Family Travel: Touring Montreal, Quebec in the Fall

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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You know a city is cool when there is a huge mural of Leonard Cohen in the downtown. Of course, I am talking about Montreal. 

We saw the giant mural of Leonard as we headed towards the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts. I tried to explain the greatness of Leonard to our eleven-year-old son, David. I cited songs like Suzanne and Hallelujah but to no avail. At least, my wife Sandy and I have similar tastes in music. 

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David was much more interested to check out the Egyptian mummies at the museum. The temporary exhibition features six mummies from the collections of the British Museum. The British Museum has always had the policy of not unwrapping any of the Egyptian mummies since it would cause extensive damage. Through the enhancement of CT scanner technology, it is now possible to do a 3D scan of the mummies revealing their internal organs. 

Aside from the interesting technology, there were numerous artifacts on display from the time period of the mummies. There were also videos to provide a context of what life would have been like in Egypt during this time. By the end of the exhibit, a person feels like they have a far better understanding of Egyptian mummies and ancient Egypt.

One thing I love about Montreal is that it is possible to get a cup of coffee and desserts outside of the major chains. We discovered a local place, Cafe Vasco da Gama close to the museum. We enjoyed a warm coffee and delicious Portuguese dessert on the street terrace. For a moment, I felt like I was in Lisbon, Portugal rather than Canada. 

It was time to check into our hotel. We love the Residence Inn by Marriott Montreal Downtown for a number of reasons. First is the location. The hotel is located right on Peel Street and is about a two-minute walk to the metro. We can park our car and then walk or take the metro everywhere. Also, the rooms have an in-suite kitchen and fridge which can help save on food costs. Finally, the staff have always been very friendly and have even encouraged my sometimes broken French. 

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Being Montreal, the night was still young. We hopped on the metro over to Parc Jean Drapeau. The park is home to a new space called Espace 67. The area serves as a location for many of the large festivals in Montreal. We had come to check out Feux Follets. A simple description of Feux Follets would be to call it a Chinese Lantern festival but it was so much more than that.

We arrived on-site and were greeted by Chinese drummers. There was a huge variety of illuminated structures ranging from pandas to a huge Chinese pagoda. We also enjoyed a Chinese cultural show that featured song and dance. Some of the entertainment was more high-tech including an illuminated drone show that was set to music. 

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The highlight of the entire night was projections set against a huge water fountain in the middle of a lake. I have never seen anything like it. Images of lions and tigers danced across the water. It would be cool to see something like that in Ottawa perhaps at Dow’s Lake or the Ottawa River. 

Our night on the town was still not done as we headed back into downtown Montreal and visited Juliette & Chocolat The resto features everything crepes and chocolate. David chose a crepe that had hazelnut ice cream, Nutella, meringue and whipped cream. Needless to say, it was delicious. I was also impressed that he was able to sleep afterwards after ingesting so much sugar.

The next day, we started off with a huge buffet breakfast at the hotel. I saw a few tall young guys sporting the colours of my former alma mater, the University of Saskatchewan. They were members of the U of S basketball team and were in a match against Concordia. I am not sure the results of the match but I am sure the breakfast helped. 

After such a busy schedule the day before, we planned a more relaxed day. The only thing on the schedule was to visit a store that sold reptiles, Magazoo. David has loved reptiles since he has been three and that interest has not gone away. We took the metro to east Montreal and arrived at the store. The staff were very friendly and shared David’s love for reptiles. We also learned there is a large reptile show in Montreal every February so we are already planning our return trip. 

The best place to find out about the latest attractions and events in Montreal is at www.mtl.org.

As mentioned, we always stay at the Residence Inn by Marriott Montreal Downtown. For more information, visit, www.marriott.com/montreal.

Disclosure: Stephen’s hotel and attractions were covered but all views are his own.

Family Travel: Brockville, 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.  


For one weekend this summer, Brockville felt like it was one of the largest ocean ports in the world. Our family visited the Tall Ships Festival over the Labour Day weekend. 

We arrived at the Brockville Marina and things were already hopping at eleven in the morning. The festival gave a chance for people to get on board a Tall Ship. There must have been eight or nine tall ships in port. We walked around and picked climbed aboard a replica ship of Christopher Columbus’s Santa Maria. The amount of detail was amazing. It felt like we were stepping back five hundred years in history. 

