Family Travel: Camping in Gatineau Park

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.  


Monday may now be my favorite day of the week to go camping. We normally visit Gatineau Park - Lac Philippe on weekends. At times, it can feel like half of Ottawa-Gatineau is in the park escaping the summer heat. This year, we decided to visit on a Monday and it felt like we had the park to ourselves.

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We arrived at the Lac Philippe entrance mid-afternoon and received the keys to our yurt - Wanakiwin. Yurting is the perfect option for our family. We are not hard-core campers but love to get out in mother nature. Wanakiwin has a gas barbecue, fire pit, wood stove and bunk style beds providing a comfortable experience in the outdoors. Wanakiwin also means peaceful place in Ojibway which perfectly described the site.

After settling in to the yurt, the first order of business was to prepare some supper. Of course, with the gas barbecue at our disposal, hamburgers were on tap. We also roasted up some corn and red peppers. Nothing screams summer more than eating barbecue food outside.

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Once done our supper, it was still hot so we wanted to take a dip in Lac Philippe. Breton beach is my favorite beach at Lac Philippe and the greater Ottawa-Gatineau area. The beach and lake are classic Canadiana with clean water, beautiful woodlands as scenery and loons providing the backing soundtrack.

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When we arrived at the beach there were only five or six families still enjoying the water. This was due to our early evening arrival and the day of the week. We loved the serenity. The lake was a perfect temperature having been warmed by the hot summer sun. My son, David, wife, Sandy and I spent the better part of two hours just wading in the lukewarm water. David enjoyed looking at snail shells. I normally have to work Monday nights and thought I could easily get used to this go to the beach lifestyle.

We saw a beautiful sunset at Breton beach and also took this as our cue that we should head back to our yurt. One of the must-dos while camping is to have a campfire. Preceding our trip to Lac Philippe, I mixed up my words and asked David if he was looking forward to having a forest fire. Luckily, Gatineau Park is still intact and we had a wonderful campfire. The best part was burning marshmallows and eating s’mores. We also had an unexpected visit from a raccoon who just casually ambled near our campfire. He did not seem particularly impressed when we tried to scare it off. After a few minutes, he just went away on his own accord.

The next morning we had a delicious breakfast of eggs and beans with coffee. It was time to leave our campsite but David wanted to extend our time in Gatineau Park. Several years ago, we found a lake in Gatineau Park that was teeming with frogs. David loves to observe wildlife and true to form, the small lake was chock a block full of little Kermits. (David will not disclose the site, similar to how people who fish do not give away their favorite fishing hole!)

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Having enjoyed our early week nature excursion, we arrived back in Ottawa recharged ready to face city life again.

If you go - Lac Philippe is located inside the boundaries of Gatineau Park and is about a 35 minute drive from Ottawa depending on traffic.

It is well-advised to book campsites, yurts, etc. well ahead of time as spots can fill up quickly, particularly on weekends. https://reservations.ncc-ccn.gc.ca/

Lac Philippe also has some outstanding hiking trails with the Lusk Cave trail being the most well-known. We have never made it all the way to the cave but friends have mentioned you would want to bring extra water shoes and a change of clothes as it is wet inside the cave.

Free things to do with kids in Ottawa

There are times to splurge and do the BIG activities with your kids, but who can afford that all summer long? We’ve come up with a list of over 30 free things to do with kids in Ottawa over the summer months!

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1) Free times at all the museums :

National Gallery of Canada
Thursdays 5–8 pm. Also, kids 11 and under are free at ANYTIME!! Check out their Family Sundays starting in September.

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Canadian Museum of Nature
Thursdays 5–8 pm

The Canadian Agriculture and Food Museum
Daily 4–5 pm

The Canadian Museum of History
Daily 4–5 pm

The Canadian Science and Technology Museum
Daily 4–5 pm

The Canadian Space and Aviation Museum
Daily 4–5 pm

2) Visit to the library

All their programs are free too, but you have to sign up in advance!

3) Park hop

Get out of your neighbourhood and explore some new parks! Some of our readers’ favourites include Millenium Park, Walter Baker Park, Brewer Park, and Balena Park.

4) Park-ticipate

Speaking of parks, the Park-ticipate program is a free, informal drop-in program offered by the Bob MacQuarrie Recreation Complex-Orléans at various local, rural and urban parks throughout East Ottawa. Children aged 4 to 10 are invited to join staff in this fun-filled program of crafts, games and sports.

5) Visit the parliament buildings

Although Centre Block is closed for tours for many years to come, you can still do tours of the grounds, Senate and House of Commons!

6) Yoga on the hill/zumba on the hill

If tours aren’t your cup of tea, grab your workout gear and head to the hill with the kids for yoga or zumba!

