Category Archives: Out of town ideas

McLaurin Bay

by Annie

Last summer, the kids and I stopped briefly at the the playground at Parc Martin Larouche in Gatineau (rue Notre Dame at rue Joseph Roy). Julian was 5 and Emma was 2. We didn’t stay for very long because it really was a “big kids” park and Emma wasn’t able to climb up to go down the slides. We noticed that there was a nature trail starting at the playground, but there were too many mosquitoes to venture into the marshy woods at that time of year.

With all of the rain we’ve been getting lately, we were anxious to get out and enjoy the outdoors this weekend. Since Emma is a year older and the mosquito season is over, we thought it would be fun to check out this park and trail again. So we packed a picnic lunch and headed out.

When we arrived, the kids checked out the playground. There are large rock climbing walls that you have to scale to get to the top to access the big windy slides. There are also lots of things to hang from (like monkey bars) and balance on, making it a great park for kids to test their abilities. There are a few swings too (two baby swings, two regular swings), but the highlight really is the play structure.

Once the kids had played for a while, we decided to check out the trail. The trail is 1.6km one-way or 3.2km round trip. It starts from the playground and goes through the woods and across wetlands of McLaurin Bay (Baie McLaurin) before coming out at the Ottawa River. At the start of the trail, there is a sign indicating the number of different species of flora and fauna that can be found along the trail. There are hundreds of different species of birds, fish, amphibians, reptiles, mammals, insects and plants. As I read off the statistics to the kids, they became a little bit anxious that we might run into lots of scary animals along the trail.

The first part of the trail winds through the woods and the colours were brilliant. The next segment is a bridge across the marsh at the edge of McLaurin Bay. The bridge is a series of floating docks with railings held together by a cable, so the bridge moves up and down in the water as you step from one piece of the bridge onto the next. The next part of the trail goes by several lookouts. One of them is a deck overlooking an area populated by beavers (no lodges/dams to be seen today) and the other is a tower with a view of the whole bay. The final segment goes through the woods again and comes out between a few homes in a residential area by the Ottawa River.

I had briefly considered taking our picnic lunch with us on the trail and eating it when we got to the Ottawa River. I’m glad we didn’t though, because the end of the trail at the Ottawa River is all private property except for the very narrow exit of the trail onto the river-side road (Boul. Hurtubise), so there isn’t really anywhere to sit and have a picnic.

All along the trail there is signage indicating the types of birds, fish, trees, and other things that you can find in the nature reserve. The kids enjoyed looking at the pictures and also pointing out the things they spotted along the trail, including different types of squirrels, a dead mouse, a fuzzy caterpillar, interesting mushrooms growing in a tree and plenty of red “Canada” leaves.

Once we got back to the playground, we took out our picnic lunch and ate at one of the picnic tables right next to the play structure. The kids came and went from the table, taking a few bites and then heading off to go down the slide again, and then coming back for more.

The one downside, and perhaps the reason we didn’t stay any longer, is that there are no washrooms at the park. So when nature called, we went on our way…

Annie is an Ottawa-area mom of 2 kids. She blogs about the art and science of parenting at the PhD in Parenting blog.

My Kids Funky Closet
Sunday October 17th 10am- 3pm
The Glebe Community Center
175 Third Ave @ Lyon St in The Glebe



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

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.


Filed under Camping, Out of town ideas

The Richmond Fair: Fall Fair Series Part 2

By Shawna

 Last weekend saw your intrepid heroine at the Spencerville Fair.  I made it just in time for the last round of the greased pig contest, then met up with a friend and we took my kids through the Small Animal and Poultry Barn before checking out a couple of the horse competitions.  We were contemplating hitting the midway when my husband arrived with his friend (such a social day!), and they ferried the kids off to go on a few rides and play a few games, though my youngest eventually ended up at the tractor pull and my daughter got to ride the kiddie roller coaster and cajole her uncle Bob into pretty much anything she wanted.  Since both my friend Raceytay and I are into the photo thing, this freed us up to wander around and take some pics.  In addition to the de rigeur shots of my kids on the carousel, we both ended up with, among others, shots of candied apples; mine were caramel while hers were the classic red sugar.


Other highlights: the classic fair food (pogos, Beavertails, fries ‘n hotdogs, soda, GIANT multicoloured lollipop), a high-diving show, watching my husband hit a sensor with a giant sledgehammer to win inflatable aliens for my kids, and trying to shoot the star out of a piece of paper with a BB gun (I can never resist trying at least once).

