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 www.smithsfalls.ca.



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, www.hauntedwalk.com

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

5 Best Places to get Ice Cream in Ottawa's West End

Following Misty’s post on the 5 Best Places to get Ice Cream in Ottawa’s East End, I thought I would share my family’s top five favourite spots to get ice cream in Ottawa’s West End. Over the years, we have sampled a lot of ice cream in Ottawa’s West End including these five spots:

Best Places to get ice cream in Ottawa's West End

Brett’s Ice Cream

1 Beaverbrook Road, Kanata

Whether you are craving soft serve or a milkshake, Brett’s has that and more. Simply delicious and a perfect way to beat the heat while in Ottawa West!

Carp Custom Creamery

3763 Carp Road, Carp

Known simply as “Carp Creamery,” this ice cream shop serves up delicious homemade ice cream and makes ice cream cakes (among other things). They have over 60 flavours, which means there is a flavour (or two) for everyone in the family. They even sell it by the 1L tubs, should you want to indulge at home too!

Carp Custom Creamery has also opened a small location within the new Kichesippi Beer Brewery in Bells Corners! Yum!

Jo-Jo’s Creameria

1573 Stittsville Main, Stittsville

Jo-Jo’s makes ice cream even more fun with specialty cones and unique creations such as the “Cookie Monster" “Baby Shark” and the “Unicorn". Your kids eyes will be almost as huge as their ice cream cone when the see these fun creations. Note: it’s not inexpensive by any means, but it is definitely a fun summer treat for all ages - and they even serve vegan flavours!

Purple Cow’s Ice Cream

111 Colonnade Rd, Nepean

Located within the Merivale Acres Business Park, Purple Cow’s Ice Cream offers many different flavours of ice cream, homemade waffle cones as well as other sweet treats including fudge! This place is a hidden gem!

Redd’s Ice Cream

1523 Stittsville Main St. (Behind Quitters Coffee)

Open in the summer only, this bright red food truck located behind Quitters Coffee, serves ice cream from Carp’s Custom Creamery. There are always at least half a dozen flavours and there is outdoor seating if you want to eat your treat on site.

Honourable mention: Scoops Ice Cream

111 Waba Rd, Pakenham

A bit of a drive, but well worth it, Scoops is only open in the summer, but the drive to Pakenham is scenic and well worth it. We tend to grab our ice cream and then go sit by the stone bridge, located nearby. Scoops services soft serve and they make their own waffle cones! If you go, be sure to check out their specialty, the Hurricane!

Haunted Walks Ottawa - Mackenzie King Estate

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.  


HAunted Walks Ottawa Mackenzie King

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!

Haunted Walk Mackenzie King 2.jpg

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. 

Haunted Walk Mackenzie King 3.jpg

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. 

Haunted Walk Mackenzie King 1.jpg

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, www.hauntedwalk.com

Full disclosure, Stephen’s tickets were covered by Haunted Walk, but all opinions are his own.

Ottawa Biplane Adventures at the Canadian Museum of Aviation and Space

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.


Riding in a biplane has been on our son, David’s, must-do list for about the past year. He first learned about the experience when we visited the Canadian Museum of Aviation and Space last summer. Towards the back of the museum there is an information desk for Ottawa Biplane Adventures.  David found out they offered biplane tours ranging from 6-8 minute intro flights to a 30-35 minute eco tour which takes you into the back-country of western Quebec.

Of course, David’s next question was, ‘Papa, can we go on a flight.’  I love my son more than anything in the world, but I also have an overwhelming fear of heights. Normal flight is difficult enough for me let alone an open-air seat.

My wife, Sandy, has been open to almost every adventure David has taken. She has gone on zip lines in the jungles of the Dominican Republic to snorkelling in Mexico. For her, however, a biplane ride was where she had reached her threshold.  

Luckily, my close friend, Frederic and his partner, are visiting us this summer.  I knew Frederic enjoyed an adrenaline rush and he quickly agreed to accompany David.

Ottawa Biplane Adventures

Since I was not on the biplane, I will let David describe the experience.  His words are in italics.

As soon as we got to the museum, I watched a biplane land. I would be next. We entered the museum where I was given goggles, headphones and a leather cap - I looked like a WWII pilot! I was briefed about how to take photos without my camera flying out of the aircraft and a few other important things and then was ready to go. As I entered the airplane, I remembered the reason it was called the vintage flight was because the plane was made in 1940! Me and my dad’s friend, Frederic were seated at the front of the airplane with the pilot right behind us as I waved goodbye. Take off was very calm and soon I was 1500 ft in the air. I took a look outwards and got an incredible view of the Ottawa river. From time to time the airplane would tilt so that we could see better. About 5 minutes in, the highlight of the tour came- we were directly over Parliament hill! Other places that I saw were the Chateau Laurier, the Rideau Canal, the Museum of History, Gatineau park in the distance and a large portion of downtown Ottawa. The majority of the flight was spent flying over the river and I could also see many scenic areas with a few boats. One of the best parts about it was I also got to see all the places the plane flew over on Google Maps. After about 15 minutes, we returned to the Aviation museum.  