Family Travel: Brockville Tall Ships Festival

Another highlight of the festival was seeing the continual comings and goings of the Tall Ships. At any point in the day, there was at least one or two majestically sailing on the St. Lawrence River. 

Our son, David, loved seeing the ships and also enjoyed seeing all the exhibits on display. We met John Casselman who was a retired Aquatic Biology professor from Queen’s University. He shared with us the different aquatic life found in the St. Lawrence and Great Lakes. David was fascinated as he would like to get into Marine Biology as a profession.

This was a perfect segue way for a visit to the Aquatarium. The Aquatarium features exhibits about both the historical and biological aspects of the St. Lawrence river. Naturally, David headed to the exhibits focused on biology. We first found the aquatic touch tank. I was somewhat tentative to touch all the creatures as I thought they may be slimy. David reached right in and did not give me a choice placing them in my hand as well. 

Our next stop was to see the river otters. It was fun to watch them diving and playing in the water. We would also like to return when they are being fed. 

The final display we checked out was one featuring various reptiles of the St. Lawrence. David was quickly able to identify all the different turtles and snakes. He gave me more facts about each reptile than I will ever remember. I guess he does have a future in biology.

Sadly, we did not explore all the exhibits as the Aquatarium was closing and we wanted to see more of the festival. We will definitely be making a return trip. 

Once leaving the Aquatarium, we went back down to the river and visited a display about the Canadian Coast Guard. One of the options was to take a ride on a small inflatable coast guard boat. We hopped on the boat and were cruising around the St. Lawrence. There were only nine of us on the boat so it gave us a chance to talk with the captain and another employee of the coast guard. Taking twists and turns on the boat, I felt like Relic from the TV show, The Beachcombers (ask your parents or maybe even your grandparents!).

Family Travel: Brockville



It was near the end of the day so of course we were hungry. I am sure there are many fine restaurants in Brockville but we always eat at Don’s Fish and Chips. It is hands down the best fish and chips we have ever tasted. 

With our fish and chips in hand our final stop was to the Bluenose II. Of course, we had to get a photo beside the huge dime with the Bluenose on the front. It seemed like the perfect way to wrap up the Tall Ships Festival with delicious seafood and experiencing Canadian naval history.

Family Travel: Brockville

There are plenty of other things to do in Brockville. The town is chock-a-block full of charming heritage buildings. A must is also the restored Brockville Railway Tunnel. It is possible to walk through the tunnel which is enhanced by beautiful LED lights and ambient music. Besides, it is free so life doesn’t get better.

For all events and attractions in Brockville, visit www.brockvilletourism.com.

Family Travel: Buffalo, New York

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.  


Buffalo New York is a great place to visit with a family. You might think there is a typo in this sentence or it was April Fool’s day when I wrote this article. There is no typo and we are about six months away from April Fools. Buffalo may not be top of mind like Orlando or Hawaii but our family had an awesome trip to the city. Here are a few things we did. 

Family Travel: Buffalo NY

Buffalo Bisons Baseball Game - The Buffalo Bisons are the Triple AAA affiliate for the Toronto Blue Jays. In short, that means you get to see the future stars before they get inflated salaries and egos to match. We took in a game with the Bisons taking on the Syracuse Mets. 

Family Travel: Buffalo

We got to see Bo Bichette, who is now a major star for the Toronto Blue Jays. Aside from the baseball, there were plenty of other things to keep our interest. David spent much of his time trying to get on the stadium tv and succeeded. I had fun watching a drink vendor who wore the classic Saturday Night Live Conehead and had a jersey with Conehead on the back. 

The fans were some of the best I have ever met at a sports event. They were into the action and very friendly when I mentioned we were from Ottawa. The stadium is located downtown and even though it was constructed in 1987, it has a classic old-school feel. 

Buffalo Riverworks - Buffalo Riverworks are grain silos that have been converted into an entertainment complex. Activities include ziplining, a ropes course, brew pub and even an indoor roller-skating rink. Being from Saskatchewan, I never imagined grain silos could have so many different uses. 

Family Travel: Buffalo Riverside

David opted to try the zipline course which went between the grain silos. David tried all four ziplines. He ended up not making it all the way across two ziplines as he does not weigh a lot. The guides were great at assisting David. At no point was he in danger. The last zipline was quite comical as he was perched about ten feet over the crowd and everyone cheered when David made it to the end.

