A Surprise Staycation at Bookstreet Hotel

The last-minute planning for a staycation started when a pre-planned long weekend trip to Washington was cancelled and my entire family was disappointed. All of us were looking forward to getting away.

My husband and I scoured the internet for ideas on what we could do that were not too far away and that wouldn’t cost a lot of money (we’re still counting on a trip away-away sometime soon!). I then remembered the Brookstreet Hotel. Located in Kanata North, my daughter had taken swim lessons there through Aqua Life Swim Academy and absolutely adores the place (especially the outdoor musical instruments located outside the hotel’s front door). So, I went online and took a look at what they had to offer.

Brookstreet Hotel

Without hesitation, I booked the “Summer Family Package” – the perfect family getaway package!

We didn’t tell my daughter what we were doing. Instead, my husband and I secretly packed our overnight bags (including our swimsuits!) and late Friday afternoon, I told her she and I had to run out and pick something up for her dad at the Brookstreet Hotel. As I mentioned, she adores the place and was eager to go back, even if it was just to pick up a package for her dad. When we got there, I told her we had to go to a certain floor to get the package. When we arrived at the room, my husband was already there and left the door a bit ajar, so I just walked in and said, “Hi! How are you?” My daughter was confused and initially did not want to leave the hallway, but then slowly made her way in when she heard her dad’s voice.

She was still confused, but then noticed the suitcase and a Brookstreet backpack on a bed and excitedly asked, “Are we staying here? REALLY?! YAY!” And then jumped up on her bed to take a look at her complimentary backpack that included a Brookstreet water bottle (which is valid for free soft drinks when dining in Options, Perspectives or Ironstone Grill) and tokens for the hotel’s Zone 525 Games Room. The games room features an interactive floor game, arcade games, video games and a movie theatre!

Golf course view

My daughter could hardly wait to change into her swimsuit and head to the Brookstreet’s outdoor AND indoor salt water pools. We spent a long-time swimming that evening – the water in both the indoor and outdoor pools is so warm, you won’t want to leave!

Brookstreet Hotel Pools

Once we were done swimming, we headed back to our room, but not before my daughter was greeted by Buzz, the hotel’s mascot. At nine, she was trying not to be excited, but she had a hard time not smiling when she saw him. Buzz can be found buzzing around between the hotel’s lobby and the Flex Fitness Studio a few times during weekends, which is a fun addition to any family’s stay!

Brookstreet Hotel Indoor Pool

After a quiet and comfortable night’s sleep we enjoyed a delicious breakfast buffet at Perspectives. This breakfast is not your typical hotel breakfast – think smoked salmon, waffles, fresh fruit salad, gourmet cheeses, yogurts, pastries, bagels, and so, so much more!

After breakfast we headed to Blackbird Falls Mini Putt for a fun 18-hole game. My daughter liked this course because it looks easy, but it is actually challenging (she also loves that there is so many ‘water holes’).  

Black Falls Mini Putt Brookstreet

We then went to the games room where my daughter used her tokens to play the “grabby thingy” and won three stuffies – much to my chagrin. Afterward, we headed back to the pools, well, I sat in the whirlpool tubs… and then in the sauna.

We also took a look at the outdoor ping pong table, outdoor chess and chequers tables near the outdoor pool area, as well as the kids play rockers. Needless to say, a family with kids of all ages could easily spend a weekend – if not more at the Brookstreet Hotel.

Families can also look into various activities that take place during the weekend. The weekend we stayed, there was a movie night being hosted on Friday night in Zone 525 (the games room) as well as an ice cream inspired “B Creative” craft Saturday morning. The hotel also offers complimentary bicycles, helmets, locks and cycling trail maps for all guests!

