Ottawa's Top 10 Family-Friendly Neighbourhoods

A couple of years ago we had a contributor write about the top family-friendly neighbourhoods in Ottawa. It is one of our most popular posts ever (Google really loves it!) BUT we don’t feel it truly represents our beautiful city. 

Ottawa is so diverse - there are many small communities within communities where parents are raising kids and having a blast. So, with input from our readers, we decided to come up with our own list of top 10 family-friendly neighbourhoods. We realize this list is not complete – there are probably a number of neighbourhoods we missed. Maybe someday we’ll come up with the top 20!

Ottawa's top 10 family-friendly neighbourhoods

Barrhaven

Located south of the city, Barrhaven has grown rapidly in recent years for its family-friendly vibe (think lots of parks, brand new schools and amenities) and affordable housing.
“We moved to Barrhaven Chapman Mills last year to live in an area that is affordable and has the same access to resources as other neighbourhoods,” says reader Breena Hickman. “The only downside is that two of the arteries into Barrhaven are single lane (Prince of Wales and Greenbank) so it can make for a long commute in the afternoons.”

Chapman Mills Conservation Area

Chapman Mills Conservation Area

Orleans

A community that has been around a lot longer than people think, Orleans has always had a village vibe to it.

“Home prices are reasonable and there are a lot of nice semi- detached and townhome options for those not looking for a detached house,” says Chatelaine Village resident Julie St. Cyr. “We are walking distance to Place d'Orleans, Farm Boy and No Frills. My bus commute time to downtown is 30-40 minutes depending on traffic. Our proximity to the river, the River Pathway and Petrie Island are big draws.”

Cumberland Trails in Queenswood Heights (Orleans)

Cumberland Trails in Queenswood Heights (Orleans)

Innes Road is a problem in Orleans – the clustering of big box stores has made traffic gridlock. But if you want to escape the newer developments and stick to the older areas, you may avoid those problems and maintain some walkability. Phase II of light rail will bring the train out to Place d’Orleans and make commuting to the city a lot easier.

Kanata

To the west of downtown is Kanata, a large suburb with many smaller communities within its borders. As a hub for the various tech companies that have set down roots in the community, this suburb has grown and diversified in recent years. With a large expansion of the 417, the commuting burden has eased – however, it may be a long time before light rail is built out to the west end.

“Kanata is great for families, with lots of access to various community centre programs and activities as well as parks,” says Jenna Elward. Jenna does worry that the price of affordable houses is being driven up by the move of the Department of National Defense (DND) to the old Nortel building. 

Trans Canada Trail Stittsville

Stittsville

Stittsville Main Street gives this community a small-town feel – including a number of independent coffee shop (such as Quitters; owned and run by Kathleen Edwards). 

“I love that our neighbourhood has four parks within walking distance and the TransCanada Trail is just a short distance away - great for long bike rides, skiing, and so much more,” says Tracy Noble. “The Stittsville Village Association does a great job of engaging the community and providing many family-friendly activities year-round, including a spectacular Canada Day celebration and Santa Claus Parade.”

Downsides? Tracy wishes it were closer to Orleans (where the rest of the KIC team live), there’s not a lot of diversity, transit could be improved, and she feels there is not enough is being done to control high speed traffic through residential Stittsville.

Westboro

Moving away from the suburbs and closer to the city centre, Westboro and surrounding neighbourhoods are perfect for families with a higher income. Although you’ll now pay a pretty penny for a small house, the walkability and number of businesses in this area make it a super trendy spot.

“I love the neighbourhood and our close proximity to everything that we need by walking there,” says Cindy Wolfe. “I also love that within five minutes I can be running along the river or at Westboro Beach. The trails are fantastic and our neighbours are wonderful.”

Westboro Beach

Westboro Beach

Cindy points to a couple of disadvantages - there's a lot of development happening around light rail, and she feels it's not being done with a smart focus on infrastructure. Roads and traffic can be a big challenge in this neighbourhood.

