Holiday Activities for Kids in Ottawa

The holidays can be the perfect opportunity to spend quality time together as a family, but once the festivities of Christmas and Boxing Day are over, children can get a little stir crazy! With that in mind, here is a list of holiday activities for kids in Ottawa that will keep your kids busy, entertained and make for some incredible memories too! 

At the end of the post you will find a giveaway for THREE of the activities listed below (keep reading to find out which ones!).

1) Visit a Museum

museum-of-history-christmas

Ottawa has many great museums, and my kids really enjoy the Children's Museum at the Canadian Museum of History. I'll never forget a frigid day spent there last year, checking out the latest exhibits

2) Check out Christmas Lights Across Canada on Parliament Hill

Last year almost 20,000 people gathered on Parliament Hill to take in the sights and sounds of Christmas Lights Across Canada multimedia show (playing until Christmas Day).  In addition to the show, don't forget all the lights! Go for a walk in Confederation Park to see thousands of holiday lights on display. The lights are on display until January 7, 2017. 

3) Ride a Rollercoaster at Funhaven

Did you know Funhaven now has a rollercoaster? In fact, it's the ONLY rollercoaster in Ottawa! The Crazy 8 rollercoaster was custom-manufactured in Italy this past summer specifically for Funhaven. It was featured at the International Amusement and Attractions Expo in Orlando this November, before being shipped to Ottawa for installation. The rollercoaster is in addition to the other fun offerings of Funhaven including laser tag, bumper cars, a laser maze, mini-bowling, a jungle gym with soft air cannons, and a climbing wall.

 4) Visit Gatineau Playground Park

Grab the kids and head over to Gatineau for some indoor play from December 27th to 30th from 10am to 5pm at the Complexe Branchaud-Briere in Gatineau. This fun indoor playground features inflatables for kids under 5 as well as electric karts. There is also Teen Zone with extreme race inflatables, Just Dance consoles, and seven life size games. There is also a sports zone where kids can try new sports and different activities depending on the day.

5) Spend an evening at Alight the Night

Alight the night

Bundle up and get ready for a walk through a beautifully lit holiday-themed Upper Canada Village. This year Alight the Night features a Mistletoe Maze, a snow block-style maze made up of over 300 giant, white-wrapped bales of reindeer hay. There is also the a ferris wheel, which provides a unique view of the village below. As always, there is also old-fashioned horse-drawn carriage rides.

6) Take them to see The Blizzard Of Oz

After two successful runs of Freezing - The Musical, Ottawa Musicals is thrilled to bring The Blizzard of Oz to the Gladstone Theatre for ONE WEEK ONLY - January 3rd to 8th. This marks their 3rd annual family musical in the style of a panto. The heroine, Dottie, gets lost in a snowstorm and ends up in a strange land. Along the way she meets Bob Cat, Al Loy and The Faircrow. Lost in the big city, they get help from Glenda the Good while they try to stop Wanda the Wicked from taking over the Ruby Slipper Cafe. A twisted story full of music, dance, larger than life characters, jokes for both the young and old, local Ottawa references and more. You will be over the rainbow while you laugh, tap your toes and boo the bad guy in this year’s all new family musical. The Blizzard of Oz runs for ONE WEEK ONLY. Once tickets are gone, they’re gone. 

7) Go Swimming

Fun and affordable, a family swim can be just what you need to soothe tired muscles after a day of skiing. Or maybe it's been too cold for skiing, and your kids need to get their sillies out! Check out the City of Ottawa's public swim schedule - our kids LOVE the wave pools.

8) Go Bowling

Do you have fond memories of bowling as a kid? I promise parents, it's just as fun as it used to be ;) It's a great way to get the kids out of the house for a couple of hours, especially if temperatures are frigid. Check out Orleans Bowling or Merivale Bowling Centre!

9) Snowshoe or Cross-country ski in Gatineau Park

The snow this year is perfect for winter sports! Gatineau Park has one of the largest networks of trails in North America and has over 60 kilometres of snowshoe trails, varying in difficulty (rated from easy to difficult). Many trails lead to unique historic buildings and scenic views. Dress warmly, pack some hot chocolate and plan for an exciting day of outdoor play.

10) Go Skating

Our recent frigid temperatures mean many outdoor community rinks are open, including the Sens Rink of Dreams located outside of Ottawa City Hall on Laurier Avenue. For a complete list of outdoor rinks and their conditions, visit the city's interactive online map.

Giveaway

For one lucky family, we are giving away:

A Friends and Family Combo to Funhaven (including 1 game of laser tag and $5 bonus FunCards per person, and access to the climbing wall, jungle gym, and bumper cars);

AND a family 4-pack of tickets to see The Blizzard of Oz;

AND a family pass (5 people, max 2 adults) to the Canadian Museum of History!!

