Lansdowne, Burgers and Summer Nights

I was recently contacted by South St. Burger to see if I wanted to check out their Lansdowne location with the family. Having never heard of the place, I did a little search on Google as my husband stood behind me, drooling. We couldn't pass up the opportunity :)

We decided I would meet my husband and the girls after work one evening. I rode my bike from work to Lansdowne, and was reminded what a beautiful ride it is along the Rideau River. I met my family in the underground parking lot and quickly changed out of my sweaty clothes.

We've checked out Lansdowne a couple of times, but mainly just to get in and out, and grab some goodies from the market. We decided to make this outing a summer date, and took some time to check out all of the attractions.

South St. Burger

I didn't realize that South St. is not an actual "restaurant" - as in, sit down and be served. It's a subway-style joint, where you order your food and then instruct the server as to how you want your burger adorned. To be clear, though, South St. is nothing like Subway. It's warm and inviting, and I was relieved that I wouldn't have to worry about my kids being stuck at a table waiting for food (we're slowly introducing them to "eating out," but we still have a lot of work to do!)

You can order signature burgers, or a patty of your choice (beef, chicken or veggie) and various toppings. I decided on a beef patty, tons of veggies and garlic mayo.  Oh, and did I mention they serve New York Fries? They were just as good as I remember from my teenage years (I may have eaten a lot of NY Fries at a teen).

Beer is featured prominently in this photo

Beer is featured prominently in this photo

The best part? They serve local beer on tap. Hubby and I really enjoyed our Beau's Lug Tread, which is a great summer beer.

And as someone who considers herself pretty health conscious (when I'm not eating copious amounts of fries), I liked the fact that the burgers were fresh and that the beef was from animals raised without hormones or antibiotics.

Gelato

Next up was a stop at an Italian coffee shop for gelato (the name of the place escapes me - does anyone know?). The gelato didn't rival anything I've tasted at Stella Luna, but it was a nice cool treat (and side note, on a past trip to this coffee shop I had a fantastic Americano).

Splash Pad

I don't think you can really call this a splash pad - it's more like a work of art. I even felt like taking a little stroll to get my feet wet. The area is beautifully clean, with lovely rustic benches lining the side of the water "park." There was a security guard on duty there, which I found interesting - what was he guarding?

Play Structure

Although I'm sad they didn't opt for a natural playground, the play structures at Lansdowne are second best. They encourage creative play (the little toadstools make awesome drums, or fun hopping games), and LOTS of climbing.

It was a fantastic evening, and something I want to do more often before summer gives way to fall.

Have you taken in the full experience of Lansdowne Park? What's your favourite part?

Disclosure: I was provided "burger bucks" from South St. to cover the cost of our meal. However, all opinions are my own...and sometimes my husband's.

Beat the Heat with Your Kids

Do you read the Ottawa Citizen forecasts? I don't know who writes the posts, but they're totally kooky and hilarious! I'm sure the writer is also suffering from heat stroke.

I'm not going to start complaining about the heat, because heck, I KNOW how miserable our winters can be. I love skiing and snowshoeing, but I'm going to take hot and humid any day (if just for the benefits of not having to dress my children in snowsuits).

But our sweaty and heat-angry children need things to do, and a humidex of 46 is not ideal weather for kicking the kids outside. My old pug is also suffering. We're very VERY thankful to have air conditioning, but who wants to sit inside all day? We need to lap up every last drop of this summer before the snow flies.

I put the question out on our Facebook Page: "What do you do with the kids all day when it's this hot?" I got some great answers, and threw in a few of my own ideas (or, ahem, my husband's ideas).

Pinterest Rocks

Kimberly Steski posted that she used a great pinned idea - attach a hose to a big pop bottle, poke holes and hang it in the tree.

Elaine Hamelin-Mitchell suggested setting up a slip n' slide. Anyone with a play structure in the backyard can set up a tarp and sprinkler for more water fun!

Hydration

Don't forget to stay hydrated on hot days! Get the kids to help make a hydration drink:

1 cup of water
juice from 1/2 lemon
1/2 tsp maple syrup
sprinkle of salt

You could also do iced tea - I like to use a non-caffeinated herbal tea. I steep 4-5 bags in a tea pot, and mix in 1-2 tbsp of honey while still hot/warm. Then pour over ice or chill in the fridge and add lemon juice to taste.

Outdoor Swimming Pools

Christine Bazinet posted that they are lucky enough to use their pool on hot days. For those of us without pools, our City of Ottawa outdoor pools are great! We live in the East end, and Bearbrook Pool is our fav.

