From skating on a neighbourhood rink to tobogganing on a local hill, opportunities abound to enjoy winter in and around Ottawa. Not only is it good for our health to get outside, but we also build important connections with nature, our family and our communities when we take advantage of all winter has to offer. Here are five things to do you may not have thought of.
Zip lines, tree-top trekking and more
Laflèche Park, in Val des Monts, Québec, about 30 minutes north of Ottawa, is a family-oriented adventure park open year-round. Winter activities include a zip line across a frozen lake, an aerial game trek through tree tops, snowshoeing and a guided exploration of what’s billed as the biggest visited cave in the Canadian Shield. Little brown bats nest in the cave, there are icy stalagmites and stalactites, and the cave, being underground, has a constant temperature of 4 C. Check the website for prices, age restrictions and more. en.arbraska.com/park/lafleche
Skating with a difference
If your skating has been limited to rinks and an occasional trip to the Rideau Canal, River Oak offers something different. Located on York’s Corners Road about 30 minutes south of downtown Ottawa, the family-run operation offers three kilometers of skating trails that meander through meadows, an orchard and a forest.
There are designated hockey and ringette rinks as well as snowshoeing and hiking, and some of the skating trails are lit at night, though you should bring a headlamp or buy one on the premises. You can use hockey sticks on the trail and rent everything from skates to helmets to snowshoes. Bonus: well-behaved dogs are welcome. riveroak.ca
A winter safari in your own car
Reindeer, elk, grey and white wolves and black bears are part of the incredible mix of wild animals along the 12-kilometre car trail at Parc Omega in Montebello, Québec, an hour east of Ottawa. The 90-minute trail is a rare opportunity to connect with some of the animals that we share the planet with, and it’s a special treat for children and grandchildren.
Also at the park, which is open 12 months a year: a restored centuries-old farm with friendly farm animals, a wolf observatory, a First Nations trail representing 12 First Nations of Québec, and overnight accommodation. parcomega.ca
Canadian winters are wonderful if you know how to enjoy them, but sometime you need a break from all that cold. The Canadian Museum of Nature, housed in a magnificent, century-old stone building at 240 McLeod St., features galleries of fossils (and some very cool, life-sized replica dinosaurs), mammals, birds and more, including special exhibitions. Children love this museum, making it a great family spot on a chilly winter afternoon. nature.ca
As winter edges toward spring, sugar bushes around Ottawa start producing that wonderful Canadian specialty, maple syrup, generally believed to have originated with First Nations people. Sugar bushes give families the opportunity to see how maple syrup is produced and sample and buy it fresh from the farm. The operations often offer other attractions as well, including the chance to visit with farm animals. Local sugar bushes include Stanley’s Olde Maple Lane Farm in south-east Ottawa, The Log Farm in Nepean and Fulton’s Sugar Bush in Packenham, about an hour west of Ottawa.