Growing up 10 minutes from the Toronto Zoo was a real treat. We had season's passes, which meant that we could come and go as we pleased. I learned a lot about the natural environment at the zoo, and although I sometimes have reservations about keeping wild animals in captivity, I know how important it is for children to learn about conservation.
There's no zoo like the T.O. Zoo here in Ottawa, but we are fortunate to have Parc Omega a short drive away near Montebello, Quebec.
The other week we got a chance to check out Parc Omega with friends, and we had a blast!
First up was the drive there. If you live closer to centre town or the west end, it makes perfect sense to drive north from downtown into Quebec. The drive will take you about 1 hour and 15 minutes. However, us east enders find it a long drive just to get downtown to the bridges.
SO, my husband suggested we take the Ecolos Ferry - an electric ferry that departs from Clarence Island and docks in Thurso. Other than the animals, this may have been the most exciting part of the day ;) It's $8 to cross with a car, and even cheaper if you're on a motorcyle or bikes!
The drive was gorgeous, and we arrived at the Parc by 10:30 am. We drove in and stopped at the gift shop and cafe, and could even check out some goats and red fox below us on the balcony.
Parc Omega is a "safari" - meaning you drive your car through the area to view animals. You can get up close and personal with the animals if you want, by purchasing some carrots to feed to them.
However, this is no African Lion Safari - all of these animals are "Canadian" and this is their natural habitat in semi-captivity. The announcer on the radio station that you listen to as you drive through the park chatted about how Parc Omega will often take in young/abandoned animals. There are elk, white-tailed deer, wolves, warthogs (baby warthogs!!), bears, Bison and more.
The entrance to the vehicle path was VERY crowded at the beginning. Eventually you are able to pass other cars (carefully) if you would like to move ahead. There are only so many Elk noses I'd like to see :)
This handy site map that they give you when you buy your tickets is great for kids to look at while you're driving through.
We made it to The Deers, where there are washrooms, picnic tables and places to rent carts. We had brought a packed lunch, and the kids loved seeing the small white-tailed deer creep up to us while we ate.
After the drive to get to Parc Omega, and then the drive through the safari, we felt it was time to stretch our legs. There are various walking trails, and one leads up to the farm - with a petting zoo, play structure, goats, duck and lots more.
The walk was doable for our 2 year-old, as she chased the older kids along the path. They were also delighted that there was ice cream!
The drive back down led us through the wolves, Ibex and bears. By this time our younger kids were ready for naps, and half of them fell asleep while we drove back out to the main entrance. I would have loved to have checked out Trouts Lake (where you can feed the fish), but we didn't have time. Once the kids are past nap age, I think we'll be able to stay a full day!
All in all, it was a lovely destination, and our friends agreed that it was well worth the money and travel time. We're looking forward to returning in the winter and seeing what the animals are doing in the snow!
Disclosure: We were provided tickets for our entrance into Parc Omega, but all opinions are my own. Check out the hastag #Outaouaisfun on Facebook and Twitter all summer for ideas of what to do in the region.