car is limited). You don’t need to stick to the menu per say, but when kids are hungry you won’t be running around trying to figure out what to cook for lunch.
  3. Do not over pack clothes. I brought WAY too much for the kids – a different outfit for every day, plus extras. What happened was that my son stayed in his bathing suit all day long with a pair of crocs. Shirts can be rung out and hung to dry, and most cottage towns have a Laundromat for emergencies (like being thrown up on, twice!)
  4. Bring long-legged PJs for evenings. Cottages can be sweltering during the day, but get cool at night.
  5. Swimming tires kids out! If you are trying to get a nap out of your kids, get them into the lake just before nap or bed time. If you can also give them a bath in the lake, you’ll speed up the bedtime process (speaking of which can anyone recommend a good biodegradable baby shampoo or soap?)
  6. Bring a box of activities to keep them busy. I brought colouring books, activity books and paints which were all used. Why not try making a nature scavenger hunt that you can work on during the week?
  7. If you are cottaging with friends, it helps to have similar aged kids so they can play together. My 3 year old got bored quickly with the 3 babies he had as playmates.
  8. Explore the nature! There are so many learning opportunities around that will keep kids busy – go for nature walks, look for frogs, or feed the fish bread off the dock.
  9. Expect that normal routines may not be easy to follow when you’re away. Bed times may be later in a new environment, middle of the night wake ups will happen, and all this can make for cranky kids during the day. I would say try to go with the flow, and once the kids are in bed crack open a beer or a cooler and relax.
  10. One more thing, if you are going to a cottage this summer with your kids, or thinking about it, please be water wise!

What are your tips for an enjoyable cottage vacation?

Vicky is the mom to 3.5 year old son named Joel and 1 year old daughter named Mieka. You can read her blog at blog Some Kind of Wondermom.

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Filed under Camping, Parenting tips

Daytripping – camping without the camping!

by Shawna

Did you love to go camping as a kid? The day at the lake/swimming pool broken up by lunch at a brownish-red-painted picnic table under the trees, and treks along dusty, pine-scented paths to the local campground store for icy cold bottles of pop and dime freezies (that you could get by returning the bottles for the deposit)?

Now that you’re grown-up, and you know the adult hassles that come with camping – the packing of clothes for hot/cold/wet/sunny weather and water/non-water activities that may or may not involve hiking, the organizing of coolers to make sure everyone stays nourished and hydrated, the drive to and from potentially far-flung destinations, and the laundry that comes home with you, not to mention the difficulty of getting the kids (and yourself!) to sleep in an unfamiliar environment (often a tent that has to be put up and taken down at your campsite, then put up again to dry thoroughly once you’re home before being taken down again and packed away) – you may not relish the idea of camping as much, particularly when you only have a limited amount of days you can book off from work in a year. Camping can be doubly daunting when your kids are still in diapers, but are mobile and seem to lack any kind of self-preservation instinct that stops them from wandering off cliffs or straight into the lake.

If you are an intrepid soul that has no idea what I’m talking about because you think nothing of portaging your way into the middle of Algonquin park to take your triplet toddlers canoe-camping, you will likely want to skip this entry, but if you’re like me and the second paragraph sounds eerily familiar, this information may change your life: you can go to a campground for the day and not, you know, actually camp.

Just imagine it: no tents to erect, no camp dishes to haul out – you can get by with a cooler of drinks and sandwiches for one day – and you know what the weather will be like because you only need to hear the forecast for the day you go, so no packing of raingear. You tire out the kids and everyone sleeps in their own, welcoming bed at the end of the day.

A quick search of the internet has turned up a number of places with pools and/or freshwater beaches within an hour of Ottawa. Day admission fees seem to run about 10 to 12 bucks for a family of two adults and two kids, and swimming and use of casual recreation facilities are included.

For example (and these are just a few of many – check for yourself!), Sandy Mountain is only ½ hour from where I live in Barrhaven, and has both a large pool and wading pool, as well as a games room, a playground, and a place to buy ice cream. You can play horseshoes for free, or pay the extra fees to mini-putt or even full-on golf. (They don’t post prices for just the day because they don’t consider themselves to be a public pool, but they do have day rates if you ask.)

Wildwood is not much further, and I enjoyed many a weekend day in the pool there with my grandmother when I was a child (the pool there is better for older kids who can reach the bottom in the shallow end and/or swim well) though, alas, they now only allow non-campers during weekdays (Fridays only until noon) and only for 2 hour stints.  

On the July long weekend we’re meeting up with my in-laws a little further afield: Pleasure Park near Mallorytown, which has a water trampoline, a dock for swimming, and large playground.

