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.

Road tripping with kids - tips and tricks to make it great!

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I have a bit of a romantic view of road trips - I think of the days in my teens and twenties when I took to the road with friends and we drove for hours, singing at the top of our lungs, stopping at random roadside attractions and were totally carefree.

This romantic view sometimes slides into thinking that a road trip with my husband and three kids will be the same, but we all know that’s not quite true. It can be fun and amazing, but there are a LOT more things to plan for and factor in.

As I was gearing up for a recent road trip with my family I thought I would collect some of MY best road trip tips, but I also went to our Facebook Page and asked others what their best road trip tips are - and there are some gems. Multiple times in the thread others responded, “I am printing this word for word for my road trip!”

So, here are some ideas, thoughts, and strategies to consider employing on YOUR next road trip.

If you have others to add, comment and we can either add them here (or maybe we’ll need a whole second post!)

Packing for a road trip

Janet said:

Socks, blankets and snacks. I have done many road trips with kids from when they were tiny between Ottawa and the east coast. For kids to sleep/nap/chill, they need to be warm and not hungry. I realized that when we are warm in the front and have air conditioning on, it can be cold in the back. Especially if they are barefoot and in sandals. So even in summer, I had my kids in socks with blankets in reach.

Gi Na said:

- Each person has their own packing cube for their clean clothes. We bring a large wet bag for dirty clothes until we can do laundry. 
- If we have some hotel stops along the way to our final destination I plan ahead and pack for hotel specifically (as there is often a pool and need for less clothes etc) to minimize what we have to carry in. And I label all the bags that are only for the hotel so it’s easy for my husband/myself to quickly identify what has to come into the hotel for the night and what can be left in the car. 
-aside from the usual we always have a potty in the trunk (our kids are 1, 3 and 5) and toilet paper and old grocery bags. And paper towels. And wet wipes. And a change of clothes easily accessible, including socks, for all the kids. 

Natalie said:

One of the best tips I’ve ever received is to pack things in a white bin tower in your trunk (if you have an SUV). That way you can easily access things you need without having to rummage through luggage every time.

Géraldine said:

Essentials on board are: one pillow each and their little special "road trip backpacks", that we keep packed and ready to go in the closet close to the front door. In each backpack, we have a notebook and pencils, one or two colouring books, (the magic ink ones are great!) and a rigid Crayola case they can use as a mini desk. Also a bottle of water and some snacks and Kleenex.

Give them food and other stuff

Activities and food can be the key to keeping kids entertained in the vehicle. Some people have a no food in the vehicle rule and some people say ALL THE SNACKS. You pick what works best for you and your family!

Misty said

They get a new wrapped gift every hour which was something they could read or play with (e.g colouring books, crayons, car games, silly putty etc.) Another thing I found super helpful was gum and/or suckers. For some reason they are always quieter when sucking on something.

Jennifer said

We also let the kids pack their own 'fun bag' of art supplies, books etc, which they like. And then I augment with maps from CAA showing where we're going (so when they ask 'where are we?' we can just tell them to check the map - it hasn't really worked yet, but I remain hopeful!), and a relevant book (the Dear Canada series is great for this), and my super secret bag of emergency sugar snacks.

Screen time for the road trip

Just like food, some people say yea and some say nay. I’m a yea but you pick what works best for you and your family here too! :)

  • Download movies from Netflix and have them loaded up on iPads and other devices.

  • Bring all the devices and charge cords you can find - we brought the Switch, the DSes, the iPods and the iPad. They got passed around and shared and for the most part, nobody whined about how long the drive was..

What to listen to

We loaded up a bunch of new and never heard songs onto our phones from Amazon music to keep things interesting and new.

We also loaded up on dozens of episodes of a podcast everyone enjoyed - Story Pirates (we also posted on Facebook and got some other great podcast recommendations!).

How to work out the sillies on a road trip

Rest Stop Rock Stretches

Rest Stop Rock Stretches

  • Look for hotels with a pool (and make sure their hours will work for when you’re arriving and leaving). A kid who spend 5+ hours in a car will almost ALWAYS have lots of energy to expend and a pool is an easy and contained way to let them get it all out before you try to have a big group of people trying to fall asleep in one room!

  • Rest stops - the ones without any restaurants and lots of picnic tables, are great for kids to get their wiggles out. We often will look for geocaches at them, and the kids will just run around and jump up and around on all the rocks and tables and around the bathroom building. Even at 10 and 12, for us this works just as well as when they were 4 and 6 :)

    Where to stay

    When we’re just driving with no precise plan on when or where we’ll stop, we have a tendency to look for the closest and easiest Holiday Inn Express with a pool. We know what we’ll get and we know the approximate price point.