Zone 525 Brookstreet


The Summer Family Hotel Package includes so much, it is truly unlike any other hotel I have stayed at and it really felt like we got away – even if we live just minutes down the road. The package includes:

  • One night’s accommodation
  • Family Pass for Blackbird Falls Mini Putt
  • A ‘Brookstreet Backpack’ for each child including:
    • A Water Bottle (Free soft drinks when dining in Options, Perspectives or Ironstone Grill)
    • A Surprise Kids Activity
    • Tokens for the Zone 525 Games Room
    • 15% discount in in Perspectives Restaurant, Options Jazz Lounge or Ironstone Grill (a voucher is given at check in that can be used throughout your stay)
    • A Freezie or Popsicle for each child (a voucher is given at check in to pick up the treat from the B café)
  • Access to their indoor and outdoor saltwater pools, including a kid’s wading pool
  • High-speed WiFi
  • Parking in their secure underground garage

We will definitely return to the Brookstreet for another staycation – my husband and I are also looking into indulging in the Couples Getaway package!

Have you stayed at the Brookstreet Hotel before? What was your favourite part?  

Marshes Golf Course BrookStreet Hotel

10 March Break Activities in Ottawa

March Break is just around the corner! If you plan on sticking around the National Capital Region this March Break, then you’re probably wondering what there is to do to keep the kids busy, entertained and happy.

With that in mind, here are 10 March Break Activities in Ottawa:

March break Activities in Ottawa

1)   Visit a Sugar Bush

Over the March Break, you won't have to wait until the weekend to visit a Sugar Bush. The Log Farm in Nepean is open March 12th to the 16th from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and includes a bonfire and wagon rides! Visitors will not only see how the pioneers would have collected maple syrup, but also learn how maple syrup is made using modern wood fired equipment.

2)   Try Downhill Skiing, Winter Tubing or Snowshoeing! 

March break is a prime time to take the kids downhill skiing or enrol them in downhill ski lessons. But if you aren’t skiers, hills such as Mount PakenhamEdelweiss and Domaine de l’Anne-Gardien offer winter tubing too! And ski hills, such as Calabogie also offer snowshoeing (including rentals). Fun in the snow for all ages and abilities!

Downhill skiing

3)   Visit a Museum

Ottawa has many great museums that appeal to a a variety of interests. Whether you want to teach kids about farming and agriculture at the Canadian Agriculture and Food Museum or learn about dinosaurs or Canada's Arctic at the Canadian Museum of Nature, there are plenty of things for kids of all ages to see and do at a local museum.

This year the Canadian Museum of Nature has a special Butterfly Exhibit that is only on until April 3rd. March Break is a great time to go check it out (tip: it's really busy, so make sure you book your time slot ahead of time).

For younger kids the Children’s Museum at the Museum of History is always a hit! They currently have a special Dreamworks Animation exhibit that features over 350 items including rare and never-before-seen concept drawings and interactive displays from DreamWorks  animated classics.

From March 3rd to the 18th, the Canadian Space and Aviation Museum has something space-oriented for children of all ages going on each day. The museum will focus on a different aspect of basic astronaut training, including flight training, parachute training, and more – with fun, interactive activities. There will also be daily demonstrations of Shaping the Future in Space, or take part in self-guided craft activities. 

And we can't forget - the Canadian Science and Technology Museum is open again! March Break is a great time to reacquaint yourself with this beloved museum and its new, updated exhibits and galleries. We recently wrote a post all about the museum's new look and what you can expect on your first visit.

Exploring a museum is a great way to spend a couple of hours or an entire day!

4)   Take a Haunted Walk (for older kids)

Older kids, who are also fans of a good ghost story, may appreciate the fun and mystery of Ottawa’s Haunted Walk. They run every night from downtown Ottawa and are definitely a memorable way to spend an evening as a family. There are usually a couple of different tour types to choose from and each offer a unique way of seeing our city!

5)   Go Cross Country Skiing

 March Break is usually a goot time to check out the groomed cross country ski trails in Gatineau Park or the new multi-use Sir John A. MacDonald trail. If you don’t own skis you can usually rent them from places such as Mountain Equipment Co-op and Fresh Air Experience. 

Cross Country skiing

6)   Skate as a family at the Sens Rink of Dreams and Rideau Hall

Weather-permitting, the Sens Rink of Dreams at Ottawa City Hall is open daily from 6 am to 11 pm and unlike many other public skating rinks there is also a heated changing facility. If you don’t own skates (or you just discovered your kids have outgrown theirs) you can rent skates right on site (during designated times).

Rideau Hall also has a public outdoor skating rink which is open until March 25th, weather-permitting. 

