Family Travel: Loon Mountain, New Hampshire, USA

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.  


Our family thinks one of the keys to a great family vacation is to make frequent stops along the route.  Especially if it is to see fun attractions.  Loon Mountain Resort, located in the White Mountains of New Hampshire fit the bill.  

We arrived at Loon Mountain after being on the highway for two hours.  I read online that the resort had the longest scenic gondola ride in New Hampshire and also had ziplining.  Perfect for our son, David.  

Family Travel: Loon Mountain, New Hampshire, USA

We checked into the adventure centre and opted for the full adventure package so we could try all the activities.  Our first destination had to be the gondola. Heights and I have a mixed relationship so I was somewhat tentative to take the gondola.   My fears were quickly dispelled as we were treated to a smooth ride and breathtaking vistas.  

It took us about ten minutes to reach the summit.   We decided to go check out the glacial caves trail where a person has a chance to explore the caves.   While on the glacial cave trail, we first came across the outdoor amphitheatre. The amphitheatre was located on the sloped mountainside with seating providing an amazing view of the surrounding valley.  I could not imagine a more stunning location for any type of event.  

We continued along the trail and came to our first cave.  The space to explore the cave was tight which added to the challenge and fun.  Eleven-year old David fared well crawling in-between the spaces with relative ease.  My wife, Sandy, also proved quite capable. I used the excuse that I was wearing sandals thus did not have proper footwear!  David and Sandy explored three or four more caves with David completing the entire circuit.  

Caves: Loon Mountain, New Hampshire, USA

It was now time for lunch so we decided to try the summit cafe.   I was frankly expecting so-so food with outrageous prices because the view was so spectacular.  Instead, we were treated to tasty food at a reasonable price with the views included for good measure.  

After lunch, we took the gondola back down the mountain and headed to the adventure centre.  The centre serves as a basecamp for all activities at the foot of the mountain. David first wanted to try the ziplining.    He got suited up and zipped across an idyllic mountain stream. Sometimes, I wonder where David got his genes for adventure. I enjoy mild pursuits like hiking and biking but ziplining is not top of my list.   

Ziplining: Loon Mountain, New Hampshire, USA

Once done the ziplining, we were almost done for the day.  David wanted to do one last activity, the rock-climbing wall.  He strapped into the harness and was ready to climb away. He reached the top of the climbing wall and rang a bell at the top to signify his achievement.  

Rock Climbing: Loon Mountain, New Hampshire, USA

It was now sadly time to go and head back to Ottawa.   We did not have a chance to check out some of the other activities including the aerial forest adventure park and mountain biking.  Next time, we would like to extend our stay in the White Mountains as there are many outdoor activities to experience.  

If you go - Loon Mountain Resort is about a five hour drive from Ottawa.   It would be advised to book accommodations ahead of time as the area is a very popular tourist destination all seasons.  

For more information about Loon Mountain Resort, visit, www.loonmtn.com.  

Disclosure: Stephen received free passes for the purposes of this review, but all views are his own.

Family Travel: A Day Trip to Smiths Falls, Ontario

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.  


When I first moved to Ottawa in 2000, the town of Smiths Falls meant one thing to me - Hershey chocolate. The Hershey factory was then open in Smiths Falls. Every time family or friends would visit, it seemed like we were doing the factory tour and buying chocolate at their store. Unfortunately, the factory closed down in 2008 so my visits to the town diminished. 

The second wave of visits came when our son, David, went through his Thomas the Train phase. Smiths Falls is home to the Railway Museum of Eastern Ontario. We visited the museum numerous times including special events where David got to go for a train ride. This was exciting stuff, especially to four-year-old David who believed in Thomas almost as much as Santa Claus.

Now that David is eleven, we had not recently been back to the town but were looking for a day trip destination from Ottawa when my parents were visiting. Being only about an hour drive from our house, Smiths Falls was a perfect choice. We started the day off at the Heritage House museum. My Dad is a history buff so he enjoyed reading all about the house which was built in the 1860s. There was also a market day going on meaning local vendors and artisans were selling their products. A guitarist from the area provided the relaxing background music. 

Heritage House - Smiths Falls, Ontario

Heritage House - Smiths Falls, Ontario

Just a one minute drive from Heritage House was the Old Slys lock station on the Rideau Canal. I always love visiting the lock stations and would like to visit them all one day. It is amazing this piece of engineering from the 1830s is still in use today. We met a couple of workers as they cranked the lock open for an incoming boat. 

