Family Travel: Visiting Kingston, Ontario

KITC would like to welcome back, guest blogger, Stephen Johnson. Stephen Johnson is an Ottawa writer who loves to write about family travel.  During the summer, you will most likely find him and his family at a local fair or festival.  During the winter, a beach in Mexico is a likely bet.  


Thanksgiving weekend has always been a chance for our family to obviously give thanks.  It has also been an opportunity to take a road trip. This year, we decided to visit Kingston, Ontario.   

We started our trip in Kingston picking up a kpass.  It is a great option if you are looking to visit a lot of destinations in Kingston including Fort Henry and the Kingston Pen tour.  Some tours and experiences need to be booked ahead of time so check the website.

For our first experience,  we decided to try out Improbable Escapes.  We had never tried out an escape room so the staff patiently explained what to expect.  We chose a room that had an elementary school theme which was appropriate for our son, David, who is ten years old.  

We were locked up in the room and had a series of challenges to solve, both physical and mental in order to escape.  I quickly found that problem-solving may not be my strong suit. My wife, Sandy and David solved most of the puzzles. I was very proud when I discovered a key hanging on a hook near the top of the room (that was more luck than skill!).  As part of the game, we were given two chances to call our guide for assistance. Each time, she provided useful advice without giving the game away.

We had one hour to escape from the room. At the fifty minute mark, our chances were not looking good. Finally, David figured out the way to crawl from one room to what we thought was freedom. We had only solved half of the puzzle and found a second chamber! Our guide was nice and gave us an extra fifteen minutes. We solved a couple more puzzles but did not ultimately escape. Fear not, our guide did let us out of the room.

Escape Room, Kingston Ontario

We really enjoyed it for our first time and are looking forward to trying escape rooms in Ottawa.  It is a great way for a family to work together and also encourage non-linear thinking. I also now know how to open a multitude of locks.

All of this thinking had worked up an appetite so we headed to our favourite restaurant in Kingston, Ali Baba Kabab. Three hearty plates of the shawarma mix and mint tea rejuvenated our energy.  

It is getting near Halloween so we decided to check out the Kingston Ghost and Mystery Trolley Tour.  Our first stop was appropriately a graveyard where we visited the gravesite of the first Prime Minister of Canada, Sir John A. Macdonald. Our guide told us about the history of the gravesite and a few potential spirits that may be haunting the graveyard.

The tour certainly does not advertise itself as a family attraction and parents with young kids might choose the regular day tour. On our tour, there were children younger than David. The guide was good at keeping the content age appropriate. She also had a good sense of humour making the atmosphere fun.  

We also visited Queen’s University and downtown Kingston. I did not realize the city was such a historic and potentially haunted place.

We ended our day by checking into the Ambassador Hotel and Conference Centre.  The Ambassador has been our go-to place since we started visiting Kingston after David was born. David took his first ride down a waterslide alone at the Ambassador when he was five even though mom and dad were white-knuckling it the whole time.   

To relive old times and relax after our busy day, we hit the pool and hot tub. David wanted to give the waterslide a go. We were much more relaxed seeing ten year old David go down than five year old David.

The next morning, we felt refreshed from a good sleep. We were also fortunate to have a room with a kitchenette and fridge. We had stocked up on eggs the night before and prepared a delicious breakfast.   

The plan for the day was to go on a boat cruise aboard the Island Queen. We started our cruise leaving the Kingston harbour going past Fort Henry and Wolfe Island. The scenery made me appreciate what a picturesque city Kingston truly is.

Kingston Ontario boat tours

Once out on the water,  the staff served up a delectable Thanksgiving lunch buffet including turkey and pumpkin pie. We were also kept entertained by a keyboardist who could play and sing almost any tune you threw at him.  He said he knew over 10,000 songs and I could believe him.

The highlight of the trip occurred once we hit the Thousand Islands near Gananoque. It was amazing to consider that there could be homes on some islands that seemed little more than rocky outcrops in the Saint Lawrence. The taped audio guide also gave us a lot of useful information about the Islands. We spent about forty minutes cruising around and then headed back.   

