a peek inside the fishbowl

08 Nov, 2007

Brunch & Swim: another fantastic thing to do with kids (or without!) in Ottawa.

Posted by andrea tomkins in: - Ottawa for kids|Easy ways to make kids happy|Publishing/writing/career stuff

Updated to add: Unfortunately this package is no longer available at the Hilton Lac-Leamy. :(

The SavvyMom piece that went out today was about breakfasts. Check it out here. If you’re looking for something to do on a weekend morning, go out for breakfast. You’ll almost always come back from it feeling happy and full, and ready to take on the day. Your mom was right. It is the most important meal of the day.

In that particular article I didn’t have the room to expand upon our amazing experience at Hilton Lac Leamy. (That was what I had alluded to in my post on the 29th) This is a different kind of family fun in the Ottawa area. From time to time I do like to shake things up a bit, you know what I mean? Well, this is my new favourite treat … a decadent holiday from the ordinary. It’s not cheap, but it’s worth every penny.

Okay, here’s what you need to know.

The Hilton Lac-Leamy in Gatineau has a deal called the Brunch-Pool Package. You pay, you eat, you swim. Sound good? It is. Anyway, listen up yo, because none of this information is on their website.

The cost (at time of posting) is $30.90 per adult, ½ price for kids under 12, and free for children under three. Reservations are a must (call 819-790-6410). Numerous staff at the Hilton have told me the Brunch package is very popular. (Hmm. Really? Well how come no one I know knows about it? We Ottawans must not be on the ball.)

There are only two seatings for brunch, 11:30 and 1:30. We went for the 11:30 seating, because I didn’t think we could wait until 1:30 to eat.

Parking is free, but I recommend you park near the hotel, not the casino.

The brunch is at Arome Seafood and Grill. It’s downstairs (go past the reception desk) and strangely, if you arrive a couple of minutes early there’ll be a lineup. They don’t seem to seat people before the appointed time. As I mentioned in the SavvyMom piece, don’t let the idea of the fancy restaurant turn you off. Sure, it’s white linen and multiple forks, but your kids have to learn to eat in a place that doesn’t supply crayons and a paper menu at SOME POINT, right?

Seriously, don’t worry. There will be other families there, and the staff are wonderful.

The brunch is a self-serve buffet format. It was delicious. According to an informal poll, the DIY waffle station (waffle irons, hot and ready for waffling) was the big winner here. The girls were fascinated. You take a cup of ready-made waffle batter, pour it on, and turn the iron over when the timer goes off. The girls immediately saw the benefits of waffle-iron ownership, and asked if we could buy our own. (Um, no.) Mark took care of the waffle making. Their waffle came back with whipped cream and maple syrup. Caramel and strawberry sauces were also to be had.

I was too busy with the cheeses and breads (fresh rolls flecked with rosemary! croissants!), and the smoked salmon to notice what everyone else was getting. No, just kidding. Mark and I helped the girls with their plates before we got our own.

It is possible to eat really healthily here … or not. There is a huge variety of excellent foods, both hot and cold, breakfasty and lunchy. Emma had pancakes and bacon, fruit salad and part of the waffle. Sarah had a bit of everything, including peel-your-own shrimp (“LOOK, Mum! LEGS!”) and she managed just fine, legs and all. Mark had a traditional breakfast, which included a custom-made omlette, but went back and had slices of roast turkey as customary nod to lunch. We all had dessert(s). Oh, the desserts! They filled our eyeballs as well as our stomachs. Everything was so artful. Emma chose a strawberry mousse served in a dark chocolate cup. Sarah chose a slice of brownie pie. I had fruit salad with a drizzle of chocolate (self-administered from the chocolate fountain) and a sliver of pecan pie. Add to that about 3 cups of coffee … yeah. I was buzzing.

As we sat there finishing our meals I quietly wondered if there was any truth in the fact that you’re supposed to wait 30 minutes before attempting to swim, for surely we were destined to be sinkers.

We made our way down another set of stairs for the swim part of our visit.

