Family Travel: Explore Winnipeg, Manitoba

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.  
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We took a family trip to Saskatchewan this past summer and decided to return to Ottawa by car.  One of our unexpected surprises were all the great family-friendly attractions we found in Winnipeg, Manitoba. Here is a list of our favourite attractions we checked out while in Winnipeg.

Assiniboine Park Zoo  -  The zoo has been on my list of must-visit places since they opened their Journey to Churchill exhibit in 2014.  The stars of the show are the polar bears.  It is possible to view the bears through a glass-enclosed tunnel similar to what you find in an aquarium.  The day we visited the bears were in full-performance swimming and generally frolicking about.

Polar Bears at Assiniboine Park Zoo .jpg

There are plenty of things to keep you busy at the zoo.  A few other animals we saw were muskox, timber wolves and harbour seals (thankfully kept away from the polar bears!)  One other feature of the zoo I liked was the indoor polar-themed playground. Our son, David, who is ten was not quite the target audience but we were visiting with friends who had an eight year old and six year old.  They took full advantage of the playground and it brought back memories for me of Cosmic Adventures in Ottawa.

The Forks -  Perhaps the most important and popular destination in Winnipeg is The Forks.  Located in downtown Winnipeg, The Forks are found where the Assiniboine and Red River meet up.   The site has also been a meeting place for the past 6000 years as archaeological digs show it was used by Aboriginal peoples.  More recently, it was a centralized site for fur traders, Metis buffalo hunters, Scottish settlers and everyone else in between!

The Forks - Winnipeg

Today, The Forks mixes in the contemporary with the historic.  You can find the Manitoba Children’s Museum along with numerous displays detailing the history of the area.  For our family, we gravitated towards the Forks Market where you can find numerous restaurant kiosks and vendors selling a variety of products.  Our favourite food stall was Fergie’s Fish ‘n Chips where we appropriately had delicious Fish ‘n Chips wrapped up in newspaper.

We also enjoyed climbing up to the top of a small tower found in the Market.  We were treated to a panoramic view of The Forks and the two rivers.

Canadian Museum for Human Rights -  Opened, in 2014,  the Human Rights museum has helped to put Winnipeg on the map as a tourist destination.  The first thing a visitor will notice is the unique architecture. The curved form blends in seamlessly with the landscape.

Canadian Museum for Human Rights, Winnipeg, Manitoba

The museum might not seem to be the most obvious choice for those with younger children.  The exhibits deal with hard subjects including the Canada’s mistreatment of Aboriginal peoples and the Holocaust.   Our son, David, loves history so really enjoyed the museum. While difficult issues are addressed, the exhibits tell the story from the perspective we can all make a difference in improving human rights.  

A visit to the Canadian Museum for Human Rights

Accommodation -  For our time in Winnipeg, we stayed at Delta Hotels by Marriott Winnipeg.  Located right in downtown Winnipeg, it was only about a fifteen minute walk to The Forks and the Human Rights Museum.  Aside from the location, David loved the indoor and rooftop swimming pool. His parents more enjoyed the hot tub after touring around all day!  

The perfect place to start all tour planning to Winnipeg is at www.tourismwinnipeg.com.

Disclaimer: Tourism Winnipeg assisted Stephen with hotel and attractions but all views are his own.

Family Travel: Escape to the Chateau Montebello

If you’re looking for an idyllic escape for your family or as a couple, check out the Chateau Montebello in Montebello, Quebec. Located only 90 kms from South Ottawa, simply stated, it is very close to being an all-inclusive resort – and you don’t have to travel very far to experience everything it has to offer.

Chateau Montebello entrance.jpg

As soon as you walk in to the reception area you will feel at ease and welcomed. The warm colours, magnificent multi-story stone fireplace and multiple couches, tables and chairs make you want to immediately sit down and crack open your favourite book.

Fireplace at the Chateau Montebello

The rooms are just as comfortable and I love the fact that the windows open, so when the weather is just right, you can open them and enjoy the fresh air and sounds of the Ottawa River. During the summer you can also smell the evening campfires that take place just outside the building.

Chateau Montebello has everything a person looking to escape the hustle and bustle of daily life needs to relax and have fun. In addition to seasonal programming for children including crafts, cookie decorating, movie nights, and bingo, they also offer programming for adults including a kayak clinic, a chance to meet the chef, and aqua Zumba.

Included in the resort fee ($27+ tax per room) for Chateau Montebello are countless seasonal activities. During the summer you have access to their beautiful outdoor pool as well as their indoor pool, which is the largest indoor hotel pool in Canada!

Indoor pool at Chateau Montebello

There are also bikes that you can sign out and a 5 km trail along the Ottawa River to explore, as well as mini golf, outdoor tennis, horseshoes, canoeing, kayaking and (my daughter’s favourite) stand up paddle boarding. They even have bike helmets and life jackets - everything you need to safely participate in their fun activities.

