Family Travel: Touring Montreal, Quebec in the Fall

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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You know a city is cool when there is a huge mural of Leonard Cohen in the downtown. Of course, I am talking about Montreal. 

We saw the giant mural of Leonard as we headed towards the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts. I tried to explain the greatness of Leonard to our eleven-year-old son, David. I cited songs like Suzanne and Hallelujah but to no avail. At least, my wife Sandy and I have similar tastes in music. 

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David was much more interested to check out the Egyptian mummies at the museum. The temporary exhibition features six mummies from the collections of the British Museum. The British Museum has always had the policy of not unwrapping any of the Egyptian mummies since it would cause extensive damage. Through the enhancement of CT scanner technology, it is now possible to do a 3D scan of the mummies revealing their internal organs. 

Aside from the interesting technology, there were numerous artifacts on display from the time period of the mummies. There were also videos to provide a context of what life would have been like in Egypt during this time. By the end of the exhibit, a person feels like they have a far better understanding of Egyptian mummies and ancient Egypt.

One thing I love about Montreal is that it is possible to get a cup of coffee and desserts outside of the major chains. We discovered a local place, Cafe Vasco da Gama close to the museum. We enjoyed a warm coffee and delicious Portuguese dessert on the street terrace. For a moment, I felt like I was in Lisbon, Portugal rather than Canada. 

It was time to check into our hotel. We love the Residence Inn by Marriott Montreal Downtown for a number of reasons. First is the location. The hotel is located right on Peel Street and is about a two-minute walk to the metro. We can park our car and then walk or take the metro everywhere. Also, the rooms have an in-suite kitchen and fridge which can help save on food costs. Finally, the staff have always been very friendly and have even encouraged my sometimes broken French. 

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Being Montreal, the night was still young. We hopped on the metro over to Parc Jean Drapeau. The park is home to a new space called Espace 67. The area serves as a location for many of the large festivals in Montreal. We had come to check out Feux Follets. A simple description of Feux Follets would be to call it a Chinese Lantern festival but it was so much more than that.

We arrived on-site and were greeted by Chinese drummers. There was a huge variety of illuminated structures ranging from pandas to a huge Chinese pagoda. We also enjoyed a Chinese cultural show that featured song and dance. Some of the entertainment was more high-tech including an illuminated drone show that was set to music. 

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The highlight of the entire night was projections set against a huge water fountain in the middle of a lake. I have never seen anything like it. Images of lions and tigers danced across the water. It would be cool to see something like that in Ottawa perhaps at Dow’s Lake or the Ottawa River. 

Our night on the town was still not done as we headed back into downtown Montreal and visited Juliette & Chocolat The resto features everything crepes and chocolate. David chose a crepe that had hazelnut ice cream, Nutella, meringue and whipped cream. Needless to say, it was delicious. I was also impressed that he was able to sleep afterwards after ingesting so much sugar.

The next day, we started off with a huge buffet breakfast at the hotel. I saw a few tall young guys sporting the colours of my former alma mater, the University of Saskatchewan. They were members of the U of S basketball team and were in a match against Concordia. I am not sure the results of the match but I am sure the breakfast helped. 

After such a busy schedule the day before, we planned a more relaxed day. The only thing on the schedule was to visit a store that sold reptiles, Magazoo. David has loved reptiles since he has been three and that interest has not gone away. We took the metro to east Montreal and arrived at the store. The staff were very friendly and shared David’s love for reptiles. We also learned there is a large reptile show in Montreal every February so we are already planning our return trip. 

The best place to find out about the latest attractions and events in Montreal is at www.mtl.org.

As mentioned, we always stay at the Residence Inn by Marriott Montreal Downtown. For more information, visit, www.marriott.com/montreal.

Disclosure: Stephen’s hotel and attractions were covered but all views are his own.

Trick or Swim or Skate!

Trick or Treeeeat” – the words that many little monsters and munchkins will excitedly scream as you open the door to their smiling faces on October 31st. Instead of candy, how about offering something a little different this Halloween?

The City of Ottawa offers Trick or Swim or Skate passes. You pay $10 and receive 10 vouchers to hand out. These can be used towards a swim or skate at a participating facility (not including wave swims or speciality skates). 

I don’t know about you, but we like to have a separate bucket from candy treats so we can offer non food treats to those with allergies and we love the idea of slipping a voucher in to their buckets.

Other non-food Halloween ideas include stickers (what child doesn’t love them?), slime, Playdoh, colouring pads, pencils, and erasers. Walk into any craft/party store and you will find a huge variety of offerings. 

Of course, we are not saying that you should give up the candy completely… ;)

CONTEST

We have a book of 10 Trick or Swim or Skate vouchers from the City of Ottawa to give away to one lucky reader! Trick or Swim or Skate vouchers are available in limited quantity until October 31st. They can be redeemed until January 31, 2020. Please check for participating facilities prior to using.

To enter: Visit our Facebook Page and leave a comment on this post letting us know what your child is planning on dressing up as for Halloween!