 This weekend we’ll be hitting the Richmond Fair.  If it runs true to form, there will be a petting zoo, a show by Little Ray’s Reptiles, an activity centre for the kids (last year, in addition to the usual music and drawing, they could try to identify full-sized plastic horse’s bones based on comparing them to a skeleton model), and a good display of antique tractors.  Though we no longer need it, it’s nice to know they have a space for both baby-changing and breastfeeding too.

 Maybe we’ll see you there!

 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 loves fall fair season as much as her kids.


Filed under Activities for kids, Attractions, Events, Out of town ideas, Outings

The Spencerville Fair

By Shawna

It’s that time of year again: the harvest ripens and, to celebrate, rural communities everywhere put on agricultural fall fairs.  This weekend is the Spencerville Fair (about an hour south of Ottawa off the 416), and a few years ago our family started a tradition of going. 

 There are tons of things to do for kids.  In addition to the midway and candy floss that come to mind whenever you think of even the smallest, parking lot fair, there are tractor pulls, animal displays, horse riding competitions, farm-oriented displays, awarding of ribbons for baked goods, and a corn-boil.  There’re are also special events aimed at just kids: Little Ray’s Reptile Zoo always puts on a display, last year there were acrobats, and this year we’re planning on getting there in time for the greased pig chase at 3pm.  

 Alas, the pumpkin and squash crop did not thrive at our place this summer, but last year my daughter Sage even entered a pumpkin in the giant pumpkin contest and got a ribbon for 5th place!  Next year we’re going to build raised beds and try to scoop some actual prize money.

Too late to make it to the Spencerville Fair?  Next week is the Richmond Fair (which has a special section put aside for kids only, and a breastfeeding area), and the week after is the Carp Fair.

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 loves fall fair season as much as her kids.


Filed under Activities for kids, Attractions, Out of town ideas

Out of town activities: Granby Zoo

by Vicky

Recently we took a trip to the Granby Zoo, and LOVED it. I’m pretty sure I can speak for my whole family and say we can’t wait to go back again. On a scale of 1-10, this place is an ELEVEN.

Granby is about a 3 hour drive from Ottawa, just past Montreal. We thought about doing the trip in one day, to avoid a potentially sleepless night, trying to get the kids to sleep in a hotel room without waking each other up. In the end we decided to just go for it and spend the night. I’m glad we did.

The drive down went well, except for the major grid lock we got stuck in waiting to cross the Champlain bridge off the island. We were stuck for about 45 mins, and the kids were just starting to get fed up by the time we made it through. Luckily we were traveling with friends who were a bit ahead of us and warned us of the upcoming traffic.

We stayed at the Hotel Granbyen, which had a zoo package deal. We paid $210 for a one night stay, 3 zoo passes (kids 2 and under are free) and breakfast the next morning. I don’t think I’d stay at the Granbyen again, but there are several hotels in Granby and most of them have zoo packages, so shop around. We got to the zoo around 11:30, and ate a quick lunch in the parking lot. I packed sandwiches, drinks, fruit, hummus & pita and some cookies.

Zoo Tip #1 – Bring a picnic lunch, or even a cooler! The zoo encourages you to bring your own food, and you can even rent a wagon, double stroller or single stroller while you are there. We saw a lot of people towing wagons with coolers on top. We rented a double stroller for $10 for the whole day and it was well worth the money! The kids all took turns having a ride when they got tired from all the walking.

Zoo Tip #2 – Pick up a map and a passport at the front gates. There are stamps throughout the zoo that you can collect, similar to the Children’s Museum at the Museum of Civilization. Sadly we missed the passports on our way in.

Our first stop was Africa where we saw giraffes, zebras, flamingos and hippos. I really enjoyed the hippo river, which you can go behind to get a close-up view of the hippos under water. Along our way there were many installations like the Madagascar style plane, or a desert jeep, for the kids to climb on.

Next stop was the rides park. Can you imagine how exciting it was to find out that most of the rides were FREE? The kids hopped on the airplanes, then ran to the bumper cars, then on the bus ride, and we finished off with a train ride. We had a quick snack and then headed over to South America.

Zoo tip #3 The ice cream in the amusement park is REALLY good and not very expensive!

The kids were excited about taking the Orient Express elevated train, so we all hoped on for an aerial view of Asia. There was an extra charge for this ride, but it was fun. You can park your stroller at the train gate.

After this train ride, we popped into the petting zoo! This was lots of fun for the kids, since they were allowed to climb right in this large gated pen to get right up close with the pigs and goats! The animals ate hay right out of our hands.

