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.

High Tea at the Fairmont Chateau Laurier

When I think of high tea, I think of the small triangular sandwiches, scones and squares my grandmother would serve my mother and I when I was a child and we would go over to her house for afternoon tea.

My grandmother passed away many years ago and with her went the tradition of afternoon tea in fancy tea cups served with bite-sized delicacies. I longed to recreate those memories with my own daughter, and although I had heard of high tea at the Chateau Laurier, I found myself waiting for the perfect excuse to indulge in the experience.

Every afternoon, High Tea (also known as Afternoon Tea) is served at Zoe’s Lounge, located in the Fairmont Chateau Laurier. Zoe’s recently underwent a beautiful renovation maintaining its unique architectural element, including the gorgeous chandeliers, antique crown moldings and impressive marble bar. The lounge is bright, cheerful and the staff are very welcoming.

My daughter was not only impressed by the lounge’s big windows overlooking the street (prime seating if you’re lucky enough to get a seat there), but also by the tall ceilings.

High Tea at the Fairmont Chateau Laurier

My daughter didn’t know what to expect at High Tea, but was in awe of the three-tiered serving tray filled with scones, desserts and dainty sandwiches. Not a tea lover, she was very impressed with their hot chocolate as well.

Although the menu changes seasonally, the menu generally features unique gourmet pastries, open and closed-faced sandwiches and delicious English scones served with homemade Fairmont Chateau Laurier jam. And of course, there is also a wide variety of tea to choose from. You can view the current menu here.

What I loved about our day was the attention to detail our server gave us. He asked if we were celebrating anything special, which we were - my mom’s birthday. He wished her a happy birthday, which I thought that was very nice, but he then surprised her at the end of our tea by singing “Happy Birthday” and brought her a special birthday plate with extra treats. Needless to say, my mom loved it!

Celebrating a birthday at high tea Chateau Laurier

Zoe’s Lounge at the Fairmont Chateau Laurier makes afternoon tea everything I remember it to be and more. Classy, delicious and all about spending time sipping tea (or sparkling wine or champagne - or hot chocolate!) surrounded by those you love. I look forward to recreating the same afternoon again this year for my own birthday.

High Tea at the Chateau Laurier

Hours:  Monday to Friday from 1:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. and Saturday & Sunday from 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m

Cost:  $52 per person * 62 on holidays and 1:00 pm weekend seatings. Children’s (or little Prince & Princess) tea, $28.  Reserve at least 24 hours ahead (sooner during the summer and holidays).  613-241-1414.

Kid Friendly? Absolutely! Their menu even has a kid’s section, but they can easily just pick off your tray depending how hungry you are.

Location: 1 Rideau Street, inside the Château Laurier

Tubing at Mount Pakenham

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.  

One of my favourite activities as a kid was to go sliding down our local hill. Growing up in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, the hill was more like a bump compared to Ottawa standards but I still a great time. When I saw Mount Pakenham had tubing along with downhill skiing, I thought it would be a perfect opportunity to introduce our son, David and my wife, Sandy to the activity.  

We set out to Pakenham on the Sunday of Family Day weekend. The weather (for once) was perfect for outdoor sports. Arriving at the mountain, the first thing that struck us was the beauty of the place. Set in the Ottawa Valley, Pakenham has a family feel that might be lost at larger, more expensive ski resorts. As previously mentioned, being from Saskatchewan, downhill skiing is not my go-to winter sport so we opted for the tubing and snowshoeing option.  

We headed over to the tubing hill and picked up our inner tubes. There was not a lift taking us to the top of the hill but it was not an overly long walk and the pathway was well-maintained. Once we reached the top of the hill there were two possible runs open. David enthusiastically hopped in his inner tube and asked the staff attendant to give him the full spin option. We watched David speed down the hill with a smile on his face for the entire ride. Sandy and I romantically rode together holding each other’s inner tubes. We opted for the gentler push which still provided an exciting ride.

Tubing at Mount Pakenham

For the next go-around, David wanted to take a ride with me. On our climb to the top, he proposed doing the maximum spin-o-rama. By the time we reached the top of the hill, I was able to negotiate him down to the mild spin. Whatever way, we had a lot of fun. We took another three or four trips down the hill and had a blast.

Once done with tubing, we were able to borrow snowshoes and check out the trails. We took a scenic walk through the forest and were able to take short diversions off-trail because of our snowshoes.  

Snowshoeing at Mount Pakenham

After about a half hour exploring, we had worked up an appetite and headed back to the main lodge area. We opted for the cafeteria inside the lodge which offered comfort food like soup and sandwich, poutine and hamburgers. They also had lighter fare including salads. We enjoyed our meal in the convivial company of fellow tubers and skiers. The resort also has a lounge and bar that is open to families before a certain time. There was also an outdoor canteen that offered food as well.

We ended our time at the ski resort soaking in the sunshine and admiring the skiers racing down the mountain.

