10 Things You MUST do before summer ends

It’s already the middle of August (how did that happen)? But summer is not over yet! Enjoy the last few days and weeks of summer with this list of 10 things you MUST do before school starts back up - and with it, everyone’s extra-curricular activities and regular routines.

summer must do list

1)   See the Parliament Hill Sound & Lights Show

The Sounds & Lights Show on Parliament Hill ends in September, but why not take the kids to see it now? The start time is 9:30 p.m., so if there is a day where the kids have napped and you think they can handle a later night, why not grab a picnic blanket, sweaters and snacks and head out to Parliament Hill to watch this year's beautiful Northern Lights show!

2)   Play at a Splash Pad

We have had a hot, hot summer, which means it was the perfect summer to tour Ottawa’s best splash pads! There are hundreds of splash pads within the City of Ottawa, many of which are new within the last 10 years. It’s a great way to stay cool and let the kids run off some of their boundless energy. So, go out there and enjoy them before they are turned off for the season.

3)   Tour the Outaouais

Just across the bridge from downtown Ottawa are some of the region's best hiking and outdoor activities the entire family can enjoy. From the water slides at Mont Cascades to letting the kids explore the mazes of Eco-Odysée or feeding the animals at Parc Omega, there are many fun and exciting things for families to do in the Outaouais!

4)   Jump in a Lake

This might sound silly, but for me there is nothing more refreshing (and signifies summer more!) than jumping off a dock or running into a fresh and cool lake. There are many lakes around the Ottawa area, including some within the city limits. Do yourself a favour and jump in a lake (before we’re once again skating on them!)

5)   Spend an afternoon at a park

Every spring we ask readers to share their favourite Ottawa parks with us. This year we shared our thoughts on the new Millennium Park in Orleans as well as Barnabe and Cardinal Parks in Ottawa East and last year we discussed the popular Walter Baker Park in Kanata. Park play is always a memorable part of a child’s summer, so get out there and spend an afternoon at a park (and then share your favourites with us!) 

6)   Read together on a hammock

The best way to get your children reading is to read yourself! Earlier this summer we shared a post with classic kids books for summer, so head over to your local library and pick up a couple. Then get reading or just lay together in a hammock!

7)   Stay up late and star gaze

Now that the sun is setting a little earlier, why not set up a star gazing haven in your backyard? Even if you’re in the city if it’s a clear night chances are your kids will spot a star or two and there are many websites that have information on star names, including this site that has a printable star chart for kids: http://kids.lovetoknow.com/wiki/Printable_Star_Charts  

8)   Go to Calypso

Calypso Waterpark has water slides and fun for kids of all ages and is the perfect way to cool off on a hot summer’s day! The best part is that there is plenty of free parking and you can pack your own lunch and picnic on site or buy food there! Some family favourite activities at Calypso include Pirate’s Aquaplay and Zoo Lagoon. Claypso is a great way to exhaust the kids on a day that may otherwise be deemed as too hot for outdoor play. 

9)   Take the kids kayaking

Kids as young as four can kayak! It’s true! And while they may not paddle far, their love for the sport will increase as they get older and so will how far you can paddle together.  You can still purchase kid’s kayaks at many local retailers and there are plenty of nice evenings left to spend kayaking together.

10)  Feed some ducks

What child doesn’t enjoy feeding ducks? Feeding the ducks near Billings Bridge made our 50 Things to Do With Kids in Ottawa list this summer, so why not grab some bird seed and head down to where ducks live near you and count the ducks who come to you! A great math exercise for younger kids and a test of patience for older kids.

So, what is on your to-do list of activities to do with the kids before everyone’s fall routine settles in? Leave a comment and let us know.

Calypso Waterpark

by Jayda

We recently moved to Ottawa. As a parting gift from colleagues at his previous job we received two generous gift cards to Calypso Waterpark. As two-time water park season pass holders at  Sandcastles in Pittsburgh, it was a guaranteed hit. Thank you! DH took the day off work so we could go as a family on a weekday, hoping the crowds would be a little more tame. Today was the day. It was perfect. Crowds were manageable, wait times were bearable and the temperature was a tolerable at 27 degrees celsius. Swim suits, towels, sunscreen, snacks and water, check, check, check check, and check. We are off! The excitement was high.

For just less than the average car payment a family of four can enter the water park. $136 for our family, plus $5 for parking and $5 for a locker. A little steep, but you soon forget how much it hurt at the ticket booth once you are racing down the Jungle Run, riding the waves in the Calypso Palace or playing chicken with your life on the Aqualoop.