Rideau Canal Locks - Smiths Falls

Rideau Canal Locks - Smiths Falls

It was now time for some lunch. In the past few years, many new restaurants have opened in Smiths Falls. We heard the sandwiches at Cafe Whim were delicious so decided to check it out. We immediately felt at home as our server was very friendly. As promised, the sandwiches were huge and tasty. We all picked different sandwiches which allowed for sharing. 

Having had a hearty meal, the plan was to work some of it off. We headed to the local beach and made a cool discovery. There was a new water trampoline in the swimming area. David quickly changed and swam out to the trampoline. He jumped on the trampoline and slid down the mini-slide. After about fifteen minutes, one of the other kids playing yelled out “snake!” This word might frighten some kids but our son loves snakes. It was a northern water snake and did not pose a danger to any of the kids. I was only afraid that David might hop into the water and try to catch the snake a la Crocodile Dundee. 

The second part of David’s great adventure was to check out the beach and shallower swimming area. He soon discovered that there were crayfish at the bottom of the lake. It was not very deep so he decided to go swimming for the crayfish. We spent about the next forty minutes as David had the time of his life diving for crayfish. In total, he was able to catch and release two crayfish. My wife, Sandy, was not totally into the crayfish experience but she did take some awesome photos.

Swimming Area - Rideau Canal locks

I felt like the water trampoline added a lot. It felt like something you might see at the beach in the Riviera Maya. The shallow swim area was also perfect for younger children. The bottom was a bit rocky so swim shoes might be the way to go. 

We took a quick shower and were ready to see more of the town. We were still full from our hearty lunch so just needed a light snack. It was about 32 degrees Celsius outside so of course, the perfect choice was ice cream. We found an ice cream shop within walking distance, Sweet Scoops. The ice cream cones were affordably priced but more important were delicious. We did make an involuntary contribution to the sidewalk as our cones melted under the heat. It only gave us that much more reason to devour them quickly. 

Sweet Scoops, Smiths Falls

Sweet Scoops, Smiths Falls

For our last activity, we took in the Outerbridge Clockwork Mysteries show at the Station Theatre. The show features the magic of Ted Outerbridge and his partner Marion. Ted Outerbridge is one of the top illusionists in Canada so we felt fortunate to see him in such an intimate venue. 

The show was fast-paced and entertaining. Many of the tricks left us with our jaws dropped wondering how he did it. At one point, David wanted Sandy and I to give up our wedding rings for one of the tricks. I politely declined David’s offer to the magician as I tightly held my ring. Of course, all rings were safely returned to the participants.

Station Theatre, Smiths Falls

Station Theatre, Smiths Falls

Ted and Marion have recently moved to Smiths Falls which gave the performance a community feeling. People from out of town did not feel like they were crashing the event. More like they were joining the party. 

Ted performed his final trick of the evening and it was time for us to head back to Ottawa. The transformation of Smiths Falls has been incredible. I always liked the city but did not think of it as a top tourist destination. Additions like the water trampoline, family-friendly entertainment, and new restaurants have opened my eyes. We are planning to make a return visit later this summer and Hershey kisses have nothing to do with it. 

For more information about tourist attractions and the latest events, visit www.smithsfalls.ca.



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.  


Some people say that Canadian history is boring. Perhaps they have never done the Haunted Walk Experience at the Mackenzie King Estate.

Two years ago, my wife, Sandy and our son, David, did a haunted walk tour around downtown Ottawa. Haunted walk are the tour guides who wear the black capes and carry the lanterns. We enjoyed our experience as we learned a lot of history about the city and was not too scary for children. 

When I saw they also offered haunted tours at Mackenzie King estate, it was on our summer to-do list!


We arrived at P6 parking lot well ahead of our 8:15 pm meeting time and explored a few of the trails. We were greeted by our black-cloaked tour guides who provided us with flashlights and also suggested applying a coat of bug spray. 

At 8:30 pm, we met our tour guide, Natasha, and we were off to hear ghost stories and explore the grounds of the estate. 


Mackenzie King is one of our most well-known prime ministers. King led us through a good portion of the Great Depression and World War II. He may be equally as well-known for participating in seances and believing in spiritualism. Ripe fodder for a ghost tour. 