Blackburn Hamlet

Two of our readers had glowing reports for this community just west of Orleans. Tucked into a small area bordered by the Innes bypass and St. Joseph, this hamlet is surrounded by greenspace, has an active community association, and many housing options. “What’s not to like?” says resident Amanda-Lyn Smith-Kennedy. “It’s a small town with the city.”

A gorgeous sky in Blackburn Hamlet

A gorgeous sky in Blackburn Hamlet

Marie Shinmoto agrees: “It is the kind of neighbourhood where people know who you are and who those kids belong to. Neighbours look out for each other here.”

Downsides? The bypass can get a bit snarly with traffic, but there’s always the option to scoot down to the 174 instead. The proximity to light rail will make this community highly desirable in the future.

The Glebe

Another area with a higher price tag for homes, those looking for an urban lifestyle will love the Glebe. Homes have much less property, but the proximity to trails, parks and the canal make up for the lack of backyard space. Many folks living in the Glebe don’t feel the need to own a vehicle, using services such as Virtucar or commuting by bike.

The Glebe Community Centre is a wonderful hub of activities for families, and there is no shortage of karate, dance and gymnastic studios. Those who have trouble with noise and traffic may want to avoid this area.

Vanier

Vanier is a vibrant diverse community with many great parks, playgrounds, splash pads and outdoor swimming pools.  The location is perfect – nestled right near downtown Ottawa it’s a quick bus or bike ride to get to the core of the city. “We have a beautiful little forest right in the middle of the neighborhood - La foret des Peres Blancs - which is also a sugarbush,” says resident Michelle Morra.  A community centre and local library is also located right next to the forest, and host to many activities throughout the year.

Sugarbush Nature Walk in Vanier

Sugarbush Nature Walk in Vanier

The key to Vanier's success are the people, and a true sense of community. “As a francophone, I appreciate the fact that I can go to my nearby grocery store, coffee shop, bank etc and address myself in French,” says Michelle.  

Michelle thinks that Vanier could benefit from more small businesses on Beechwood or Montreal Rd - a toy store, art store and kitchen store would be lovely additions to this amazing neighbourhood.

Riverside South

There is a strong community presence with an active community association, with a safe and rapidly growing neighbourhood. Residents love the newly opened farmer’s market, as well as great parks and trails throughout Riverside South and the surrounding areas.  There are a ton of stores and restaurants in this area, but if you are looking for a bit more variety for shopping or dining, the new Vimy Memorial Bridge has made travelling to Barrhaven an easy trek. 

Some of the negatives: many new townhouse driveways are not big enough to accommodate visitors so there are some issues with parking on streets. Transit is not the most accessible in the area, and there is no local library (although there is one within a short driving distance to Manotick).

Four seasons park family fun day, riverside south

Four seasons park family fun day, riverside south

Elmvale Acres

Elmvale Acres was built in the 1950's by Minto and has a variety of housing options. With small single family homes, doubles, town homes and apartment buildings, the neighbourhood has housing options for everyone.  

"Our family moved into the area 20 years ago driven by the schooling options," says resident Erin Shaheen. "All four school boards are represented in our little area, including a French immersion and gifted program. We have a fantastic community library, 20 minute bike or drive to downtown, community gardens and small walking paths along the NCC property." There is a strong sense of community that is fostered by the Canterbury community association with many seasonal festivals.  

Housing prices are slightly higher, and reflect those that are within the greenbelt but are less than those in the wider Alta vista area.   

Beacon Hill

Tucked in between the George-Etienne Cartier Parkway and the 174, Beacon Hill is a little known neighbourhood with affordable homes and plenty of parks, schools, and community activities. As the site for the new Costco and a growing number of businesses along Ogilvie, this neighbourhood has ample walkability. Located near the bike path, it’s an easy ride down to the river and Aviation Museum.