    For our time in Washington, DC we knew we would be there for a number of days and wanted a home base and we used Air BnB (that link gives you a discount if it’s your first time using the service) for the first time. What a treat to have three bedrooms, a kitchen and a place to watch TV so we weren’t on top of each other all the time. We will definitely use that option again when we are somewhere for a few nights!

    Find these tips and tricks useful? Comment and let us know which one you liked the most. Or share your tips in the comments below!!

Family Travel: Dynamic Earth, Sudbury, Ontario

I grew up in Sudbury, Ontario, and although I didn't appreciate it as much at the time, it is a beautiful city with lots of things to do for families. A five-hour drive from Ottawa's west end, Sudbury offers families a plethora of beaches including Moonlight Beach, Bell Park, and Windy Lake and makes for a great long weekend destination.

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I now visit Sudbury twice a year, every spring and fall, to spend time with my grandfather. My most recent trip up was with my mom and my ten-year-old daughter. We all thought spring is the perfect time of year to check out one of Sudbury’s most popular tourist destinations, Dynamic Earth.

Of course, there is also Science North, which is known for its Bed of Nails, resident beaver and porcupine, flying squirrels, as well as many other interactive nature and science-related exhibitions. I hope to explore Science North again more when I return in the fall!

In the meantime, if you have never heard of the Bed of Nails before, check out this fun promotional video from Science North:

Dynamic Earth

This trip, we decided to visit Dynamic Earth. I hadn't been "down in the mines" since I was a kid and I was excited to share the Underground Tour experience with my daughter. When you arrive at Dynamic Earth, you are assigned a start time, which is typically every hour on the half hour. We got there 45 minutes before our underground tour started, so we took advantage of the additional exhibitions that are included with admission.

It was a beautiful day so we, of course, took the opportunity to snap pictures of the infamous Big Nickel that stands on the top of the hill at Dynamic Earth. The Big Nickel is a replica of the 1951 Canadian nickel and has been a selfie hotspot since before selfies were a thing! According to the Dynamic Earth website it, “symbolizes the wealth that Sudbury has contributed to the Canadian economy through nickel production.” I love that access to the nickel is barrier-free, which means anyone can walk or use a wheelchair to get up close with the Big Nickel. You may have heard that there were once other large coin monuments that shared space with the Big Nickel… you can learn what happened to them by visiting the Big Nickel, but I still believe the rumour that they rolled away. ;)

The always accessible Big Nickel

The always accessible Big Nickel

After visiting the Big Nickel, my daughter explored the Outdoor Science Park. This park is unlike any other! It features science and mining themed play structures, vehicles and slides safe and fun for kids of all ages. My daughter lived sliding down the “molten slag” slide towards a real slag pot and climbing the net climbing structure.

When we finally ventured back inside, we spent time learning about colour minerals on the mineral wall and playing in the mine training centre downstairs that featured virtual operating equipment such as a rock breaker, excavator and mining drone.  

Dynamic Earth Sudbury Activities.jpg

Of course, the real attraction was the underground tour. The tour starts by taking a big glass-windowed elevator down seven storeys. The guided group tour takes you through their demonstration mines through the ages. During the approximately hour-long underground tour, you learn the evolution of mining in the Sudbury region from the turn of the century to modern mining and also includes a mock-dynamite explosion. It's unlike any other tour I have been on, and I found it very interesting to learn about what went on under the ground all those years of living there. Also, you can purchase a postcard at the gift shop before heading down and mail it in their underground mailbox – a fun way to let others know how much fun you’re having! It’s a very realistic experience and makes you appreciate the dark and damp conditions miners continue to work in every day!

Dynamic Earth Underground Tour.jpg

If you’re planning a family trip to Sudbury, Ontario make sure to include Dynamic Earth! Here are some tips to make the most out of your time there: 

  • Pick up your underground tour pass for the next available tour time as soon as you arrive (you may be tempted to visit the Big Nickel first, but depending on when you arrive there will be plenty of time to do that!).

  • The temperature underground is approximately 13C (55F), so make sure you are dressed for cool and damp conditions by bringing a jacket and wearing running shoes.

  • I recommend the underground tour for children aged three and up, but there are strollers available underground!

  • It is dark when you first get in the elevator and when you first arrive underground. Make sure little ones are prepared by letting them know it will be dark, but also that there will be lights and that they are safe.

  • There are flashing lights.

  • There is a café on site if you want a quick bite to eat as well as numerous bathrooms.

  • Dynamic Earth is typically closed from October to March each year.

  • The Big Nickel is free to visit any time of the year!