David’s thirst for adventure was temporarily quenched so we checked out the interior of Riverworks. There was a teen roller derby tournament going on. There were teams from various areas including Ontario. The space also featured a very popular brewpub. We did not try the food but it looked delicious.

Family Travel: Buffalo Riverside Roller Derby

There is also a ropes course, climbing wall and a skating rink in the winter. Definitely the coolest grain silo I have ever visited. 

Buffalo Canalside - Much of the resurgence of Buffalo can be credited to the development of the Buffalo waterfront. The day we visited the area known as canalside, there were fitness classes going on, a music festival and salsa lessons. There are plenty of restaurants in the area and a Tim Horton’s that even has a small exhibit about the Buffalo Sabres hockey team! 

Family Travel: Buffalo Canalside

There are also numerous family attractions including river cruises, a children’s museum and the Buffalo Naval and Military Park. David, Sandy and I enjoyed seeing the World War II naval ships and even a submarine. 

Martin House Complex and Buffalo Zoo - I have included both attractions since they are within easy walking distance of each other. The Martin House is a must see for an architecture fan. The complex was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright who is considered one of the leading American architects of the 20th Century. Both the exterior and interior of the buildings were stunning. We took the one hour tour which proved to be just right for David. Longer tours are offered and there are a number of other Frank Lloyd Wright buildings in the Buffalo area.

The Buffalo Zoo is only about a ten minute walk from the Martin House. The zoo is well worth a visit and has all the animals you might expect including lions, giraffes and gorillas. David’s favourite area was the amphibian and reptile center. The zoo is located in Delaware Park which would be a perfect place for a picnic before or after the zoo.

Where to eat - It would be remiss to visit Buffalo without trying chicken wings. I quickly learned that Bufallonians take their wings seriously. Ask for the best place and opinions will vary. It is generally accepted that the Anchor Bar was the birthplace of wings. The day we visited, the lineup was quite long so we picked Gabriel’s Gate restaurant. I can say the wings were the best I ever had. The sauce was evenly applied and the wings themselves were juicy. Nothing like the frozen ones I have tried from the grocery. 

Family Travel: Buffalo

We had a very comfortable stay at the Embassy Suites Buffalo. The hotel was located right downtown so was close to everything. Breakfast was also included. I can recommend the omelettes!

For more information about Buffalo, visit, www.visitbuffaloniagara.com

Disclosure: Stephen was comped for hotel and attractions for the purposes of this review, but all views are his own.

Family Travel: Boston, Massachusetts

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.  


Boston is one of the best family destinations we have ever visited.  Have a history buff in your family? Boston was the cradle of the American Revolution and has all the historic sites to prove it.   Is your son/daughter a budding intellectual? A tour of Harvard University and MIT will be right up their alley. Just want to eat great seafood.   Boston is located right on the Atlantic Ocean and has several lobster shacks that are visited by both locals and tourists.

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Here is our family’s comprehensive but far from complete guide on what to see, where to stay and where to eat in Boston.  

John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum - I have always been a political junkie and amateur historian.  That is why the JFK Library and Museum was top of the list for me when we visited Boston.  The museum, as one would expect, chronicles the life and presidency of JFK.   

A visitor to the museum first starts with an excellent overview video which JFK himself narrates.  The narration is taken from excerpts of radio and television interviews.  

After the video, there are numerous fascinating exhibits including the 1960 election versus Richard Nixon, the Cuban missile crisis and the U.S space program.  The assasination of Kennedy is only lightly touched upon as the museum is meant to be a celebration of his life and legacy.   

The architecture of the building is also stunning as a full glass atrium provides outstanding views of the Boston Harbor and the Atlantic Ocean.

Our son, David, loved the museum as there are many interactive features.  It might be best visited by older children as the young ones may not find it that interesting.  

The museum is not right on the subway line but there is a free connector bus from the subway to the museum that runs every twenty minutes.  

Boston Tea Party Ship and Museum - It would be remiss to visit Boston without taking in at least one of the historical sites of the American Revolution.  Without getting into deep American history, the throwing of tea into the Boston Harbor by the colonists against the British was one of the pivotal events that led to the start of the American Revolution.  

Family Travel: Boson, Massachusetts Boston Tea Party

Set on a replica ship, the attraction does a great job of recreating the events of the Boston Tea Party.   Period actors lead visitors through everything from the town hall to actually throwing crates into the Boston Harbour.  David loved repeatedly throwing the crates into the harbour and then using the ropes to bring them back up.  