Paddle boarding at Chateau Montebello

In the winter there are cross country trails, two outdoor ice rinks, curling, and snowshoes. The best part is that all of this is included in the resort fee and you can participate at any time and multiple times throughout your stay.

For additional fees, guests also have the option to rent a boat or participate in a fishing clinic. In the winter, guests can pay to go tubing or dogsledding! And if you forget your snowsuit – they have some to rent!

We only stayed at the Chateau Montebello one night but could have easily spent several days taking advantage of all the programming and activities available. Next time, I am booking some much-needed “me time” at their spa!

I loved being able to go for a scenic walk along the Ottawa River and then sitting on a park bench admiring the sunset.

The gardens were in full bloom while we were there, making for some incredible photos. We also indulged in their seasonal outdoor BBQ on the Outside Terrace, which meant we spoiled ourselves with the best in gourmet BBQed meats and corn on the cob as well as local Montebello brewed beer.

BBQ patio at Chateau Montebello

The Chateau Montebello is known for its Sunday brunch, and regardless of where you eat while onsite, your taste buds are in for a royal treat! Everything served up is delicious.

Relaxing at the Chateau Montebello

We can hardly wait for our next visit to the Chateau Montebello. It’s the perfect accompaniment to a visit to Parc Omega and completes a family road trip like no other place can!

Have you stayed at the Chateau Montebello? Share your favourite moments with us!

Gardens at the Chateau Montebello

Disclaimer: Part of our stay at the Chateau Montebello was compensated for the purposes of this review, but all thoughts and opinions are my own... and we will be back!

Family Travel: A Trip to Parc Omega

My family ended the summer with a trip to Parc Omega in Montebello, Quebec. My daughter, who is now ten, had never been before, and it had been on our to-do list for way too long! I have only ever heard good things about Parc Omega, so honestly, I don’t know what took us so long to visit!

What to expect when you arrive at Parc Omega

Parc Omega.jpg

You know you have arrived at Parc Omega because of the impressive arched sign at the entrance. Upon arrival you receive a warm welcome as well as a map explaining where everything in the park is and what you can expect. You can then drive up to the park house for refreshments and a bathroom break or head right onto the Car Trail. We were immediately greeted by elk and red deer. They were standing in the middle of the road just waiting to be handed carrots! It was suggested to us to snap the carrots in half for the larger elk and deer and snap them into quarters for the white-tailed deer and fallow deer, since they have smaller mouths and teeth. This also prolongs your carrot supply. My daughter took it upon herself to adjust the size of the carrot based on the size of the animal in question.

First Nations Trail

Our first stop was the First Nations Trail. All year long, the First Nations trail makes for a great family walk. Throughout the walk you can learn the history of 11 of the First Nations of Quebec through beautiful totem poles made by a Native American artist. My daughter loved learning about the creatures on each totem pole and what they stood for. Each totem illustrates the intimate relationship between aboriginal peoples, nature and their culture.

 First Nations Trail, Parc Omega

First Nations Trail, Parc Omega

The First Nations Trail is about 1km (about a ten-minute family and stroller friendly walk, in the summer) and is surrounded not only by the totem poles representing the 11 First Nations, but also beautiful forest and of course, wild deer anxious to be fed. There are also picnic tables, tipi-shaped shelters (a great picnic spot on a rainy or sunny day!) as well as a picturesque waterfall, which makes for a memorable social media moment!

At the end of the trail is the Thunderbird. As noted on the Parc Omega website, the Thunderbird is a symbolic emblem often represented in first nation groups, marks the end of the trail, when passing under his wings you will benefit from its powerful protection. My daughter thought this was pretty cool and made sure all of us did it.

First Nations Trail picnic table Parc Omega

The Car Trail

After visiting the First Nations Trail we slowly made our way past Beaver Lake and the meadows. We fed many elk, deer, wild boars, as well as admired the buffalo and even a couple of raccoons we saw trying to steal some leftover carrots from deer. My daughter thoroughly enjoyed having animals of all sizes try to stick their heads through our half-opened car windows in an attempt to get as many carrots as possible. She made sure each of them got a piece of carrot and patted the nose of some of them too. There is more than 15 km of car trail covering animals representative of much Canada’s wilderness including meadows, hills, and lakes.

Car Trail Parc Omega.jpg

Colonization Trail

The Grey Wolves

The wolves observation area has two levels that allow you to observe the wolves in their natural habitat. Three times a day there is a show in which a guide shares facts about the wolves as well as feeds them. He explains the hierarchy of the pack as well as answers any questions members of the audience may have.

