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Archive for February, 2010


Ottawa: Easy on the Environment

If you’re looking for a family vacation that will allow you to ditch the car for a few days, try Ottawa.  The downtown core of our Nation’s Capital is both pedestrian and bike-friendly, so getting around isn’t a problem.  In no time at all you’ll see your carbon footprint become smaller while your wallet gets thicker with all the cash you’ll be saving on gas and parking.

Market Watch

Although it is comprised of only four street blocks, the historical ByWard Market area, also known as the birthplace of Ottawa, is jam-packed with things to see and do. There are restaurants, specialty shops, and of course, one of the oldest and largest farmers’ markets in Canada where home-grown flowers, vegetables and delicacies can be found.

If you have a sweet tooth there are two must experiences to put on your ByWard Market list.  The first one is to have a piping hot BeaverTail, the perfect indulgence to eat while listening to live music in the market.

As well, if you are curious about the Canadian Obama cookie, stop by the Le Moulin de Provence bakery to check them out.  President Obama purchased these maple leaf sugar cookies last February while in Canada for a visit and the rest, as they say, is history. The bakery has a lot more to offer than cookies, and with an outdoor patio, it’s a great place to have a coffee in the market.

A Day at the Museum

The Canadian Museum of Civilization is located in Quebec, just across from downtown Ottawa, but it is a definite must see for families visiting the area.

It is considered Canada’s largest cultural institution with over 25,000 square metres of display space all housed in an award-winning building designed by Canadian architect Douglas Cardinal.  Its permanent exhibit, the Grand Hall, is absolutely stunning with over 40 authentic totem poles in a vast gallery that also doubles as a theatre where performances take place.

Inside you will also find the Canadian Children’s Museum, a place where a child’s imagination can run freely while they explore the world, literally.  This children’s museum is divided into different international experiences so kids can experience driving a Pakistani bus, playing in a Nigerian home or watching short, animated movies in a Canadian cinema.  In all there are over 25 areas of interactive fun in this one place.

Getting to the Canadian Museum of Civilization is an easy 20-minute walk from downtown Ottawa by simply crossing over the Macdonald-Cartier Bridge.

Who’s Afraid of the Dark?

There’s no need to wait until Halloween to hear a good ghost story. The Haunted Walk of Ottawa is a good way to find out about the city’s ghoulish side while learning some history as you tour all over the downtown.

You can learn all about the scary antics going on at City Hall that don’t involve any politicians.  It turns out that part of City Hall used to be a Teacher’s College, and unfortunately a ghostly school marm still thinks she’s teaching in the empty rooms.  As well, there’s a frightening story involving a historical building with an eerie attic where too many people have seen strange things. That story might just leave you looking over your shoulder.

Before going on this walk, make sure your kids are up for it.  It’s recommended for children six and up who are prepared to walk for 90 minutes and aren’t too sensitive to scary stories.

For more info: / 800-363-4465

Check out this video on some of Ottawa attractions

Where to Stay

Since a lot of Ottawa’s main attractions lie in its downtown core, the perfect place to stay at is the Westin Ottawa, located a stone’s throw from Ottawa’s jewel in the crown, the Rideau Canal.  The Westin is offering a Family Escape package starting at $179 for a family of four.  This package includes coupons for BeaverTails Pastries, an in-room movie, but even better, kids under the age of 12 will eat for free for each paying adult at the Westin’s restaurant, Daly’s. To book: / 866-716-8101

Story: Anna Rodrigues
Images: Phil Raby

© 2007-2010 Trips with Kids – Unauthorized reproduction of this article, video and images is prohibited.

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On the Dinosaur Hunt

Tony Scott and Madison on the hunt for dino bones. Image: Phil Raby ©

“What you’re holding in your hand belonged to an animal that lived 70 million years ago,” says Tony Scott, a Science Educator at the Royal Tyrrell Museum, located 135 kilometres northeast of Calgary in Midland Provincial Park.

Five-year-old Madison smiles widely as she discovers the importance of her find while participating in a fossil dig. The porous, hard material she picked up from the sun-baked ground of the Canadian Badlands is indeed the fossilized bone of a dinosaur. It’s a dream come true for any amateur paleontologist.

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Magical Mont Tremblant

The magic enveloped us the moment I opened the blinds in our room. Madison, my 6-year-old daughter, joined me at the window and silently we watched bright strings of lights twinkling everywhere.

