Family Travel: Boston, Massachusetts

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.  

Boston is one of the best family destinations we have ever visited.  Have a history buff in your family? Boston was the cradle of the American Revolution and has all the historic sites to prove it.   Is your son/daughter a budding intellectual? A tour of Harvard University and MIT will be right up their alley. Just want to eat great seafood.   Boston is located right on the Atlantic Ocean and has several lobster shacks that are visited by both locals and tourists.

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Here is our family’s comprehensive but far from complete guide on what to see, where to stay and where to eat in Boston.  

John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum - I have always been a political junkie and amateur historian.  That is why the JFK Library and Museum was top of the list for me when we visited Boston.  The museum, as one would expect, chronicles the life and presidency of JFK.   

A visitor to the museum first starts with an excellent overview video which JFK himself narrates.  The narration is taken from excerpts of radio and television interviews.  

After the video, there are numerous fascinating exhibits including the 1960 election versus Richard Nixon, the Cuban missile crisis and the U.S space program.  The assasination of Kennedy is only lightly touched upon as the museum is meant to be a celebration of his life and legacy.   

The architecture of the building is also stunning as a full glass atrium provides outstanding views of the Boston Harbor and the Atlantic Ocean.

Our son, David, loved the museum as there are many interactive features.  It might be best visited by older children as the young ones may not find it that interesting.  

The museum is not right on the subway line but there is a free connector bus from the subway to the museum that runs every twenty minutes.  

Boston Tea Party Ship and Museum - It would be remiss to visit Boston without taking in at least one of the historical sites of the American Revolution.  Without getting into deep American history, the throwing of tea into the Boston Harbor by the colonists against the British was one of the pivotal events that led to the start of the American Revolution.  

Family Travel: Boson, Massachusetts Boston Tea Party

Set on a replica ship, the attraction does a great job of recreating the events of the Boston Tea Party.   Period actors lead visitors through everything from the town hall to actually throwing crates into the Boston Harbour.  David loved repeatedly throwing the crates into the harbour and then using the ropes to bring them back up.  

It should be noted this was not the original ship or location of the Boston Tea Party.  The ship is an accurate replica and the location is the closest they could find to the original.  

There are numerous other Revolutionary War sights in Boston but perhaps few as interactive.  

Skywalk Observatory - My wife, Sandy, said her favourite attraction in Boston was the Skywalk Observatory.  It is easy to understand why. Set on the 50th Floor of the Prudential Center building, the Skywalk offers a 360-degree view of Boston.    

A person is provided with an audio guide which adds a lot to the visitor experience.    The audio guide goes into detail about the political and social history of the city. There were a children’s audio guide and one for adults making it perfect for all ages.

The Skywalk had much more to offer than just stunning views.  There were various exhibits about Boston including the Dreams of Freedom museum which highlighted the positive effects immigration and diversity has had on the city.   

Family Travel: Boson, Massachusetts Skywalk View

I also enjoyed the exhibit highlighting Boston's sports history.  As a Canadian, Bobby Orr scoring the 1970 winning goal in the Stanley Cup struck a particular chord.  

We ended our time at Skywalk watching the two excellent videos in their theatre.  The first video did a flyover of the major attractions in Boston and the second gave an overview of the history of Boston from an immigrant’s perspective.  

Skywalk is located downtown thus is easily accessible by transit and a short walking distance to other attractions.  

Old Town Trolley Tours and Ghost and Gravestones Tour -  I feel one of the best ways to see any city is to take a hop-on hop-off trolley tour.  One of the best ones we have ever taken was the Old Town Trolley Tour in Boston. The tour covers eighteen different stops and is about two hours in length.  Both of our guides were very entertaining and informed. I was impressed the guides were able to negotiate the busy Boston streets while still providing commentary.  

The tour covers various points in the city but it is well-worth starting at the beginning to get the full experience.  

Family Travel: Boson, Massachusetts Trolley Tours

The trolley company also offers an evening Ghosts and Gravestones tour which examines the spookier side of Boston.  The tour started out with our guide donning a madman style costume that could have won best dressed at any Halloween party.  Our first stop was an old graveyard in Boston’s north end. Our guide told a number of spooky stories but also provided historical context to his commentary.   We toured several other spots with our final destination being the Granary Burying ground. This cemetery is one of the oldest in the United States and includes the gravestone of Paul Revere.  There was a suitably bone-chilling scare near the end which I will not give away.  

