5 Family-Friendly Ottawa Trails

The warmer weather is here (hopefully to stay), which means it’s a great opportunity to venture out to one of the many family-friendly trails in Ottawa.  Although some trails are open year-round for snowshoeing and cross-country skiing, spring opens up further opportunities to get outside and explore during what is usually a quieter time of year on the trails.

Of course, the term “family-friendly” is subjective. If you have a stroller some of the trails may be a little difficult to navigate. Mer Bleue, which has a boardwalk trail, may be okay. The idea is that these trails are not difficult to walk, are not overly long to complete, and are scenic - offering kids of all ages a chance to explore the best that Mother Nature has to offer in Ottawa.

Ottawa trails

1) Mud Lake Trail

Located along the Ottawa River in west Ottawa, Mud Lake is a 2-kilometre trail through deciduous swampland. It is a popular migratory stop for many species of birds (over 250 bird species have apparently been recorded there!) and this area is currently being studied for its invasive plant species. There are tall pines, lake views and you can walk over to Britannia Beach from the trail.

This area is very unique and the trail is a great length for younger kids. Because this is an ecologically sensitive area, visitors are asked to not pick plants, and not capture or handle any animals. Free parking.

2) Mer Bleue Bog Trail

A popular trail in the east end, Mer Bleue Bog Trail follows a boardwalk that loops around the wetland. This 1.2 km trail is short enough that young kids can explore it with ease. There are other trails off the boardwalk as well for older kids or those looking for more outdoor adventure. Parking is free.

3) Stony Swamp Trails

Located in Southwest Ottawa, Stony Swamp has over 40 kilometres of trails, some of which connect to the Trans Canada Trail. Some of the more family-friendly ones include Jack Pine Trail, which crosses over beaver tails, and Sarsaparilla Trail, which has a lookout over a beaver pond. The Wild Bird Care Centre is also located along Stony Swamp. Free parking outside the trail entrances.

4) Shirley’s Bay

In addition to 7 kilometers of hiking trails, Shirley’s Bay also has 19 kilometres of walking trails. The shoreline trail (tail #10) is a 4 km loop that provides great views of the Ottawa River. This is also a great spot to bring your canoe or kayak, as well as a picnic lunch!

5) Green’s Creek

A great tail for older kids, Green’s Creek has some steeper hills, but offers some unique urban ruins, including ruins from an old train trestle bridge. If you're looking for something a little different and about more than just bird watching and nature, this is a great trail to try.

Before venturing out with the family for a leisurely hike, here are a few tips:

1)    Pack bug spray. Once the snow melts and the temperatures rise, remember the bug spray! This is especially important in early spring when the black flies make their appearance.

2)    Wear shoes and socks. Ticks and Lyme disease are on the rise in Eastern Ontario and although not all the paths and trails have long grass, many do. Ticks also like to hide out in cedars and other bushes.

3)    Don’t forget snacks and water. Kids get hungry and thirsty, so it’s great to be prepared. When their tummy rumbles half way through the hike you have some snacks to get them through… also some special treats are a good incentive if they suddenly don’t want to walk anymore.

4)    Don’t get burned. Even in spring the sun can be strong, so remember the sunscreen, sunglasses and hats!

5) Dogs are not always welcome. While some Ottawa trails welcome dogs, some do not. You’re always best to check the NCC website to ensure your furry family member is welcome

Put a spring in your step and get creative!

I know, I know. It's snowing like crazy outside, and seems like spring will never come this year. It's been a LONG winter. I know in the past that long winters can get me down in the dumps. There was no warm beach vacations this year, so I'm feeling extra grumpy.

Spring in happier days

Spring in happier days

So how do I put that spring back in my step? Here's 5 easy tips:

Get a haircut

After a long winter, I love giving my hair a little spruce. I've booked an appointment with my favourite hairdresser, and may do something different (with curly hair, going straight for a day is always fun)

Sign up for a workshop

I did a paint night this past winter, and had SO much fun. I've just signed up for another one with Nepean Creative Arts Centre. They're also offering an 3-hour Inktense workshop on Saturday April 29th. A great way to get creative without committing yourself to a weekly class.

Kids driving you crazy? Sign them up for something too! There's a 5-hour Theatrical Make-up Design workshop on April 29th from 10am - 3pm. This is for tweens and teens to train in maquillage – stage makeup – and design and implement fantastic theatrical looks. 

If your tween or teen is looking for something super fun and exciting, check out ABBA's Greatest Hits & Pop Performance - kids will work with professional voice teacher Marina Rososky to develop excellent singing ability, musicality and vocal projection, and master stage fright. 