7) Free Festivals

Canadian Tulip Festival May 10–20, 2019 (Admission to Commissioners Park, the Tulip Plaza & Festival Pavilions are free of charge.)

WestFest June 7–9, 2019

Summer Solstice Indigenous Festival June 20–23, 2019

Capital Ukrainian Festival July 19–21, 2019

Ottawa International Busker Fest August 2-5, 2019

Lumière Festival August 24, 2019

8) Sunset ceremonies (RCMP)

In addition to the Sunset Ceremonies in June, you could also pay a visit to the RCMP stables!

9) Shenkman Arts Centre Summer Series

Head to Shenkman for a weekly dose of fun at their summer lunchtime series. These free concerts will take place at 12:30 pm every Thursday in July and August.

10) Fire Station

Call your local fire station and set up a tour!

11) Outdoor movies

Check out this great list of local outdoor movies from Ottawa Kids!

12) Head to a beach!

We’ve got a list of all the local swimming holes around Ottawa. If you’re squeamish about lake swimming (or they’re closed due to e. coli) then check out one of our great outdoor pools!

13) Northern Lights Show on Parliament

If you’re looking for a fun nighttime outing, the light show on Parliament Hill runs all summer until September 8th!

14) Family-Friendly Hikes

There are so many local hikes to enjoy in our area. Check out our list of 5 family friendly hiking trails!

15) Bank of Canada Museum

16) Get free passes to the museums at your local library

A quick tip about those passes, which seem impossible to get. Don’t just go to your local branch to try to find them - check online and find out where they’re available, and then make a trip to that library to snag one!

17) Hog’s Back Falls

Take a bike ride or drive to Hog’s Back and enjoy a beautiful walk by the falls.

18) Rockliffe rockeries

Some spectacular lookouts can be found at Rockliffe Park!

19) Mackenzie King Estate

Access to the National Capital Commission’s parks is free year-round! It’s always a fun outing to go for a hike or to explore the different ruins across the property.

20) Mer Bleue

Mer Bleue is the perfect spot for a picnic, hike or feeding the amazing chickadees!

21) Visit the Humane Society

You wouldn’t think of this as a fun free outing, but who doesn’t love taking a peek at the cats, bunnies, pups and more! You can also inquire about volunteer opportunities or other ways to support the Humane Society! Full tours and “behind the scenes” are available, but there is a cost.

22) Walk or bike along the canal any day

23) Nokia Bike Days on Sunday

24) Explore Lansdowne Park

There are a number of fun and free activities at Lansdowne Park, so check out the City of Ottawa’s schedule. You could also just do a park visit, have a picnic, or browse the Ottawa Farmer’s Market on Sundays!

25) Changing of the Guard

Changing of the guard takes place most days this summer,

26) Drive through Gatineau Park

Remember Sunday drives? They’re totally still a thing! Take a beautiful drive through the park, and maybe you can stop at La Cigale for an ice cream? (not free - but had to be suggested!!)

27) Tour Rideau Hall

Rideau Hall is the place to be all year round! A tour of the grounds or residence is super fun, and in the winter there’s free skating for groups!

28) Take a ride on the bus

OK hear us out - we realize the bus may not be fun for YOU. But if you’re a family that typically drives to most destinations, the bus will be the best part of any outing - especially if you get the kids sitting in the middle of the “accordion.” Ages 5 and under are FREE - 6+ is $1.75.

29) Byward Market

Tour the Byward Market - the new Pedestrian Street is perfect for little ones to play and rest!

30) Public Art

Do a scavenger hunt of all the statues or public art on display in our capital!

31) Public Spaces events at the National Arts Centre

The NAC’s renovations have led to some super fun programming in many of their public spaces. Check out their listings for more details!

Ottawa Summer Scavenger Hunt!

Take a picture of your favourite beach!

Take a picture of your favourite beach!

It’s summer and there are so many things to do and explore in our wonderful city. But sometimes figuring out the what, where, and why can mean you don’t get anywhere at all but back to your local park!

This summer, Kids in the Capital has put together a summer fun list to give you a reason to explore the city - and WE HAVE PRIZES!!

Here’s the deal: get out and explore the city with the ideas below, and every time you do, post a photo of it on Instagram (tagging @kidsinthecapital and using hashtag #KidsExploreOttawa) OR come and share it on our weekly threads on the Facebook page. For each picture you post, you’ll be entered to win prizes from the National Gallery of Canada, Altitude Gym, Eco-Odysée, Funhaven, Pirate's Adventures, the Diefenbunker, Parc Omega, Flying Squirrel and Saunder's Farm. We’ll be doing prize draws throughout the whole summer, so you can post any time until Labour Day weekend for your chance to win (contest ends September 2, 2019.)