Next it was time for dinner. We decided to eat in Le Marche, which I thought was a restaurant. It turned out to be a food court, and the selection was not great, and not very healthy. Next time I think I’ll pack extra food so we can have a picnic for dinner as well.

It was getting close to 6:00pm and the kids started to get cranky, but I really wanted to check out the water park. So we sent the husbands back to the car to get our swimsuits, and started walking toward the water park. I am SO happy we decided to go, that was the best part of our visit!

Zoo tip #4 You can go back and forth between the zoo and the water park as often as you want!

We could have spent the entire day at the water park, it was like being at a resort! With older kids, I would even recommend buying a 2 day pass to the zoo and going back the next day to spend the whole day playing in the water. Joel loved the wave pool, and had a blast jumping in the waves. We didn’t even have a chance to check out the splash pad, or the lazy river.

All in all I can’t say enough good things about this place. The price, the cleanliness, the quality of care for the animals, the installations. It was definitely the highlight of our summer!

The zoo is open all winter, and they also have a special Halloween themed events on the last three weekends of October. For information about hotels and camp sites, you can call the Tourist Information Center at 1-866-472-6292 or visit the Granby Bromont Tourist website. I would recommend checking out the map on the he Granby Zoo’s website before you go!

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.


Filed under Attractions, Out of town ideas

Fear and Loathing at Calypso

by Allison

We’ve been sticking close to Ottawa this summer due to my son playing competitive (read: constant) baseball.  My husband had the week off this week, so we planned a couple of activities with the kids, including going here. This would be our grand family adventure, our glorious summer pilgrimage. We would arrive early, we would leave late. We would laugh mockingly as we defied  gravity and tighten our sphincters in the face of danger. It was going to be epic.

Did I mention that my kids are totally lame?

Okay, that’s unfair. They’re not daredevils, they’ve never been daredevils, I have no grounds for expecting them to be daredevils. The distinctly un-epic nature of this adventure was a combination of the unknowable and the unfortunate. I thought the park might have some slides that fell somewhere between zebra-striped four-foot-long kiddy rides and scream-til-your-throat-bleeds gut-wrenchers. But it really didn’t. Unless your seven and ten year old are adrenaline-junkie thrill-seekers (which I realize a good number of them are), there just isn’t a lot for them there. I have a policy where once a year or so I push the kids to do something that scares them because I know how great it feels once you do it. This policy went horribly wrong in the Midway-Octopus-Ride Incident of ’07, (and don’t think Eve failed to bring that up today), but usually it works out splendidly. So there we were in the lineup for the Canyon Rafting ride, because we could all go together and hey, four family members in a raft, what could go wrong? Okay, it was a little embarrassing standing there with Eve sobbing in terror while I patted her back saying ‘it’ll be fine, it’ll be fine’, and then Angus said ‘my stomach feels a little sick’ which is not-terribly-sophisticated code for ‘actually I just realized I’m scared crapless’, but we persevered! We stuck it out! We stooped to the ignominious level of telling them how much it cost to get us all in here and chucking them in the raft and hoping they’d be too scared to complain on the way down.

It was… okay. It was less of a fiasco than the Octopus Ride Incident. However, Eve was most emphatically done after that. We  spent a bit of time in the wave pool and had our picnic.  We went down the Jungle Run a few times, which was lovely. Then Angus said he would go down the Fast Track with me. Halfway up the stairs I realized he had really just said it to make me happy and was wearing his ‘I’m approaching the steps to the guillotine’ expression, so I told him I had already pushed him to do one thing today and I wasn’t going to do it again, but I really hoped he would do it because I knew he’d enjoy it and feel great after. So of course he gritted his teeth and conquered his fear and loved me for it, right? Oh hell no, I went down that sucker ALL BY MYSELF.

Also, note to self? Don’t use Neutrogena sunscreen next time. We got home and Eve looked at me and said “you got sunburned, Sister. I mean… Mother.”

Oh well. It was an adventure. Of sorts. I did eventually apologize for tossing around the word ‘wussy’ a little extravagantly (“How can you call me that? You’re my mother!” “I know. I’m the mother of a couple of WUSSIES.”) Truthfully, I wouldn’t have done any of that stuff when I was their age either. Thankfully, it never would have occurred to my parents to spend that unholy amount of money in order to give me that opportunity. It’s not my kids’ fault we clearly have too much disposable income.

