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 Fun at Room Escape Ottawa

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.  

Two years ago,  I didn’t understand all the buzz about escape rooms.  The concept of locking yourself up in a room and having to escape within a certain time seemed crazy to me.

My perspective totally changed when we recently tried an escape room in Kingston, Ontario. Our family had a great time searching for clues and working together. It left us wanting to find an escape room closer to home in Ottawa.

We checked online and found one close to our house that looked like fun,  Room Escape Ottawa. There were five different rooms to choose from with three being listed as youth-friendly. Despite our son, David’s, protests to try the scariest room, we all settled on Boom Room. The description listed the room as being a rigged enemy bunker that was timed to explode with only sixty minutes to escape. Our house has a similar feel in the morning to get everyone up and out the door on time so I thought our chances were good.

We arrived at Room Escape on Bank Street and found out it was in the same facility and business as Archery Games Ottawa. I wondered if perhaps we did not finish the room on time, we might have to do archery games without a bow and arrow!

We were greeted by our escape room host who went over some of the procedures and gave us the scenario. We entered the room and quickly got to work. The room was dimly lit except for a red emergency light giving the space the feel of a World War II bunker. It was authentically decorated with camouflage and other military paraphernalia.

Room Escape Ottawa

We were also provided with a walkie-talkie where we could request assistance. Clues were provided either via a television or our host would come in to assist. I thought this was a great feature especially for those with younger kids as it could be frustrating to be stuck on one puzzle for too long.   

I do not want to give away too much of the escape room in case you try it, but let’s just say there were many different elements including cracking codes, interpreting a board game and diffusing bombs. Ultimately, we did not make it all the way out of the room but got very close.

This experience is a great way to teach problem-solving skills, working together and generally just having a great time.   

Room Escape Ottawa has two other rooms which are suggested for the younger set. Stranded explores being stuck on an alien planet while another De-Composed is listed as being Canada’s first multiplayer virtual reality escape room.

We will certainly be back to Room Escape Ottawa whether to try out another escape room or archery games.  I still don’t think anyone from their staff could escape our house as quickly as we do on a Monday morning!    

Family Workshops at Nepean Visual Arts Centre

I had the pleasure of checking out a family workshp last month with the Nepean Visual Arts Centre (located at the Nepean Sportsplex.) The workshop was called "Trim Your Tree," and no, this didn't involve saws ;) This two hour workshop led us through two holiday ornaments for decorating the house and tree.

Family workshops are offered for one fee per family (maximum 4 participants,) but I had brought my 7 year-old alone. There is no age range, but your children should be interested in sitting for 2 hours and able to concentrate on the project. A 3 or 4 year-old may not have that patience.

We started with the feature craft - hand-painted Reindeer! We were supplied with the pre-cut/glued reindeer, and a huge table full of paints and decorations were at our disposable. There were four different reindeer samples to look at, but we were encouraged to be creative! Steps were broken down into manageable tasks, and my 7 year-old had no problem at all following along.

After the reindeer were painted, they got their faces and were adorned with bells, ribbons, stickers and stamps. We then took a break, and the workshop facilitator came in with delicious cookies and hot chocolate with marshmallows - YUM!

We finished the afternoon off with an ornament for the tree. My daughter was sad it was over, and said "when can we come back?" I loved the one-on-one quality time with her, and getting creative without having all the mess in my house was a bonus! 

Looking ahead, NVAC will be offering "Parent & Me" pottery classes in 2017. I'm excited to sign us up. If you're looking for last minute stocking stuffers, a gift certificate to NVAC or NCAC (Nepean Creative Arts Centre) would be make the perfect gift. Or sign your child up for a workshop or class, and make them a cute gift card that they can open on Christmas morning!

How do you like to get creative with your kids?

Summer of Awesome - RCMP Stables

Recently my two daughters have become obsessed with horses. They both claim that they want to learn to ride - no doubt they have images in their heads of their hair flowing in the wind as they race towards the sunset, bow and arrow in hand just like Merida in the film Brave. I have to admit, I am pretty skeptical that their reaction to riding a real-life horse will be quite so dreamy.

So I thought I'd ease them into it by visiting the RCMP Stables. It's where they train the horses for the Musical Ride, and I was hoping an up-close-and-personal encounter with an enormous, black horse would knock the request for riding lessons right out of 'em.

The stables are in Rockcliffe and are open every day in the summer from 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. This is where they train and house the horses for the famous Musical Ride. During the summer, the 36 horses that are part of the Musical Ride are on tour, but there are still about 60 other horses in the stables - these are horses that have been retired from the ride, or young new horses who are just starting their training.

So the first thing you need to do when you get there is find the entrance, which (memo to the RCMP) is not very clearly marked. Here's the building:

RCMP Stables Building

The entrance is the one on the far left hand end, behind the giant tree, that has a sign that says, "Lost and Found." OF COURSE.

The door leads you straight into the gift shop (OF COURSE), and you have to go through the gift shop to get to the museum part. The museum is a few small rooms that talk about the history and function of the RCMP, and the details of the Musical Ride.

We learned about the RMCP's bomb disposal unit:

Bomb Disposal Unit helmet

The kind of horses that are picked for the ride (must be almost all-black, 16 hands high):

Museum Display

And we saw the carriage that is used for visiting heads of state, including Will and Kate last year on Canada Day:

Will and Kate sat here!

There's also a video playing with footage of the actual Musical Ride, if you've never had a chance to see it.

A tour leaves about once every half hour from the museum section and lasts about 20 minutes. You'll get a chance to see the Musical Ride practice area:

Musical Ride rehearsal area

(This area is also open to the general public, you can come and watch them practicing which takes place most weekday mornings in the winter - call them for the schedule.)

You'll see the tack room and the ferrier's workshop:

Ferrier's Workshop

You'll see horses (yay!):

Horse RCMP Stables

You'll learn about how they name the horses (did you know there's a naming contest every year, in the spring?), how they choose the horses, and how the selected officers learn to ride.

Name Tags from Retired Horses

After the tour, you're welcome to walk behind the stables where they have a training area. When we were there, two riders were working with a new young horse and we were allowed to watch if we were VERY quiet.

Training Area

Out front, two RCMP officers in full uniform allowed us to get up close and personal with the horses:

RCMP Officers

That was probably the best part. We were able to pet the horses, chat with the officers (SO NICE), and we learned a few extra details, like how they brush-in a maple leaf pattern on the the horses' backsides before taking them out on rides. Cool.

I liked this visit because it felt like we were really learning something about Canada. We have, unfortunately, never actually seen the Musical Ride itself, so this was a great introduction. However, it was a pretty small place - we were able to cover the whole museum, the tour, and the visit with the officers in about an hour and a half. So it fits nicely in between naptimes, but if your kids are older, you can probably combine this visit with another event.

Also, word of warning: your secret plan to avoid riding lessons may backfire, and the budding love of horses may turn into full blown adoration.

Lynn is mom to three tombliboos and blogs over at Turtlehead.

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