Boat Tour St-Lawrence River

Our man of 10,000 songs kept us entertained with everything from Elton John to the Beatles. Soon enough, we were back in port.

To wrap up our time in Kingston, we checked out some virtual reality at the VR Hut. David and I both chose Google Earth VR as we both love to travel. A person truly felt like they were walking in Hong Kong or New York City.   

VR Hut Kingston, Ontario

I also thought it was a perfect way to wrap up our trip.  Exploring a cutting edge technology that was physically located in a limestone heritage building. To me, that totally sums up Kingston.

The best place to start any planning for a trip to Kingston is by visiting, www.visitkingston.ca. As mentioned,  we always have a great stay at the Ambassador Hotel and Conference Centre www.ambassadorhotel.com.


Disclosure: Stephen and his family were provided with the Kpass by Tourism Kingston but as always, all views are his own. 

Reducing waste (and still enjoying fast food)

If you think this is another post condemning your actions and trying to guilt you, think again!

We are ALL part of this modern world, with uber convenience at every corner. I’m the first to admit I buy into this convenience at times - getting a coffee from Second Cup at work, or picking up the pre-roasted chicken on my way home from work.

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But having been an eco-activist since early childhood, I also make great effort to be conscious of how every single one of my actions can affect Mother Earth. And with recent news that we are coming closer to annihilation, I’m feeling a greater need to speak out and encourage those of us who maybe JUST DON’T KNOW how to make a difference (and I realize that true change is going to need to come from giant companies who are responsible for this mess….but we can still take action, and apply as much pressure as we can!)

In CBC’s recent post, it was found that about half of the plastic trash found on Canadian shorelines could be traced back five companies: Nestlé, Tim Hortons, PepsiCo, the Coca-Cola Company and McDonald's.

Now, I get y’all love your double double and Big Macs. I’m not here to tell you to stop drinking/eating at these establishments (although if you WANTED to boycott, that would also be truly awesome) However, if you’re eating at fast food joints, here are a few tips for making a real difference in the waste you generate.

Waste Reduction Tips

  • Refuse the bag: honestly, you don’t need your food wrapped up, and then placed in a bag. Just ask them to hand over the sandwich and no one gets hurt.

  • Bring your own reusable mug: please…just do this. It’s so simple. Go to store. Buy a mug. Bring it with you every time you go out. Same with a stainless steel water bottle. Make it a daily habit that you are always carrying these vital pieces.

  • Specify you are eating in: some places (Tim Horton’s) will serve your soup or coffee in….gasp….actual dishes!!!

  • LEAVE NO TRACE: remember that camping rule? When you’re out in the wild, you are supposed to leave no trace that you ever visited, which means you pack your garbage to go. You can do the same at fast food restaurants!! I always pack up our garbage and sort it when I get home. Cardboard can be recycled and paper food packaging and food waste can be composted (yes, you heard right….if it’s dirty paper or cardboard, it goes in the green bin!) Some coffee cups can even go in the green bin if they’re not coated in plastic.

Leaving without a trace is not as messy as you think. Most food can be sealed up in containers, which you can tuck into your bag or purse. If something is truly gross (like ketchup) I will use the garbage at the restaurant….but I make this a last resort.

So go forth and eat your greasy food. But please, for the love of our Earth…do it with a conscience!! Remember - your kids are watching you and learning from your actions.

Trick or Treat to a Wicked Beat!

Looking for something fun and different to do this Halloween season? On October 27th and 28th at 2:30pm the National Arts Centre will be hosting a fun bilingual family event called Trick or Treat to a Wicked Beat! A great way for the entire family to sing and dance in the Halloween season!

Dress up and join Samara the Witch, dancers and the NAC Orchestra as they perform spooky classics like The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, Danse Macabre, The Witch’s Dance and many more. 

Trick or Treat to a Wicked Beat is part of the Family Adventures with the NAC Orchestra series. Geared to kids aged 5+ this fun and interactive series introduces children to the wonders of orchestral music. Each bilingual performance lasts one hour and features the NAC Orchestra and special guests! Be sure to arrive 45 minutes early to participate in hands on pre-concert activities!