7)   Slide or Dive into a City of Ottawa pool

The City of Ottawa offers a wide range of public swimming schedules during the March Break and have locations all over the city that offer everything from standard swimming, to slides to waves! The great news is that it isn’t expensive, in fact kids 2 and under are free!

8)   Sign up for a program at the Ottawa Public Library

Every year the Ottawa Public Library offers free programs for school age children and teens as part of their March Break. Program themes and length vary depending on the library, but past programs have included programs about science, technology, arts and more!

9)   Paint Pottery

If your kids love to be creative bring them to a ceramic painting place in Ottawa. There are several including Pottery Playhouse in Stittsville and The Mud Oven on Bank Street. Kids can paint something as simple as a plate or mug and make it their own – or get a head start on birthday gifts for family and friends. It’s a lot of fun and the mess is left behind!

Painting Pottery

10)  Try Bowling

If you’re anything like me the last time you went bowling was on the Nintendo Wii. Bowling is great exercise and a fun way to play together as family. Ottawa has several bowling lanes to choose from including Walkley Bowling Lanes and Orleans Bowling Centre. Merivale Bowling Lanes even has glow in the dark bowling!

How do you plan on spending your March Break this year? What are some of your favourite family acitivities? 

 

 

The New Canada Science and Technology Museum

After three years the Canada Science and Technology Museum reopened its doors in November offering new exhibits and an updated look. If you’re wondering what you can expect from the newly built museum and how to make the most out of your visit there, here’s what we noticed on our recent visit:

What’s familiar

The Crazy Kitchen

The Crazy Kitchen is back and looks just like it did prior to the museum having to shut its doors. It’s located toward the back of the museum and still has a computer screen where you can watch visitors challenged by the entertaining illusion that is the Crazy Kitchen. The kids still love it as much as they always did too!

The Trains

Trains - Canada Science and Technology Museum

The steam locomotives are back in the museum’s new “Steam: A World in Motion” gallery. Visitors can still walk through them and sit in one of them. The sheer massive sizes of the locomotives will make young children stare in awe, and will be difficult to keep the older kids from climbing on.

The layout

If you recall how the original museum was laid out, the new Canada Science and Technology Museum is laid out in a similar manner with the admission desk at the very front, bathrooms to the left and the gift shop to the right – with a wide open entrance to the museum exhibits. There is also a café, but there is ample seating around the museum, which makes snack time with little ones easy.

Canada Science and Technology Museum

What’s new

The new LED canopy entrance to the museum is eye-catching and is a great way to get ready for the museum’s many new science and technology exhibits. Parking is in the same location as it always was, but there is also a secondary parking lot up by the lighthouse (and the museum was busy enough on the day we were there that both lots were very full!) These are just a few of the highlights:

IMG_4092.JPG

Zooom: Zooom is a hands-on area where children, ages 0-8, can create, imagine, test and play with technology. It’s an immersive space that is a popular spot for kids! They can put together puzzles, climb the rock wall, or build a race car and then test it out on different tracks. This is a great place to sit and let the kids explore and play once they've gotten tired (just my kids?) of the more traditional exhibits.

Wearable Tech: This area reminds me of just how much technology has changed, even in the three years since the museum was last opened. The Wearable Tech gallery displays innovative technologies for the body – and not just for human beings!

Sound by Design at the Canada Science and Technology Museum

Sound by Design: This is an interactive experience that invites visitors to take a spin as DJ on an oversized turntable and dance to motion-activated sound. It’s a fun hands-on area visitors of any age will enjoy! There is also a Quiet Cube, which explores the sound of silence – a great place to visit on busy days at the museum ;)

Artifacts: Everywhere you look (up, down and all around) you will find historical artefacts. From bicycles to telephones, to printing presses and more; you may find yourself asking, “What is that?” more than once during your visit to the museum. You may also find yourself pointing out all the things in the museum your kids have never seen, but that you had when you were young. Thanks for dating us museum!

