My husband and I find it tough to get out for date nights. It's not that we don't want the time alone, but there are barriers - money, busy schedules and available babysitters top the list.
But barriers have solutions, and we've been working on it for a while (we've got a good list of babysitters now, and we've made room in our budget for date nights.) After all, healthy relationships thrive when couples can find time for each other. Of course, this doesn't always mean an expensive night out, but sharing new experiences together can be fun!
Kids in the Capital is launching a new series called "Parents Night Out." We want to highlight some of the fun things to do here in the capital that are for parents alone. Every couple of months we will post a new adventure for you to check out. We're also looking for ideas! If you have a fun thing to do for date nights here in Ottawa, let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org
Snowshoeing Under the Stars
If you live in Ottawa and have never visited Nordik Spa-Nature, then I urge you to get there as soon as possible. Nordik Spa-Nature is North America's largest spa (yes, you read that right - it's BIG!!) Located at the entrance of Gatineau Park, the spa is where you go to unwind and re-couple. And sorry kiddos, but you can't get in here until you're 16 years old!
Nordik Spa-Nature has paired up with Gatineau Park to offer couples an amazing winter experience - a guided snowshoe through the park, followed by an evening in the baths. A group of 11 of us got together to check out this package, offered every Tuesday evening until mid-March, at $61 per person.
Gatineau Park Visitor's Centre
We arrived at the visitor's centre at 6:30 p.m. (side note: must visit the centre another time with the kids, as it looked like it would be a fun place to explore!) Snowshoes were provided to everyone who didn't own a pair. And not to fret, they're super easy to put on! We were asked to bring a headlamp if we had one, but the night was quite bright. Once our eyes adjusted to the dark, we were able to turn the headlamp off.
We had a very experienced guide, Michelle, who is hired by Friends of Gatineau Park. The Friends organize hikes for school groups, as well as adults, and their goal is to foster an appreciation for the Park's natural and human heritage.
The cool thing about a winter hike is that it's the only time you can go off-trail, without damaging the vegetation. We learned all sorts of amazing tidbits about the creatures living in Gatineau Park, including where to spot claw marks from the bears (who love to eat the beech nuts on beech trees!) I was happy to hear that most of the bears would be sleeping through the winter...until Michelle mentioned that it wasn't uncommon for them to wake up and go for a little "stroll." I made sure I wasn't at the back of the pack when I heard that piece of news.
The hike was suitable for beginners, and our only complaint was that most of us dressed too warmly. It's amazing the heat you start to generate when clomping around in snowshoes, and of course, it's been a very warm winter here.
We handed our snowshoes back to Michelle, and got in our cars to drive the tiny distance over to the spa. You can either rent a robe or bring your own, and you definitely need a robe. No one wears their clothes (well, except a bathing suit,) even in the dining area! Also make sure to bring flip flops, as your feet will not appreciate the frozen ground.
Nordik Spa-Nature is a Scandinavian spa experience. This means that your body will benefit from the therapeutic effects of hot and cold. If you've ever watched someone burst out of a sauna to do a polar swim, you'll know what I'm talking about - the exhilaration that you feel after a cold dunk is amazing!
There is guidance provided on which pools or saunas to try in succession, or you can just do your own thing. There are also "rest" areas throughout the spa, where you can sit by a warm fire or lie in a snug sleeping bag.
Given that we were a group of eleven and quite chatty, we chose to spend our time in the "talking area." There is also a silent area of the spa, where anything above a whisper is prohibited. Many people go to the spa for a quiet getaway, and so if you are looking for a more social experience, you still have many pools and saunas to choose from!
After a soak in the tub, some sauna time, and a brave dunk in a cold pool, we were ready to relax with some snacks and drinks. The food is at Nordik Spa is lovely, and you can choose from a resto, a lounge or a cafe. There are full meals to be enjoyed, or small bites...and of course, your drink of choice!
We arrived home feeling tired and happy, and I slept like a log that night! Fresh air and warm baths will do that to you. It was a fantastic Parents Night Out, and we can't wait to do it again.
Disclosure: we were provided this Snowshoe Under the Stars at a discounted rate. All opinions are my own, which isn't really necessary to say, given that everyone knows how much I love Nordik Spa (and snowshoes....!!)