For more information on Dynamic Earth, visit: https://sciencenorth.ca/dynamic-earth/.


Disclaimer: I received passes to Dynamic Earth for the purposes of this review, but all opinions are my own.

Family Travel: Chaffey’s Lock

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.  



It was the first truly nice day of June. It was also a PD day for our son, David and I had the day off. The perfect combination for a road trip.

We decided to go check out Chaffey’s Lock. Located about 1.5 hours south of Ottawa on the Rideau Canal system, Chaffeys Lock is perhaps most well-known for having a lock station.

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We arrived late morning and were lucky enough to see the lock station in action. A pleasure cruiser arrived and the Parks Canada staff manually cranked the locks to move the bridge. It felt like stepping back in time. The same process would have been used a hundred years ago.

David was interested to see the process but when I had told him that Chaffey’s Lock was prime snake habitat, that was his primary focus. David has loved snakes since he saw a Little Ray’s Reptile presentation when he was three. We have been all over Ontario looking for snakes.

I have learned when searching for snakes, it can be very hit or miss. We got an insider tip from the Parks Canada staff and headed to the end of the point at the locks. At first, we did not find anything, and then I saw something slithering towards me. It was a Northern Water Snake. David jumped into action and took multiple photos with our smart phone.

Chaffey's Lock Water Snake

David is always very respectful when viewing nature and let the snake go on his way. We lingered around the area for awhile longer. This time, David spotted something in the water and it was another Northern Water Snake. I was afraid that David might jump in the water to go swimming with it but thankfully, my wife Sandy, is always able to steer the ship with some common sense.

We had satiated our desire to see snakes so it was time to check out Chaffey’s Lock. While not an overwhelming metropolis. There were still many cool things to see and do. We first headed to Opinicon Resort. I had visited Opinicon about fifteen years ago. Frankly, at the time, it looked a bit tired. The resort was bought a few years ago and I was happy to see all the improvements.

The first order of the day was to visit the ice cream parlour. There were multiple flavours and a single scoop was the size of most double scoops at other ice cream shops. We took our ice cream outside and David discovered the playground. The coolest feature was a zip line built for kids. The playground had a nature theme which fit in with the beauty of the location.

Caffey's Lock zip line

Opinicon has a pub and restaurant for fine dining. There are also cottage style accommodations for an overnight visit. I could imagine us making a return trip to the Opinicon.

It was now time for the main reason we had visited Chaffey’s Lock. I had read very good reviews online about Rideau Tours. They offer up kayak, canoe, paddleboard and bike rentals along with boat cruises. We opted for the more relaxed activity and chose the three lake loop boat tour.

We met our friendly, tour guide and boat operator, Captain Luc and were underway. The pontoon boat was very comfortable and had a cover shielding us from the hot mid-afternoon sun. The conversation with Captain Luc was as if you were seeing an old friend again and not a total stranger. It was obvious he was very well acquainted with the area and knew the history well.

Caffey's Lock Boat Tour

Our first big sighting was seeing a group of turtles basking on some rocks enjoying the sun. As our boat approached, the turtles slowly made their way into the water. David identified the turtles as painted and snapper turtles. Captain Luc kept a respectful distance as we watched the turtles swim by.

Captain Luc then showed us Richardson island where Agnes Etherington set up a hospital called Fettercairn for her brother and other veterans suffering from shell shock who had served in World War I. She found they responded well to the tranquility of nature.

Our next destination was the Newboro Lock. We gently cruised along Indian, Clear and Newboro Lake. I could feel the stress of the work week slipping away as we enjoyed the beautiful scenery.

Chaffey's Lock scenery

We arrived at Newboro Lock and took a break to stretch our legs. I started to think I could get used to this boat cruising lifestyle. It was interesting to read the historical panels at Newboro Lock. We did not find any more snakes but enjoyed the visit.

On the way back, we saw more stunning lakeside scenery. Captain Luc showed us his favourite swimming hole. The water was still too cold to swim since it was only early June but we made a vow to return. We also covered every topic under the sun from the Montreal Canadians to classic rock.

Soon enough, we were once again back at Chaffey’s Lock. We had an unexpected surprise. Captain Luc’s partner, Anne Marie, had prepared a gourmet picnic for us. It consisted of locally produced artisan sausage, cheese, organic heirloom vegetables and homemade lemonade. Relaxing over good food and conversation was the perfect way to wrap up our visit to Chaffey’s Lock and with Rideau Tours.

