Wondering what to do on a staycation this summer? Skipping the annual getaway because it’s too darned expensive doesn’t mean you and the family have to sit at home all summer wishing you were somewhere else. The Ottawa area is jam-packed with great summer possibilities that are affordable, fun and a wonderful opportunity for family time.
That’s right, and all within driving distance. In the east end, Petrie Island in Orléans has three beaches as well as lovely nature walks and sitting/picnicking areas. In the west, try Britannia Beach with BBQ pits and other extras. There are more: Lac du Poisson Blanc on the Quebec side, Burnstown Beach on the Madawaska River, Morrisburg Beach in South Dundas… Find all 25 beaches here.
The Bonnechere Caves in Eganville, about an hour west of Ottawa, offer hour-long guided tours through a cave system millions of years old and packed with fossils and other geological history. It’s cool in every sense of the word, so bring a light sweater and good walking shoes. Make a full day of your outing with a side trip to Calabogie: check this site for more things to do the area.
The Old Days
Our big, national museums — the Museum of Canadian History in Gatineau, the Canadian Museum of Nature in Ottawa — sport oustanding collections that open up our past and our diverse identities. But small, local museums in and around Ottawa explore who we are and where we came from in equally entrancing fashion (plus, you don’t encounter crowds of holidayers!). Check out the recreation of long-ago rural/village life at the Cumberland Heritage Village Museum, the story of the woolen industry and more at the Mississippi Mills Textile Museum in Almonte (always a great village for sightseeing and small-shop browsing), and permanent and travelling exhibits, including coverage of the area’s lumbering past, at the Arnprior and District Museum.
Way up and down
Zipline and aerial games take you into the treetops at Abraska Laflèche, 30 minutes north of Ottawa. There’s also a mega zipline, a nighttime treetop trek, hiking trails and guided tours through a Canadian Shield cave. If you’re into ziplining, there are other spots around Ottawa to indulge yourself, including Interzip Rogers’ line across the Ottawa River from Ottawa to Gatineau. In Chelsea, QC there’s a 1,000-foot-plus line at Great Canadian Bungee, where, if you’re really brave, you can take a leap of faith on a bungee jump or, if you have a couple of days, book a rafting and bungee jumping extravaganza.
Plays in the park (and elsewhere)
If you struggled through Shakespeare in high school or college, it’s easy to assume theatre is not for you. Check out some of the spirited outdoor shows around Ottawa this summer and you’ll change your mind. Come as you are – shorts, tank top, whatever – and immerse yourself in others’ sometimes funny, sometimes tragic, always fascinating lives. Company of Fools presents Hamlet in neighbourhood parks across Ottawa and beyond, Odyssey Theatre stages the satiric The Miser in Sandy Hill’s riverside Strathcona Park and St. Lawrence Shakespeare Festival in Prescott has three shows on offer, including the family-friendly Alice in Wonderland.