A common question that comes up amongst parents each summer …
Where can we go for some family time fun and do it on a dime?
This post is about our road trip to Ottawa but you can find the rest of our 2018 summer adventures here.
Toronto to Ottawa:
The common and fastest route to Ottawa from Toronto is via the 400 series highways of 401, 416, and 417. I have driven this route multiple times, it gets you where you are going, but it is boring stretch of highway after boring stretch of highway. This time, I decided to take the slow and more scenic route of Highway 7. It is more interesting to search for horses and cows in the fields versus staring at the back bumper of the car in front of you.
Another reason to drive Highway 7 was a pit stop at the Riverview Park & Zoo in Peterborough. I had read about this free park many times and felt that it was a good spot to stretch our legs. The zoo is small but you get a closer view of the animals than the Toronto Zoo. The playground attached provided something for every ability and there was even a small splash pad. I will say though, the snack bar was disappointing so pack a lunch!
Maybe it has to do with getting older, but I don’t like eating out at restaurants for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. My body gets super cranky. Our last few getaways have included grocery store visits so we could stock the in-room mini fridge. We had 4 nights in the city but we minimized our restaurant usage. This helps the budget and the waistline!
Since our last visit to Ottawa, they have added a museum pass – an adult can go to 3 museums in 3 days for $35. Children’s tickets are 30% off when visiting with an adult holding a museum pass.
We also have a family membership to the Royal Ontario Museum. They have a reciprocal arrangement with the Canadian Museum of Nature so we got to visit this museum for free!
This means one adult and one child did four museums in three days for about $75!
So what were the highlights of our museum hopping?
Canada Science and Technology Museum
- The Special Exhibition: Art of the Brick showed how lego can be art and art can be lego;
- Exploratek tinkering space allowed us to build architectural masterpieces;
- The presentations Cryo-genius and Pyrotechno showed us the extremes of ice and fire.
Canada Aviation and Space Museum
- Chris Hadfield’s space suit and the re-creation of his personal pod space;
- The variety of planes on display from throughout the decades;
- Displays on the future of aviation and space, e.g. Mars exploration.
- The Canada Goose Arctic Gallery had massive pieces of ice acting as a video screen;
- Children’s activity room had brain crafts to tie into the Special Exhibition Brain: Inside Story;
- Earth Gallery for the minerals, the shiny minerals, and the blinging minerals!
- The Children’s Museum lets Lil Sprouts travel the world and learn about different nations;
- The Grand Hall’s six-story windows showcasing amazing Totem Poles and the history of the First Nations;
- Morning Star – the painted ceiling at the end of the Grand Hall by Alex Janier.
Each night, the Parliament Buildings had a half-hour sound and light presentation called Northern Lights. It highlights the history of Canada with a bilingual commentary. I forgot to bring our picnic blanket, which would have made the experience slightly more comfortable (and defined our personal space better). I did remember to bring our long sleeves – despite the warm weather – the breeze makes it chilly especially for tired children.
Ottawa to Toronto
Lil Sprout loves gardens so I planned for us to stop at the Ornamental Gardens on the way out of Ottawa. I wanted us to have a picnic lunch there – with bagel sandwiches from Byward Market’s Continental Bagel Co – but the weather didn’t co-operate. We did a short tour of the gardens before the clouds started to spit on us.
The timing of the trip meant we would be passing through Kingston on a Wednesday. During the summer, Fort Henry does a Sunset Ceremony on Wednesday nights. We asked the grandparents to drive up and join us for the evening. We spent the extra money for balcony seats, which meant we got a bird’s eye view in reserved seats. I’m glad we went with this option; it gave us the freedom to stand or move around. It gets very loud (even with earplugs) during the re-enactment and Lil Sprout did need to go inside and look at the indoor exhibits for part of the show.
The next morning, we drove from Kingston to Belleville via Route 33. It is a nice lakeside drive and had the fun of a (free) car ferry. After lunch we stopped at Pirate Ship park to work off some energy and prepare ourselves for the highway drive home.
Looking to read about other holiday fun?
Every Summer has a Story: 2018 edition
In the comments, please share your favourite places between Toronto and Ottawa. And remember to follow us and SPROUT a conversation on Twitter – @sproutbalance – and Facebook!
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