A couple of years ago we had a contributor write about the top family-friendly neighbourhoods in Ottawa. It is one of our most popular posts ever (Google really loves it!) BUT we don’t feel it truly represents our beautiful city.
Ottawa is so diverse - there are many small communities within communities where parents are raising kids and having a blast. So, with input from our readers, we decided to come up with our own list of top 10 family-friendly neighbourhoods. We realize this list is not complete – there are probably a number of neighbourhoods we missed. Maybe someday we’ll come up with the top 20!
Located south of the city, Barrhaven has grown rapidly in recent years for its family-friendly vibe (think lots of parks, brand new schools and amenities) and affordable housing.
“We moved to Barrhaven Chapman Mills last year to live in an area that is affordable and has the same access to resources as other neighbourhoods,” says reader Breena Hickman. “The only downside is that two of the arteries into Barrhaven are single lane (Prince of Wales and Greenbank) so it can make for a long commute in the afternoons.”
A community that has been around a lot longer than people think, Orleans has always had a village vibe to it.
“Home prices are reasonable and there are a lot of nice semi- detached and townhome options for those not looking for a detached house,” says Chatelaine Village resident Julie St. Cyr. “We are walking distance to Place d'Orleans, Farm Boy and No Frills. My bus commute time to downtown is 30-40 minutes depending on traffic. Our proximity to the river, the River Pathway and Petrie Island are big draws.”
Innes Road is a problem in Orleans – the clustering of big box stores has made traffic gridlock. But if you want to escape the newer developments and stick to the older areas, you may avoid those problems and maintain some walkability. Phase II of light rail will bring the train out to Place d’Orleans and make commuting to the city a lot easier.
To the west of downtown is Kanata, a large suburb with many smaller communities within its borders. As a hub for the various tech companies that have set down roots in the community, this suburb has grown and diversified in recent years. With a large expansion of the 417, the commuting burden has eased – however, it may be a long time before light rail is built out to the west end.
“Kanata is great for families, with lots of access to various community centre programs and activities as well as parks,” says Jenna Elward. Jenna does worry that the price of affordable houses is being driven up by the move of the Department of National Defense (DND) to the old Nortel building.
Stittsville Main Street gives this community a small-town feel – including a number of independent coffee shop (such as Quitters; owned and run by Kathleen Edwards).
“I love that our neighbourhood has four parks within walking distance and the TransCanada Trail is just a short distance away - great for long bike rides, skiing, and so much more,” says Tracy Noble. “The Stittsville Village Association does a great job of engaging the community and providing many family-friendly activities year-round, including a spectacular Canada Day celebration and Santa Claus Parade.”
Downsides? Tracy wishes it were closer to Orleans (where the rest of the KIC team live), there’s not a lot of diversity, and not enough is being done to control high speed traffic through residential Stittsville.
Moving away from the suburbs and closer to the city centre, Westboro and surrounding neighbourhoods are perfect for families with a higher income. Although you’ll now pay a pretty penny for a small house, the walkability and number of businesses in this area make it a super trendy spot.
“I love the neighbourhood and our close proximity to everything that we need by walking there,” says Cindy Wolfe. “I also love that within five minutes I can be running along the river or at Westboro Beach. The trails are fantastic and our neighbours are wonderful.”
Cindy points to a couple of disadvantages - there's a lot of development happening around light rail, and she feels it's not being done with a smart focus on infrastructure. Roads and traffic can be a big challenge in this neighbourhood.
Two of our readers had glowing reports for this community just west of Orleans. Tucked into a small area bordered by the Innes bypass and St. Joseph, this hamlet is surrounded by greenspace, has an active community association, and many housing options. “What’s not to like?” says resident Amanda-Lyn Smith-Kennedy. “It’s a small town with the city.”
Marie Shinmoto agrees: “It is the kind of neighbourhood where people know who you are and who those kids belong to. Neighbours look out for each other here.”
Downsides? The bypass can get a bit snarly with traffic, but there’s always the option to scoot down to the 174 instead. The proximity to light rail will make this community highly desirable in the future.
Another area with a higher price tag for homes, those looking for an urban lifestyle will love the Glebe. Homes have much less property, but the proximity to trails, parks and the canal make up for the lack of backyard space. Many folks living in the Glebe don’t feel the need to own a vehicle, using services such as Virtucar or commuting by bike.
The Glebe Community Centre is a wonderful hub of activities for families, and there is no shortage of karate, dance and gymnastic studios. Those who have trouble with noise and traffic may want to avoid this area.
Vanier is a vibrant diverse community with many great parks, playgrounds, splash pads and outdoor swimming pools. The location is perfect – nestled right near downtown Ottawa it’s a quick bus or bike ride to get to the core of the city. “We have a beautiful little forest right in the middle of the neighborhood - La foret des Peres Blancs - which is also a sugarbush,” says resident Michelle Morra. A community centre and local library is also located right next to the forest, and host to many activities throughout the year.
The key to Vanier's success are the people, and a true sense of community. “As a francophone, I appreciate the fact that I can go to my nearby grocery store, coffee shop, bank etc and address myself in French,” says Michelle.
Michelle thinks that Vanier could benefit from more small businesses on Beechwood or Montreal Rd - a toy store, art store and kitchen store would be lovely additions to this amazing neighbourhood.
There is a strong community presence with an active community association, with a safe and rapidly growing neighbourhood. Residents love the newly opened farmer’s market, as well as great parks and trails throughout Riverside South and the surrounding areas. There are a ton of stores and restaurants in this area, but if you are looking for a bit more variety for shopping or dining, the new Vimy Memorial Bridge has made travelling to Barrhaven an easy trek.
Some of the negatives: many new townhouse driveways are not big enough to accommodate visitors so there are some issues with parking on streets. Transit is not the most accessible in the area, and there is no local library (although there is one within a short driving distance to Manotick).
Elmvale Acres was built in the 1950's by Minto and has a variety of housing options. With small single family homes, doubles, town homes and apartment buildings, the neighbourhood has housing options for everyone.
"Our family moved into the area 20 years ago driven by the schooling options," says resident Erin Shaheen. "All four school boards are represented in our little area, including a French immersion and gifted program. We have a fantastic community library, 20 minute bike or drive to downtown, community gardens and small walking paths along the NCC property." There is a strong sense of community that is fostered by the Canterbury community association with many seasonal festivals.
Housing prices are slightly higher, and reflect those that are within the greenbelt but are less than those in the wider Alta vista area.
Tucked in between the George-Etienne Cartier Parkway and the 174, Beacon Hill is a little known neighbourhood with affordable homes and plenty of parks, schools, and community activities. As the site for the new Costco and a growing number of businesses along Ogilvie, this neighbourhood has ample walkability. Located near the bike path, it’s an easy ride down to the river and Aviation Museum.
With business development growing, there may be issues of parking and traffic – however, light rail is set to open at Blair station in 2018, which will make public transit a quick and easy option.