Browse through the following list and start snapping those perfect summer shots!!

Science and technology museum lighthouse

Science and technology museum lighthouse


🔲 Visit Maman outside the National Gallery of Canada and then head inside to visit their exhibitions. Sign up for a full year of fun! Two adults and up to six children have free unlimited access to exhibitions, activities and all family programing. Kids in the Capital readers get 15% off a family membership with code: NGCKIDS19* (You will be prompted to enter it at the end of your checkout.)
*Promotion is only available online and cannot be used in conjunction with other promotions. Offer is valid for a 1-year Family Membership. Promo code expires August 31, 2019.

🔲 Hop on a train or visit the lighthouse on St Laurent by the Science and Tech museum

🔲 Take a silhouetted sunset photo somewhere in our beautiful city - we always love taking them by the water, but anywhere with a gorgeous sunset background makes for a very cool photo of the kids. Get them jumping to make the funniest shapes with their bodies possible!

Silhouettes can be taken anywhere!

Silhouettes can be taken anywhere!

🔲 Snap a shot at the historic Bate’s Island

🔲 Check out the the rock sculptures at Remic Rapids - these rock sculptures have been erected every spring since 1986 by artist John Felice Ceprano.

🔲 Eternal Flame - there’s lots to see when you’re visiting Parliament Hill, but don’t forget a photo by the Eternal Flame with the Parliament buildings in the background.

🔲 If you’re at Parliament at 10AM, grab a shot of the Changing of the Guard ceremony too!

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🔲 Oscar Peterson statue - Join Oscar at the piano for a fun photo opp.

🔲 Rideau Canal - World Heritage Site - Whether you’re standing on the bridge overlooking the canal or you’re up close and personal, snap a picture of this beautiful World Heritage Site!

Canada 150 Park at Mooney’s Bay

Canada 150 Park at Mooney’s Bay

Visit the train by the Science and Tech museum on St Laurent

Visit the train by the Science and Tech museum on St Laurent

🔲 Mooney’s Bay Giver’s Park - take a tour of Canada at one of the largest playgrounds in Canada.

Travel back in time at the MacKenzie King Estate

Travel back in time at the MacKenzie King Estate

🔲 Millennium Park - Get a photo with the dragon in the splash pad, on the pirate ship or on the Parliament buildings at Millennium Park in Orleans.

🔲 MacKenzie King Estate - always a fun jaunt to go for a hike or to explore the different ruins across the property (while exploring the estate is free, parking does have a fee)

🔲 Strathcona Park “ruins” - a stone and bronze sculpture by Stephen Barthwaite located in the center of the park.

Rideau canal locks - WHO Site

Rideau canal locks - WHO Site

🔲 Get a photo with the Ottawa sign in the ByWard Market (bonus points for getting the Awatto sign too “Where’s Awatto??)

🔲 Watson’s Mill, Manotick - check out this unique 1800’s mill on the shores of the Rideau River

Find a chickadee at Mer Bleue Bog

Find a chickadee at Mer Bleue Bog

🔲 Pinhey’s Point - get a shot with the nearly 200-year-old manor house and surrounding ruins

🔲 National War Memorial - if you’re doing a tour of the Parliament buildings, head over for a shot of the National War Memorial on Elgin.

🔲 Rideau Hall - grab a picture on the grounds or in the residence of our Governor General of Canada!

🔲 Go for a walk along the canal at Dows lake - if you want an affordable activity nearby, rent a canoe or kayak!

🔲 Visit the Chinatown arches

🔲 Snap a shot somewhere in Little Italy - maybe scarfing a gelato or tasty pastry? Or perhaps a visit to see where the coffee is made at Bridgehead!

🔲 Mud Lake - check out the two-kilometre trail through deciduous swampland. Many picture perfect moments along the way!

🔲 Mer Bleue - grab a shot somewhere on the boardwalk trail at the bog, or if you’re lucky, a picture of a tiny chickadee landing on your hand!

🔲 Visit the Carbide ruins in Gatineau Park, and then head for a quick dip in Meech Lake. Trail is rocky, and probably best for kids 5+. Pay parking at lot P11.

🔲 Also in Gatineau Park, Drive or bike up to the Champlain Lookout for a beautiful lookout shot. Be warned: the bike up to the top is HARD!!

🔲 Find the Tin house in the Byward Market

🔲 Sound and Light show - the picture may be dark, but snap a shot of the Sound and Light show on Parliament Hill. Running now through September 8th (times get earlier as the days get shorter!)