A few people told me they have heard nothing but negative reviews of Calypso.  I don’t know — the weather was great when we went and it wasn’t too crowded.  If my kids had actually been willing to go on any slides, it would have been a great day, nearly worth the admittedly high price.  I would advise buying tickets online to skip the ticket line-up, remembering to bring cash for the parking (which I agree with everyone is stupid), and packing a cooler which you can leave by the wave pool, since on-site food is naturally overpriced.  And only bring your kids if they’re the kind who laugh in the face of danger.  My kids tend to prefer to paint pink hearts on the face of danger and invite it home to watch Vacation With Derek.

Tomorrow? They can play with the hose in the front yard. Safe, unthreatening and free.

Allison occasionally looks up from her book to parent her two children.  She blogs over at Bibliomama.


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

Summer of Awesome – Carp Farmer’s Market

by Lynn

I grew up in the Kitchener-Waterloo area of Ontario, and there are a couple of farmers’ markets there that are legend in my mind. We’d go several times a summer and it was always so cool — looking at all the produce, getting fresh meat and to-die-for cheeses, scamming the odd baked treat out of my mother. Going to market was a lot of fun for me and ever since we’ve had kids of our own, I’ve been looking for a market to call home.

This summer we gave the Carp Farmers’ Market a spin, and it was pretty good. There’s no question the food was plentiful and varied and amazing. We bought some of these multi-coloured carrots, which I think are kind of a scam, but still got the kids excited about vegetables, so can’t argue with that.

Rainbow Carrots

It’s not a huge place but there are dozens of stalls selling all kinds of goods. Even though there’s not a lot of walking, it’s very stroller friendly, so feel free to bring one along – to hold your kid or your purchases. It’s free to get in and parking is free, but you’ll need lots of money on hand as this is a cash-only kind of place, and also, it’s not the Superstore. Things are on the pricey side – bunches of carrots were going for around $4, the last strawberries of the season for $5, giant zucchini were around $2. Much more than you’d pay at the supermarket, but I can promise you that the food is a) fresh, b) local, and c) delicious.


Also, there are lots of really different fruits and vegetables here, and that makes it fun and interesting. Almost everything was organic, as well.

Rainbow Chard

I don’t know how to shop at a farmers’ market. I’m not usually there to get groceries, I’m there to explore and pick up anything that looks really tasty or unique. So as a result, we filled a whole bag with veggies and it did cost a pretty penny. But oh, SO GOOD.


We happened to be there the weekend of the Garlic Festival, which meant there were at least five times as many people as usual, and SCADS of garlic.


There’s lots of other things to buy there, too, like chocolates, cakes, fresh baked bread, flowers, elk or buffalo meat, pies (I bought a sausage roll, I LOVE sausage rolls), fudge, and crafts.


I bought my girls a fun cookie on a stick and YUM.

Cookie on a stick

You can also buy ready-to-eat food there, like pulled pork on a bun, freshly cut french fries, and gelato.

Price list

So, was it fun? I loved it, but the market got mixed reviews from the kids. My five-year-old daughter, Gal Smiley, is a bit of a foodie and was really excited to see all the different foods. It’s pretty hard not to feel like the trip was worth it when one of your kids is standing there saying, “Mommy, can we PLEASE get the beets? PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE?” So, there’s that.

My three-year-old really loved the band that was playing there and wanted to stay and dance all day; she also liked looking at all the food and she sure did love her cookie on a stick. She likes crowds and shopping in general so she was happy and REALLY didn’t want to go home. So there’s that.

My seven-year-old son was uber-cranky and begged to go home the entire time. He sulked and frowned and was a general killjoy. It didn’t help that due to his food allergies, he couldn’t eat any of the ready-made food there, and couldn’t have a cookie on a stick. He did ask for some carrots and a cabbage, though. So, there’s that.

Overall, I think the market is good for the kids – it’s good for them to see different foods, to talk about buying local, and to learn about what it means to be a farmer. It’s not exactly a Big Fun kind of place, but it’s interesting in a field-trip kind of way. It’s certainly way better than a trip to the Superstore.

And for lunch on market day, we had sweet little baby grapes that taste like candy, purple carrots, unbelievably fresh strawberries, and rosemary bread with flavoured oil for dipping. So, there’s THAT.

Grapes for lunch

So I think I’ll give the Carp Farmers’ Market a Summer of Awesome Should Do – and know that I’ll personally be going back for more. The market is open Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m., and you can get directions from their website.

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


Filed under Activities for kids, Events, Free, Out of town ideas