Family Travel: Visiting Kingston, 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.  


Thanksgiving weekend has always been a chance for our family to obviously give thanks.  It has also been an opportunity to take a road trip. This year, we decided to visit Kingston, Ontario.   

We started our trip in Kingston picking up a kpass.  It is a great option if you are looking to visit a lot of destinations in Kingston including Fort Henry and the Kingston Pen tour.  Some tours and experiences need to be booked ahead of time so check the website.

For our first experience,  we decided to try out Improbable Escapes.  We had never tried out an escape room so the staff patiently explained what to expect.  We chose a room that had an elementary school theme which was appropriate for our son, David, who is ten years old.  

We were locked up in the room and had a series of challenges to solve, both physical and mental in order to escape.  I quickly found that problem-solving may not be my strong suit. My wife, Sandy and David solved most of the puzzles. I was very proud when I discovered a key hanging on a hook near the top of the room (that was more luck than skill!).  As part of the game, we were given two chances to call our guide for assistance. Each time, she provided useful advice without giving the game away.

We had one hour to escape from the room. At the fifty minute mark, our chances were not looking good. Finally, David figured out the way to crawl from one room to what we thought was freedom. We had only solved half of the puzzle and found a second chamber! Our guide was nice and gave us an extra fifteen minutes. We solved a couple more puzzles but did not ultimately escape. Fear not, our guide did let us out of the room.

Escape Room, Kingston Ontario

We really enjoyed it for our first time and are looking forward to trying escape rooms in Ottawa.  It is a great way for a family to work together and also encourage non-linear thinking. I also now know how to open a multitude of locks.

All of this thinking had worked up an appetite so we headed to our favourite restaurant in Kingston, Ali Baba Kabab. Three hearty plates of the shawarma mix and mint tea rejuvenated our energy.  

It is getting near Halloween so we decided to check out the Kingston Ghost and Mystery Trolley Tour.  Our first stop was appropriately a graveyard where we visited the gravesite of the first Prime Minister of Canada, Sir John A. Macdonald. Our guide told us about the history of the gravesite and a few potential spirits that may be haunting the graveyard.

The tour certainly does not advertise itself as a family attraction and parents with young kids might choose the regular day tour. On our tour, there were children younger than David. The guide was good at keeping the content age appropriate. She also had a good sense of humour making the atmosphere fun.  

We also visited Queen’s University and downtown Kingston. I did not realize the city was such a historic and potentially haunted place.

We ended our day by checking into the Ambassador Hotel and Conference Centre.  The Ambassador has been our go-to place since we started visiting Kingston after David was born. David took his first ride down a waterslide alone at the Ambassador when he was five even though mom and dad were white-knuckling it the whole time.   

To relive old times and relax after our busy day, we hit the pool and hot tub. David wanted to give the waterslide a go. We were much more relaxed seeing ten year old David go down than five year old David.

The next morning, we felt refreshed from a good sleep. We were also fortunate to have a room with a kitchenette and fridge. We had stocked up on eggs the night before and prepared a delicious breakfast.   

The plan for the day was to go on a boat cruise aboard the Island Queen. We started our cruise leaving the Kingston harbour going past Fort Henry and Wolfe Island. The scenery made me appreciate what a picturesque city Kingston truly is.

Kingston Ontario boat tours

Once out on the water,  the staff served up a delectable Thanksgiving lunch buffet including turkey and pumpkin pie. We were also kept entertained by a keyboardist who could play and sing almost any tune you threw at him.  He said he knew over 10,000 songs and I could believe him.

The highlight of the trip occurred once we hit the Thousand Islands near Gananoque. It was amazing to consider that there could be homes on some islands that seemed little more than rocky outcrops in the Saint Lawrence. The taped audio guide also gave us a lot of useful information about the Islands. We spent about forty minutes cruising around and then headed back.   

Boat Tour St-Lawrence River

Our man of 10,000 songs kept us entertained with everything from Elton John to the Beatles. Soon enough, we were back in port.

