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.

Family Travel: Dynamic Earth, Sudbury, Ontario

I grew up in Sudbury, Ontario, and although I didn't appreciate it as much at the time, it is a beautiful city with lots of things to do for families. A five-hour drive from Ottawa's west end, Sudbury offers families a plethora of beaches including Moonlight Beach, Bell Park, and Windy Lake and makes for a great long weekend destination.

FAMILY TRAVEL Sudbury Ontario.png

I now visit Sudbury twice a year, every spring and fall, to spend time with my grandfather. My most recent trip up was with my mom and my ten-year-old daughter. We all thought spring is the perfect time of year to check out one of Sudbury’s most popular tourist destinations, Dynamic Earth.

Of course, there is also Science North, which is known for its Bed of Nails, resident beaver and porcupine, flying squirrels, as well as many other interactive nature and science-related exhibitions. I hope to explore Science North again more when I return in the fall!

In the meantime, if you have never heard of the Bed of Nails before, check out this fun promotional video from Science North:

Dynamic Earth

This trip, we decided to visit Dynamic Earth. I hadn't been "down in the mines" since I was a kid and I was excited to share the Underground Tour experience with my daughter. When you arrive at Dynamic Earth, you are assigned a start time, which is typically every hour on the half hour. We got there 45 minutes before our underground tour started, so we took advantage of the additional exhibitions that are included with admission.

It was a beautiful day so we, of course, took the opportunity to snap pictures of the infamous Big Nickel that stands on the top of the hill at Dynamic Earth. The Big Nickel is a replica of the 1951 Canadian nickel and has been a selfie hotspot since before selfies were a thing! According to the Dynamic Earth website it, “symbolizes the wealth that Sudbury has contributed to the Canadian economy through nickel production.” I love that access to the nickel is barrier-free, which means anyone can walk or use a wheelchair to get up close with the Big Nickel. You may have heard that there were once other large coin monuments that shared space with the Big Nickel… you can learn what happened to them by visiting the Big Nickel, but I still believe the rumour that they rolled away. ;)

The always accessible Big Nickel

The always accessible Big Nickel

After visiting the Big Nickel, my daughter explored the Outdoor Science Park. This park is unlike any other! It features science and mining themed play structures, vehicles and slides safe and fun for kids of all ages. My daughter lived sliding down the “molten slag” slide towards a real slag pot and climbing the net climbing structure.

When we finally ventured back inside, we spent time learning about colour minerals on the mineral wall and playing in the mine training centre downstairs that featured virtual operating equipment such as a rock breaker, excavator and mining drone.  

Dynamic Earth Sudbury Activities.jpg

Of course, the real attraction was the underground tour. The tour starts by taking a big glass-windowed elevator down seven storeys. The guided group tour takes you through their demonstration mines through the ages. During the approximately hour-long underground tour, you learn the evolution of mining in the Sudbury region from the turn of the century to modern mining and also includes a mock-dynamite explosion. It's unlike any other tour I have been on, and I found it very interesting to learn about what went on under the ground all those years of living there. Also, you can purchase a postcard at the gift shop before heading down and mail it in their underground mailbox – a fun way to let others know how much fun you’re having! It’s a very realistic experience and makes you appreciate the dark and damp conditions miners continue to work in every day!

Dynamic Earth Underground Tour.jpg

If you’re planning a family trip to Sudbury, Ontario make sure to include Dynamic Earth! Here are some tips to make the most out of your time there: 

  • Pick up your underground tour pass for the next available tour time as soon as you arrive (you may be tempted to visit the Big Nickel first, but depending on when you arrive there will be plenty of time to do that!).

  • The temperature underground is approximately 13C (55F), so make sure you are dressed for cool and damp conditions by bringing a jacket and wearing running shoes.

  • I recommend the underground tour for children aged three and up, but there are strollers available underground!

  • It is dark when you first get in the elevator and when you first arrive underground. Make sure little ones are prepared by letting them know it will be dark, but also that there will be lights and that they are safe.

  • There are flashing lights.

  • There is a café on site if you want a quick bite to eat as well as numerous bathrooms.

  • Dynamic Earth is typically closed from October to March each year.

  • The Big Nickel is free to visit any time of the year!

For more information on Dynamic Earth, visit: https://sciencenorth.ca/dynamic-earth/.


