Ottawa: Easy on the Environment

Story: Anna Rodrigues
Images: Phil Raby

If you’re looking for a family vacation that will allow you to ditch the car for a few days, try Ottawa.  The downtown core of our Nation’s Capital is both pedestrian and bike-friendly, so getting around isn’t a problem.  In no time at all you’ll see your carbon footprint become smaller while your wallet gets thicker with all the cash you’ll be saving on gas and parking.

Market Watch

Although it is comprised of only four street blocks, the historical ByWard Market area, also known as the birthplace of Ottawa, is jam-packed with things to see and do. There are restaurants, specialty shops, and of course, one of the oldest and largest farmers’ markets in Canada where home-grown flowers, vegetables and delicacies can be found.

If you have a sweet tooth there are two must experiences to put on your ByWard Market list.  The first one is to have a piping hot BeaverTail, the perfect indulgence to eat while listening to live music in the market.

As well, if you are curious about the Canadian Obama cookie, stop by the Le Moulin de Provence bakery to check them out.  President Obama purchased these maple leaf sugar cookies last February while in Canada for a visit and the rest, as they say, is history. The bakery has a lot more to offer than cookies, and with an outdoor patio, it’s a great place to have a coffee in the market.

A Day at the Museum

The Canadian Museum of Civilization is located in Quebec, just across from downtown Ottawa, but it is a definite must see for families visiting the area.

It is considered Canada’s largest cultural institution with over 25,000 square metres of display space all housed in an award-winning building designed by Canadian architect Douglas Cardinal.  Its permanent exhibit, the Grand Hall, is absolutely stunning with over 40 authentic totem poles in a vast gallery that also doubles as a theatre where performances take place.

Inside you will also find the Canadian Children’s Museum, a place where a child’s imagination can run freely while they explore the world, literally.  This children’s museum is divided into different international experiences so kids can experience driving a Pakistani bus, playing in a Nigerian home or watching short, animated movies in a Canadian cinema.  In all there are over 25 areas of interactive fun in this one place.

Getting to the Canadian Museum of Civilization is an easy 20-minute walk from downtown Ottawa by simply crossing over the Macdonald-Cartier Bridge.

Who’s Afraid of the Dark?

There’s no need to wait until Halloween to hear a good ghost story. The Haunted Walk of Ottawa is a good way to find out about the city’s ghoulish side while learning some history as you tour all over the downtown.

You can learn all about the scary antics going on at City Hall that don’t involve any politicians.  It turns out that part of City Hall used to be a Teacher’s College, and unfortunately a ghostly school marm still thinks she’s teaching in the empty rooms.  As well, there’s a frightening story involving a historical building with an eerie attic where too many people have seen strange things. That story might just leave you looking over your shoulder.

Before going on this walk, make sure your kids are up for it.  It’s recommended for children six and up who are prepared to walk for 90 minutes and aren’t too sensitive to scary stories.

For more info: ottawatourism.ca / 800-363-4465

Where to Stay

Since a lot of Ottawa’s main attractions lie in its downtown core, the perfect place to stay at is the Westin Ottawa, located a stone’s throw from Ottawa’s jewel in the crown, the Rideau Canal.  The Westin is offering a Family Escape package starting at $179 for a family of four.  This package includes coupons for BeaverTails Pastries, an in-room movie, but even better, kids under the age of 12 will eat for free for each paying adult at the Westin’s restaurant, Daly’s. To book: westin.com/Ottawa / 866-716-8101

© 2007-2010 Trips with Kids – Unauthorized reproduction of this article, video and images is prohibited.


Up and Away with Niagara Helicopters

Story and video: Anna Rodrigues
Image: Phil Raby

My heart is pounding. A high-pitched scream wants to escape from my mouth but I don’t bother. It wouldn’t be heard over the powerful din of the rotors circling above my head. An attendant extends his hand with a smile, letting me know where I should sit. He locks me in securely with the seat belt, hands me a headset and then the cabin door slams shut.

There’s no going back now. I am afraid of heights. Add speed to that fear and you will understand why I haven’t been on an amusement park ride since I was a young child. In mere seconds though I will be experiencing anything beyond the fastest ride I could ever imagine. I will be flying high on a Bell 407 helicopter. The pilot, Rene Huessy, introduces himself and with a whoosh, I find myself up in the air.


In 1985, a young Swiss pilot named Ruedi Hafen found himself the new president of Niagara Helicopters Limited, a business that had been around for more than twenty years under a variety of owners. The company’s main purpose was training, but Hafen decided to focus more on sightseeing and charter flights. To do this, he began adding more helicopters to his fleet of two and expanding his base of operation. Over the years, Niagara Helicopters has grown to five Bell 407 helicopters, paved helipads, and several hangars all housed in a beautiful, park-like setting that includes an indoor-outdoor snack bar and gift shop. Last year, more than 100,000 passengers from all over the globe flew in the comfortable helicopters and enjoyed discovering the Falls in a completely new way.

The beautiful Niagara landscape stretches out before me as the helicopter soars upwards. My fear of heights evaporates as I listen to the taped commentary through the headset. Below me, a variety of Niagara Falls landmarks, such as the Whirlpool Rapids and the Rainbow Bridge, are recognizable and look extraordinary from this point of view. The nine-minute aerial tour ends too quickly as the helicopter lands expertly where it all began. The attendant opens the cabin door with a smile and I hope he sees how the fear in my eyes, from a few minutes earlier, has been replaced by exhilaration.

Hot Tips:

-Call for tour group rates and reservations. Parking is free.

-The tours run year-round (except for Christmas Day) from 9:00 a.m. until sunset, weather permitting.

-A certificate of flight is provided to all passengers.

-For less mobile passengers, a wheelchair ramp provides access to the helicopters.…