Contest runs until Friday, October 25th at 12 noon. Winner will be notified via Facebook Messenger.

Fright Fest at Saunders Farm (The perfect scare for older kids!)

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.  


I first started visiting Saunders Farm about fifteen years ago for Halloween. I heard it was the scariest thing to do in Ottawa. They were right. In between the haunted hayride and other attractions, I was scared out of my wits. 

Fast forward to today. We had taken David when he was seven to Saunders Farm during the day for Halloween. It was perfect at the time. David is now eleven so his fear quotient has gone up. He wanted to check out the evening FrightFest festivities. 

We arrived at Saunders Farm and were immediately treated to a scare. Various farm employees were dressed up in their best Halloween gear. The first attraction we saw was the Barn of Terror. This was a test to see if the scare factor was too high for David or not. We walked through the barn and enjoyed various scares and thrills. I probably held my wife’s Sandy hand tighter than David did. 


We then were treated to a parade of witches as they walked to their Coven. David bravely posed for a photo as the witches passed by. 

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It was still somewhat light outside so not all the hauntings were open. This gave us some time to visit other areas of the farm including the bouncy pad and playground. It brought back a flood of memories as we have been visiting Saunders Farm since David was a baby. 

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After visiting the bouncy pad, it was finally dark so all the attractions were open. Circus macabre was located close to the bouncy pad. I have always found clowns to be somewhat creepy and circus macabre only reinforced this idea. We had to find our way through a maze while being greeted by various clowns. There were numerous other elements but I don’t way to give away too much. 

One thing that has changed about Fright Fest since I visited fifteen years ago is that there are also busker-style performers. We caught a fire show that added to the ambiance of the evening. 

Busker Fright Night Saunders Farm

It was now time to visit the witches in their coven. We were greeted by a friendly witch who invited us to visit. I doubted her friendly exterior and the cackles coming from inside the coven gave it away. One really cool part was entering a room with a fog machine and a laser display. The effect made one think they were walking through a soupy swamp. Again, I don’t want to give away all the scares but let me just say, look around all the corners.

David, Sandy and I needed a break so we relaxed in the central area. There are multiple food options on-site so no one will go hungry. We also took a family photo in front of a large display of pumpkins. This spot may be one of the most instagrammed in the Ottawa area. 

Fright Fest Saunders Farm

It was now time for the Haunted Hayride. All of the attractions at Saunders Farm are great but the Haunted Hayride is the classic. We boarded the wagon and the tractor was off like a shot. It took a few minutes to get to the main area which only built up the anticipation. We were scared in multiple ways including masked performers and loud noises. The Haunted Hayride was everything I remembered and more. It was fun to share the experience with David and Sandy. 

It was now time to head back to Ottawa. I thought I saw a number of ghouls or goblins along the highway driving back home. It was probably just my imagination or was it?

For more information about all the scary things going on at Saunders Farm, visit www.saundersfarm.com


*Please note, Fright Fest is not intended for younger kids. We thought David was the perfect age at eleven but this may not be for all kids. The fright factor is much more young kid-friendly during the day.*


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





October 2019 booklist from the Ottawa Public Library

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


Picture book: Find Spot at the library / 2019

For ages 1-3.
Some of you might remember reading Spot’s adventures as a child. The first books in the series were published in the 1980’s. The books have since been reedited. This is the latest Spot the dog board book! Spot explores a library and, as always, plays hide-and-seek with the reader.

Picture book: The book hog / 2019

For ages 3-5.
The author of The Watermelon Seed is back with another brightly-coloured title. In this one, the main character, a pig, loves his scooter and…books. But he has a secret: he does not know how to read them! Until, one day, he meets a whole community of book lovers and a dedicated librarian at his local branch. The illustrations reflect the story in that the books first look blurry, and once the pig learns how to read, they start having lines & titles (some of which the readers will recognize!).

Picture book: The night library / 2019

For ages 3-7.
This is the story of a young boy who receives a book for his eighth birthday. He is less than thrilled with the gift, since he is a reluctant reader. But his interest in reading will be rekindled once he finds himself into a dream where the two lion statues from the New York Public Library come to life and take him onto a magical exploration of the various library rooms. The art in this picture book will make readers feel like going to visit the New York library building! Classic references are also hidden in the illustrations: The-cat-in-the-hat, Peter Rabbit, the Polar Express.

Non-fiction: Planting stories: the life of librarian and storyteller Pura Bulpré

For ages 4-7.
This brightly-coloured picture book tells the true story of a Puerto Rican woman, Pura Bulpré, who starts working at the New York Public Library and finds out that there is not a single book on the shelf about Latin American culture. She decides to write her own books and to share stories with the Storytime families. Soon, she travels across the country to present and to inspire.

Early Reader: Otter: I love books! / 2019

For ages 5-7.
If you don’t know Otter, you ought to start with the introduction title: “I am Otter”! The Ottawa Public Library owns 7 titles in the series. This is Otter’s latest adventure. He feels like going to somewhere fun, like the circus or the sea, but his keeper takes him to… a library.