Disclaimer: I received passes to Dynamic Earth for the purposes of this review, but all opinions are my own.

Canada Day 2019 in Ottawa

Canada Day 2019 in Ottawa.png
photo courtesy of connie paris

photo courtesy of connie paris

It's #Canada152 this year and we have everything you need to know to plan a memorable Canada Day with your family. 

Parliament Hill

Programming on Parliament Hill starts at 8 a.m. and includes an Algonquin blessing of the grounds, a Carillion Concert. The noon and evening Shows featuring various artists such as the NAC Orchestra, K’Naan, T. Thomason, Les Ballets Jazz de Montréal, Karim Ouellet, Shawnee, William Prince, Coeur de Pirate, Marie Mai and Brett Kissel.

New this year: the main entrance to access Parliament Hill for Canada Day programming will be located in front of the Supreme Court of Canada at the intersection of Wellington and Kent streets. The entrance for people with special needs will be at the Parliament Hill pedestrian entrance at the intersection of Bank and Wellington streets.

For additional details on access points, the security process and any restrictions to consider, please visit the official Canada Day website.

Major’s Hill Park

Major’s Hill Park is the hubbub of family-friendly Canada Day activities in Ottawa’s downtown core. Visit the park for face painting, live musical and cultural performances, pop up shops, exhibitions, and so much more. This year the Tim Horton's stage will feature performances by CHANCES, Iskwé, Medhi Cayenne, Salebarbes and Said the Whale. At the end of the day, this is a great spot to watch the spectacular display of Canada Day fireworks over the Ottawa River.

Photo courtesy of Jenn Beyak

Photo courtesy of Jenn Beyak

photo courtesy of cynthia mar

photo courtesy of cynthia mar

Bank of Canada Museum

Drop into the Bank of Canada Museum (located at 30 Bank Street (corner of Wellington Street)) for family activities, trivia, crafts, photobooth and giveaways. There’s plenty to keep the kids busy and you can learn a thing or two taking our trivia challenge. Dry, cool and FREE! Open 10:00 am to 5:00 pm. See our tent on the Plaza. Click here for more information. 

The National Arts Centre

The National Arts Centre (NAC) opens its doors on Canada Day offering various FREE activities for the whole family, rain or shine! Activities include outdoor Yoga on the NAC Wood Terrace, Storytelling & Yoga for the little ones with Luana and Surya, a Ukrainian Dance Workshop with the Ottawa School of Ukrainian Dance, a House Dance Workshop with Capital Sessions featuring Rise Ashen, and a
Powwow work-out with Amanda Fox ! For more information, click here.

Jazz Festival – Confederation Park

Photo courtesy of jenn beyak

Photo courtesy of jenn beyak

Located right across from City Hall, Confederation Park on Canada Day is home to food trucks, activities and is your ticket to some of the world's most recognized jazz artists, presented by the TD Ottawa Jazz Festival. If your family enjoys good music, Confederation Park is a must-stop on Canada Day and the entire weekend!

Mackenzie-King Estate

Mackenzie-King Estate is in the heart of Gatineau Park and makes for great photos any time of year. If your family loves the outdoors, take a walk through the wooded paths or gardens, visit historical ruins from the early 1900s or enjoy a cup of tea at the Mackenzie King Café and Tearoom. 

Photo courtesy of Olivia Lamarre.

Photo courtesy of Olivia Lamarre.

Ottawa Champions Baseball Game

Take your kids to a ball game! The Ottawa Champions have a game at 1:30 p.m. on Canada Day against the Shikoku Islanders (from Japan). Enjoy ball game food, cheer on the local team and sing with the mascot! Seats prices are economical and it’s fun for the entire family, regardless of age (or whether or not they like baseball).

Scotiabank Canada Day Road Races

If you and your family love to run join Run Ottawa for the Scotiabank Canada Day Road Races at Walter Baker Park as part of the official Kanata Canada Day celebrations. There will be fun and friendly running events, including 5K, 10K, 1.5K Fun Run for kids aged 5 to 11 and a 100 Meter Tow Trot for kids ages 4 and under. A fun and healthy way to start Canada Day!

Visit a Museum!

Most museums in Ottawa have free admission to their general exhibitions all day July 1st and many have special events taking place just for Canada Day! This includes the National Gallery of Canada, the Canadian War Museum, the Canada Space and Aviation museum, as well as the following museums:

Photo courtesy of Lida Wellman.