Bring the beach to you

Can't get away for a warm vacation? Grab the ingredients for a pina colada, dress in shorts and t-shirts, and blast Bob Marley. Close your eyes and dream of the sun and sand.

Embrace winter's last hurrah

If you DO normally enjoy winter (which I do,) you may want to get out for one last ski or snowshoe before all the snow melts. Temperatures are on the rise, and it looks like this recent dump of snow will be gone by next week. So hit the slopes!

Get some exercise

Pick a super fun class to try, or check out your local yoga studio. We know how much exercise affects our mood, but at this time of the year, it's hard to find motivation. I have the MS Society's Ottawa to Cornwall bike ride coming up in less than 4 months, so I've really got to get my butt in gear!

What do you do to survive the last dying days of winter?

Reducing plastic with reusable containers at Bulk Barn

Months ago I walked into our local Bulk Barn and saw a little green flyer by the cash. I was SUPER excited. I've always wondered why I couldn't use my own containers at Bulk Barn, and I'm really keen to reduce plastic and waste in our home.

We shop at Bulk Barn almost weekly - it's my go-to place for all the ingredients I need to make granola, bread, muffins and snacks for the kids' lunches. So you can imagine how many plastic bags we were using. And although I try to reuse and recycle, I know that every time I rip one of those plastic bags off the roller, some part of the environment is dying a little (ok, a bit melodramatic...but true, right?)

We've been doing the container system for a number of weeks now, and here is what I've discovered:

I'm shopping more often

In the past, I'd hit up Bulk Barn every 2-3 weeks and buy really large quantities of things I needed. Now I'm a bit limited in space as I don't own many gigantic jars. One of my goals is to build up my supply of large containers, so that I can take home more of everything I need. Small jam containers only work well for spices or smaller goods.

Waiting in line to weigh my jars is annoying

Once you get to the store, you have to get your jars weighed before you can fill them up. This can be annoying when the store is really busy, and you're waiting in line behind people who are trying to pay for their stuff. It would be great if Bulk Barn came up with an automated weigh system - so far, their staff are using little stickers to write down the weight, and it seems they won't take my word for it if I've left the sticker on from my previous shopping.

Things can get a little messy

Trying to shovel flour into a container can be a bit messy. It's doable, but be prepared to spend a few more minutes filling your jars (and discreetly covering up your messes.) Also, apparently Bulk Barn will not allow you to use "dirty" containers - they have to be really well cleaned. I can see this as a liability issue for them, but I'm not fussy about a bit of flour being left over in my jar.

I LOVE the grind-your-own options

I've never enjoyed Bulk Barn's peanut butter. I recently realized it's because they add salt, and I find it WAY too salty. With my jars I've started to grind my own peanuts - it makes a nice, smooth peanut butter that the kids really enjoy. It's a tiny bit pricier than the stuff in the bins, but I'm happy to pay the extra for the superior taste.

My kitchen is more organized

Most things are now stored in mason jars, which actually makes my cupboards a bit more organized. Instead of trying to sort through bags and bags of food to find something, I can easily see what I'm looking for. And I've labelled most of my jars so I don't have to ask my husband "is this icing sugar, or corn starch?"

All in all, I think it's fantastic that Bulk Barn has made this move. I really hope more people will start using the container system, as I think it will force them to improve the system a bit more. There should be automated self-serve weigh stations, and smaller scoops in the bins. Also, I would love a discount for reducing my waste, just like I get at the coffee shop when I bring my own mug. 

Have you tried the new system? What do you think?

Lice doesn't have to be a nightmare

Picture this: you are off on a trip with your family. Money has been spent on hotels. You're not in a familiar environment, and the kids are hyped up on excitement.

The first morning of your trip, you go to brush your daughter's hair and notice something strange; something dark and suspiciously "bug" looking, crawling through her hair.

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This was the scenario we found ourselves in last fall. I hadn't been checking my daughter's head regularly, and the infestation had gotten pretty bad. A quick check on my head revealed that I was also dealing with lice (strangely, my husband and younger daughter never got them).

We found a local pharmacy and purchased the stuff that the pharmacist told us to buy. We treated ourselves, and went to bed with horribly smelly hair. I lay awake for hours in a state of panic. Without the comforts of home, I had no idea how I was going to deal with the lice. 

We made it back (and managed to have a little bit of fun) and I started washing everything. I received conflicting advice, that ranged from, "wash only things that come into contact with heads" to "burn the house down." We dealt with lice for SIX weeks before I finally managed to get rid of them for good.

High-tech glasses to check for lice!

High-tech glasses to check for lice!