We watched the wolves walk around their area for nearly an hour. There were three cubs present and we found it very fascinating to watch them try to exert their strength with the older wolves in the pack. If you have never seen wolves up close and want to learn more about them, Parc Omega is the place to go!

Grey Wolves at Parc Omega

Kids Shows

During the summer, there are also kids shows taking place at various times. There was a wild birds show as well as a skit that took place while we were there. The little ones found the skit very funny – and the older kids loved the wild birds show.

KIDS SHOW.jpg

The Enchanted House

This original and unforgettable wood sculpture is created by artist M. Therrien. It is a must see! The detail in the house is unbelievable and whether you are 2 or 102 you will appreciate it as well as the many other wood sculptures that are located within the Colonization Area.

Enchanted house Parc Omega.jpg

Playground and Aerial Park

Take a break and enjoy this unique playground and aerial course for older kids and adults alike!

Aerial Park at Parc Omega

The Old Farm

Whether you take the five-minute wagon ride or take the ten-minute walk to the Old Farm, it is a must see. There are sheep, goats, chickens, rabbits, pony rides and more waiting at the farm. There is also a small coffee shop and a playground. When we were there, the farm’s garden was in full bloom and was simply stunning!

Bunnies at old farm.jpg
Old Farm Parc Omega

Tips & Suggestions


Buy carrots

  • You can purchase carrots in the park house for $3 a bag. We easily went through four bags in the course of the day, but one bag of carrots per child would do (us adults were having fun too).

Don’t forget the wild boars!

  • The wild boars are friendly too and they will take carrots, but we were told by a friend to bring apples, and when we rolled an apple their way – they devoured them. Just be gentle and don’t throw them at them – we gently tossed them near them and they would work their way over. It was very cute watching the younger ones play-eat with the apples.

Other tips

  • Plan to spend an entire day at Parc Omega. The First Nations trail area took us about an hour to walk, take pictures, read and savour. It is a beautiful and serene area.

  • Take your time driving through the park. Remember, everyone is there to enjoy the animals and the scenery, so be patient with other drivers and feed as many of the hungry wild deer, elk and caribou as you can.

  • The Colonization Area is a popular stop. We spent nearly three hours here! We brought a picnic lunch, which intrigued the deer in this area, but we also splurged on soft serve ice cream and poutine -yum!
  • Arrive early. The Parc is definitely a full day experience, so plan to come when the doors open and spend the day exploring, taking pictures of the many animals including the adorable arctic foxes, cinnamon bears, and arctic wolves.
  • Parc Omega is open year round. We very much look forward to returning in the winter to see the changes in landscape, snowshoeing as well as visiting the “Cabane à sucre!”
  • Stay overnight. Parc Omega has cabins and lodging available for an overnight visit – this is something we will be looking at for future visits! Imagine being able to feed deer right outside your door!
 Arctic wolves

Arctic wolves

 Cinnamon bears

Cinnamon bears

There is so much to see and do at Parc Omega. It is a fun way to get to know the animals of Canada’s vast and varied landscape, as well as learn more about the First Nations and their culture. The park is clean and the animals look well cared for. I look forward to our next trip to Parc Omega.

Have you been to Parc Omega? If so, share your favourite memories and moments with us!

Feeding Deer at Parc Omega

Disclaimer: We received free admission to Parc Omega for the purposes of this review, but all thoughts and opinions are my own... and we will be back!

Kids Rock Broadway at the NAC!

Sometimes, being a kid can be tough. Between balancing school and home life and trying to navigate their way through childhood into adolescence, there isn’t much time to just sit and enjoy being a kid.

Now imagine on top of all those things; having to learn a script, memorize a song list, and play a set in front of a live audience night after night….

Well, the kids of SCHOOL OF ROCK’s North American touring cast make it look easy. The process of finding the perfect kids for the cast, on the other hand, is anything but. For the initial production of SCHOOL OF ROCK, which opened on Broadway in 2015, the casting team looked at a total of 22,000 kids around the US.

School of Rock at the NAC

Challenge 1: Making sure the kids are between 9-12 years old; any younger and the physical demands of the show could be too much, any older and their bodies and voices are subject to the many changes of teenage development.

Challenge 2: Putting acting and singing on the back burner at first, and making sure the level of “musicianship” of the individual is strong. Can they carry a tune? Once that is established, the production team will help to work on the additional aspects.

School of Rock Tour (15)_preview.jpeg

More than anything, casting directors are looking at the personality of the child as that’s as important to them than being a “quadruple threat”. Do they love music? Are they enthusiastic and friendly with others? And more importantly, are they willing to work hard? In addition to regular rehearsals for the touring actors, cast members must also attend separate band rehearsals and tutoring lessons while on the road.