It should be noted this was not the original ship or location of the Boston Tea Party.  The ship is an accurate replica and the location is the closest they could find to the original.  

There are numerous other Revolutionary War sights in Boston but perhaps few as interactive.  

Skywalk Observatory - My wife, Sandy, said her favourite attraction in Boston was the Skywalk Observatory.  It is easy to understand why. Set on the 50th Floor of the Prudential Center building, the Skywalk offers a 360-degree view of Boston.    

A person is provided with an audio guide which adds a lot to the visitor experience.    The audio guide goes into detail about the political and social history of the city. There were a children’s audio guide and one for adults making it perfect for all ages.

The Skywalk had much more to offer than just stunning views.  There were various exhibits about Boston including the Dreams of Freedom museum which highlighted the positive effects immigration and diversity has had on the city.   

Family Travel: Boson, Massachusetts Skywalk View

I also enjoyed the exhibit highlighting Boston's sports history.  As a Canadian, Bobby Orr scoring the 1970 winning goal in the Stanley Cup struck a particular chord.  

We ended our time at Skywalk watching the two excellent videos in their theatre.  The first video did a flyover of the major attractions in Boston and the second gave an overview of the history of Boston from an immigrant’s perspective.  

Skywalk is located downtown thus is easily accessible by transit and a short walking distance to other attractions.  

Old Town Trolley Tours and Ghost and Gravestones Tour -  I feel one of the best ways to see any city is to take a hop-on hop-off trolley tour.  One of the best ones we have ever taken was the Old Town Trolley Tour in Boston. The tour covers eighteen different stops and is about two hours in length.  Both of our guides were very entertaining and informed. I was impressed the guides were able to negotiate the busy Boston streets while still providing commentary.  

The tour covers various points in the city but it is well-worth starting at the beginning to get the full experience.  

Family Travel: Boson, Massachusetts Trolley Tours

The trolley company also offers an evening Ghosts and Gravestones tour which examines the spookier side of Boston.  The tour started out with our guide donning a madman style costume that could have won best dressed at any Halloween party.  Our first stop was an old graveyard in Boston’s north end. Our guide told a number of spooky stories but also provided historical context to his commentary.   We toured several other spots with our final destination being the Granary Burying ground. This cemetery is one of the oldest in the United States and includes the gravestone of Paul Revere.  There was a suitably bone-chilling scare near the end which I will not give away.  

This attraction was very entertaining but may not be the most suitable for young children.  

Harvard and MIT walking tours -  There are perhaps no other learning institutions more iconic in North America than Harvard and MIT.    We wanted to visit both places and thought the student-led Trademark Tours was the perfect option.

We met our Harvard student guide, Emily, at Harvard Square.  Emily was entering her final year of studies. She immediately told us several amusing stories and gave us an insider’s perspective on being a student at Harvard.  We saw several famous spots including the John Harvard statue. She also showed us the dormitory where Facebook founder, Mark Zuckerberg lived.  

We wrapped up our tour at Harvard and hopped on the subway to MIT.  We met our guide, Luis, who had just completed his degree in Aerospace Engineering.  Luis filled us in on the history of MIT and some of the scientific breakthroughs that have been developed at MIT.  He also told us some of the pranks MIT students have pulled over the years including putting a reconstructed police car on top of a building.  Working siren and everything!

Family Travel: Boston, Massachusetts MIT

Where to eat - There is no denying that Boston is an expensive city.  We did find a few restaurants at a decent price and tasty food. My son’s favourite restaurant was Spyce.  He loved it because the salad bowls were largely made by robots with staff only adding the final touches.  I frankly thought it was going to be a gimmick but the food was delicious and affordable. Another favourite for the whole family was Joe’s American Bar and Grill.  The food was elevated pub food and nothing could beat the location along the water.  

It is also worth a trip to the north end where there is an abundance of Italian eateries.  We loved the pastry at both Mike’s and Modern Pastry.

Where to Stay - Again, Boston is not a cheap city.  We chose to stay out in the suburbs and take the commuter train every day.  We bought two seven day paper Charlie Cards for about $44.00.  It gave us unlimited subway rides, limited ferry transit and limited commuter train access.  It is well worth the price if you are planning to use public transit.  

For more information about Boston, visit, www.bostonusa.com.

Disclosure: Stephen was comped for the attractions for the purposes of this review, but all views are his own.

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.