Amber Poole, a proud mama of three kids and an Ottawa resident, walked us through her perfect family-friendly day in Ottawa. It’s a schedule that’s sure to appeal to locals and to visiting tourists! Make sure to check out her blog about living in Ottawa as an expat mom!
Greetings from Canada! My name is Amber and I currently live in Ottawa along with my husband and three kids aged two, four, and six. We have lived here for a little over a year as part of an exchange program for my husband’s job. We love exploring the natural beauty and historic charm of our city. Putting the weather aside–most of the year is rather cold–there is plenty to do. Our family would love to share some of our favorite ways to spend a weekend in Ottawa.
6:15 AM–Wake Up Time!
My kids are early risers. As someone who considers mornings my frenemy, I have had to reluctantly adapt to this lifestyle. Every weekend, I still hold out hope that Saturday will roll around and someone will sleep until 7 AM. My husband likes to make the kids a big breakfast of pancakes and eggs on weekends. We live surrounded by an abundance of fresh maple syrup and take full advantage of it. If you are in the area in late spring (March), go see a sugar shack firsthand to see how the syrup is produced. When we decide to treat ourselves to a nice cup of coffee and skip the dishes, we take the kids to Art Is In Bakery. The selection of pastries is amazing and the breakfast menu is delicious. You cannot leave without trying one of the best croissants in town!
9:00 AM–Strawberry Picking
We head to Miller’s Farm Market and Garden Center to pick strawberries. The berries are always delicious, the fields are a short walkable distance from the parking lot and the prices are affordable. Everyone gets their own basket and happily picks away. By arriving early, we hit the cooler part of the day and get the fields to ourselves (almost). The kids make it about 40 minutes picking and then want to take advantage of the play structure on site. We also look at the chickens and bunnies before taking our harvest to the car. After picking berries, we head downtown to the Byward Market. It is paid parking but affordable, especially if you can find street parking.
We walk around and look at the stalls selling goods. If you want to try a uniquely Canadian food, grab a Beaver Tail, a fried dough pastry. They are a staple around here, especially in winter when skating the Rideau Canal. We usually pick up a snack from Le Moulin De Provence, which is perfect for kids. They also have lunch items if a full meal is on your agenda. We take our snack and make the short walk over to Major’s Hill Park, situated with a lovely view of the Ottawa lock system and Parliament buildings. There is a lot of green space for an impromptu picnic and to walk and run around.
Lunchtime (Around 12 -1:00 PM)
We usually head home at this point. Everyone is getting hungry and the little one needs a rest. Our nap days are numbered but we still like everyone to be able to recharge. We stop at home for some quiet activity time and lunch. If we were to venture out for lunch or if we skip nap altogether, the Rideau Center (close to Byward Market) has a great food court with ample choices.
It’s time to get moving again. Most neighborhoods have parks or open green space for play. In this way, Ottawa is very family-friendly. We are fortunate to have three parks within five minutes from our house. However, if you are visiting, I highly recommend Mooney’s Bay Park. It is massive and one can easily spend a couple of hours here. If the weather is warm then we make sure to save time to stop and pick up a cool treat. Our favorite places to get ice cream are the Merry Dairy and Chocolats Favoris. Merry Dairy has ice cream and custard while Chocolat Favoris has soft serve dipped in decadent fondue chocolate. Either way, you can’t go wrong!
If the weather is not in favor of park time, we head to one of the many museums in Ottawa. The Canadian Museum of History, which hosts an amazing Children’s Museum, is our first choice. The kids get passports and can explore the world, put on a play, and do a craft activity. It’s also nice to check out the Great Hall, which hosts the First Peoples of Canada exhibit and provides a wonderful view of parliament from across the river. The totem pole display is one of the largest indoor displays in the world. The Canadian Museum of Nature (pictured here) is our second choice for the amazing displays and fantastic historic castle setting.
After a busy day, we head home to get bedtime and bath time started. To be completely transparent, going out for dinner is not something we typically do with the kids. If we do venture out, it’s to a local chip truck, which can be found in parking lots within the city. These trucks give you an opportunity to sample the Canadian delicacy of poutine, or fries smothered in gravy and cheese curds. Seriously, heart-attack-style delicious. By this point in the day, everyone is a varying degree of tired and just wants to be home with their things to play. We perform our bedtime routine and get the kiddos down in hopes for some quality time together before heading to bed. If you would like more information on Ottawa, please visit my blog here where I have more in-depth reviews of places around Ottawa including some of the places mentioned in this article.
Heading to Ottawa? When you book your flights on Expedia, not only do you get great deals, but you’re also helping out Bébé Voyage, at no extra cost to you. They see that we’re sending them traffic when you start here and as a thank you they send us a small commission.