Chapter book: The library of ever / 2019

For ages 7-9.
Science fiction novel. Eleven-year-old girl Lenora thought accompanying her nanny to the public library would be pretty boring -that is, until she walks into the library and somehow finds a magic portal to a very special library that contains the knowledge of the whole universe. There, Lenora is given the job of Apprentice Librarian and has to fight the Forces of Darkness.

An excellent, timely, book for initiating a discussion about intellectual freedom and censorship. 

Chapter book : The book case : an Emily Lime mystery / 2019

For ages 8-11.
Mystery novel set in England in the 1950’s. Daphne arrives at St Rita’s and finds out that it’s a rather unconventional boarding school. The classrooms are numbered in a random manner and the head librarian is nowhere to be seen. Daphne becomes friends with library assistant Emily and student George. Together, they decide to investigate a library break-in and a missing student.

Chapter book: The library shelves: an interactive mystery adventure / 2019

For ages 7-11.
During their field trip to the local public library, grade 6 schoolfriends Catalina, Edward, James and Samantha notice a scratching sound, as well as some yellow bookmarks sticking out of library books. Do they follow the source of the sound, or do they collect the bookmarks with riddles on them? Your choice! This is a “Choose your own story” book, with 12 possible endings.

Chapter book: Property of the rebel librarian / 2018

For ages 8-12.
This is the story of twelve-year-old June who decides to start an underground library in her school locker, when their school library bans the majority of the books from their shelves. But her boyfriend Graham does not understand her activism and joins in the censorship. How will June manage, especially once her loan log goes missing? Good food-for-thought on book banning. 

For ages 6-12.
Children are well familiar with the “You wouldn’t want…” non-fiction series, as the Ottawa Public Library has about 70 titles in their collection, covering topics such as : inventions, history, nature, science, health, biographies, and more. This newly published title uses fun cartoon graphics to depict how libraries have become a space for the community to share and to be together.

By the way, did you know that October is “Library Month”? The Ottawa Public Library takes the opportunity every year in October to hide and give away Golden Tickets. For more information, click here : https://bit.ly/2o9wk9y  

Birthday Party: Glow Wars Nerf Gun Battles

Last year my daughter had the chance to attend a Glow Wars Nerf Gun Battle birthday party for a friend, and she had such a blast that she insisted THIS was the perfect location for her tenth birthday party!! Since I love the idea of hiring out bdays (and keeping the mess out of my home!) I got in touch with GlowSport and asked if we could check out their packages.

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Not that we know much about Nerf in our home. It’s not something my kids have gotten into as an activity, but ANYTHING glow-in-the-dark is usually a fun time for kids.

You can arrange your nerf war birthday party at GlowSport’s West or East end locations. Since we live in Orleans we went with the east end, aptly named “The Chop Shop.” Located in an industrial location near Innes and St. Laurent, the party takes place in a giant room with stacked tires and parked cars. Lots of places to hide!!

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When you first arrive the kids are suited up in glow paint and glow t-shirts. This is also how teams are decided, and I was happy that staff took care of that so we could avoid fights over who was going to be on whose team!

We then went over all the rules in detail with our teammate - the person running our event. He got the kids to read the rules themselves (love it!) and I was happy to see that they addressed potential issues like safety or disagreements. I could definitely see the potential for kids getting upset or having arguments. Luckily we had an AWESOME group of kids that managed their disagreements well (usually it was: “I tagged him and he didn’t go to the safe zone!!”)

We then entered the playing zone and started a series of “battles.” The kids got a chance to pick their nerf guns from the “gun shop” and had the opportunity to upgrade to some pretty cool ones as we progressed through each round. Of course, the birthday girl was allowed to use the COOLEST nerf guns! And unlike other birthday parties, here we had 90 minutes to enjoy ourselves, which was the perfect amount of time. We finished the party in the party room, where we ate snacks and cake and watched the next group battle it out!

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Adults are welcome to join in with the kids for $10, and my husband and I may have had a bit too much fun trying to hit each other.

Other things you should know:

  • This isn’t really designed for kids under 6. My soon to be 7 year old was OK, although she got a bit nervous at the start because it was so dark.

  • You can ask them to turn the music down! My daughter found it too loud, so our teammate turned it down to a volume that worked for her.

  • We went with the package for 15 as it meant two teams of 7 and 8

  • You can add food to any package. We ended up bringing our own snacks and cake, as the time we booked was after lunch

  • The party room is right above the play room, so keep in mind it will be quite loud when the next group starts. The kids didn’t seem to care, and everything was still glow-in-the-dark, so they loved looking at the different colour their clothes had turned!

Overall it was a wonderful experience. Our teammate lead was incredible with the kids and kept them focused. I think we’ll definitely be back - GlowSport offers many other programs and activities for kids.

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Disclaimer: GlowSport covered the cost of my daughter’s birthday party package. Opinions expressed are solely my own and do not express the views or opinions of GlowSport.