Free Events In Ottawa You Don’t Want To Miss For Canada’s 150th!

Ottawa should be at the top of your list of must-visit destinations for Canada’s 150th birthday celebration this summer with an abundance of events guaranteed to get you in party mode.  

summer vacation

Ottawa is set to host some of its biggest and best events – ever – this summer, in celebration of Canada’s 150th birthday. We may be getting older Canada, but definitely not boring. 

Lucky visitors will be treated to a terrific assortment of FREE world-class events that will run throughout the summer. As for residents of Ottawa, there’s no better time to play tourist in your own city than in 2017! So, if you missed out on purchasing tickets to some of the Canada 150 events, don’t despair. There are plenty of fabulous things to see and do in the Capital this summer!

And did we mention? They are FREE!

Ottawa Welcomes The World

Ottawa is a diverse city, made even more diverse thanks to the large number of embassies and high commissions located here. Ottawa Welcomes The World will see 46 embassies and high commissions welcoming visitors to Ottawa’s Aberdeen Pavilion and Horticulture Building, to mark their country’s national celebration. Visitors can enjoy multicultural artistic performances, music, and foods from around the world (minimal fees apply to food and beverage sampling). Be sure to check the Ottawa Welcomes The World schedule, on the Ottawa 2017 website, for details. 

Free events in Ottawa, Ottawa Welcomes The World Ottawa 2017 Canada 150

Image Courtesy of Ottawa 2017

Inspiration Village

This spring, Ottawa’s historic market area plays host to multiple sea containers, forming a “village” that will feature special exhibits and events that showcase each of Canada’s provinces and territories. Fun for the whole family, Inspiration Village will present visitors with culinary demonstrations, live entertainment performances, several fun photo ops with Canadian props, and the chance to share your story about Canada, and your vision for our country’s future. And that’s just the tip of the Newfoundland iceberg! Be sure to check online starting in mid-May for a full list of everything happening at Inspiration Village for Canada 150. 

Free events in Ottawa, Inspiration Village Ottawa 2017 Canada 150

Image Courtesy of Ottawa 2017

Kontinuum

For those of us who live in Ottawa, we’ve been hearing about the Ottawa’s Light Rail Transit (LRT) for a long time now. This summer, residents and visitors will finally be able to see what has been going on under our feet for the last few years! Kontinuum, taking place for Canada 150 at Lyon Station, promises “an ultimate underground experience with a futuristic and immersive multimedia production” showcasing “this innovative mode of travel” that will “build anticipation for this new era of transportation in the nation’s capital.” All aboard!

Free events in Ottawa

Canada Day Celebration

Ottawa’s Canada Day celebration is something that every Canadian should get to experience at least once in their lifetime. There really is no other Canada Day celebration – or fireworks display – like it.

Ottawa is set to host the biggest Canada Day celebration yet, on July 1, 2017. Parliament Hill, and the surrounding downtown core, will be ready to host thousands upon thousands of visitors from across the country, and around the world. This will be one huge Canada 150 party!

Festivities start early at 9 a.m. with a flag raising ceremony, and the Changing of the Guard. Don’t miss the iconic Snowbirds, with their thrilling acrobatics over Parliament Hill, at noon. Enjoy the noon hour entertainment show featuring the talent of local, and national, Canadian performers. Spend time enjoying numerous Canada Day festivities during the afternoon, and then get ready for an evening of stellar performances from some of your favourite Canadian entertainers. Cap off Canada’s 150th birthday with a bang watching the fireworks finale over Parliament Hill’s Peace Tower!

Free Events in Ottawa, Canada Day Celebrations Parliament Hill Ottawa

Image Courtesy of Canadian Tourism Commission

La Machine

These are the things my worst nightmares are made of.  I can handle a giant fire-breathing dragon but, a giant (walking!) spider? Oh my! I go weak in the knees just thinking about it. I may be a huge arachnophobe, however, I must admit that I am very much looking forward to standing amongst the mesmerizing creatures of La Machine this summer.