Smoke was curling up lazily from the outdoor firepit in the village square and children were zipping down a slide made entirely of ice. People were walking without hurry, bundled up, with skis on their shoulders or snowboards at their sides, all under the watchful eye of a massive mountain known as Tremblant.

Ski Fun

Located in the scenic Laurentian mountains of Quebec, Mont Tremblant Ski Resort takes snow activities to a different level. Whether you’ve strapped on skis for the first time or you’re a fierce snowboarder, there’s a perfect trail for your level of expertise.

Little ones aren’t forgotten, either. There are three magic carpet lifts up the bunny hills and kid-friendly lessons with instructors. As Madison was learning to ski with her dad, I saw an instructor transform a crying boy who didn’t want to move on his skis into a giggling snow bunny in less than 15 minutes with expert ease.

In the Village

Don’t ski? No problem. The Village is a place to see and be seen. You’ll feel like you’ve stumbled into a town in the Swiss Alps. You can park your car and forget it -you won’t need it in the pedestrian-friendly village.

There are many restaurants to experience, but we recommend Creperie Catherine, where authentic French crepes of all kinds can be savoured slowly with a good cup of coffee.

The village also has an excellent place for the family to hang out while having fun. Features include two kids’ pools, a swinging rope a la Tarzan and swimming lanes for the older crowd. Eucalyptus steam baths are available on site to soothe aching muscles after a day of skiing.

Want something different to remind you of your visit to Mont Tremblant? You’ll find that at the Plush Factory, located in the Village, where kids and adults get to choose their own souvenir plush toy.  But the fun doesn’t end there. It is just beginning. You will stuff it, place a secret wish inside, then choose from an array of accessories to dress it up nicely. The employees at the Plush Factory will guide you every step of the way as you get your new companion ready to take home.

Where to Stay

The village has lodgings for every budget. There are tons of packages, many that include accommodations, breakfast and lift tickets. See for last-minute deals and online deals.

Story: Anna Rodrigues
Images: Phil Raby

© 2007-2010 Trips with Kids – Unauthorized reproduction of this article, video and images is prohibited.

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Up and Away with Niagara Helicopters

My heart is pounding. A high-pitched scream wants to escape from my mouth but I don’t bother. It wouldn’t be heard over the powerful din of the rotors circling above my head. An attendant extends his hand with a smile, letting me know where I should sit. He locks me in securely with the seat belt, hands me a headset and then the cabin door slams shut.

There’s no going back now. I am afraid of heights. Add speed to that fear and you will understand why I haven’t been on an amusement park ride since I was a young child. In mere seconds though I will be experiencing anything beyond the fastest ride I could ever imagine. I will be flying high on a Bell 407 helicopter. The pilot, Rene Huessy, introduces himself and with a whoosh, I find myself up in the air.

Check out this video on the trip:

In 1985, a young Swiss pilot named Ruedi Hafen found himself the new president of Niagara Helicopters Limited, a business that had been around for more than twenty years under a variety of owners. The company’s main purpose was training, but Hafen decided to focus more on sightseeing and charter flights. To do this, he began adding more helicopters to his fleet of two and expanding his base of operation. Over the years, Niagara Helicopters has grown to five Bell 407 helicopters, paved helipads, and several hangars all housed in a beautiful, park-like setting that includes an indoor-outdoor snack bar and gift shop. Last year, more than 100,000 passengers from all over the globe flew in the comfortable helicopters and enjoyed discovering the Falls in a completely new way.

The beautiful Niagara landscape stretches out before me as the helicopter soars upwards. My fear of heights evaporates as I listen to the taped commentary through the headset. Below me, a variety of Niagara Falls landmarks, such as the Whirlpool Rapids and the Rainbow Bridge, are recognizable and look extraordinary from this point of view. The nine-minute aerial tour ends too quickly as the helicopter lands expertly where it all began. The attendant opens the cabin door with a smile and I hope he sees how the fear in my eyes, from a few minutes earlier, has been replaced by exhilaration.

Hot Tips:

-Call for tour group rates and reservations. Parking is free.

-The tours run year-round (except for Christmas Day) from 9:00 a.m. until sunset, weather permitting.

-A certificate of flight is provided to all passengers.

-For less mobile passengers, a wheelchair ramp provides access to the helicopters.

For more information:

Story and video: Anna Rodrigues
Image: Phil Raby

© Trips with Kids – Unauthorized reproduction of this article, video and images is prohibited.

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