Use the Rafflecopter below to enter - you can submit as many or as few entries as are allowed! Contest closes at noon on Friday December 23rd. You must be a resident of Ottawa, and available to use the tickets to The Blizzard of Oz, January 3rd to the 8th. Good luck!!

Family Fun Activities: Pokemon GO

Pokemon GO came out at the beginning of summer and it's been really popular ever since. I've wanted to write this post for a few weeks, but to be honest I was just too busy playing the game to sit down and write!

Some people seem to think that Pokemon GO is just another time wasting game but based on what I've experienced and witnessed, it's actually a great way to get your family out of the house and active together. Today I'm sharing a few of the reasons I think it's a great family activity.  

I'm not going to get into TOO many details on how the game works in this post, but if you want me to break it down into a "what is it and how do I play?" post, leave a comment and I'll do that next week!

1) You gotta move

In order to find the Pokemon (unless you're using some kind of "cheat" which you really shouldn't be) you have to get up and walk around and explore new places. You can't sit in your house and find lots of Pokemon, you need to go for walks.

Not only do you need to go looking for Pokemon, but you get eggs that you need to incubate, and to incubate them, you need to walk (there are 2km, 5km and 10 km eggs for example.) So, we go on evening Pokewalks and when my kids need to get outside but are just in a mood where no idea appeals to them, I'll often give them the phone and a destination to walk to and see if they can incubate an egg (this obviously depends on the age of your kid though).
 


2) You get to explore new places

Want a reason to go and look at monuments and talk about the history of a city? Play Pokemon GO with your kids because monuments, statues, murals, etc. are generally PokeStops (a PokeStop is where you go to get supplies such as Pokeballs, which you need to catch Pokemon, potions to revive and heal your Pokemon when they've been in a battle, and other cool things).  You need to go to PokeStops to keep playing the game and PokeStops can be really fun to explore.

We have walked around Confederation Park, Pembroke, Cobden, Renfrew, World Exchange Plaza and Sparks Street, and the deal is that whenever possible, we stop and see just what the PokeStop is all about.

We've seen cool statues, fountains, read the war memorial statues and explored the waterfront in Pembroke and my kids and husband went on a crazy bridge in Renfrew (I have a fear of bridges, so I stayed on land and took a photo, :)

3) Combine it with other activities

Some people have told me they think geocaching is better. I think geocaching is amazing and since my husband doesn't really enjoy Pokemon GO he has taken the opportunity to be out in new places to find the caches that are often in some of the similar places as you can find many PokeStops. We're getting to do both at the same time and the kids really enjoy both aspects of it.

Other ways you can combine it with activities is to go to farmer's markets or see if anyone is hosting a Lure Party. (A Lure Party is when a PokeStop has someone activate a lure which attracts more Pokemon. If you see a PokeStop with pink dots hovering around it, someone activated a lure so you're sure to catch more Pokemon than usual there. Sometimes business owners will activate the lures to make coming to their store or business fun for the whole family. I know some farmer's markets have done this, as well as business associations. It's a fun and smart way to combine activities - one person shops (my husband) while I catch Pokemon and let my kids help. :)

Use it as an opportunity to teach 

There are a lot of things that come up when playing Pokemon Go with your kids that are great lessons to teach.

Don't walk and play. The phone will buzz if there is a Pokemon around so know where you're going, walk with eyes ahead, and then stop and look down when needed. You hear all kinds of stories about people walking into traffic. This can happen with far more than just Pokemon GO, use it as an opportunity to talk about being safe.

Some people feel that people are trespassing to play Pokemon GO. Again, this is an opportunity to teach your kids about trespassing and privacy, and about the importance of not going places you aren't supposed to be. Playing together adds the opportunity to do this.

A few words of warning:

- Pokemon GO drains your cell battery really quickly. Make sure to have a full charge before you go out and maybe even bring a battery pack along with you.

- Pokemon GO data usage isn't horrible, but be aware and check in on how much you're using so you don't end up suddenly using your data for them month. It seems quite similar to other map apps so if you keep those on during long drives, this wouldn't be different.

- It can be addictive to the parents as well as the kids. So I hear anyways ;)

Over all, I think the Pokemon GO can be a really fun family activity and it's motivating to many people to get outside and moving. In my opinion it's a great example of how games can make life MORE social, because we have met up with friends in parks to go Pokemon hunting together. Games don't need to make you sedentary and antisocial, they can motivate you to get out of the house when it otherwise would be hard, move, and hang with friends!

Do you play Pokemon GO?

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.