After doing a little research on La Machine, I can assure you, it’s going to be sight to behold; definitely one of those “once-in-a-lifetime” events.

Based out of Nantes, France, La Machine makes its North American debut right here on the streets of downtown Ottawa. This “ambulatory urban theatre” is sure to be a crowd pleaser. So join me, face your worst fears this summer, and come see La Machine in Ottawa July 27-30th. Something tells me you won’t regret it!

free event in Ottaw, La Machine Ottawa 2017 Canada 150

Image Courtesy of Ottawa 2017

MosaiCanada 150

Technically, MosaiCanada 150 is not happening in Ottawa, it’s happening at Jacques-Cartier Park in Gatineau, Quebec, just over the Jacques-Cartier bridge from downtown Ottawa. However, this mosaiculture event is a free must-see spectacle of magical horticultural creations that is sure to be well worth the short drive across the bridge. 

free events in Ottawa, Mosai Canada 150 Mosaiculture Horse

Image Courtesy of Canadian Blog House

For more information on these and all the other special Canada 150 events and activities taking place in Ottawa this year, be sure to check out the Ottawa 2017 and Ottawa Tourism websites. And if you love apps and social media like I do, download the Ottawa 2017 mobile app for even more fun!




RV’ing is Our Escape Hatch And Why It Might Be Just Right For You Too

My family has been known to suffer from affluenza. We have too much of everything – too much clutter, too much to do, too much busyness. Both my husband and I are self-employed and there are often weeks when we both work 50-60 hours due to our type A personalities. Both of our daughters are also actively involved in extracurriculars that take about 8 hours a week of their “spare” time. Once you’ve added in all of the typical things that come with a house and kids such as groceries, chores, homework, laundry, and social visits, our life goes from zero to eighty really quickly. While we love it most of the time, it can be a little overwhelming. In order to preserve what’s left of my sanity, when I start to feel like I’m drowning in stuff and things to do, I reach for our escape hatch.

Our escape hatch happens to sit on six wheels and is 40 feet long. If you saw it on the road, it would look like any other motorhome, but to us, it’s much more than that. Our RV has become our shelter from the storms of life and our collective reset button. Our RV is where we go when the outside world has us texting each other instead of talking to each other, when we are paying more attention to other commitments than family, and when we just need to escape for a little bit.

RV Escape, camping in Lake George

Happy Together

While our regular home isn’t huge, it’s more than large enough for everyone to have their own space and not see each other. With the demands of work, school, and outside activities, it’s quite easy to lose ourselves in our own little world – whether it’s the bedroom or the office. Our family containment unit aka our RV doesn’t allow for that kind of isolation. In the RV, chances are if I’m reading a book I’ll have a head in my lap, and fingers in my hair. There’s not enough room to walk past another person without noticing them and passing family members in the hall is considered mandatory grounds for a hug. Tight spaces (within reason) makes for a tight family.

RV escape, taking time to connect, father daughter time

Outside Time

We are a pretty outdoorsy family when we’re at home, but once we’re in the RV you might as well put us on The Amazing Race. The closeness of RV living is wonderful but it also forces you outside its rather confining walls. It doesn’t take long to go from “it’s so great that we’re all together” to “GET ON YOUR BIKE” when everybody is in tight quarters. When we are out in the RV, my kids wear their scruffy hair, dirty fingernails, and bare feet like badges of honour.

RV escape, outdoor time, biking, active family

Making Mountains into Molehills

It’s amazing how, once we’re in the RV and our problems are in the rear-view mirror (even if only for a short while), the big things become small things. Whether it’s the change in scenery, the relaxed feeling I associate with our RV, or just how having everyone together makes it easier to sort out any problems; I think more clearly whenever we’re travelling in our RV. Some of my best “a-ha” moments have happened while sitting in the RV watching the road unwind ahead of me. The kids like the break that escaping in our RV gives them from the stress of school and sports, even if it’s only a brief escape.