Chaffey's Lock Tour Picnic

Rideau Tours offers many different tours and packages including overnight stays. The picnic meal is also available on many of the activities. For full information about all the various options visit, www.rideautours.ca

During the summer months there are plenty of other things to see and do around Chaffey’s Lock including the Chaffey’s Mill Art Gallery which features works of local artisans and the Chaffey’s Lockmaster’s Museum. Check out www.chaffeyslock.ca for all the info. For the outdoor enthusiasts the Cataraqui Trail (an old rail line now part of the TransCanada Trail) offers 100 km of hiking that also links to the Rideau Trail. If fishing is of interest head over to Brown’s Marina for all your supplies. They are located right in Chaffey’s Lock and if you chat with the locals they may just share some “Fish Tales” that are best told sitting on the “Liar’s Bench” at the Opinicon Resort.

Disclaimer: For the purpose of this review, Stephen was compensated for the boat tour and meal but all views are his own.

Family Travel: Greek Peak Mountain Resort, Syracuse, NY

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.  


There are certain attractions that I have seen from roadside billboards, websites or tourism brochures but never had a chance to visit. One such place was Greek Peak Mountain Resort. Located south of Syracuse, New York just off of Interstate 81, we had passed the billboard for Greek Peak numerous times. This time, we decided to stop at the resort and are glad we did.

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It may seem counterintuitive to visit a ski resort in mid-spring, but I checked online and was impressed by the spring and summer activities being offered. What particularly caught my eye and especially our son David’s attention, was the indoor waterpark. After arriving and checking in at the resort, it probably took us about ten minutes to change and hit the waterslides.

Indoor Water Park at Greek Peak Mountain Resort

Indoor Water Park at Greek Peak Mountain Resort

If you are reading this article in Ottawa or the greater area, you know spring has not been especially kind to us this year. Hurtling down the waterslide, it felt like it was mid-July. For the first slide, my son had assured me I would be fine. Ya right! The slide had numerous hairpin turns and drops, ensuring maximum adrenalin for Dad.

The second slide was a joint effort. David and I sat together on the toboggan as we shot off down the tube slide. I added the ballast in the back, ensuring we went extra fast. Sometimes, I do miss taking the little kids waterslide with David.

Greek Peak Mountain Resort Indoor Waterslides

Having had my excitement rush, it was time to relax. My wife, Sandy, David and I went to the indoor/outdoor hot tub and pool. Even though it was only about 13 C outside, we were able to relax in the warm water. We did our Scandinavian spa routine alternating between the hot tub and pool.

Hot Tub at Greek Peak Mountain Resort

We finished our time checking out the whitewater wave pool. David got right to the front of the waves riding them like he was a California surfer.

All of this activity had made us pleasantly tired and hungry. I was happy that our room had a full kitchen. We prepared a home-cooked meal of steak and veggies while saving money in the process.

After our meal, we were energized to go check out more of the lodge. The main area was decorated like a rustic wilderness lodge with wood beams and wood furniture. There was also a huge wood fireplace giving the area an extra cozy feeling.

Greek Peak Mountain Resort, Syracuse, NY

One of the things I love about travelling is the surprises that happen along the way. The weekend we were staying at Greek Peak there was a large wedding party. They were having fun but always respectful. As we were about to turn in for the night, we noticed an impressive fireworks display going off. At first, I ran through my limited knowledge of American holidays. I also considered it was a special promotion being put on by Greek Peak. The red heart-shaped fireworks gave it away. It was part of the wedding celebrations. The show was equally as good as many Canada Day celebrations (excluding Ottawa.) I had to smile when someone asked what they had planned for their first anniversary after such a momentous wedding celebration.

The next day, the smoke had cleared from the fireworks. We wanted to go check out the Greek Peak adventure centre. Various activities were offered ranging from ziplining, aerials rope course and a mountain coaster. We were somewhat short on time, so Sandy and David decided to opt for the mountain coaster. A lift brought Sandy, David and their two-person car to an altitude of 4,300 feet. I stayed at the base of the mountain. This is secondhand from Sandy and David, but both said the ride was awesome. The driver controls the speed of the car, thus allowing you to determine how fast or slow you go. I am sure at points David was asking Sandy to go faster. Both looked like they had a great time.

Greek Peak Mountain Resort, Syracuse, NY rollercoaster

After the coaster, it was time to leave Greek Peak and explore more of New York State. It will certainly not be our last time to the resort, and we will be more open to taking those detours off the main highway.

If you go - Greek Peak Mountain Resort is about 4h 15 minutes south of Ottawa just off Interstate 81. It is an all-season mountain resort, so any time a year is a good time to visit. The surrounding countryside is gorgeous so we would like to return to do some hiking. For more information about the resort visit, www.greekpeak.net.

Disclaimer: Stephen and his family were comped accommodation and activities but as always, all views are his own.