Photo courtesy of Lida Wellman.

Canada Aviation and Science Museum

The Canada Aviation and Space Museum has a jam-packed schedule of thrilling performances, including skydiving demos, rocket launches, and a fly by from NAV Canada’s CRJ. Just minutes from the crowds of downtown Ottawa, the museum is an ideal destination for those seeking a family-friendly day filled with entertaining, educational and interactive activities to do    regardless of the weather. Stroll through our world-class aviation collection, speak with pilots, and visit more than 20 partner organizations from the aerospace industry! Admission is free (donations are welcome).

Bytown Museum

Located on the Lower Locks of the Rideau Canal, the Bytown Museum is a great little museum that also has ice cream, freshly squeezed lemonade, souvenirs, and more available in their café and boutique. Admission is free on Canada Day.

Canada Science and Technology Museum

Rain or shine, kids and adults alike will have fun exploring the newly renovated Canada Science and Technology Museum. Free admission to visit the museum (parking fees and ticket fees to Leonardo Da Vinci-500 years of Genius exhibition still apply)

Canada Agriculture and Food Museum

In addition to the animal barns and incredible play structure, the Canada Agriculture and Food Museum is highlighting Canada’s birthday with lots of exciting activities for the whole family. Our special demonstrations will offer visitors the chance to learn about Canadian agriculture and learn about different Canadian breeds of livestock. There will be games, a craft, ice cream making and tasting, as well a chance to sample a Canadian classic: butter tarts!

Canadian Museum of Nature

If you haven’t been to the Canadian Museum of Nature in awhile, Canada Day is the perfect chance to do so for free. Visit dinosaurs, mammals, minerals and sea life, the Canada Good Arctic Gallery and their new special exhibition Pterosaur: Flight in the Age of Dinosaurs.

Photo courtesy of Lida Wellman.

Photo courtesy of Lida Wellman.

photo courtesy of cynthia mar

photo courtesy of cynthia mar

Osgoode

Celebrate Canada Day in Osgoode Village at the Osgoode Community Centre starting at 2 pm on July 1st. Events include a parade, entertainment, kids activities, and fireworks! For information: http://www.osgoodevillage.com/?page_id=743

Riverside South

Join the community of Riverside South at Claudette Cain Park as they celebrate Canada Day with family-friendly activities for all ages and of course, a fireworks show to finish off the day! For more information: https://www.facebook.com/events/2224326307877914/

Celebrate Canada Day in Your Community!

If you are looking to avoid the huge crowds of Canadians in downtown Ottawa, but still want to celebrate Canada Day with others, there are plenty of community events across Ottawa, including:

Barrhaven

Sponsored by Mattamy Homes, join your Barrhaven neighbours at Clarke Fields, 93 Houlahan for a midway, food trucks, live music, amazing fireworks and much, much more! For more information: http://www.canadadaybarrhaven.ca/

Carleton Place

Celebrate at Riverside Park starting at noon with fun activities and entertainment for children of all ages. The celebrations end with fireworks at 9:45 pm over the Mississippi River. For the full schedule, visit: http://carletonplace.ca/canada-day.php

Carp

Celebrate Canada Day at the Diefenbunker from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.!  They’ll have family-friendly activities, a Canada themed scavenger hunt through the entire four story underground Bunker, an obstacle course, and more! Entry times must be booked ahead of time. Entry cannot be guaranteed without a pre-booked ticket. For more information: https://diefenbunker.ca/events/event/canadaday/

Clarence-Rockland

Celebrate at Du Moulin Parc from 9 am to 10:30 pm, starting with a pancake breakfast, followed by live music, inflatable games, face painting, a free swim at the Rockland YMCA, and, of course - fireworks! http://www.clarence-rockland.com/index.php/en/residents/festivals-en

Kanata

Canada Day in Kanata take place at Walter Baker Park in Kanata and includes live entertainment, a large family fun zone, live bands and more. Crowds of over 30,000 are known to attend this popular west Ottawa Canada Day celebration! Fireworks start around 10 p.m. For more information visit: http://www.canadadayinkanata.com/

Orleans - Petrie Island
On July 1st, Kiwanis International's Orleans branch is hosting a family-oriented event that gives kids of all ages the opportunity to play, smile and celebrate as all kids should. For full details: http://www.ocanadaorleans.ca/