The estate is divided up into two distinct areas. The first is Kingswood where Mackenzie King purchased his first property in 1903. Natasha took us to the main cottage and shared a few spooky stories about the cottage. King was particularly close to his mother and was devastated when she passed away. We were allowed to explore inside the rooms with our flashlight. I felt like I was on an episode of Ghost Hunters. 

We proceeded to the second and more grandiose section of the estate, Moorside. King developed this area after he became prime minister. He would receive foreign dignitaries and heads of state at Moorside. Natasha shared more information about King and some of the strange sightings at Moorside. 

We were again allowed to explore inside the building with our flashlights. After hearing some of the stories, David succeeded in scaring me! He snuck up behind me and said, “Hello Father.” I could have sworn it was Mackenzie King himself.

Our last stop was the Abbey Ruins. This was the scariest and most spectacular area of the estate. King was interested in architecture and would save portions of buildings that were being demolished. These included the parliament hill building which had been destroyed in the 1916 fire. We were treated to a clear sky where we could see the stars and moon. Natasha shared her creepiest stories and we all gripped our flashlights a little bit tighter. And they say Canadian history is boring. 


If you go - it is advised to bring mosquito spray as a good portion of the tour is outside in the evening so that means bugs. Also, coming to Mackenzie King Estate is not too difficult as all the parkways are open. Once the tour is done the main parkways are closed so this means taking back roads back to the highway. It may be helpful to have a GPS or a good map. As mentioned, the tour was not crazy scary and would be suitable for an older child, especially if he/she is into history. 

For more information and schedules visit, www.hauntedwalk.com

Full disclosure, Stephen’s tickets for various attractions were covered for the purposes of this blog post, but all opinions are his 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.

Family Travel: Greek Peak Mountain Resort, Syracuse, NY

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.  


There are certain attractions that I have seen from roadside billboards, websites or tourism brochures but never had a chance to visit. One such place was Greek Peak Mountain Resort. Located south of Syracuse, New York just off of Interstate 81, we had passed the billboard for Greek Peak numerous times. This time, we decided to stop at the resort and are glad we did.

FAMILY TRAVEL - Greek Peak Mountain Resort .png

It may seem counterintuitive to visit a ski resort in mid-spring, but I checked online and was impressed by the spring and summer activities being offered. What particularly caught my eye and especially our son David’s attention, was the indoor waterpark. After arriving and checking in at the resort, it probably took us about ten minutes to change and hit the waterslides.

Indoor Water Park at Greek Peak Mountain Resort

Indoor Water Park at Greek Peak Mountain Resort

If you are reading this article in Ottawa or the greater area, you know spring has not been especially kind to us this year. Hurtling down the waterslide, it felt like it was mid-July. For the first slide, my son had assured me I would be fine. Ya right! The slide had numerous hairpin turns and drops, ensuring maximum adrenalin for Dad.

The second slide was a joint effort. David and I sat together on the toboggan as we shot off down the tube slide. I added the ballast in the back, ensuring we went extra fast. Sometimes, I do miss taking the little kids waterslide with David.

Greek Peak Mountain Resort Indoor Waterslides

Having had my excitement rush, it was time to relax. My wife, Sandy, David and I went to the indoor/outdoor hot tub and pool. Even though it was only about 13 C outside, we were able to relax in the warm water. We did our Scandinavian spa routine alternating between the hot tub and pool.

Hot Tub at Greek Peak Mountain Resort

We finished our time checking out the whitewater wave pool. David got right to the front of the waves riding them like he was a California surfer.

All of this activity had made us pleasantly tired and hungry. I was happy that our room had a full kitchen. We prepared a home-cooked meal of steak and veggies while saving money in the process.

After our meal, we were energized to go check out more of the lodge. The main area was decorated like a rustic wilderness lodge with wood beams and wood furniture. There was also a huge wood fireplace giving the area an extra cozy feeling.

Greek Peak Mountain Resort, Syracuse, NY

One of the things I love about travelling is the surprises that happen along the way. The weekend we were staying at Greek Peak there was a large wedding party. They were having fun but always respectful. As we were about to turn in for the night, we noticed an impressive fireworks display going off. At first, I ran through my limited knowledge of American holidays. I also considered it was a special promotion being put on by Greek Peak. The red heart-shaped fireworks gave it away. It was part of the wedding celebrations. The show was equally as good as many Canada Day celebrations (excluding Ottawa.) I had to smile when someone asked what they had planned for their first anniversary after such a momentous wedding celebration.