Ottawa Biplane Adventures

I really enjoyed the flight because it makes going on an aircraft far more exciting with the clear view and strong wind. You also feel secure throughout the tour and you get an aerial view of Ottawa and Gatineau better than through a window or a computer screen. I can’t wait to brag to my friends about the experience!

Ottawa Biplane Adventures

I must admit, I was happy to see Frederic and David land safely.  The staff gave us full confidence from the moment we arrived. The day had extra importance to our family because my grandfather, Jonas,  had trained to be a flight navigator in World War II. He trained in various locations including Ottawa. David has researched our family history and I thought it was a very cool that he could experience what Great Grandpa Jonas had experienced eighty years earlier. 

Ottawa Biplane Adventures

Ottawa Biplane Adventures


Disclaimer: Stephen and Davis were compensated for this adventure, but all opinions are there own.

Family Travel: Dynamic Earth, Sudbury, Ontario

I grew up in Sudbury, Ontario, and although I didn't appreciate it as much at the time, it is a beautiful city with lots of things to do for families. A five-hour drive from Ottawa's west end, Sudbury offers families a plethora of beaches including Moonlight Beach, Bell Park, and Windy Lake and makes for a great long weekend destination.

FAMILY TRAVEL Sudbury Ontario.png

I now visit Sudbury twice a year, every spring and fall, to spend time with my grandfather. My most recent trip up was with my mom and my ten-year-old daughter. We all thought spring is the perfect time of year to check out one of Sudbury’s most popular tourist destinations, Dynamic Earth.

Of course, there is also Science North, which is known for its Bed of Nails, resident beaver and porcupine, flying squirrels, as well as many other interactive nature and science-related exhibitions. I hope to explore Science North again more when I return in the fall!

In the meantime, if you have never heard of the Bed of Nails before, check out this fun promotional video from Science North:

Dynamic Earth

This trip, we decided to visit Dynamic Earth. I hadn't been "down in the mines" since I was a kid and I was excited to share the Underground Tour experience with my daughter. When you arrive at Dynamic Earth, you are assigned a start time, which is typically every hour on the half hour. We got there 45 minutes before our underground tour started, so we took advantage of the additional exhibitions that are included with admission.

It was a beautiful day so we, of course, took the opportunity to snap pictures of the infamous Big Nickel that stands on the top of the hill at Dynamic Earth. The Big Nickel is a replica of the 1951 Canadian nickel and has been a selfie hotspot since before selfies were a thing! According to the Dynamic Earth website it, “symbolizes the wealth that Sudbury has contributed to the Canadian economy through nickel production.” I love that access to the nickel is barrier-free, which means anyone can walk or use a wheelchair to get up close with the Big Nickel. You may have heard that there were once other large coin monuments that shared space with the Big Nickel… you can learn what happened to them by visiting the Big Nickel, but I still believe the rumour that they rolled away. ;)

The always accessible Big Nickel

The always accessible Big Nickel

After visiting the Big Nickel, my daughter explored the Outdoor Science Park. This park is unlike any other! It features science and mining themed play structures, vehicles and slides safe and fun for kids of all ages. My daughter lived sliding down the “molten slag” slide towards a real slag pot and climbing the net climbing structure.

When we finally ventured back inside, we spent time learning about colour minerals on the mineral wall and playing in the mine training centre downstairs that featured virtual operating equipment such as a rock breaker, excavator and mining drone.  

Dynamic Earth Sudbury Activities.jpg

Of course, the real attraction was the underground tour. The tour starts by taking a big glass-windowed elevator down seven storeys. The guided group tour takes you through their demonstration mines through the ages. During the approximately hour-long underground tour, you learn the evolution of mining in the Sudbury region from the turn of the century to modern mining and also includes a mock-dynamite explosion. It's unlike any other tour I have been on, and I found it very interesting to learn about what went on under the ground all those years of living there. Also, you can purchase a postcard at the gift shop before heading down and mail it in their underground mailbox – a fun way to let others know how much fun you’re having! It’s a very realistic experience and makes you appreciate the dark and damp conditions miners continue to work in every day!

Dynamic Earth Underground Tour.jpg

If you’re planning a family trip to Sudbury, Ontario make sure to include Dynamic Earth! Here are some tips to make the most out of your time there: 

  • Pick up your underground tour pass for the next available tour time as soon as you arrive (you may be tempted to visit the Big Nickel first, but depending on when you arrive there will be plenty of time to do that!).

  • The temperature underground is approximately 13C (55F), so make sure you are dressed for cool and damp conditions by bringing a jacket and wearing running shoes.

  • I recommend the underground tour for children aged three and up, but there are strollers available underground!

  • It is dark when you first get in the elevator and when you first arrive underground. Make sure little ones are prepared by letting them know it will be dark, but also that there will be lights and that they are safe.

  • There are flashing lights.

  • There is a café on site if you want a quick bite to eat as well as numerous bathrooms.

  • Dynamic Earth is typically closed from October to March each year.

  • The Big Nickel is free to visit any time of the year!

For more information on Dynamic Earth, visit: https://sciencenorth.ca/dynamic-earth/.


Disclaimer: I received passes to Dynamic Earth for the purposes of this review, but all opinions are my own.