I’m not saying you should never go on any overnight camping adventures – it’s a fantastic thing for kids to experience and worth the effort. But you don’t have to wait until that expedition to Kilimanjaro; while you’re doing all the planning for your Big Trip, you can sample the camping life with daytrips here and there. It’s cheap, it’s fun, it’s easy, and it’ll make memories that last. What could be better?

Shawna is mom to 4-year-old Sage and 2-year-old Harris.  She has  been writing online since 2003, and her latest project is a fledgling photography blog.  She never appreciated the work her parents had to do to take her camping until she had kids of her own.

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Filed under Activities for kids, Camping, Out of town ideas, Outings, Parks

Camping with kids

by Julie

Did you give up your camping adventures the minute diapers entered your home? Ya, me too.

I had never camped as a child, only as an adult. I fell in love with camping for:

•    The satisfying feeling that would come over me from having pushed my body hard from the hiking, canoeing or portaging to get to the site.
•    The heavenly feeling of being in the middle of nowhere with nothing to do but read my book or take a nap.
•    The romantic nights, sitting around a campfire sipping red wine.

Now, review that list again and imagine putting children in the picture. Doesn’t work, does it? All the reasons I loved camping … *poof* … gone.

But recently, my husband and I have headed back into the outdoors – two kids in tow. Although our much-loved list is now adapted, we haven’t had to give it all up entirely.

•    If you’ve been a hard core camper, the notion of “car camping” is depressing indeed! But rather than throw in the towel, seek out quiet, more rustic sites (hint: look for sites that don’t offer facilities like showers). These will have far few people and don’t line up camping sites in a parking-lot style. Instead, each site has been carefully developed for some privacy and remains treed. (You can see photos of a camping site we recently stayed at in Algonquin Park here.)
•    Take turns with your spouse to allow for some quiet time. One parent takes the kids for a hike or simply stays as the alert and awake supervisor, while the other is free to doze off or get completely absorbed in a book.
•    After all that time in the fresh air, your children will be tired and ready to drop into bed! But, unfortunately, so are you. Try hard to stay up for at least 15 minutes of time together – alone – cuddling and staring at the camp fire, before you join the kids in sleepy-land.

There are plenty of great tip-lists available via a simple google search on camping with kids, so I won’t even try to replicate them.

Instead, I will share with you a list of tips directly from my seven-year-old daughter.

•    Go for hikes! Go on an animal safari and look for garden snakes.
•    If not in public, let your kids swim nudie!
•    Let the kids get as dirty as they want.
•    Collect sticks and make a tipi or a fort.
•    Let the kids read as late as they want!
•    Bring your two-wheeler bike.
•    Make s’mores after dinner.

And, last but not least, she offered these wise words of wisdom to camping parents:

•    Don’t be worry warts!

Julie is an Ottawa local and mother of two. Her personal blog is Coffee with Julie.

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Filed under Activities for kids, Camping, Parenting tips

Camping at the KOA

by Joanne

Watching the sunset by the fire with the kids while they roast marshmallows and cook spider dogs!  Nature trail walks to pick up treasures (rocks,leaves and twigs)! Watching a chipmunk steel our peanut butter toast! These memories are all part of our family summer adventures!

We love to camp!  My husband loves the smell of his Coleman stove coffee, the sound of crickets and frogs and the crackle of the campfire!  He loves it all… but I won’t stay in a tent!  I won’t sleep on the ground and get that close to nature.  We can’t afford an RV right now… so you may be wondering how we do it… no, we don’t camp in the backyard – I will let you in on our little secret.   The KOA!

A few years ago, we found the perfect comprise to my husband’s desire to be close to nature and my desire to sleep on in bed.  Most KOA’s have these wonderful cabins for rent – one room Kabins (for up to 4 people), two room  Kabins (for up to 6 people) some have cottages and lodges for even more amenities, some include picnic tables and fire grills.

They are wonderful – one year it rained – we had a blast staying dry in the cabin doing crafts, napping and watching others pack up and head home.

KOA’s are great for families – most have hiking trails, some of pools and jacuzzi’s or lakes and there are lots of organized activities for the kids.

They are also located all over – we stayed at a KOA when we visited Storyland and also when we visited the 1000 Islands.  All you need to bring is a sleep bag, bath and hand towels and your toiletries.  If you are going to eat at the campsite, you may want to bring your camping stove if one is not included in the rental.

We always have an amazing time and we are looking forward to our next camping adventure – this year with our new puppy!

Joanne the proud mom of Amélie (8 years old) and Mathieu (5 years).  She is new at blogging and you can find her at Our Money Pit.

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Filed under Camping, Outings