Family Travel: Visiting Kingston, Ontario

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


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

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

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

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

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

Escape Room, Kingston Ontario

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kingston Ontario boat tours

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

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

Boat Tour St-Lawrence River

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

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

VR Hut Kingston, Ontario

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

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


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

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!

Family Travel: The CN Tower and Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada

VIA Train Ride to Toronto

This summer my family and I decided to take trips closer to home, so on the August long weekend we took the train to Toronto, Ontario. It was my daughter’s first time on the train and between the comfortable seats and free WiFi, she is already asking when we can take the train again!

Although we had driven through Toronto several times, we had never spent quality time there.  My daughter had heard about the CN Tower and has asked many times when she could see it. She had also heard a lot about Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada and has wanted to see it for “years!” So, needless to say - she was excited for our trip to Toronto.

So, off we went. Our first must-see stop was the CN Tower. We went in the evening, which is a quieter time to go if you are trying to avoid lineups. They are open until 11 pm most nights, so later in the evening is a great time to watch the sun set and to admire the lights over the city of Toronto. The line ups during the day can be extremely long – and the line you see from the front doors is the security line (so have your bags, etc. ready to be checked).

CN Tower Toronto

Then there is another line once you purchase your Tower Experience tickets. This line can be up to another two hours, but you can purchase Timed General Admission for the Look Out Level, which gives you a specific date and time for an expedited trip up. I highly recommend this purchase – especially if you are travelling with young kids. You can purchase tickets online ahead of time as well, which is a great time saver.

We did not visit the SkyPod, but it definitely has the best views of the city as it is the highest observation level; however the floor to ceiling windows on the Look Out Level satisfied our ten year old’s curiosity level. The glass floor on the Look Out level was the biggest highlight for my daughter. She loved walking on it, sitting on it and kneeling on it - trying to make out what she was seeing below. She also thought it was cool to see the sharks that circle the roof of Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada.

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Glass Floor CN Tower Toronto

If you plan on visiting both the CN Tower and Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada, take a look at the “Sea to Sky” pass – it covers admission to both attractions at a lower price than paying for them separately.

View from the CN Tower Look Out

View from the CN Tower Look Out

We went to Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada first thing on a Saturday morning. If you go on a weekend or during a peak period, such as summer or March Break, I recommend going when doors open or in the evenings for a less crowded experience. The busiest hours are 11 am to 4 pm during peak dates, but even then, you will be in awe of this aquarium’s galleries and programming.

Jelly Fish - Ripley's Aquarium of Canada
Ripley's Aquarium of Canada

Although it may look small from the outside, this aquarium features sea life from all across the globe including Canadian waters. My daughter, who enjoys fishing, loved seeing a big bass swimming about in the Canadian Waters gallery. Between the Rainbow Reef gallery, which is filled with colourful tropical fish we had previously only seen in Disney movies, and the Dangerous Lagoon filled with a wide array of sharks, turtles and sting rays, this aquarium is a feast for the eyes! The moving floor in the Dangerous Lagoon moves you through a glass tunnel where visitors can watch ocean life in motion. You will feel like you’re truly underwater. We loved it so much we did the Dangerous Lagoon twice!

My daughter was curious as to why the sharks in the Dangerous Lagoon didn’t eat the other sea life. We asked a staff member who told us that the sharks are lazy and in the wild don’t eat very often, and because these sharks are in captivity they know they will be fed, so don’t feel a need to exert energy hunting when they know where their meals are coming from.

Dangerous Lagoon - Ripley's Aquarium of Canada

The aquarium experience comes with many educational facts, displays and an interesting “Life Support Systems” gallery that teaches visitors how they keep the tanks clean and the fish and other creatures healthy.

Shark at Ripley's Aquarium of Canada

Visitors of all ages will love Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada. There is so much to see, do and learn while there. It’s definitely an attraction I can see myself returning to!

Ripley's Aquarium of Canada

When was the last time you took a trip up the CN Tower? Have you visited the Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada recently? Share some of your favourite memories from two of Toronto’s biggest tourist attractions with us – we’d love to know!  

**Special thanks to CN Tower and Ripley's Aquarium for their hospitality and assistance in writing this post. Views are my own.