Colassal is the only way to describe Calypso. It boasts more than 35 waterslides, 100 water games, Canada's largest wave pool, the highest free-standing waterslide tower in North America and a 750 meter jungle themed  river adventure, complete with sound effects.

Co·los·sal [kuh-los-uhl] extraordinarily great in size, extent, or degree; gigantic; huge

Recently, MSN Travel, branded Calypso the best waterpark in the world! MSN Travel published its top ten list of the best waterparks and put Calypso in the top spot, above Disneyworld's Typhoon Lagoon and the World Waterpark at the West Edmonton Mall. For us, the best waterpark in the world is only 40 minutes away. I suspect an annual trip.

First up, the wave pool, at the request/demand of JWS, age 5. To say that JWS loves water is an understatement. Right from the first bath he had as an infant, when he kicked and squealed in delight in the freedom of the bath water. Our little amphibious creature. The harsher the assault of the wave, the bigger the smile on his face. He couldn't get enough. On the other hand, LWS, age 3, enjoyed the waves from the safe, secure arms of Dad. He is our cautious one, when it comes to water. As I tried to keep up to JWS in the wave pool, a workout in itself, I tasted salt! All the water at Calypso is salt water. I have officially forgotten about the cost of admission.

Next the Jungle Run. This was the family favourite; the attraction we all could enjoy, equally. We relaxed as the current pushed us along, raced as the jets propelled us and anticipated the next water feature. Participants under 1.52 meters must wear a personal floatation device. No problem, Calypso offers life jackets free of charge.

On to the Zoo Lagoon. I highly recommend a one adult to one child ratio for constant surveillance. If you can recruit a second adult for an extra set of eyes, I would do it! It was a little nerve-racking keeping track of our guys. LWS had a blast at the Zoo Lagoon. This area of the park is reserved the smallest swimmers. There are levers to pull that make the giraffes, hippos and elephants spit water on the innocence bystanders. Hilarious, when you are three. The slides are slow and short, preventing terrifying our youngest sliders and allowing the older siblings to be creative on how to go down (ie. head first).

Adjacent to the Zoo Lagoon, is the Pirate's Aquaplay.  Stairs, slides, ropes, cannons, walkways, Arr Matey. Once your child is swallowed by the ship, don't be surprised if it is hours before the next sighting. And then just when you think you might have spotted your child in the depths of the ship, the giant bucket of water dumps, washing out any hope. Fingers crossed, rumbling tummies will draw them out to refuel.

Calypso is educational too. DH and JWS set there sites on the Zoomerang. A fabulously terrifying ride that takes two riders sitting in a tube, and zips them down a slide towards a horrifying drop-off and then immediately up a wall, designed much like a skateboard ramp. This ride is sure to make even the bravest souls quiver. JWS was insistent on trying it, so DH and JWS jumped into line. As the two climb the stairs, DH educates JWS with his first little physics lesson. "You see JWS, it is all about the weight/momentum relationship. So, don't worry we won't go that high because you are not heavy enough." As the slide whips them up the ramp and they approach the upper limit of the Zoomerang (higher than anybody else), DH remembers he failed physics! Friction, he forgot to factor in friction! From a bench below, LLS and I hear a high-pitched scream (from DH) then sighed a big breath of relief as gravity forces them back down to a reasonable altitude. Phew! JWS was laughing and squealing as DH tried to salvage some shred of dignity as they exited the ride.

Other noteworthy features.

  1. There was plenty of parking. Parking attendants guided vehicles into nice, neat, efficient rows.
  2. There was ample space to set up a family headquarters. Or the option to rent a private Cabana.
  3. The food options were decent. I even found a good salad.
  4. Cash free, card free transactions. We didn't use this feature but it is genius. Money at My Fingertip.

There are only two things negative things I can say about Calypso.

  1. The lack of recycling. Only recycling bins for cans were provided. What about paper and plastic?
  2. It was too much fun! Good luck convincing your children it is time to go home.

We logged six exhilarating hours at Calypso. In all fairness the admission fees are comparable to all other top ranked waterparks in the world, making the Best Waterpark in the World, Calypso, a bargain!

Jayda Siggers, PhD is a nutritionist, a coach at Clean Plate Cleanse, a master mediator living under a co-dictatorship, whole food advocate, living a little greener everyday.

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