To wrap up our time in Kingston, we checked out some virtual reality at the VR Hut. David and I both chose Google Earth VR as we both love to travel. A person truly felt like they were walking in Hong Kong or New York City.   

VR Hut Kingston, Ontario

I also thought it was a perfect way to wrap up our trip.  Exploring a cutting edge technology that was physically located in a limestone heritage building. To me, that totally sums up Kingston.

The best place to start any planning for a trip to Kingston is by visiting, www.visitkingston.ca. As mentioned,  we always have a great stay at the Ambassador Hotel and Conference Centre www.ambassadorhotel.com.


Disclosure: Stephen and his family were provided with the Kpass by Tourism Kingston but as always, all views are his own. 

Family Travel: Escape to the Chateau Montebello

If you’re looking for an idyllic escape for your family or as a couple, check out the Chateau Montebello in Montebello, Quebec. Located only 90 kms from South Ottawa, simply stated, it is very close to being an all-inclusive resort – and you don’t have to travel very far to experience everything it has to offer.

Chateau Montebello entrance.jpg

As soon as you walk in to the reception area you will feel at ease and welcomed. The warm colours, magnificent multi-story stone fireplace and multiple couches, tables and chairs make you want to immediately sit down and crack open your favourite book.

Fireplace at the Chateau Montebello

The rooms are just as comfortable and I love the fact that the windows open, so when the weather is just right, you can open them and enjoy the fresh air and sounds of the Ottawa River. During the summer you can also smell the evening campfires that take place just outside the building.

Chateau Montebello has everything a person looking to escape the hustle and bustle of daily life needs to relax and have fun. In addition to seasonal programming for children including crafts, cookie decorating, movie nights, and bingo, they also offer programming for adults including a kayak clinic, a chance to meet the chef, and aqua Zumba.

Included in the resort fee ($27+ tax per room) for Chateau Montebello are countless seasonal activities. During the summer you have access to their beautiful outdoor pool as well as their indoor pool, which is the largest indoor hotel pool in Canada!

Indoor pool at Chateau Montebello

There are also bikes that you can sign out and a 5 km trail along the Ottawa River to explore, as well as mini golf, outdoor tennis, horseshoes, canoeing, kayaking and (my daughter’s favourite) stand up paddle boarding. They even have bike helmets and life jackets - everything you need to safely participate in their fun activities.

Paddle boarding at Chateau Montebello

In the winter there are cross country trails, two outdoor ice rinks, curling, and snowshoes. The best part is that all of this is included in the resort fee and you can participate at any time and multiple times throughout your stay.

For additional fees, guests also have the option to rent a boat or participate in a fishing clinic. In the winter, guests can pay to go tubing or dogsledding! And if you forget your snowsuit – they have some to rent!

We only stayed at the Chateau Montebello one night but could have easily spent several days taking advantage of all the programming and activities available. Next time, I am booking some much-needed “me time” at their spa!

I loved being able to go for a scenic walk along the Ottawa River and then sitting on a park bench admiring the sunset.

The gardens were in full bloom while we were there, making for some incredible photos. We also indulged in their seasonal outdoor BBQ on the Outside Terrace, which meant we spoiled ourselves with the best in gourmet BBQed meats and corn on the cob as well as local Montebello brewed beer.

BBQ patio at Chateau Montebello

The Chateau Montebello is known for its Sunday brunch, and regardless of where you eat while onsite, your taste buds are in for a royal treat! Everything served up is delicious.

Relaxing at the Chateau Montebello

We can hardly wait for our next visit to the Chateau Montebello. It’s the perfect accompaniment to a visit to Parc Omega and completes a family road trip like no other place can!

Have you stayed at the Chateau Montebello? Share your favourite moments with us!

Gardens at the Chateau Montebello

Disclaimer: Part of our stay at the Chateau Montebello was compensated for the purposes of this review, but all thoughts and opinions are my own... and we will be back!