Get Out of the City

Our own Lara Wellman suggested getting out of the city, which is a great idea! Temperatures drop significantly once you're outside city limits. Our favourite place is Gatineau - Lac Philippe or Lac La Peche are both great options if you're willing to go for a summer drive.

Outdoor Crafts

My husband is so crafty (me, not so much). He had extra insulation pieces lying around his workshop, so my daughter decided to build boats! Moon sand, digging for treasures in a sand box and a water play table are fantastic ways to keep young kids occupied and cool.

What are your favourite hot day activities?

Mooney's Bay Park

I've cycled right by Mooney's Bay many times. We used to live in Riverside South, and the Bay provided a great view of the river on my way to work.

This past weekend I finally got a chance to go there and spent the morning frolicking on the beach with family and friends. We didn't realize it until later, but dogs are not allowed (luckily, no one ticketed us for bringing along our elderly pug)

The pug cooling off

The pug cooling off

Mooney's Bay Park is a beautiful spot located on the shores of the Rideau River. It's a popular venue for rowers, especially during the annual dragon boat festival

What can you do at Mooney's Bay Park?

So much to do! There is a large play structure for kids, and ample green space for flying a kite or kicking around a soccer ball.

There are picnic tables everywhere except the beach area, and we were lucky enough to grab a shady spot under a tree. We had a lovely picnic without melting :)

The highlight of the outing was swimming and playing on the beach. The swimming area is roped off, and lifeguards are on duty every day (until August 16th) from noon until 7 pm. We built sand castles and waded into the water. It became quite deep towards the end of the roped-off area, so doing some laps would have been possible if I hadn't had the kiddos!

The in the distance

The in the distance

The Beach Shack is a popular spot for cool treats, and The Beach House Bistro Bar offers drinks for the adults as well as a variety of menu options.

I spotted a few Stand Up Paddleboarders, and was excited to see that the City of Ottawa offers classes! If you're not into water activities, you can also rent volleyball nets for $15/hour or $50/day. We saw several tournaments going on while we were there.

Tips

  • Get there early if you're hoping to avoid the crowds. You will snag a great picnic table, and in the heat of the summer, it's nice to avoid the hottest time of the day!
  • The downfall to spending the morning at the beach is that there are no lifeguards on duty. Make sure your kids are wearing life jackets or other flotation devices, and keep an eye on them at all times.
  • Dogs are not allowed in the park OR on the beach (oops)
  • Parking is ample, but you do have to pay. Again, arriving early will mean you can find a spot easily.
  • Watch out for the goose poop!! It was everywhere, but I noticed the main part of the beach was kept pretty clean.
  • Make sure to check the daily beach water quality results. Until Ottawa can clean up its act, our water quality will remain iffy.
  • There are washrooms and a water fountain, although the cleanliness of the building is kind of gross - it looks as though they're under construction.

Have you been to Mooney's Bay Park? 

Mont Cascades

As part of #Outaouaisfun this summer, Lara and I are checking out so many great places to visit with our kids in the Outaouais region. Visit Outaouais Tourism for more information and follow along with the hashtag #Outaouaisfun on Facebook and Twitter! Disclosure: I was provided with free passes to visit Mont Cascades, but all opinions are my own.

Slip Slidin' Away

I've visited Mont Cascades once, when my daughter was 3 years-old. I was hugely pregnant at the time, and the morning ended in disaster when I let my daughter go ahead of me on the slide (hey, other kids her age were going alone!). She landed face first into the water at the bottom, and refused to try the slides again.

The Kiddie Slides for those 48" and under. My almost-6 year-old liked these the best

The Kiddie Slides for those 48" and under. My almost-6 year-old liked these the best

This past weekend was a much better experience. Now almost 6, my daughter and her younger sister (2) had a great day at Mont Cascades. Pictured above are the kiddie slides, and Big Sister worked up the courage to do the slides by herself. There was rarely a line-up, and we went up and down the slides many times.

My favourite part about Mont Cascades is that you can do the kiddie slides with your children. Other waterparks will not allow parents to go down the kiddie slides, which is disappointing for toddlers who aren't big enough (or brave enough) to do it themselves.

The Kiddie Pool

The Kiddie Pool

The Kiddie Pool was a lot busier, so we had a quick splash in there before stopping for lunch.