Making their way to the National Arts Centre in Ottawa from September 25-30th, the SCHOOL OF ROCK cast is arriving just as Ottawa students are beginning to settle back into the daily routine of classes and homework. Because of this, we have decided to celebrate the amazing kids in our lives by having Kids Rock Broadway night on Sunday, September 30th at 7 pm.

Tickets for the performance start at $40, and there will also be a number of fun props that kids can use to get that epic Rock 'N Roll photo with. Additionally, School of Rock Orleans will be hosting an instrument petting zoo. Drum kits, guitars, and basses OH MY! Kids will have a chance to check out the instruments up close, learn more about them, and get some totally jammin’ shots to add to the family photo album.

School of Rick with dewey.jpg

What’s special about SCHOOL OF ROCK is that children in the audience can see what others their age are capable of and therefore, what they are capable of. It’s a show about the pressures of achieving perfection and the power that music and pursuing your own passions can have. Finally, it’s an exuberant reminder to children and adults to take a second out of their busy lives to have fun and let loose once in a while.

For more information on show times, ticket prices and availability, check out BroadwayAcrossCanada.ca. We hope to see you there!

** If you're planning on attending as a family, make sure to check out this special offer for Kids Rock Broadway on Sunday, September 30th - Click here to purchase tickets and use offer code: FAMILY

A Whitewater Adventure with Wilderness Tours

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.  
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Last summer, one of our family highlights was going on the Ottawa City Rafting Tour.  Once the warm weather hit this year, we decided to relive our whitewater adventures.  We wanted to go further afield and chose Wilderness Tours which is located about an hour and twenty minutes west of Ottawa along the Ottawa River.

white water rafting Ottawa

Arriving on-site,  the first thing I was impressed by was the size of the facility.  They have a restaurant, overnight accommodations, bungee jump and basketball courts amongst numerous other features.  We signed up for the family gentle rafting day trip and were quickly processed.

Our guide, Drew,  quickly instilled confidence as he briefed all participants about the safety aspects of the trip and introduced the other guides.  He had a laid back attitude, not about the safety, but made everyone feel at home and excited about the experience.

Soon enough, we were hopped on a yellow school bus and were ferried to our drop-off point on the Ottawa River.  With lifejackets on, we met up with Drew and were heading down the river in our raft. The trip started off with a bang as we took a rapid appropriately called Initiation.   Drew called out for everyone to get into our safety positions as we hit the rapid. It was exhilarating but I never felt in danger.

Wilderness Tours Ottawa

After getting through the first rapid, what would come next was incredible.  We passed through a second smaller rapid and then saw a few people on the other rafts pointing.  We came around the bend and saw two majestic eagles. One was perched on a rocky outcrop while the other was further back in a tree.  The closest bird was only about fifteen metres or so from our raft. It is the closest I have ever felt to being in a wilderness documentary.  After about a minute, the bird flew off leaving all of us with our jaws still in the water.

It was hard to top what we had just seen but the rest of the day was amazing as well.  At a calm point along the river, everyone had a chance to get out of the raft and go for a relaxing swim.  

Swimming in the rapids

After cooling down, we were back inside the raft heading to our next big thrill. We took the Butterfly rapid at full tilt offering up a lot of excitement. Next, we headed to an area of the rapid called Caterpillar Hole where it was possible to position the raft as if we were surfing. This was David’s favourite part of the entire trip. He loved having the waves crashing into him as the guide expertly managed our raft. I was happy I was on the side furthest from the waves only getting mildly drenched.  

Before lunch, participants also had a chance to get out of the raft and take one of the rapids on their back.  I am not the strongest swimmer in the world so passed but it looked like everyone was having a good time.

Once all the raft and body surfing was done,  it was time for lunch. We landed on shore at the scenic Garvin’s Chute with huge appetites.  I’ll be honest, I was expecting perhaps warmed over hot dogs or floppy burgers as we were in the middle of the wilderness.  Instead, we got super tasty sausages and chicken burgers. It was as good as anything you would get in a restaurant.

With our hunger satisfied, it was time for the final leg of our journey.  We took a couple more smaller rapids. My family and the other people in our raft playfully teased me as I dropped down to the safety position for each rapid.  

We wrapped up the day by landing our raft on shore and being offered  a glass of water, mango juice, lemonade or craft beer which was brewed at the nearby Whitewater Brewing Company.

It was time to get back on the bus and head back to the headquarters.  Everyone looked exhausted but happy from an exhilarating day on the river.   

I would highly recommend the family rafting tour for almost any age.  There were certainly a few thrills but the guides were very safety conscious and kept us in good shape.  The day was also seamlessly organized. We never had to wait for the bus, lunch, etc. It was obvious they have been doing these tours for a long time and also know what they are doing.  

For more information, visit www.wildernesstours.com

Wilderness Tours rafts