With business development growing, there may be issues of parking and traffic – however, light rail is set to open at Blair station in 2018, which will make public transit a quick and easy option.

Ottawa area attractions: Mont Cascades

by Amanda Our 2 year old has a new phrase these days. “Water slides. Go! Water Slides?”  We are frequent visitors to Mont Cascade. So frequent that we have purchased season passes again this year and our son recognizes when we get close because he says “Water Slides!!” Mont Cascade is located in Cantley, Quebec, approximately 25 minutes from downtown Ottawa.

Ticket prices are only $15 for adults or $35+tax for a season’s pass (2 and under are free!) making it is a very affordable option for some fun in the sun. The water being heated this year adds to even more enjoyment.  At $35 for a seasons pass we can justify only going for a few hours at a time. Sometimes with smaller children this is needed for those who still nap or just need to head home for some quiet time.

The kids area consists of a 3 smaller slides that end up in the beach like wading pool and 2 larger slides that bring you down to the bottom in their own little area. Check it out here. Our 2 year old loves going down the 3 smaller slides on his own but with the longer walk up to the top for the 2 larger slides, called Lemonade and Tangerine for their colours, he has an adult ride with him.

We have discovered that depending on what kind of bathing suit bottoms you wear will greatly impact your speed, or lack thereof.  My husband has his “water slide shorts” that offer speed! Even going on the slides with our son they catch some great speed and shoot out the bottom.  If you are wearing bathing suit bottoms that are made out of cotton you may find yourself pushing yourself down the slide more.  When we visit during the more busy times one adult generally stays at the top of the slide and the other at the bottom to do the catching as they come into the water. Our son does the small walk back up to the top by himself with us watching him. This is done more for the fact that he doesn’t understand the concept of not letting the older kids jump in front of him and to wait until the child before him is completely out of the way before it is his turn!  There is a height restriction in the childrens area but adult or older children are able to slide with the little ones at all times.

With many daycamps frequenting the park this summer I suggest trying to go on a Monday or Tuesday. Generally these are days where daycamps do not take day trips off site.  Plan to be there right for opening, 10am, or head later in the day around 3 when many people are leaving for the day to get home for dinner.  That being said we did meet some friends there on a Friday early afternoon and despite the parking lot being full the kid area was not overwhelming.

Bring a cooler and pack your lunch and snacks. There is a canteen available and a Subway restaurant. Prices can start to add up quickly. Just remember not to bring any glass bottles or containers, as they are not permitted.  If you get there early grab a picnic table with some shade and an umbrella.  There are also a few cabana’s to rent if you are going with a group but I do find them very awkwardly placed over by a smaller pool and not close to the children’s area and away from many of the main slides. This could be a draw for those with older children so the parents have a quiet place to sit but those with young children would not have easy access from the kids area to their cabana’s.

For older children there is “Splash Forest” with a few small tube slides, spraying water and buckets of fun.  We have only frequented a few of the “big slides” and have found that the line ups can get quite big in the mid day.  Expect a line up to wait for your tube or mat if they are required for your slide of choice and then a long walk up to the top of the slide. However, it would be a great way to tire out the kids for the drive home!

The lifeguard in me also feels the need to gently remind you to keep your eyes on your child at all times and to stay close.  From what I have seen over the past two years frequenting this water park is that the lifeguards are not always as vigilant as they could be.   Because they are a private waterpark and not a City pool they do not have to follow the same standards and the lifeguard to bather ratio is quite large.  We have noticed there are a few lifeguards who are fantastic with the children, encouraging high fives as they walk back up to the slides, gently reminding children to walk instead of run and responding to questions or needs of park users. Next time you want someplace to cool off why not head to Cascades? We’ll see you there!

Amanda is a mom to a 2 year old boy and 4 month old baby girl.  When she is not out having fun with the kids you can find her getting her yoga on at www.littlelotusyoga.ca

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