The next day, the smoke had cleared from the fireworks. We wanted to go check out the Greek Peak adventure centre. Various activities were offered ranging from ziplining, aerials rope course and a mountain coaster. We were somewhat short on time, so Sandy and David decided to opt for the mountain coaster. A lift brought Sandy, David and their two-person car to an altitude of 4,300 feet. I stayed at the base of the mountain. This is secondhand from Sandy and David, but both said the ride was awesome. The driver controls the speed of the car, thus allowing you to determine how fast or slow you go. I am sure at points David was asking Sandy to go faster. Both looked like they had a great time.

Greek Peak Mountain Resort, Syracuse, NY rollercoaster

After the coaster, it was time to leave Greek Peak and explore more of New York State. It will certainly not be our last time to the resort, and we will be more open to taking those detours off the main highway.

If you go - Greek Peak Mountain Resort is about 4h 15 minutes south of Ottawa just off Interstate 81. It is an all-season mountain resort, so any time a year is a good time to visit. The surrounding countryside is gorgeous so we would like to return to do some hiking. For more information about the resort visit, www.greekpeak.net.

Disclaimer: Stephen and his family were comped accommodation and activities but as always, all views are his own.

Family Travel: Explore Winnipeg, Manitoba

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.  
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We took a family trip to Saskatchewan this past summer and decided to return to Ottawa by car.  One of our unexpected surprises were all the great family-friendly attractions we found in Winnipeg, Manitoba. Here is a list of our favourite attractions we checked out while in Winnipeg.

Assiniboine Park Zoo  -  The zoo has been on my list of must-visit places since they opened their Journey to Churchill exhibit in 2014.  The stars of the show are the polar bears.  It is possible to view the bears through a glass-enclosed tunnel similar to what you find in an aquarium.  The day we visited the bears were in full-performance swimming and generally frolicking about.

Polar Bears at Assiniboine Park Zoo .jpg

There are plenty of things to keep you busy at the zoo.  A few other animals we saw were muskox, timber wolves and harbour seals (thankfully kept away from the polar bears!)  One other feature of the zoo I liked was the indoor polar-themed playground. Our son, David, who is ten was not quite the target audience but we were visiting with friends who had an eight year old and six year old.  They took full advantage of the playground and it brought back memories for me of Cosmic Adventures in Ottawa.

The Forks -  Perhaps the most important and popular destination in Winnipeg is The Forks.  Located in downtown Winnipeg, The Forks are found where the Assiniboine and Red River meet up.   The site has also been a meeting place for the past 6000 years as archaeological digs show it was used by Aboriginal peoples.  More recently, it was a centralized site for fur traders, Metis buffalo hunters, Scottish settlers and everyone else in between!

The Forks - Winnipeg

Today, The Forks mixes in the contemporary with the historic.  You can find the Manitoba Children’s Museum along with numerous displays detailing the history of the area.  For our family, we gravitated towards the Forks Market where you can find numerous restaurant kiosks and vendors selling a variety of products.  Our favourite food stall was Fergie’s Fish ‘n Chips where we appropriately had delicious Fish ‘n Chips wrapped up in newspaper.

We also enjoyed climbing up to the top of a small tower found in the Market.  We were treated to a panoramic view of The Forks and the two rivers.

Canadian Museum for Human Rights -  Opened, in 2014,  the Human Rights museum has helped to put Winnipeg on the map as a tourist destination.  The first thing a visitor will notice is the unique architecture. The curved form blends in seamlessly with the landscape.

Canadian Museum for Human Rights, Winnipeg, Manitoba

The museum might not seem to be the most obvious choice for those with younger children.  The exhibits deal with hard subjects including the Canada’s mistreatment of Aboriginal peoples and the Holocaust.   Our son, David, loves history so really enjoyed the museum. While difficult issues are addressed, the exhibits tell the story from the perspective we can all make a difference in improving human rights.  

A visit to the Canadian Museum for Human Rights

Accommodation -  For our time in Winnipeg, we stayed at Delta Hotels by Marriott Winnipeg.  Located right in downtown Winnipeg, it was only about a fifteen minute walk to The Forks and the Human Rights Museum.  Aside from the location, David loved the indoor and rooftop swimming pool. His parents more enjoyed the hot tub after touring around all day!  

The perfect place to start all tour planning to Winnipeg is at www.tourismwinnipeg.com.

Disclaimer: Tourism Winnipeg assisted Stephen with hotel and attractions but all views are his own.