This attraction was very entertaining but may not be the most suitable for young children.  

Harvard and MIT walking tours -  There are perhaps no other learning institutions more iconic in North America than Harvard and MIT.    We wanted to visit both places and thought the student-led Trademark Tours was the perfect option.

We met our Harvard student guide, Emily, at Harvard Square.  Emily was entering her final year of studies. She immediately told us several amusing stories and gave us an insider’s perspective on being a student at Harvard.  We saw several famous spots including the John Harvard statue. She also showed us the dormitory where Facebook founder, Mark Zuckerberg lived.  

We wrapped up our tour at Harvard and hopped on the subway to MIT.  We met our guide, Luis, who had just completed his degree in Aerospace Engineering.  Luis filled us in on the history of MIT and some of the scientific breakthroughs that have been developed at MIT.  He also told us some of the pranks MIT students have pulled over the years including putting a reconstructed police car on top of a building.  Working siren and everything!

Family Travel: Boston, Massachusetts MIT

Where to eat - There is no denying that Boston is an expensive city.  We did find a few restaurants at a decent price and tasty food. My son’s favourite restaurant was Spyce.  He loved it because the salad bowls were largely made by robots with staff only adding the final touches.  I frankly thought it was going to be a gimmick but the food was delicious and affordable. Another favourite for the whole family was Joe’s American Bar and Grill.  The food was elevated pub food and nothing could beat the location along the water.  

It is also worth a trip to the north end where there is an abundance of Italian eateries.  We loved the pastry at both Mike’s and Modern Pastry.

Where to Stay - Again, Boston is not a cheap city.  We chose to stay out in the suburbs and take the commuter train every day.  We bought two seven day paper Charlie Cards for about $44.00.  It gave us unlimited subway rides, limited ferry transit and limited commuter train access.  It is well worth the price if you are planning to use public transit.  

For more information about Boston, visit,

Disclosure: Stephen was comped for the attractions for the purposes of this review, but all views are his own.

Family Travel: Loon Mountain, New Hampshire, USA

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.  

Our family thinks one of the keys to a great family vacation is to make frequent stops along the route.  Especially if it is to see fun attractions.  Loon Mountain Resort, located in the White Mountains of New Hampshire fit the bill.  

We arrived at Loon Mountain after being on the highway for two hours.  I read online that the resort had the longest scenic gondola ride in New Hampshire and also had ziplining.  Perfect for our son, David.  

Family Travel: Loon Mountain, New Hampshire, USA

We checked into the adventure centre and opted for the full adventure package so we could try all the activities.  Our first destination had to be the gondola. Heights and I have a mixed relationship so I was somewhat tentative to take the gondola.   My fears were quickly dispelled as we were treated to a smooth ride and breathtaking vistas.  

It took us about ten minutes to reach the summit.   We decided to go check out the glacial caves trail where a person has a chance to explore the caves.   While on the glacial cave trail, we first came across the outdoor amphitheatre. The amphitheatre was located on the sloped mountainside with seating providing an amazing view of the surrounding valley.  I could not imagine a more stunning location for any type of event.  

We continued along the trail and came to our first cave.  The space to explore the cave was tight which added to the challenge and fun.  Eleven-year old David fared well crawling in-between the spaces with relative ease.  My wife, Sandy, also proved quite capable. I used the excuse that I was wearing sandals thus did not have proper footwear!  David and Sandy explored three or four more caves with David completing the entire circuit.  

Caves: Loon Mountain, New Hampshire, USA

It was now time for lunch so we decided to try the summit cafe.   I was frankly expecting so-so food with outrageous prices because the view was so spectacular.  Instead, we were treated to tasty food at a reasonable price with the views included for good measure.  

After lunch, we took the gondola back down the mountain and headed to the adventure centre.  The centre serves as a basecamp for all activities at the foot of the mountain. David first wanted to try the ziplining.    He got suited up and zipped across an idyllic mountain stream. Sometimes, I wonder where David got his genes for adventure. I enjoy mild pursuits like hiking and biking but ziplining is not top of my list.   