Skiing at Mount Pakenham

If you have time, the village of Pakenham is worth a stop. The Pakenham General Store was originally built in 1840 and has some of the tastiest cinnamon buns I have ever tasted. It is also worth to check out the five span bridge which was originally constructed in 1903 and is built completely out of stone.

Special thanks to Mount Pakenham for providing David and his family with tubing and snowshoe passes for the purpose of this article; all views are his own.


10 March Break Activities in Ottawa

March Break is just around the corner! If you plan on sticking around the National Capital Region this March Break, then you’re probably wondering what there is to do to keep the kids busy, entertained and happy.

With that in mind, here are 10 March Break Activities in Ottawa:

March break Activities in Ottawa

1)   Visit a Sugar Bush

Over the March Break, you won't have to wait until the weekend to visit a Sugar Bush. The Log Farm in Nepean is open March 12th to the 16th from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and includes a bonfire and wagon rides! Visitors will not only see how the pioneers would have collected maple syrup, but also learn how maple syrup is made using modern wood fired equipment.

2)   Try Downhill Skiing, Winter Tubing or Snowshoeing! 

March break is a prime time to take the kids downhill skiing or enrol them in downhill ski lessons. But if you aren’t skiers, hills such as Mount PakenhamEdelweiss and Domaine de l’Anne-Gardien offer winter tubing too! And ski hills, such as Calabogie also offer snowshoeing (including rentals). Fun in the snow for all ages and abilities!

Downhill skiing

3)   Visit a Museum

Ottawa has many great museums that appeal to a a variety of interests. Whether you want to teach kids about farming and agriculture at the Canadian Agriculture and Food Museum or learn about dinosaurs or Canada's Arctic at the Canadian Museum of Nature, there are plenty of things for kids of all ages to see and do at a local museum.

This year the Canadian Museum of Nature has a special Butterflies in Flight exhibit that is only on until April 28th. March Break is a great time to go check it out (tip: it's really busy, so make sure you book your time slot ahead of time).

For younger kids the Children’s Museum at the Museum of History is always a hit! 

From March 2nd to the 17th, the Canadian Space and Aviation Museum is offering programming where kids will learn all about “Your Place in Aerospace!” Each day, the museum will focus on different careers in the aviation and space industry. See many of the behind-the-scenes jobs that ensure the aerospace industry runs smoothly - all available for children of any age!

And we can't forget - the Canadian Science and Technology Museum’s March Break has a plethora of fun-filled activities, experiments, and demonstrations that are sure to keep visitors of all ages engaged. Visit their top-notch interactive exhibitions, get up close with demonstrations in the galleries, or head to the big demo stage for supercool experiments. Don’t forget to try the special engineering challenge in Exploratek!

Exploring a museum is a great way to spend a couple of hours or an entire day!

4)   Take a Haunted Walk (for older kids)

Older kids, who are also fans of a good ghost story, may appreciate the fun and mystery of Ottawa’s Haunted Walk. They run every night from downtown Ottawa and are definitely a memorable way to spend an evening as a family. There are usually a couple of different tour types to choose from and each offer a unique way of seeing our city!

5)   Go Cross Country Skiing

 March Break is usually a goot time to check out the groomed cross country ski trails in Gatineau Park or the new multi-use Sir John A. MacDonald trail. If you don’t own skis you can usually rent them from places such as Mountain Equipment Co-op and Fresh Air Experience. 

Cross Country skiing

6)   Skate as a family at the Sens Rink of Dreams and Rideau Hall

Weather-permitting, the Sens Rink of Dreams at Ottawa City Hall is open daily from 6 am to 11 pm and unlike many other public skating rinks there is also a heated changing facility. If you don’t own skates (or you just discovered your kids have outgrown theirs) you can rent skates right on site (during designated times).

Rideau Hall also has a public outdoor skating rink which is open until March 25th, weather-permitting. 

7)   Slide or Dive into a City of Ottawa pool

The City of Ottawa offers a wide range of public swimming schedules during the March Break and have locations all over the city that offer everything from standard swimming, to slides to waves! The great news is that it isn’t expensive, in fact kids 2 and under are free!

8)   Sign up for a program at the Ottawa Public Library

Every year the Ottawa Public Library offers free programs for school age children and teens as part of their March Break. Program themes and length vary depending on the library, but past programs have included programs about science, technology, arts and more!

9)   Paint Pottery

If your kids love to be creative bring them to a ceramic painting place in Ottawa. There are several including Pottery Playhouse in Stittsville and The Mud Oven on Bank Street. Kids can paint something as simple as a plate or mug and make it their own – or get a head start on birthday gifts for family and friends. It’s a lot of fun and the mess is left behind!

Painting Pottery

10)  Try Bowling

If you’re anything like me the last time you went bowling was on the Nintendo Wii. Bowling is great exercise and a fun way to play together as family. Ottawa has several bowling lanes to choose from including Walkley Bowling Lanes and Orleans Bowling Centre. Merivale Bowling Lanes even has glow in the dark bowling!