Stittsville

Hosted on the grounds of Sttitsville’s Sacred Heart Highschool, Stittville’s family-friendly Canada Day celebration starts at 1 pm and gets bigger and better every year with activities and fun for the whole family including fireworks at 9:45 pm sharp! For more information: http://www.stittsvilleva.com/canadaday/

How to get around on Canada Day

PHOTO COURTESY OF ALISON JETTE

PHOTO COURTESY OF ALISON JETTE

Regardless of where or how you decide to celebrate Canada Day in Ottawa, OC Transpo offers free transit all day long and after the fireworks. STO offers free transit after 10 p.m. Check out their website for more information and remember to leave lots of time for travel and to have fun – Canada Day with kids make for some great memories.

How does your family traditionally celebrate Canada Day? Leave a comment and let us know!

Family Travel: Chaffey’s Lock

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.  



It was the first truly nice day of June. It was also a PD day for our son, David and I had the day off. The perfect combination for a road trip.

We decided to go check out Chaffey’s Lock. Located about 1.5 hours south of Ottawa on the Rideau Canal system, Chaffeys Lock is perhaps most well-known for having a lock station.

Family Travel_ Chaffey's Lock.png

We arrived late morning and were lucky enough to see the lock station in action. A pleasure cruiser arrived and the Parks Canada staff manually cranked the locks to move the bridge. It felt like stepping back in time. The same process would have been used a hundred years ago.

David was interested to see the process but when I had told him that Chaffey’s Lock was prime snake habitat, that was his primary focus. David has loved snakes since he saw a Little Ray’s Reptile presentation when he was three. We have been all over Ontario looking for snakes.

I have learned when searching for snakes, it can be very hit or miss. We got an insider tip from the Parks Canada staff and headed to the end of the point at the locks. At first, we did not find anything, and then I saw something slithering towards me. It was a Northern Water Snake. David jumped into action and took multiple photos with our smart phone.

Chaffey's Lock Water Snake

David is always very respectful when viewing nature and let the snake go on his way. We lingered around the area for awhile longer. This time, David spotted something in the water and it was another Northern Water Snake. I was afraid that David might jump in the water to go swimming with it but thankfully, my wife Sandy, is always able to steer the ship with some common sense.

We had satiated our desire to see snakes so it was time to check out Chaffey’s Lock. While not an overwhelming metropolis. There were still many cool things to see and do. We first headed to Opinicon Resort. I had visited Opinicon about fifteen years ago. Frankly, at the time, it looked a bit tired. The resort was bought a few years ago and I was happy to see all the improvements.

The first order of the day was to visit the ice cream parlour. There were multiple flavours and a single scoop was the size of most double scoops at other ice cream shops. We took our ice cream outside and David discovered the playground. The coolest feature was a zip line built for kids. The playground had a nature theme which fit in with the beauty of the location.

Caffey's Lock zip line

Opinicon has a pub and restaurant for fine dining. There are also cottage style accommodations for an overnight visit. I could imagine us making a return trip to the Opinicon.

It was now time for the main reason we had visited Chaffey’s Lock. I had read very good reviews online about Rideau Tours. They offer up kayak, canoe, paddleboard and bike rentals along with boat cruises. We opted for the more relaxed activity and chose the three lake loop boat tour.

We met our friendly, tour guide and boat operator, Captain Luc and were underway. The pontoon boat was very comfortable and had a cover shielding us from the hot mid-afternoon sun. The conversation with Captain Luc was as if you were seeing an old friend again and not a total stranger. It was obvious he was very well acquainted with the area and knew the history well.

Caffey's Lock Boat Tour

Our first big sighting was seeing a group of turtles basking on some rocks enjoying the sun. As our boat approached, the turtles slowly made their way into the water. David identified the turtles as painted and snapper turtles. Captain Luc kept a respectful distance as we watched the turtles swim by.

Captain Luc then showed us Richardson island where Agnes Etherington set up a hospital called Fettercairn for her brother and other veterans suffering from shell shock who had served in World War I. She found they responded well to the tranquility of nature.

Our next destination was the Newboro Lock. We gently cruised along Indian, Clear and Newboro Lake. I could feel the stress of the work week slipping away as we enjoyed the beautiful scenery.