Ziplining: Loon Mountain, New Hampshire, USA

Once done the ziplining, we were almost done for the day.  David wanted to do one last activity, the rock-climbing wall.  He strapped into the harness and was ready to climb away. He reached the top of the climbing wall and rang a bell at the top to signify his achievement.  

Rock Climbing: Loon Mountain, New Hampshire, USA

It was now sadly time to go and head back to Ottawa.   We did not have a chance to check out some of the other activities including the aerial forest adventure park and mountain biking.  Next time, we would like to extend our stay in the White Mountains as there are many outdoor activities to experience.  

If you go - Loon Mountain Resort is about a five hour drive from Ottawa.   It would be advised to book accommodations ahead of time as the area is a very popular tourist destination all seasons.  

For more information about Loon Mountain Resort, visit,  

Disclosure: Stephen received free passes for the purposes of this review, but all views are his own.

Recipe: Kid-Approved Frozen Fruit Smoothie

Smoothies are a delicious and easy way to get in a healthy dose of fruits (and vegetables!) into your diet. My eleven year old daughter loves smoothies and insisted we share one of her favourite recipes that she began making herself (with a little supervision) a few years ago. She loves smoothies as part of her morning breakfast and sometimes makes enough for several smoothies to either share or save for later. You can also freeze the blended mix into popsicle moulds for a tasty frozen treat! The below is her recipe as written by her and she also took the pictures. :)

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Kid-Approved Frozen Fruit Smoothie

The main ingredient is frozen fruit! We buy whatever is on sale that week, but mango is always in the recipe because it tastes the best.

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Blend together:

  • 1 avocado (or 1 medium banana) - this makes the smoothie creamy

  • 1 cup frozen berries

  • 1/2 cup frozen mango!

  • 1/4 cup of vanilla or your favourite yogurt (or one of the small lunch containers)

  • 1 teaspoon honey

  • 1 cup of water or milk (or more depending on how much frozen fruit you used - sometimes I put in too much and it jams the blender)

Frozen fruit smoothie

My mom sometimes adds some spinach or kale. I don’t.

Blend all ingredient until smooth then pour into a big cup and enjoy! Or if you made too much put it in the fridge for later. Yum!

frozen fruit smoothie in blender

Welcome Back: the search for employment after extended time off

When my husband left his job in 2013, I think we both assumed it would be for the short-term. Little did we know that it would take two and a half years before he was able to secure a job in his field. The experience changed our family in many positive ways, but the stress of job hunting and financial pressures took their toll.


People take time off for all sorts of personal and professional reasons, but child rearing and child care costs top the list of motivating factors for professionals opting out of their chosen careers. One Harvard Business Review article states that:

“Many women take an off-ramp at some point on their career highway. Nearly four in ten highly qualified women (37%) report that they have left work voluntarily at some point in their careers. Among women who have children, that statistic rises to 43%.”

In our home, the genders were reversed but the reasons were the same. We had just had our second child, and my husband had been working in what he thought was his chosen career in golf management. It was months after our first child was born that we quickly realized that golf and kids do not mix well. The early start times (people are on the course from sun-up) and the late nights for tournaments and private events meant that my husband would sometimes go days without seeing his daughter. During my second pregnancy he began planning an exit strategy to stay at home and care for her while also attempting a complete 180 in career paths.

The long time off work was a wonderful way for him to bond with our baby, but also presented challenges when trying to re-enter the workforce. When I recently heard about Shopify’s new career opportunity for those who have taken extended leave, I was really excited to share it with our parenting community.

Shopify knows that returning to work after a long period of time can be daunting, especially in an industry as fast-paced as technology. That’s why they’re launching a program here in Ottawa called Welcome Back – a paid, 3-month program designed to support engineers and developers with senior experience who have taken extended time off from work.

• The program is open to anyone who has been out of the workforce for a minimum of 2 years and has 3+ years of experience as a professional software developer

• Training is provided that refreshes development skills through hands-on workshops and custom programming, led by Shopify’s Engineering and Learning Development teams

• In addition to technical skills development, Welcome Back also focuses on rebuilding foundational knowledge, cross-team communication, and problem identification with the goal of helping candidates re-enter the workforce at a senior level.

