Daytripping – camping without the camping!

by Shawna Did you love to go camping as a kid? The day at the lake/swimming pool broken up by lunch at a brownish-red-painted picnic table under the trees, and treks along dusty, pine-scented paths to the local campground store for icy cold bottles of pop and dime freezies (that you could get by returning the bottles for the deposit)?

Now that you’re grown-up, and you know the adult hassles that come with camping – the packing of clothes for hot/cold/wet/sunny weather and water/non-water activities that may or may not involve hiking, the organizing of coolers to make sure everyone stays nourished and hydrated, the drive to and from potentially far-flung destinations, and the laundry that comes home with you, not to mention the difficulty of getting the kids (and yourself!) to sleep in an unfamiliar environment (often a tent that has to be put up and taken down at your campsite, then put up again to dry thoroughly once you’re home before being taken down again and packed away) – you may not relish the idea of camping as much, particularly when you only have a limited amount of days you can book off from work in a year. Camping can be doubly daunting when your kids are still in diapers, but are mobile and seem to lack any kind of self-preservation instinct that stops them from wandering off cliffs or straight into the lake.

If you are an intrepid soul that has no idea what I’m talking about because you think nothing of portaging your way into the middle of Algonquin park to take your triplet toddlers canoe-camping, you will likely want to skip this entry, but if you’re like me and the second paragraph sounds eerily familiar, this information may change your life: you can go to a campground for the day and not, you know, actually camp.

Just imagine it: no tents to erect, no camp dishes to haul out – you can get by with a cooler of drinks and sandwiches for one day – and you know what the weather will be like because you only need to hear the forecast for the day you go, so no packing of raingear. You tire out the kids and everyone sleeps in their own, welcoming bed at the end of the day.

A quick search of the internet has turned up a number of places with pools and/or freshwater beaches within an hour of Ottawa. Day admission fees seem to run about 10 to 12 bucks for a family of two adults and two kids, and swimming and use of casual recreation facilities are included.

For example (and these are just a few of many - check for yourself!), Sandy Mountain is only ½ hour from where I live in Barrhaven, and has both a large pool and wading pool, as well as a games room, a playground, and a place to buy ice cream. You can play horseshoes for free, or pay the extra fees to mini-putt or even full-on golf. (They don’t post prices for just the day because they don’t consider themselves to be a public pool, but they do have day rates if you ask.)

Wildwood is not much further, and I enjoyed many a weekend day in the pool there with my grandmother when I was a child (the pool there is better for older kids who can reach the bottom in the shallow end and/or swim well) though, alas, they now only allow non-campers during weekdays (Fridays only until noon) and only for 2 hour stints.  

On the July long weekend we’re meeting up with my in-laws a little further afield: Pleasure Park near Mallorytown, which has a water trampoline, a dock for swimming, and large playground.

I’m not saying you should never go on any overnight camping adventures – it’s a fantastic thing for kids to experience and worth the effort. But you don’t have to wait until that expedition to Kilimanjaro; while you’re doing all the planning for your Big Trip, you can sample the camping life with daytrips here and there. It’s cheap, it’s fun, it’s easy, and it’ll make memories that last. What could be better?

Shawna is mom to 4-year-old Sage and 2-year-old Harris.  She has  been writing online since 2003, and her latest project is a fledgling photography blog.  She never appreciated the work her parents had to do to take her camping until she had kids of her own.