🔲 Take a picture in front of the historic Chateau Laurier

🔲 Take a picture in front of the falls at Hog’s back falls (this pairs perfectly with a visit to the 150-themed playground!)

🔲 Visit Petrie Island and take a picture on the trails, on the beach - anywhere!

🔲 BONUS ENTRIES: We love how creative our followers are, so we’re super happy for you to post your own scavenger hunt locations - maybe it’s another public art display or statue. Or perhaps your favourite summer park. As long as it’s around Ottawa, free, and fun for kids/families, we will accept i!

Don’t forget that every picture counts as an entry! HAVE FUN!!

A BIG THANK YOU TO THE LOCAL BUSINESSES WHO HAVE DONATED PRIZES:

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Summer Reading List for Kids from the Ottawa Public Library

The Ottawa Public Library is back to share some of their favourite books for children with us. This month's post is by Kristina Roudiy, Children's Program Assistant at the Alta Vista Branch.

Non-fiction book : Hello Summer! / Shelley Rotner

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For the whole family. Shelley Rotner is a photographer who has travelled the world on photo missions for UNICEF, to document children, women, education and health. She has since become an author and has published no less than 24 children's books (which are all available in the Ottawa Public Library collection!). This title is the latest in a series of four seasonal picture books. One or two short sentences per page, accompanied by colorful photos, describe changes to plants, animals and weather, as well as sensory children's activities. Water sprinklers, frogs, beach fun, thunderstorms...you name it! A glossary of difficult words is included at the end.

Picture book : Take a ride by my side / Jonathan Ying

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For ages 3-5. This is a great read-aloud picture book! It tells the story of a dog and a cat who decide to take a trip together and end up having quite the adventure. After travelling by bike, plane, submarine, canoe and rocket ship, they conclude that : “even though it's fun to roam, there's nowhere quite as great as home!”. The dialogue between the two friends uses two different font types, so that children can tell which of the two is speaking on each page. The simple, rhyming text is accompanied by colorful illustrations with cartoon-like characters.

Picture book : Are we there yet? / Nina Laden

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For ages 4-8. This is the story of a boy and his mother who are on their way to Grandma's house. The trip starts pretty normal, with leaving the garage and driving through town...but it quickly changes to fantastical places. Quite the road trip! It brings a whole new perspective to the question kids typically ask while travelling : “are we there yet?”. This book also offers a fun I-spy-with-my-eye game, as the boy's stuffed animals & toys keep appearing through the book.


Non-fiction book : Lion of the sky : haiku for all seasons / Laura Purdie Salas

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For ages 8-12. This is a colorful collection of haiku poems about the seasons. “Lion of the sky”, for example, refers to fireworks. The book includes concrete poetry (words mixed within the illustrations) and riddles on nature, sports, fruit, etc. The young readers will have fun with the visuals, as well as with trying to guess who the narrator is in each poem! The answers are at the end of the book. The author has also included instructions on how to make your own riddle-ku.

Fiction : The Acadia Files : book one, Summer Science / Katie Coppens

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For ages 7-10. The Acadia Files introduce children to science through the easy-to-reproduce experiments of ten-year-old Acadia. Acadia is about to enter fifth grade and is curious about the world around her. Each chapter highlights a new Summer topic and includes Acadia's lab notes & sketches. Ever wondered how sand is formed? If blueberries taste the same to animals as they do to human beings? What makes hair curly? Or why the sun rises early in the Summer? Then hurry up and read this book! It also provides helpful website links for further exploration.

Graphic novel : Camp / Kayla Miller

For ages 8-12. This is the second volume in a series (the first is called Click). Fifth-grade student Olive is now off for the Summer, and is looking forward to attending Summer camp with her best friend Willow. The camp activities seem like a lot of fun, especially the music video project. But will their friendship survive camp drama? This will be appealing to fans of Smile and Roller Girl. Bonus : the instructions at the end of the book on how to make a friendship bracelet!

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For ages 10-13. This is the story of Billy, a middle-school student who has already lived in six different towns in Florida and who has a passion for snakes. One day, Billy decides to use his savings to fly to Montana to meet his father, whom he hasn't seen since he was three years old. The only thing Billy knows about his father is that his job is top secret and dangerous... And here he finds himself meeting his dad's new family, including his Indigenous step-sister Summer. Like Hiaasen's other titles, this is a fun book that will inspire youth to protect wildlife and animals.

***The Ottawa Public Library is once again doing TD Summer Reading Club from June to August 2019. Please visit one of the library branches to find out what it's all about, and to sign up for Summer Reading Club (it's free!). There will be weekly prizes and other reading incentives. ***

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.