Had I been to see the kind folks at Lice Services Canada, my story might have been different. The original lice removal experts in Ottawa, the staff at Lice Services have a combined experience of over 50 years! I'm positive my infestation would have been over in a shorter amount of time, and with less tears. Lice Services can do checks and removal at their centrally-located offices, or in your own home.

What's more, I wouldn't have used the (probably dangerous) and smelly product on our heads, which destroyed my scalp and caused me months of problems. Lice Services Canada uses only non-pesticide products.

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I think one of the main reasons I had such a horrible experience was that I didn't know what the heck I was doing, and I was taking advice from non-experts (including Google). Lice Services Canada has a great "Myths" section on their website, which helps to educate people about lice. 

For example, did you know that you don't have to be itchy to have lice? My daughter never once complained her head was itchy until we spotted the little buggers. And although homemade products CAN work (e.g. we tried vegetable oil,) they have to be left on the head for 8 hours. It was a hugely messy process that wasn't really necessary. I just needed to get proficient at removing the nits (or eggs) - something which an expert could have done much more quickly.

March Break is coming up, and I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but many families will deal with lice after coming into contact with airplane seats, movie theatre seats, and museums or play centres (my kids are never allowed to put on dress-up clothes from these places again)! It's time to think about the possibility of lice, and do regular checks of your children's heads. 

Not sure what you're looking at? Snap a picture on your phone, and send it in to Lice Services Canada. They will take a look and give you a free diagnosis! Lice Services also provides screening programs at daycares, schools and camps. I remember all the checks I received as a kid at school, and I'm sure it gave my mother some peace of mind.

Remember that lice are in no way linked to being "dirty." After the common cold, lice seem to be the most communicable affliction among school-aged children. It is likely that your child will one day experience them, and there is NO shame in that!

What's been your experiences with lice? Leave us a comment!

Disclaimer: Lice Services Canada is one of our blog sponsors, and have compensated us for our time. All opinions and stories are our own...although we maybe wish this one particular story had never happened ;) 

Easter Activities in Ottawa

It may still feel like winter outside, but spring will be here before we know it - which means Easter will be too! Easter is in the middle of April this year, which means traditions such as Easter egg hunts will be outside without the need for snowsuits and boots (hopefully).

Ottawa has many family-friendly Easter activities happening throughout Easter weekend including Easter egg hunts, decorating and ample opportunities for little ones to meet the Easter Bunny! Here's where to go in the Ottawa area for the very best in Easter activities the entire family can enjoy:

Easter Activities in Ottawa

Ottawa Egg Drop at the Aviation Museum

This free family event takes place over Easter weekend at the Aviation Museum. They are dropping 30,000 easter eggs from a helicopter in Ottawa’s first egg drop! Unfortunately, registration for this event proved to very popular, very early and is now closed for registration (but it’s something to keep your eyes out for next year!). For more information visit: EggDrop.ca

Canadian Agricultural Museum- Easter at the farm

Celebrate spring at the Canadian Agricultural Museum from April 14th to the 17th. The barns are sure to be alive with newborn animals, and what better way to celebrate Easter than with real live cute baby chicks and bunnies!

Valleyview Animal Farm – Easter Fun  

Easter egg hunts with hundreds of coloured eggs take place throughout Easter weekend at Valleyview Animal Farm. This farm is a great place for younger kids, who may want to stop and feed a goat or two while they hunt for eggs

Billings Estate Museum – Easter at the Estate

Although details have yet to be released, typically Billings Estate hosts an Easter egg hunt as well as other fun and educational Easter activities. For more information visit the Billing Estate Museum website by clicking here.

Canadian Museum of History – Children’s Museum

Visit the Canadian Museum of History’s Children’s Museum in Gatineau from April 3rd to the 17th for a Golden Egg Hunt. Kids can earn a treat by tracking down 12 special golden eggs hidden by the Easter Bunny throughout the Children’s Museum. To plan your visit visit the museum's website by clicking here.

Cumberland Heritage Village Museum - Springtime Adventure

On Saturday, April 15th from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. celebrate Easter with "Curious Cottontail" Easter Bunny, dye eggs and learn how people used to prepare for spring. For information and to register, visit the museum's website.

Diefenbunker – Annual Easter Egg Hunt

Located in Carp, the Diefenbunker has held an easter egg hunt on Easter weekend for the past few years - this year it is on Saturday, April 15th. With hundreds of places to hide in the 100,000 square foot bunker, it makes for a fun Easter egg hunt for all ages! For more details, click here.

What activities do you enjoy sharing with your kids at Easter? Or is there an Easter activity in Ottawa we should know about? Leave a comment and let us know.