For more information and to purchase tickets, visit the NAC official website. And be sure to learn more about the Family Adventures series and upcoming performances.

2018 Santa Claus Parades & Holiday Activities in Ottawa

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It may seem early, but it's time to start getting into the holiday spirit! Many Ottawa communities have already set a date for their Santa Claus parades and we want to make sure you don't miss out on this popular festive event! Please note: We are updating this post as more information and details become available. If you have a holiday event you would like to add - leave a comment and let us know!

2018 Ottawa Santa Claus Parades

Help Santa Toy Parade
http://toyparade.ca/
Saturday, November 17th at 11 a.m.

This is popular Ottawa Santa Claus parade takes place downtown and is favoured by many in the National Capital Region. Firefighters collect new toys and cash donations along the route. Can’t bring your toy donation? They will also accept new toys at any Ottawa Fire Station until mid-December. Depending on your spot along the route it can get busy, so keep this in mind if your family doesn’t like crowds.

Horses at Santa Claus parade

Santa’s Parade of Lights
paradeoflights.org
Saturday, November 24th

Also hosted by the Ottawa Professional Firefighters Association, this parade takes place on St-Joseph, Blvd. in Orleans. Toys and cash donations will be collected by firefighters along the route.

Stittsville Parade of Lights

Stittsville Parade of Lights
stittsvilleva.com
Saturday, December 1, 2018

This parade is a favourite community event. The parade proceeds south down Main Street to Village Square. Parade goers are welcome to stay for the lighting of Village Square Park and to warm up with some hot chocolate.

Kanata Santa Claus Parade
https://www.facebook.com/events/683364755381229/
November 17, 2018

The Kanata parade (a.k.a the Hazeldean Mall Santa Claus Parade) is presented by the Kanata-Hazeldean Lions Club in cooperation with the Kanata Sports Club. The parade starts at Terry Fox and Castlefrank, moves along Castlefrank to Abbeyhill and then on to the Hazeldean Mall. Nonperishable food donations to the Kanata Food Cupboard are appreciated.

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Barrhaven Lions Santa Parade
santaclausbarrhaven.com
Sunday, November 18th at 5:30 p.m.

The annual Barrhaven Lions Club Santa Claus Parade runs down Strandherd Drive, west. Tim Hortons will be providing hot chocolate at various spots along the parade route.

Arnprior Santa Claus Parade
https://www.facebook.com/events/917184025147270/
November 24, 2018 at 6 pm

Richmond Village Santa Claus Parade
http://richmondvillage.ca/event/santa-parade/
TBD

Carp Santa Claus Parade
TBD
Parade route starts at The Diefenbunker, 3911 Carp Road, and follows Carp Road.

Carleton Place Santa Claus Parade
http://downtowncarletonplace.com/christmas-parade/
Saturday, November 24th at 5 p.m.

Santa Claus Parades in Ottawa

Other Holiday Activities in Ottawa

Besides parades, there are many Christmas and holiday activities in Ottawa, including:

Holidays at The Parks 2018
http://wesleycloverparks.com/events/holidays-at-the-parks-2018/
Sunday, December 9, 2018 from 12:00PM – 4:00PM

A great family friendly event, Holidays at The Parks will feature activities for everyone including a vendor’s row, kids craft station, horse-drawn wagon rides, opportunity to meet Zack the donkey, and more! All activities will take place in the Wesley Clover Parks’ heated indoor arena. Meet and take a picture with Santa! Admission by donation.

Alight the Night
http://www.uppercanadavillage.com/events/alight-at-night/
November 30th to January 5th
Upper Canada Village

Step back in time while walking around the beautifully lit heritage buildings, trees and fences of Upper Canada Village. There are festive activities and a chance to meet Santa Claus all throughout the month of December leading up to Christmas.

Almonte’s Light Up the Night!
lightupthenightalmonte.com or
http://lanarkcountytourism.com/events/light-up-the-night-almonte/
Friday, December 7th at 7 p.m.