RV escape, road ahead, getting away from it all, Florida keys

Sleep Reset

My whole family has a tendency to burn the candle at both ends, especially as the end of the year looms. We tend to run on a sleep deficit year-round, but as we get busier and busier, the days become more filled with obligations and the nights become shorter as we try to cram everything in. When we’re out in the RV, we typically spend so much time outside being active that lights out can be as early as 8pm.  The best part about life in the RV is that there aren’t any of the big responsibilities to take care of: no driveway to shovel, no lawn to mow, and no pool to clean. Freed of these responsibilities, we can sleep soundly knowing that the only thing left unfinished might be a game of Jenga, or a puzzle we were too tired to finish.  Unlike more traditional vacations where I’ve been known to return more frazzled than when I left, an RV escape leaves us all rested and ready to take on the world.

RV escape, fishing in RV park, Florida Keys, Boyd's Campground Keys

Cleaning

Okay, I know this is going to sound a little crazy, but I love cleaning my RV. I know I’m not the only woman who obsesses about having a clean house, and the RV makes it so easy to stay on top of cleaning. At home, it takes about one full day per week to clean the house. It takes approximately thirty minutes for me to do a full weekly clean of the RV. There’s a lot less surface space in the RV and there’s less “stuff” lying around too. I may also lower the bar just a bit in the RV – I’ve been known to leave a glass in the sink all day (but not overnight, that’s just madness).

RV escape, cooking in RV

Our RV is not only transportation for our family vacations, but it truly is our family escape hatch. Almost as soon as I return from one trip in the family containment unit, I start planning our next collective reset. For my family, at least, R&R happens best in a third R – the RV.




The Best Indoor Activities in Tremblant

Tremblant is a dream destination for outdoor enthusiasts. Year-round, nature lovers and adrenaline junkies get their thrills pursuing any number of outdoor activities at this premier destination in the Laurentian Mountains of Quebec. Still, even the most hardcore tree-huggers, must occasionally retreat indoors. Thankfully, there are a number of indoor activities in Tremblant to please every member of your family. 

Aquaclub La Source

No matter what time of year you visit Tremblant don’t forget your swimsuit! Located in the heart of the Pedestrian Village, the Aquaclub La Source is the perfect place to tip your toes any time of year. In the winter, guests unwind in the hot tub after a day on the hill or swing from a rope over the indoor pool. In the summer months, an outdoor pool is the perfect place to cool off.  

indoor activities in Tremblant

Finally, if on the off chance you haven’t burned enough calories outdoors, there is a indoor fitness facility in case you want to burn off that extra Beavertail you had. Hey, this is a judgement-free zone.  

TBar

The TBar is found at the top of the Pedestrian Village and is the perfect place to let your inner fashion designer let loose.  Visitors can choose from a variety of t-shirts, sweats and even baby onesies to leave with the perfect souvenir. 

indoor activities in Tremblant

The TBar caters to the super artistic in your group and the kinda lazy. My daughters chose to painstakingly paint a elaborate floral design shirt. I decided picking out a screen design and having the staff at TBar put it on was enough effort for me. Either way, we all left winners.

indoor activities in Tremblant, t-shirt making

In the summer, visitors can create their masterpiece outside on the terrasse and in the winter, the TBar is a great place to shake off the chill. 

Le Studio Créatif

Unleashing the artist in you is super easy in Tremblant. At Le Studio Créatif visitors can choose from a wide array of ceramic pieces from whimsical to practical, then paint it to suit their tastes. 

indoor activities in Tremblant

Mission Liberté

If you haven’t tried an escape room type game yet, then trust me when I say, you’re not as smart as you think you are. So after you’ve worked your muscles outdoors, head to Mission Liberté to flex your mental muscles. 

indoor activities in Tremblant, mission liberte, escape room

Guests can choose from five challenges rated for difficulty on a scale of 1 to 10. We chose the Explosion Challenge at a difficulty rating of 7.5. Bottom line? We were virtually responsible for 25,000 fans meeting their maker. Oopsie.

