a peek inside the fishbowl

21 Dec, 2008

The Fishbowl guide to surviving Ottawa winter with kids

Posted by andrea tomkins in: - Ottawa for kids|Easy ways to make kids happy

We’ve been invited to our neighbor’s place for a Snow Day lunch today. I love this idea. It’s pretty easy to make a big pot of chili or stew and invite the neighbors over to share. Throw in a bottle of wine (to be shared while the kids play) … it’s a pretty good way to spend the afternoon. (Especially one like today. Egads, it’s really coming down out there!)

It’s no surprise, really, this is a regular topic of conversation among parents in wintry climates. What the heck do we do with our kids when all we want to do is curl up and wait for winter to go away?

My theory has always been this: if you don’t get out and enjoy winter (or at least PRETEND to enjoy winter) you will not survive the winter. Trust me on this. If you hide, you will go bonkers.

Here’s my list of family fun things to do outdoors, in Ottawa, over the colder months. I like to think of this as a public service to ALL the parents out there!

– Tobogganing. Simple, I know! But so much fun. I am fairly certain that Santa is bringing us a good lookin’ four-seater sled this year. This pageis a good tobogganing resource.

Don’t forget to bring some hot chocolate with you! I like the idea of bringing two thermoses (thermii?) with us, one for kids, and a special one for the grownups.

– Skating. We’re in the Nation’s Capital. There’s no excuse! Skating is required, whether you do it on the canal or at your local arena. If skating is already a regular thing in your family, shake it up and try a new destination. How about checking out the outdoor rink at Rideau Hall? It opens January 5 this year.

– Skiing – In pre-child days I enjoyed a bit of ski-related fun. I haven’t done it in ten years. I hope this is the year I return to it. A local skiing mom tells me the ski school at Vorlage is better but the skiing is more fun at Edelweiss and is cheaper. There’s a recent article over at SavvyMom about it too. If cross country is your thing, do check out Nakkertok. It’s a co-operative ski club.

Alight at Night. We go every year. Last year we went on New Year’s Eve. Now that the girls are old enough to stay up until midnight I think we’ll have to do it again this year.

It’s a longish drive for us (about 90 minutes I think), but so worth it if you prefer a low-key wintry activity. It is amazingly pretty. Tip: dress warmly, and bring food. There is a restaurant on the premises, but a couple years back there was a situation which inspired us to start bringing our own portable dinner (i.e sandwiches and fruit). I think it might have been a long line up, or maybe it was closed that night. Regardless, we always bring our own now.  

– Feeding the wildlife. Oh, this is one of my favourite things to do with kids in Ottawa. I’ve written about it almost everywhere. Feed the chickadees or create your own backyard buffet.

– Winter camping? I am not sure about this but I thought I’d throw it out there. I think if I had access to a yurt I would totally consider it.

– Are you familiar with Kids Ottawa? This website is an excellent resource for family-friendly events/activities in the Ottawa/Gatineau region. If you can’t find something to do in their extensive holiday pages, well, I don’t know what to tell you.

Any other ideas? if so, bring it to table. Ottawa moms will thank you!

5 Responses to "The Fishbowl guide to surviving Ottawa winter with kids"

1 | Gliding through motherhood

December 21st, 2008 at 1:20 pm


I haven’t been with kids yet, but tubing is a LOT of fun! I’ve done it at Edelweiss but I think several of the hills have tubing runs.

2 | Mom On The Go

December 21st, 2008 at 1:25 pm


For Alight at Night, I’d recommend calling ahead to buy your tickets. There’s a bit of a savings and then you don’t have to stand in the admission line – which can be quite amazingly line. There is a online purchase option but that comes with a processing fee and it eats up most of the savings. We took Reid, who was 3, plus kids 6, 8, 10 (boys and girls) and all loved the experience.

Thanks for this collection of ideas, Andrea!

3 | Dagne

December 22nd, 2008 at 12:06 pm


Cross country skiing is our main outdoor activity and it’s a great way to plan outings and keep moving through the winter. We go on a shorter ski to feed the birds, or a longer ski when we’ve got time and the weather is agreeable; skiing to a hut in the Gatineau makes for a special day out with a hot meal and a fire to get warmed by as the goal. We don’t go when it’s really bitter as our youngest isn’t that fast yet and everyone gets cold quickly (except for him)!

Nakkertok is a great resource for families wanting to get into cross-country. I’ve learned from experience that it’s best for families who are happy to have a routine and are expected to show up every Saturday morning at the same time at the trails. (That doesn’t work for us as we crave non-routine and like to go when we feel like it.) On the Ottawa side of the river, kids and families can also go for lessons with the Kanata Nordic Ski Club http://www.kanatanordic.ca or at Mooney’s Bay http://www.ottawa.ca/residents/parks_recreation/seasonal/fw/xc_skiing/index_en.html.

I’d love to do snowshoeing as well, but with new skis every year we have to make choices; longer term I’d like to add snowshoes. We went out for walk by the river yesterday and the boys thought it was the best thing to wade through snow that nearly reached their waists.

Tubing and tobagganing at Jacques Cartier Park as part of Winterlude is loads of fun. We went on a freezing cold day last year, but had a blast anyway. Getting out locally for a bit of sledding is always a good thing.

Unlike you Andrea, I’m a firm non-skater. It’s strange because I was a figure skater as a girl, but I just don’t enjoy it now and my husband, who is British, just can’t get the hang of it (you can start some things too late in life apparently!). It’s worked well for me as our boys love skiing and have no interest in hockey, for which I’m grateful! (I hope I don’t get hissed at for saying that.) We usually get out for a stroll on the canal, so that we don’t miss that experience – can’t miss having a beavertail on a frosty day!

Getting out to one of the city’s many winter carnivals can be a fun way to get motivated to go outside too. The City of Ottawa hasn’t posted their calendar of 2009 winter carnivals in city parks yet, but it will be here: http://www.ottawa.ca/residents/parks_recreation/seasonal/fw/outdoor_rinks/carnivals_en.html

4 | Redheadedmama

December 28th, 2008 at 9:46 pm


This is only sort of semi-outdoorsy, but I think it still counts: the Experimental Farm! Everyone goes in the summer, but did you know the barns are still open to the public in the winter? Best of all, it is free! Usually no one else is around, and it is pretty neat to be all alone with the animals. My two year old can talk, talk, talk to the animals as much as she wants without having to wait her turn or push through the crowds.

Plus, I think the animals enjoy the company!

5 | savvymomdotca

January 5th, 2009 at 11:03 am


THanks for posting that link to Savvymom.ca.


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The Obligatory Blurb

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 daughters: Emma (20) and Sarah (18). 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, family travel, great gear, good food, and sharing the best of Ottawa for families. I also love vegetables, photography, gadgets, and great design.

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