Bundle up, this is an open-air concert and fireworks display on Main Street in Almonte. Now in its 28th year this night is full of music and memorable outdoor festivities.

Manotick - Olde Fashioned Christmas
http://manotickvillage.com/event/olde-fashioned-christmas/
Saturday, December 1st and Sunday, December 2nd

Horse drawn wagon rides with Father and Mary Christmas to sunset carolling, this wonderful weekend is full of traditional events not to be missed. 

Cumberland Heritage Village Museum Vintage Village of Lights
ottawa.ca/en/liveculture/museums/cumberlandmuseum

30,000 Christmas lights, decorations everywhere, a gigantic reindeer and sleigh and – of course – a visit with Santa Claus in his workshop! Kids will have fun sledding, playing broomball or street hockey, making a snow globe, decorating gingerbread, and sending your Christmas wish list to Santa via telegram. Regular admission applies. 

A Nepean Christmas
https://ottawa.ca/en/residents/arts-heritage-and-culture/museums-and-historic-sites/nepean-museum#upcoming-events-and-programs

Bring the whole family and get into the Christmas spirit by coming to the museum for a Nepean Christmas Celebration!  There will be Christmas crafts, treats, and of course Santa! There is a fee.

Barrhaven: Winter Wonderland
Saturday, December 8th from 10 am to 12 pm
https://www.facebook.com/events/1219112084895128

Presented by the Minto Recreation Complex, this festive event will include pictures with Santa, crafts, games and cookie decorating. Admission is free!

Goulbourn Museum Olde Fashioned Christmas
Sunday, November 18th from 10 am to 3 pm
http://goulbournmuseum.ca/event/old-fashioned-christmas-outdoor-artisan-market-4/

Get a head start on your shopping at this holiday celebration and Christmas market that features activities for the whole family. Write letters to Santa and pose for a photo with the jolly old soul, enjoy free hot chocolate and apple cider and buy one-of-a-kind handmade gifts from local artisans. Free admission.

The CP Holiday Train
http://www.cpr.ca/holiday-train/schedule-canada

You may not see Santa here, but this is a great holiday event all the same. The CP Holiday Train started in 1999 and raises money and food for the Food Bank. Over the three weeks of the program, musicians will play more than 150 concerts from a boxcar that’s been turned into a travelling stage.

New Books at the Ottawa Public Library

The Ottawa Public Library is back to share some of their new fall books for children with us. This month’s post is by Ann-Marie Miller, Supervising Librarian, Children’s Dept., Ruth E. Dickinson Library.

A Home in the Barn by Margaret Wise Brown

A Home in the Barn by Margaret Wise Brown; illustrated by Jerry Pinkney

This is a new release from the much-loved author of Goodnight Moon and many more well-known picture books.  The text begins and ends with a memorable rhyme and the story takes us through a day in the cozy barn while the winter wind rattles outside.  Pinkney’s illustrations here are scrumptious, as always.

Take Your Turn and Time to Share by Nancy Parent; illustrated by Luigi Aimé

In large format suitable for the 3-5 year old crowd, the classic stories by Rev. Awdry are adapted in a new series: Thomas & Friends Really Useful Stories.  The stories focus on those gentle life lessons which all children must learn. 

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How Do Dinosaurs Learn to Read? By Jane Yolen

How Do Dinosaurs Learn to Read? By Jane Yolen; illustrated by Mark Teague

This is the new entry in the entertaining How Do Dinosaurs… series.  With big, bold, mischievous dinosaurs romping through every page and rhyming text  printed  in big well-spaced fonts, this one is sure to engage.  The end pieces provide tips for parents on teaching the alphabet and encouraging reading. 

The Bunny Band

The Bunny Band by Bill Richardson; illustrated by Roxanna Bikadoroff

A bunny caught looting badger’s garden promises to help the garden grow if he is released.  The bunny returns nightly after that with his bunny band to serenade the garden.  Magically, the harvest is grand and all share in the abundance.  A wonderful fable, well-told in rhyming text 

Where is robin

Where is Robin? by Maggie Testa; illustrated by Patrick Spaziante

This is an early reader that is sure to appeal to even the most reluctant beginner.  The story of Robin’s disappearance is told in only 100 words making it an excellent choice for starting your child’s lifelong reading adventures. 