Indeed, recent trends indicate that it is not just mothers faced with job leave and career shifts. A 2017 Modern Families Index report found that “fathers are the more likely (47%) to want to downshift into a less stressful job and 38% would be willing to take a pay cut to achieve a better work-life balance, reflecting the difficulty they face in reconciling work and home life.”

Our story has a happy ending, as my husband is set to complete a five-year apprenticeship in 2021. Paid job training programs can make a huge difference in the lives of people who are seeking work, particularly those with families at home that need the support.

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Want more information?

The Welcome Back 3-month program will run from October - December 2019 in downtown Ottawa (transit accessible), Monday to Friday from 9:30am - 2:00pm. Each successful participant will be partnered with a Shopify mentor after the first month to support their growth and wellbeing.

Check out Shopify’s Careers page to apply by September 13, 2019.

This post contains sponsored content from Shopify. All opinions are our own.

Family Travel: A Day Trip to Smiths Falls, 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.  

When I first moved to Ottawa in 2000, the town of Smiths Falls meant one thing to me - Hershey chocolate. The Hershey factory was then open in Smiths Falls. Every time family or friends would visit, it seemed like we were doing the factory tour and buying chocolate at their store. Unfortunately, the factory closed down in 2008 so my visits to the town diminished. 

The second wave of visits came when our son, David, went through his Thomas the Train phase. Smiths Falls is home to the Railway Museum of Eastern Ontario. We visited the museum numerous times including special events where David got to go for a train ride. This was exciting stuff, especially to four-year-old David who believed in Thomas almost as much as Santa Claus.

Now that David is eleven, we had not recently been back to the town but were looking for a day trip destination from Ottawa when my parents were visiting. Being only about an hour drive from our house, Smiths Falls was a perfect choice. We started the day off at the Heritage House museum. My Dad is a history buff so he enjoyed reading all about the house which was built in the 1860s. There was also a market day going on meaning local vendors and artisans were selling their products. A guitarist from the area provided the relaxing background music. 

Heritage House - Smiths Falls, Ontario

Heritage House - Smiths Falls, Ontario

Just a one minute drive from Heritage House was the Old Slys lock station on the Rideau Canal. I always love visiting the lock stations and would like to visit them all one day. It is amazing this piece of engineering from the 1830s is still in use today. We met a couple of workers as they cranked the lock open for an incoming boat. 

Rideau Canal Locks - Smiths Falls

Rideau Canal Locks - Smiths Falls

It was now time for some lunch. In the past few years, many new restaurants have opened in Smiths Falls. We heard the sandwiches at Cafe Whim were delicious so decided to check it out. We immediately felt at home as our server was very friendly. As promised, the sandwiches were huge and tasty. We all picked different sandwiches which allowed for sharing. 

Having had a hearty meal, the plan was to work some of it off. We headed to the local beach and made a cool discovery. There was a new water trampoline in the swimming area. David quickly changed and swam out to the trampoline. He jumped on the trampoline and slid down the mini-slide. After about fifteen minutes, one of the other kids playing yelled out “snake!” This word might frighten some kids but our son loves snakes. It was a northern water snake and did not pose a danger to any of the kids. I was only afraid that David might hop into the water and try to catch the snake a la Crocodile Dundee. 

The second part of David’s great adventure was to check out the beach and shallower swimming area. He soon discovered that there were crayfish at the bottom of the lake. It was not very deep so he decided to go swimming for the crayfish. We spent about the next forty minutes as David had the time of his life diving for crayfish. In total, he was able to catch and release two crayfish. My wife, Sandy, was not totally into the crayfish experience but she did take some awesome photos.

Swimming Area - Rideau Canal locks

I felt like the water trampoline added a lot. It felt like something you might see at the beach in the Riviera Maya. The shallow swim area was also perfect for younger children. The bottom was a bit rocky so swim shoes might be the way to go. 