IMG_4074.JPG

Video game special exhibit: This is one of the reasons we need to make it back to the museum SOON - it was so busy that the kids weren't able to play all the of the "old-timey" video games (the lines were SO long to try Space Invaders and the original Donkey Kong, and no amount of promises that they could play them at home would convince them they weren't worth waiting in line for ;) 

What’s gone

We noticed that the fibre optic tunnel with slides is gone, as is the space exhibit with the Canada Arm. The museum is more focused on science and technology now than it previously was – as evident by the large displays of how appliances, gadgets, and technology have changed, developed and improved over the years.

What you need to know

Artefacts - Canada Science and Technology Museum

Admission is $17 per adult and $11 a child BUT it’s $43 for family admission – and that covers two adults and 4 kids – handy if you’re two friends visiting with your kids.

Parking is now $3 an hour or $8 for the day, but there is a flat rate $5 parking lot next to the lighthouse.

There is a coat room, which is handy for those bulky winter coats as well as a cafe and lounge area.

There are many new hands-on activities, interactive experiences and interesting facts at the new Canada Science and Technology Museum. The museum is a great place to educate kids on how far technology has come and how modern gadgets and technologies shape many aspects of our lives – including in the great outdoors! There is so much for visitors (of all ages) to see and do that you will need more than just a couple of hours to do it all!

We've definitely missed having this museum open and are excited to have it back - we're probably going to be buying a membership this year in fact.

Have you been to the newly reopened Canada Science and Technology Museum? If so, leave us a comment with your favourite exhibits and must-do activities!

Canada Science and Technology Museum

Little Ray’s Reptiles : An educational outing

One of the things on my daughter’s summer bucket list was to visit the baby sloth at Little Ray’s Reptiles. So, I took a morning off work to go with her and my mom. Apparently my mom and my daughter went last summer as well, but this was my first time visiting.

We arrived at Little Ray's Reptiles just as the doors opened at 10 a.m. There was a summer camp in session and a school bus pulling in with another camp dropping in for a field trip. Needless to say - there were a lot of people in Little Ray's that day.

Little Ray's Reptiles

The building was VERY warm. An employee came by to apologize and let us know the air conditioner had broken; however my mom noted that it was just as hot in the building the last time they were there, last summer.

 The adorable baby sloth (three months old) yawning

The adorable baby sloth (three months old) yawning

I was a bit surprised that Little Ray’s would be fully air conditioned because I remembered when the Canadian Museum of Nature had their reptiles exhibit, with similar reptiles native to tropical climates, that they had to ensure the exhibit was separated and the doors closed to keep the exhibit warm and humid at all times. When I looked it up on their website, they mentions an air ventilation system that should keep the building at 20 degrees. Regardless, if you go, be prepared for a warm, tropical-like temperature inside the building.

What kinds of animals are there?

Little Ray’s has many (over 150) different species of animals, frogs, snakes and reptiles to look at and learn about. My daughter stopped to try and find each one in their habitat (like a “Where’s Waldo?) as well as read about them. She was very impressed by the size of the resident alligator.

Little Ray's Reptiles

Little Ray’s Reptiles also has an outdoor area with a few rabbits, a lynx and bald eagles. Apparently there is also a kangaroo, but he wasn’t outside when we were there. It took us about an hour to tour the building, as my daughter likes to stop and learn everything about the animals. There were many toddlers and preschoolers there at the same time as us who enjoyed looking at the ferrets and frogs as well as the rabbits.

A lynx at Little Ray's Reptiles

The Live Show

The main attraction is the live shows in which staff takes out various creatures and share facts about them with the audience. When we were there my daughter got to hold or touch and learn about a tarantula, a scorpion and a cobra snake. They also brought out the baby sloth, but because we had a rambunctious, busy audience there was no touching the sloth, just looking and photos, which was enough to satisfy my daughter’s love of sloths.

While my daughter had a great time during the show, I would have liked to have seen the pace of the show move a little faster. I love that the handler takes the time to give everyone who wants to hold an animal a chance to, but I wish there had been a second person who continued to teach. This would help little ones - who often have a shorter attention span - from getting restless and wanting to walk about when they have been requested to sit down. The group we had also would not stop talking, which made it hard to hear what the handler was saying. Some ground rules regarding talking, etc. prior to the show would have made it more enjoyable.

