Frugal Family Water Park Fun

by Caroline Water parks are part of summer in my family. Ever since my husband and I were dating, we would hike off to one water park or another, and ride through (and on) tubes and around loops getting soaking wet and having a blast. Call it what you will, but we fell in love over swimsuit wedgies and sunburns.

One place we visited was Mont Cascades, in Cantley, Quebec.

Recently, my husband was hankering (read: Pleasepleaseplease can we go to a water park Hun? Please???) to spend some time in a water park, and agreed our son, now two, would be old enough to enjoy it as well. So, we looked at all the water parks in the Ottawa area, and decided on Mont Cascades for his introduction to the water park experience. We figured this park would not have parking fees, traffic jams, long lineups and maybe have a more relaxed atmosphere, one where we wouldn’t worry quite as much about crowds, or how many people would see me in a bathing suit. Seriously.

Mont Cascades delivered. We discovered a great, inexpensive and enjoyable outing for our family with our choice. We have been twice this season, and are very happy with the experience both times.

The best part is the price. For the park’s 20th anniversary, all entry fees have been dropped to $10 (plus tax). Kids two and under, as usual, are free. This meant, for us, that our entry for the day was $23.20! This was a much welcome alternative to $88 plus parking at other places we looked at. Parking is free at Mont Cascades, and you can bring in all your own food.

Subway is available if you don’t want to bring your own food, so at least you can have a healthy choice other than fries and burgers. I believe there is also bar that serves regular fare. We didn’t check out either, since we had all our own food with us.

The first time we arrived, we came for the afternoon, and the second time, we came in the morning and spent a good part of our day. Both times, the parking lot was quite full, and a bit helter-skelter to find a spot. Not surprisingly, most were family vehicles that had gaggles of kids and teenagers piling out, like clown cars at the circus. Who knew minivans could hold so much? No matter where you park, the walk is never that far to get to the gates.

I suggest arriving right at ten a.m., when the park opens, if you are planning a full day. Not only will you get a better parking spot, but there are several tents and areas with shade, and they fill up really quickly. If you come anytime after opening, you’ll have to do paper-rock-scissors with the family of ten taking up the last table, or sit out in the sun. Both times we were in the sun (which is just fine), but we did manage to snag a half-picnic table to stash our cooler and bags. The park suggests not bringing in valuables, of course, but we felt very safe leaving our stuff “out” in the groups of people.

The park is kept clean, and we appreciated the ability to recycle our waste from our picnic lunch. Picnic tables and structures are in good shape too. There are change rooms in the main building, and pay lockers (bring loonies) if you want, but again, if you arrive later in the day, you likely won’t get one. A suggestion is to bring a bicycle cable lock to keep your stuff attached to a picnic table leg, if you feel necessary.

I didn’t bring my wallet, and stashed my camera and phone in the car, so I have no pictures. Next time I’ll buy a waterproof instant camera and get some snaps.

Neither time was the lineup long for entry, when we arrived. Even with lots of people waiting, park staff had all their ticket windows open, and everyone was moved through quickly. You can pay by debit or credit card, but we always had cash to make it quick, and negate the need to carry our wallets.

Once you have your tickets, you go through a gate where they make sure you don’t have any glass or sharp knives (tip: pre cut veggies and cheese so you don’t need a paring knife). The gate is also where you get your massive, indelible-paint-like stamp on your hand. My son was ecstatic to get a “sticker” for his hand, and giggled like mad when the park staffer stamped him. Mine has yet to wear off, but my son’s came off right away. I suppose this means I need to moisturize more. I have lizard skin.

For us, we didn’t venture to any of the big slides in the park, as our son is just a toddler, and was relegated to the 48” and under area, called Mini-Splash. This was no sacrifice, since there are five slides in the kid’s area to play on.

Three white coloured slides are right off the main wading pool. One is a wide slide that several kids, or kids + parents can go down at once, and another is a straight, narrow slide that one child can easily slide down. There is also a twisty-turny one, but very tame. Two orange and green slides are above the main area, and exit out to a separate deck. Both quite fun, twisty-turny slides for kids. My son liked these best. I’ll admit they were right up my alley too, I’ve slowed down in my old age *creak*.

One thing we really liked was that all the slides are capable of taking a parent with a child seated firmly in your lap. You can stay with them the whole time. For smaller children, this is so important, as they learn water safety. Always within reach, is the adage, and I firmly adhere to that. The wide slide in the main area could handle my husband and me with our son between us, and he got a real kick out of all three of us sliding together, holding our hands and grinning ear to ear each time we went. Every time we would go down together, people would laugh. I suppose we made quite the sight, two adults holding a tiny boy’s hands and all screaming “WHEEEE!” at the top of our lungs.

Another plus is that you can bring in your own flotation devices for the kids, instead of having to rent the ones the park provides. We have a wee swimsuit for our son that has foam on the back and front, and fits him properly. He looks like a robin-egg blue turtle with a tiny rear-end, but he floats on his back automatically, if he gets in trouble. I believe you can also rent lifejackets, but it’s not a requirement for small kids.

There are two other pools for swimming and wading, and both are quite nice. Once is right by the main buildings, and another is up a wee hill, and has water jets spouting at various points, like a massive town centre water fountain you can actually play in. We tended to stay at the slides, as both times we went, the pools were packed with older kids splashing. But we did get some swim time in, since our son is learning to dunk his head, blow bubbles, and float.

For over 48”, but not ready for the big slides, is a place they call Splash Forest. This has one of those massive tilting water buckets, and some tube slides that come off a big play structure. There are water squirt guns, and various other attractions. We went up to see if our son might like to play in it, but he was more content to watch. The big bucket spilling over everyone was quite a fun game for him to watch, and he would jump and point in anticipation as the young boys all gathered right under the apex of where the water dropped. He thought it was hilarious as they all screamed. We didn’t take him under it in case it scared him, though. Next year, when he’s older, my guess will be we won’t be able to keep him away.

Overall, I think the value for what you pay is very high at Mont Cascades, and would recommend it to families with small kids, or even older ones who want to ride some really cool water slides like Black Magic or Mammoth River and not blow the bank. It’s close to Ottawa, very friendly, and family-oriented. But don’t take my word for it, you should go!

Directions from Ottawa: Take the MacDonald Cartier Bridge North and take the 2nd exit, Highway 50, direction East to Montreal/Gatineau. Take 1st exit, Saint-Louis, #138 and turn right (North) onto Highway 307. Drive 15 Km, turn left onto Mont Cascades Road and proceed 7 Km to Mont Cascades.

Caroline bought a Mustang, and began dating the man who sold it to her. Two years later, after a wedding and the birth of her son, she found herself with a family. The car seat fits just fine in the Mustang and her two-year old son takes great pleasure in calling it “Daddy’s car”. Caroline has stopped correcting him. He did earn a commission when he sold it, after all… You can find her blogging at and