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Unlimited Squirrels in I Lost My Tooth by Mo Willems

The creator of Elephant & Piggie, now gives us Unlimited Squirrels.  In I Lost My Tooth! , Zoom Squirrel has lost a front tooth! The Squirrels leap into action when they discover the missing tooth is a baby tooth! The book features a funny, furry adventure, bonus jokes, quirky quizzes and nutty facts. Great for the grade 1 crowd.

Meet Yasmin.jpg

Meet Yasmin by Saadia Faruqi; illustrated by Hatem Aly

This is the first in a series of early readers featuring Yasmin Ahmad. Yasmin is a spirited second-grader who’s always on the lookout for those “aha” moments to help her solve life’s little problems. A creative thinker and curious explorer, Yasmin and her multi-generational Pakistani American family will delight and inspire readers. 

Bear country: Bearly a Misadventure by Doreen Cronin

Bear country: Bearly a Misadventure by Doreen Cronin; illustrated by Stephen Gilpin

The chicken squad is hungry but the caretaker who feeds them is missing and there is a bear in the neighbourhood.  Doreen Cronin provides another amusing adventure for second graders.  The large fonts and many illustrations make this an easily accessible first novel. 

Magic School bus rides Again: Sink or Swim by Judy Katschke

Magic School bus rides Again: Sink or Swim by Judy Katschke

The Magic School Bus Rides Again with new chapter books for the grade 2-3 crowd to explore.  Here science facts are wrapped up in just the right amount of adventure to keep those new readers engaged.  In Sink or Swim Ms. Frizzle takes the bus under the sea and the class is sent off in their own mini-subs to explore. Will there be sharks? 

Babymouse Tales from the Locker: Lights, Camera, Middle School!

Babymouse Tales from the Locker: Lights, Camera, Middle School! By Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm

Babymouse is back in a new series, Tales from the Locker.   The new series is in the very popular illustrated novel format.  This gives you a chance to transition your graphic novel reader to a more text-rich format while still providing plenty of visual appeal.   In this first story, Babymouse joins the middle school film club with hopes of directing a masterpiece.

Jack and the Geniuses at the Bottom of the World
by Bill Nye and Gregory Mone; illustrated by Nicholas Iluzada

Jack and the Geniuses at the Bottom of the World.jpg

Jack and the Geniuses is a new series from Bill Nye, yes - the Science Guy.  In At the Bottom of the World, Jack and the geniuses, who are two foster children living with Jack’s family, take off to Antarctica with their neighbour, Dr. Hank, for a science competition.  When an old colleague of Dr. Hank’s goes missing on the ice, the intrigue and adventure begins.  Bill Nye makes sure that all scientific facts are accurate and there is more information about the Antarctic at the end of the book.

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Inkling by Kenneth Oppel

This is the story of an ink blot that leaps off the page. The Rylance family is stuck. Dad's got writer's block. Ethan is troubled by a school project and Sarah pines for a puppy. One night the ink from Mr. Rylance’s drawings runs together--and then leaps off the page! This small burst of creativity is about to change everything. Kenneth Oppel is the much acclaimed author of Firewing, Sunwing and Silverwing as well as many other prizewinning novels.  Suitable for grade 4 or 5 students.

Chase: Get Ready to Run and Escape: Don’t Stop Running  by Linwood Barclay

Once your child has read Chase, they will be asking for Escape just to find out what happens to Chipper and Jeff.  Chipper is a dog that has been implanted with a computer and Jeff is the orphan son of the scientists working on the project.  Both are being chased by The Institute for the secrets they know.  Jeff and Chipper both know they will never be safe if they are captured.  Linwood Barclay is a well-known author of adult adventure.  Suitable for grade 6 to 8 students.

Chase Get Ready to Run and Escape Don’t Stop Running  by Linwood Barclay .jpg