Holding a tarantula at Little Ray's Reptiles

What you need to know

  • You can expect to spend about an hour and a half at Little Ray’s Reptiles – more if you plan on staying for the live show, which really make it worth your money.
  • Little Ray’s Reptiles is a privately funded zoo and a member of the Canadian Association of Zoos and Aquariums and has more than one location.
  • General admission is $12.50 for adults, $10 for seniors, and ages two and under are free. There is also a family rate of $48 for 4 people.
  • There is free parking in the parking lot in front of the building, as well as along Bank Street. The day we were there was quite busy, so they had a staff member directing traffic and making sure those parked along Bank Street were safe.
  • Summer Hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., 7 days a week (from May long weekend to the September long weekend)
  • There is a gift shop
  • There is no place to eat there, but there are restaurants located nearby in Findlay Creek (including a McDonald’s.)

My daughter loves learning about animals - if your have a child with a passion for animals then they will probably love Little Ray's Reptiles too!

Five ways to keep kids entertained at a cottage

We’re a cottaging family and spend at least two weeks at cottages every summer.

The packing list for the cottage may be long, but based on my years of cottaging with children I thought I’d make a list of my five favourites for keeping the family entertained.

I realized after writing it that my list falls to the less sporty type family so you may want to include some type of sporting equipment or balls or something too ;)

5 ways to keep kids entertained at a cottage

1) The super noodle

If you’ve ever been in a lake with children you know that, regardless of how well they can swim, their favourite place to be is attached to you. This is okay when you can stand up, but once you’re in water above your head, it can feel a bit like you’re about to drown. I quickly figured out that I needed multiple noodles in order to keep myself and a child up above water, but once I found the super noodles from Costco I was sold on spending $20+ on a noodle.

The super noodle will hold me and at least two, sometimes three children above water. It will even allow me to stay mostly above water as children catapult themselves off docks and into my arms. 

My general rule with the super noodle is that adults always get them first, as the only reason we invested in them is to help the adults stay afloat with the children who will undoubtedly try to sit on top of their heads while they’re trying to tread water. When all the adults are out of the water I’m willing to share and let the kids experience the fun of the super noodle too.

2) Child sized kayaks

kids kayaking

We previously wrote about kayaks on Kids in the Capital and I still think they are one of the best investments if you go to a cottage with any regularity. They cost about $100 and I have seen children as young as four master them really quickly.

Kids can spend a lot of time just trolling around close to shore while you supervise, the ones who are a bit more nervous about swimming out further or who just are less inclined to swim a lot can kayak themselves to floating docks, and you can go on a family kayak ride. Note: make sure you have some kind of towing rope on your kayak or theirs and an easy way to attach the kayaks together. I often end up towing kids back, but it’s well worth it to have had them kayak independently to start.

3) An art kit

Arts and crafts are a must at the cottage - especially for rainy days or quieter evenings. We come up with all kinds of projects while we’re at the cottage and many include crafting.

·      Painting rocks and sticks.

·      Scavenger hunts.

·      Simple paintings and drawings.

·      Creating a memory game.

·      Box monsters.

4) Books

Adults and kids alike bring many books to the cottage. We have comics and novels and activity idea books.

You’ll find people reading in hammocks, in bunkbeds, and sitting by the lake.

We’re a bookish family so we may lean a bit more heavily to the books than others, but I think the cottage is a great time to get a lot of great reading done – make it part of what you expect at the cottage! The Ottawa Public Library allows you to take most books out for three weeks (and they can often be renewed for another three), which is usually a perfect length of time for a cottage vacation.

5)   Lego and puzzles

Some kids are less outdoorsy than others – I have one like that in particular. While they might love it if we’d let them play on electronics all day, that’s simply not an option. Instead we make sure there are Lego or 500-1000 piece puzzles to play with. These cottage projects are perfect for the kids who want to stay indoors while the others are in the lake, and they are great for quiet creative time.

We can rarely find an activity that all five of us want to do at once, and now that our kids are a bit older (with our youngest being 8) we’re able to simply accept that we can split up and do what each of us wants to do. Having lots of options for every personality type has really helped everyone enjoy their time at the cottages.

What are your cottage must haves to keep everyone busy and entertained?