Keep in mind that the facilities are for hotel guests, and the Hilton is a pretty swish place. You won’t be disappointed. Check in at the desk and pick up a towel and a locker key. If you have more than one kid with you, you’d be well served if you asked for extra lockers. Emma and Sarah and I crammed all of our stuff into one. The change room is well equipped, pristine clean, and warm, which is great, because I hate standing around waiting for certain little children to hurry up and get their swimsuits on.

This is the point where I tell you what I’d do differently if/when we go again. (And we are going again.)

1) Bring towels. The one you get is standard issue, and by the end you will feel like you’re drying yourself with a wet sponge.
2) If I had a terry housecoat I’d bring it. Even if it had the monogram of a different hotel.
3) Flip flops.
4) Reading material

The indoor pool is an (almost) uniform 1.2 metres deep. There are pool toys for kids, as well as life-jackets. The girls used the pool noodles quite a bit. There is also a hot tub, but it’s nearly impossible to sit in it and watch the kids in the pool at the same time. (There seemed to be no lifeguards on duty, so we were on our own in this regard.)

We were all excited to discover the heated outdoor pool. It’s open all year ’round! You can exit to the outdoor swimming area by a door, or walk a few steps to a narrow channel and swim out instead (it’s much more fun this way.) Mum and dad were even more thrilled to see the twin outdoor hot tubs (!).

At one point, Mark and I were sitting in the lounge chairs beside the indoor pool, I with my notebook and he with the paper. The girls played in the pool. We watched as snowflakes drifted on the breeze outside the window. Ahh. Now THIS was living!

There were a handful of people there, but it was evident to me that most of the people who came to brunch were there just to eat, not to partake in the swim.

We were free to hang out until 5 p.m (see, that’s why I would have brought a book or magazine) but I think we wrapped it up around 3:00. Mark checked out the steam room (it was so steamy he could barley see his hand in front of his face) and the girls and I had a long shower and dried our hair.

It was a fabulous way to spend the day. I’m already planning our next visit.

9 Responses to "Brunch & Swim: another fantastic thing to do with kids (or without!) in Ottawa."

1 | Marla

November 8th, 2007 at 7:52 pm


Let me know when you’re doing this again, and I’ll meet you there. Wow!

Um…did the brunch have those cream puffs shaped like swans? I love cream puffs shaped like swans.

2 | BeachMama

November 8th, 2007 at 9:42 pm


I love this. How is it that you find all the cool and fun things to do? We do live in the same city right??

And here I sit trying to think of what we are going to do tomorrow afternoon as I have instituted tomorrow as NO TV DAY!!!

3 | andrea

November 8th, 2007 at 9:53 pm


Marla, I am fairly certain there were cream puffs, but nothing swanlike in shape.

BeachMama: No TV day? Good for you! Let me know what you ended up doing. :)

4 | J.

November 9th, 2007 at 8:27 am


wow! i can’t wait to try that out myself.l that’s amazing. It almost sounds like a Nordik experience. :) Fun!

5 | twinmomplusone

November 9th, 2007 at 12:18 pm


Friends of ours do this often and I’ve been meaning to go for quite some time, thanks for making me re add this to my wish list!

6 | porter

November 9th, 2007 at 10:43 pm


Sounds like a great day.

7 | b*babbler

November 12th, 2007 at 9:11 pm


That sounds like such a great outing. I can’t wait to get a chance to try it, the next time I’m in Ottawa!

8 | EC

August 17th, 2010 at 11:19 am


we loved the brunch-pool package, but i just called the hilton, and it seems they’ve canned the package sometime in june of this year. :(

9 | Terri-Lynn Veale

January 28th, 2011 at 10:49 am


They no longer offer this package.

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My name is Andrea and I live in the Westboro area of Ottawa with my husband Mark and our dog Piper who is kind of a big deal on Instagram. We also have two human offspring: Emma (24) and Sarah (22). During the day I work as a writer at the Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre. I am a longtime Ottawa blogger and I've occupied this little corner of the WWW since 1999. The Fishbowl is my whiteboard, water cooler, and journal, all rolled into one. I'm passionate about healthy living, arts and culture, travel, great gear, good food, and sharing the best of Ottawa. I also love vegetables, photography, gadgets, and great design.

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