Chaffey's Lock scenery

We arrived at Newboro Lock and took a break to stretch our legs. I started to think I could get used to this boat cruising lifestyle. It was interesting to read the historical panels at Newboro Lock. We did not find any more snakes but enjoyed the visit.

On the way back, we saw more stunning lakeside scenery. Captain Luc showed us his favourite swimming hole. The water was still too cold to swim since it was only early June but we made a vow to return. We also covered every topic under the sun from the Montreal Canadians to classic rock.

Soon enough, we were once again back at Chaffey’s Lock. We had an unexpected surprise. Captain Luc’s partner, Anne Marie, had prepared a gourmet picnic for us. It consisted of locally produced artisan sausage, cheese, organic heirloom vegetables and homemade lemonade. Relaxing over good food and conversation was the perfect way to wrap up our visit to Chaffey’s Lock and with Rideau Tours.

Chaffey's Lock Tour Picnic

Rideau Tours offers many different tours and packages including overnight stays. The picnic meal is also available on many of the activities. For full information about all the various options visit, www.rideautours.ca

During the summer months there are plenty of other things to see and do around Chaffey’s Lock including the Chaffey’s Mill Art Gallery which features works of local artisans and the Chaffey’s Lockmaster’s Museum. Check out www.chaffeyslock.ca for all the info. For the outdoor enthusiasts the Cataraqui Trail (an old rail line now part of the TransCanada Trail) offers 100 km of hiking that also links to the Rideau Trail. If fishing is of interest head over to Brown’s Marina for all your supplies. They are located right in Chaffey’s Lock and if you chat with the locals they may just share some “Fish Tales” that are best told sitting on the “Liar’s Bench” at the Opinicon Resort.

Disclaimer: For the purpose of this review, Stephen was compensated for the boat tour and meal but all views are his own.

The Canadian Children's Museum

Krysta Veenstra recently visited the Canadian Children’s Museum inside the Canadian Museum of History and is shared her experience with Kids in the Capital!


We recently had a chance to visit the Canadian Children's Museum, located inside the Canadian Museum of History, in Gatineau, Quebec. It was a very short drive from Ottawa and had plenty of indoor, pay parking (which is great during winter and bad weather!)

The Canadian Children's Museum Bus

We haven’t taken the kids to this museum in years, so we were excited to see what has changed and what has stayed the same. If you’ve ever been to the Children’s Museum before, you know there are a few things that are classic, kid favourites. Luckily, the classics are still there!

My kids’ favs were the camel, the pyramids, the theatre, the bus and of course, the passports.

The Canadian Children's Museum Worlds

If you are not familiar with the passports, let me explain. As you enter, the kids are each given a passport. They take it along with them, to all the different country exhibits. At each country exhibit, there is a stamping station. I can’t say I understand the big draw of the stamps, but I can’t deny that it is taken very seriously by the kids. Trust me, you are not leaving this museum without every stamp! So keep your eyes peeled for these golden landmarks, because like it or not, you will be going back in to find any missed ones.

The Canadian Children's Museum passport signs

Another thing that has not changed, is that the Children’s Museum is very hands on. There is lots to see and do and touch. There is a craft room, a theatre with a stage and dressing room, music, blocks, a ship to climb on, stories to hear, etc. I will warn though, that most of these activities are aimed at a young crowd. My 6 year old was somewhat still interested in the activities, and my 9 year old was mostly uninterested. Except for the passports. Never too old for those apparently! If bringing small kids, there will be lots for them to do and explore. Keep a close eye on them though, because this is a popular museum and can get quite crowded.

Kaleridoscope at the Canadian Children's Museum

After the Children’s Museum, we decided to take a look around the rest of the History Museum.

The Imax is no longer an Imax, but movies are still played. They show both English and French movies. We saw one of the educational short films and loved it. They were also playing a full length Disney movie, included in the price of our admission. A great addition for families wanting to spend the whole day out, but also want to sit back and relax a bit.

We also checked out the new Medieval exhibit. My 9 year old was much more into this exhibit than the Children’s Museum. The adults quite enjoyed it too!. In this part of the museum, there is less to touch and feel, but we still managed to find one hands on activity!

History Museum Medieval Exhibit

Overall, we found something for everyone at this museum and would recommend it to anyone with young kids or families that want to spend a whole day exploring different activities all in one place.

Disclosure: Kystra and her family received passes to the Children’s Museum and the Canadian Museum of History for the purposes of this review, but all opinions are her own.