We took a quick shower and were ready to see more of the town. We were still full from our hearty lunch so just needed a light snack. It was about 32 degrees Celsius outside so of course, the perfect choice was ice cream. We found an ice cream shop within walking distance, Sweet Scoops. The ice cream cones were affordably priced but more important were delicious. We did make an involuntary contribution to the sidewalk as our cones melted under the heat. It only gave us that much more reason to devour them quickly. 

Sweet Scoops, Smiths Falls

Sweet Scoops, Smiths Falls

For our last activity, we took in the Outerbridge Clockwork Mysteries show at the Station Theatre. The show features the magic of Ted Outerbridge and his partner Marion. Ted Outerbridge is one of the top illusionists in Canada so we felt fortunate to see him in such an intimate venue. 

The show was fast-paced and entertaining. Many of the tricks left us with our jaws dropped wondering how he did it. At one point, David wanted Sandy and I to give up our wedding rings for one of the tricks. I politely declined David’s offer to the magician as I tightly held my ring. Of course, all rings were safely returned to the participants.

Station Theatre, Smiths Falls

Station Theatre, Smiths Falls

Ted and Marion have recently moved to Smiths Falls which gave the performance a community feeling. People from out of town did not feel like they were crashing the event. More like they were joining the party. 

Ted performed his final trick of the evening and it was time for us to head back to Ottawa. The transformation of Smiths Falls has been incredible. I always liked the city but did not think of it as a top tourist destination. Additions like the water trampoline, family-friendly entertainment, and new restaurants have opened my eyes. We are planning to make a return visit later this summer and Hershey kisses have nothing to do with it. 

For more information about tourist attractions and the latest events, visit

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.  

Some people say that Canadian history is boring. Perhaps they have never done the Haunted Walk Experience at the Mackenzie King Estate.

Two years ago, my wife, Sandy and our son, David, did a haunted walk tour around downtown Ottawa. Haunted walk are the tour guides who wear the black capes and carry the lanterns. We enjoyed our experience as we learned a lot of history about the city and was not too scary for children. 

When I saw they also offered haunted tours at Mackenzie King estate, it was on our summer to-do list!

We arrived at P6 parking lot well ahead of our 8:15 pm meeting time and explored a few of the trails. We were greeted by our black-cloaked tour guides who provided us with flashlights and also suggested applying a coat of bug spray. 

At 8:30 pm, we met our tour guide, Natasha, and we were off to hear ghost stories and explore the grounds of the estate. 

Mackenzie King is one of our most well-known prime ministers. King led us through a good portion of the Great Depression and World War II. He may be equally as well-known for participating in seances and believing in spiritualism. Ripe fodder for a ghost tour. 

The estate is divided up into two distinct areas. The first is Kingswood where Mackenzie King purchased his first property in 1903. Natasha took us to the main cottage and shared a few spooky stories about the cottage. King was particularly close to his mother and was devastated when she passed away. We were allowed to explore inside the rooms with our flashlight. I felt like I was on an episode of Ghost Hunters. 

We proceeded to the second and more grandiose section of the estate, Moorside. King developed this area after he became prime minister. He would receive foreign dignitaries and heads of state at Moorside. Natasha shared more information about King and some of the strange sightings at Moorside. 

We were again allowed to explore inside the building with our flashlights. After hearing some of the stories, David succeeded in scaring me! He snuck up behind me and said, “Hello Father.” I could have sworn it was Mackenzie King himself.

Our last stop was the Abbey Ruins. This was the scariest and most spectacular area of the estate. King was interested in architecture and would save portions of buildings that were being demolished. These included the parliament hill building which had been destroyed in the 1916 fire. We were treated to a clear sky where we could see the stars and moon. Natasha shared her creepiest stories and we all gripped our flashlights a little bit tighter. And they say Canadian history is boring. 

If you go - it is advised to bring mosquito spray as a good portion of the tour is outside in the evening so that means bugs. Also, coming to Mackenzie King Estate is not too difficult as all the parkways are open. Once the tour is done the main parkways are closed so this means taking back roads back to the highway. It may be helpful to have a GPS or a good map. As mentioned, the tour was not crazy scary and would be suitable for an older child, especially if he/she is into history. 

For more information and schedules visit,

Full disclosure, Stephen’s tickets for various attractions were covered for the purposes of this blog post, but all opinions are his own.