Photo: Yali N’Diaye
The failed plan
I had great plans for the summer of 2019: my mother was visiting from Paris, France, I was going to indulge on a trip to Washington, DC to see some of my best friends, and take as many ballet classes as I could while my son would be away in August after a series of active camps in July.
Well, that was the plan.
Until my mother broke her shoulder, and I canceled the trip to Washington, DC, and my super active teenage son strained his ankle, leading to the cancellation of these camps where I had hoped for him to spend all of his enormous amount of energy.
So here I was: stuck in Ottawa with my active son temporarily grounded by his own actions, and my mother temporarily losing much of her independence.
But one of the biggest lessons I have learned in life is to adapt, no matter how exciting your initial plans were. Even better: make the best of your circumstances. For me, that meant enjoying my staycation in Ottawa.
I went on a discovery mission to uncover places and activities in and around Ottawa that three generations could enjoy, preferably together.
Below are some of my favourite findings.
The Pond: in Rockliffe
Surely, Ottawa offers some beaches you can enjoy in the summer under the attentive eye of lifeguards. All for free. These include Mooney’s Bay, Brittany beach and its playground, Aylmer Marina and its stand up paddling possibilities, or Westboro beach, with its Café offering live music certain evenings.
Photo: Yali N’Diaye – Westboro Beach
Yet the Ottawa River water quality is not always reliable and its beaches not always quiet.
So what if you wanted some free clean water and some quiet time in a peaceful surrounding?
The answer is the Pond.
Photo: Yali N’Diaye – The Pond (Rockliffe)
This swimming hole is located in the Rockliffe Park neighbourhood, in Caldwell-Carver Conservation Area. Swimming is allowed only from 7:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.
There are a number of other conservation areas in Ottawa that can be browsed here.
Photo: Yali N’Diaye – Centre touristique du Lac-Simon
A 90-minute drive from Ottawa, on the Québec side, you can enjoy the Centre touristique du Lac-Simon in different ways.
In addition to the long beach offering trampolines and slides, this place offers many water activities. For those looking for an active but quiet time, there are plenty of hiking possibilities around as well. You can also go biking with one of their rental bikes.
Best of all, in my view, is that you can make it a day trip or a camping trip, bringing your own tent or renting their cabins, fully benefitting from any long weekend.
Photo: Yali N’Diaye – Andrew Haydon Park
Ottawa offers escapes for a quick break during the daytime in a number of parks. This year, I discovered Andrew Haydon Park, off of Carling Avenue. It really feels like an escape from the city just off one of its big avenues.
By the time I discovere this park, my son’s ankle was mostly healed, so he brought his scooter. For younger kids, there is a SplashPad and a playground.
This year was also the 2nd edition of the Ottawa Kite Festival.
Not all activities have to revolve around water.
When my son was ready for action again, and the weather was not cooperative, I was happy to find Ottawa’s recently open indoor skate park: The Yard.
This was a blessing for us because up until now, the only place that we could go to in the winter or on rainy days, and that would also provide lessons for freestyle scootering, would the Le Taz, in Montréal.
The Yard is more modest, but so is the population in Ottawa. My son loves heading there and hang out with friends, and is already among « the regulars ». He is 13, so I can just drop him off for a few hours while I enjoy a walk along the Ottawa River…until, perhaps, I take on scootering!
Escape Manor is also a good alternative for teenagers (and adults). I took my son and his friend to the one in Hintonburg, and they really enjoyed it.
Just choosing the theme was an activity in and of itself!
And because of the several other locations across town, it remains a go-to solution to get out of home that will last for a few years. Not to mention that each trip there doesn’t guarantee the mystery be solved.
I discovered many more places this summer, like Merrickville, where the incentive for my son was to try some delicious ice cream at Downtowne Ice Cream Shoppe; the city is very unique and offers a different access to the canal locks than the more famous locks at the bottom of Château Laurier. We saw other locks at Ottawa’s very own Long Island!
Do you know places that would be interesting for teenagers in and around Ottawa? I’d love to hear about it!