How do you plan on spending your March Break this year? What are some of your favourite family acitivities? 

 

 

A Surprise Staycation at Bookstreet Hotel

The last-minute planning for a staycation started when a pre-planned long weekend trip to Washington was cancelled and my entire family was disappointed. All of us were looking forward to getting away.

My husband and I scoured the internet for ideas on what we could do that were not too far away and that wouldn’t cost a lot of money (we’re still counting on a trip away-away sometime soon!). I then remembered the Brookstreet Hotel. Located in Kanata North, my daughter had taken swim lessons there through Aqua Life Swim Academy and absolutely adores the place (especially the outdoor musical instruments located outside the hotel’s front door). So, I went online and took a look at what they had to offer.

Brookstreet Hotel

Without hesitation, I booked the “Summer Family Package” – the perfect family getaway package!

We didn’t tell my daughter what we were doing. Instead, my husband and I secretly packed our overnight bags (including our swimsuits!) and late Friday afternoon, I told her she and I had to run out and pick something up for her dad at the Brookstreet Hotel. As I mentioned, she adores the place and was eager to go back, even if it was just to pick up a package for her dad. When we got there, I told her we had to go to a certain floor to get the package. When we arrived at the room, my husband was already there and left the door a bit ajar, so I just walked in and said, “Hi! How are you?” My daughter was confused and initially did not want to leave the hallway, but then slowly made her way in when she heard her dad’s voice.

She was still confused, but then noticed the suitcase and a Brookstreet backpack on a bed and excitedly asked, “Are we staying here? REALLY?! YAY!” And then jumped up on her bed to take a look at her complimentary backpack that included a Brookstreet water bottle (which is valid for free soft drinks when dining in Options, Perspectives or Ironstone Grill) and tokens for the hotel’s Zone 525 Games Room. The games room features an interactive floor game, arcade games, video games and a movie theatre!

Golf course view

My daughter could hardly wait to change into her swimsuit and head to the Brookstreet’s outdoor AND indoor salt water pools. We spent a long-time swimming that evening – the water in both the indoor and outdoor pools is so warm, you won’t want to leave!

Brookstreet Hotel Pools

Once we were done swimming, we headed back to our room, but not before my daughter was greeted by Buzz, the hotel’s mascot. At nine, she was trying not to be excited, but she had a hard time not smiling when she saw him. Buzz can be found buzzing around between the hotel’s lobby and the Flex Fitness Studio a few times during weekends, which is a fun addition to any family’s stay!

Brookstreet Hotel Indoor Pool

After a quiet and comfortable night’s sleep we enjoyed a delicious breakfast buffet at Perspectives. This breakfast is not your typical hotel breakfast – think smoked salmon, waffles, fresh fruit salad, gourmet cheeses, yogurts, pastries, bagels, and so, so much more!

After breakfast we headed to Blackbird Falls Mini Putt for a fun 18-hole game. My daughter liked this course because it looks easy, but it is actually challenging (she also loves that there is so many ‘water holes’).  

Black Falls Mini Putt Brookstreet

We then went to the games room where my daughter used her tokens to play the “grabby thingy” and won three stuffies – much to my chagrin. Afterward, we headed back to the pools, well, I sat in the whirlpool tubs… and then in the sauna.

We also took a look at the outdoor ping pong table, outdoor chess and chequers tables near the outdoor pool area, as well as the kids play rockers. Needless to say, a family with kids of all ages could easily spend a weekend – if not more at the Brookstreet Hotel.

Families can also look into various activities that take place during the weekend. The weekend we stayed, there was a movie night being hosted on Friday night in Zone 525 (the games room) as well as an ice cream inspired “B Creative” craft Saturday morning. The hotel also offers complimentary bicycles, helmets, locks and cycling trail maps for all guests!

Zone 525 Brookstreet


The Summer Family Hotel Package includes so much, it is truly unlike any other hotel I have stayed at and it really felt like we got away – even if we live just minutes down the road. The package includes:

  • One night’s accommodation
  • Family Pass for Blackbird Falls Mini Putt
  • A ‘Brookstreet Backpack’ for each child including:
    • A Water Bottle (Free soft drinks when dining in Options, Perspectives or Ironstone Grill)
    • A Surprise Kids Activity
    • Tokens for the Zone 525 Games Room
    • 15% discount in in Perspectives Restaurant, Options Jazz Lounge or Ironstone Grill (a voucher is given at check in that can be used throughout your stay)
    • A Freezie or Popsicle for each child (a voucher is given at check in to pick up the treat from the B café)
  • Access to their indoor and outdoor saltwater pools, including a kid’s wading pool
  • High-speed WiFi
  • Parking in their secure underground garage

We will definitely return to the Brookstreet for another staycation – my husband and I are also looking into indulging in the Couples Getaway package!

Have you stayed at the Brookstreet Hotel before? What was your favourite part?  

Marshes Golf Course BrookStreet Hotel