Seating area with lots of shade

Seating area with lots of shade

There is TONS of seating at Mont Cascades, but a lot of it is in full sun. I highly recommend you get there early (we arrived at 10:30 am, and most spots were gone) to snag a shady spot. It makes a big difference when you're trying to eat your food before it gets fried under the summer sun.

Enjoying our picnic lunch

Enjoying our picnic lunch

Our biggest mistake of the day was taking both girls down Black Magic. I saw so many other parents coming out of the tube slide holding onto their little ones, so I thought "hey, that looks like fun!" I didn't realize that a) the slide is SO fast; and b) it's really dark (duh, "black magic"). I was probably more scared than my daughter, and I think the entire park heard my screams of terror (in my defense, I was worried that the tube would flip and I would lose hold of my little one - even with a life jacket on, eek!)

SO, if you have young children who are generally cautious little beings, I would recommend avoiding the larger tube slides. Instead, you can check out the new Splash Forest for families and kids of all ages. A huge red bucket fills up slowly and then dumps all over the unsuspecting people below. The slides are small, but fun enough for older kids.

A terrible picture (the angry clouds had rolled in!) of the new Splash Forest, exclusively for families and kids of all ages. 

A terrible picture (the angry clouds had rolled in!) of the new Splash Forest, exclusively for families and kids of all ages. 

Another great plus for Mont Cascades is that it's affordable - seasons passes go for $39!! A single pass is $19 and kids 2 and under are free. This makes it a great destination for families who can't afford some of the pricier attractions in our area.

So make the drive up to this beautiful part the Gatineaus and have a splash! (bonus points if you stop for ice cream at Le Cigale on your way home)

Have you been to Mont Cascades? Share your experience in the comments!

 

Adventures at sleep away camp

I have friends who spent their summers at sleep away camp as kids and I've always been kind of jealous. I went a few times, a week at a time, but the stories I heard from some of my friends who stayed a month (or more) were stories of amazing friendships, learning great skills and enjoying the outdoors in all its splendor.

I want that for my kids. I know there's no guarantee that they'll adore it, but I had high hopes based on how much they enjoy our time at the cottage every summer. This year, we took the plunge and our 8-year-old spent a week at sleep away camp.

He loved it.

He came home glowing and didn't stop talking for two hours, telling us all his stories. Here are a few of my favourite things about his experience.

He got to try new activities

My not-so-particularly physical kid spent every day swimming, kayaking, rock climbing and sailing.

His favourite activities were rock climbing (which he did almost every day) and sailing (which I'm told is SO FUN! and SO RELAXING! and we need a sailboat for the cottage NOW!). Archery, which he was quite excited about, wasn't really all he thought it would be.

They had campfires and they slept in a tent overnight in the woods. They build boats out of cardboard and got to test them out on the lake (apparently the only one that floated was the one that was too small for anyone to sit in.) He tried so many great things I can only imagine what he'll try when he's there for several weeks.

He was completely disconnected

I have no problems with technology for kids in moderation but I definitely think that being disconnected is important too. I was impressed that he had no hesitation leaving his iPod behind and I don't think he missed it at all while he was away. He read paper books and wrote us postcards during his down time.

He had to take care of himself

He had a lot of stuff he was responsible for managing

He had a lot of stuff he was responsible for managing

They may remind you to brush your teeth and put on sunscreen at camp, but even at 8 you're pretty responsible for yourself. He had to manage keeping track of his stuff and keeping it organized (which I think he only did moderately well).

I packed his bag because he had another activity the night before he left and I would definitely make him be more involved in future years, because there were a lot of things that got jumbled up. He had so much stuff in his huge bag that he never ended up using or wearing certain items, because he forgot he had them. I think it was a valuable lesson in being responsible for himself and not having someone to just go to when he couldn't find something.

Camp Otterdale

The camp we chose was based on a recommendation from someone I knew, but my son headed off without any friends or knowing anyone there. The camp was so great at making him feel welcome and all the counsellors made me feel confident that he would be in good hands when I left him there.

Located just outside Smith Falls, it's on a beautiful lake and the amazing variety of activities they have for the kids is quite incredible. All the camp counsellors have to have been campers to get jobs there, and the staff loyalty was clear - they could demonstrate how great a time kids have when they go to camp.

Next year my son wants to go for two weeks and my daughter (who will be seven) wants to go for a week. I'm still waiting to see if I think her twin will be ready at seven as well (here's a great post from Mabel's Labels about figuring out if your kids are ready for sleep away camp). They're already looking forward to it!

Have you considered sleep away camp for your kids? Have they been? Share what your experiences have been like in the comments!