If you’re with kids, or you have someone like me with you, be sure to opt for a lower difficulty level to avoid frustration. Take a few minutes to read the description of each challenge here.

indoor activities in Tremblant

No matter how you fare playing the game, Mission Liberté is great fun with your travel group. 

Shopping

If you are scoffing at shopping as an indoor activity, then we probably can’t be friends. I love the shops that line the promenade through the village and have spent many, many hours and dollars picking up some great finds. 

Indoor Activities in Tremblant

Personal favourites include RootsAdrénaline, Burton, and La Raffinerie

Univers Toutou

If you have a kid, you probably tuck them in with five bazillion stuffies nightly. Be prepared to add one more.

Indoor activities in Tremblant

Univers Toutou lets your youngins’ make their own plush toy from scratch. At the very least you’ll keep your kids amused for a while, and if you’re really lucky, they’ll leave with a lifetime friend. 

Coming Soon! Laser Tag

It could be just me, but there is something incredibly gratifying about taking your kids down in a game of laser tag. I make zero apologies for my competitive nature. I’m so excited to hear that Tremblant will soon have a Laser Tag facility in the village. Game on. 

indoor activities in Tremblant 

If you’ve worked up an appetite be sure to check out the best dining options in Tremblant from budget to gourmet! 

dining in tremblant, cheese, raclette, fondue

 




The Agawa Canyon Railway Tour – A Beautiful Way to Explore Ontario

With Canada’s 150th birthday approaching, have you wondered what Canada looked like at the time of Confederation – or even earlier? If you’ve ever wanted to step back in time and see what much of Canada looked like hundreds of years ago, all without leaving the province then the Agawa Canyon Railway Tour is a great window to the past.

Agawa Canyon Railway Tour

Most of the 10 hour round trip train ride into the Agawa Canyon is out of reach of cell service – phones and tablets read “no service” and teens, tweens, and some hyper-connected adults may hyperventilate a little. It’s part of the rugged charm of being so remote that most of the places seen from the train are not accessible by car because there are no roads. The only way into the park is by train or backcountry hiking (the train is by far the more relaxing of the two options). Everyone needs to step back, take a deep breath, and resist the urge to panic. A day out of cell phone contact is not the end of the world; everything will still be there when you return to full signal strength. Plus who wants to be on social media when there is breathtaking natural scenery everywhere you turn? Instead of connecting to Wi-Fi, you can take the time to connect with your family and with the depth and breadth of the great Canadian wilderness.

Agawa Canyon Railway

The Algoma Central Railway broke ground in 1900 in Sault Ste. Marie and completed to Hearst in 1914 after plans to continue it further north to Hudson’s Bay were abandoned.  The railway’s initial purpose was to carry resources and material into Sault Ste. Marie, but now the train carries only passengers yearning to explore somewhere still untouched by the modern world.  When the train arrives at Mile 114, otherwise known as Canyon Park, you won’t find chain restaurants, strip malls, or amusement park rides waiting for you. Instead, you will find pristine natural beauty, all at the bottom of the Agawa Canyon. 

Agawa Canyon Railway, Northern Ontario, Sault Ste. Marie

As we rode the rails deeper into the Agawa Canyon, I kept thinking to myself that this is how most of Canada looked when the first settlers arrived hundreds of years ago: rugged, vast, dense, and breathtakingly beautiful. I felt very small in comparison to the vastness surrounding me. My children, conversely, felt like giants as they saw their country with fresh new eyes and a sense of awe. They had so many questions about what they were seeing. How long does this go on? Do people actually live out here? Are there bears in the forest? How was the railway built? How many people did it take to build the railway? What happened in the winter when it was snowing? Are we going to see a moose?

Agawa Canyon Railway, train tour, Canada 150, exploring

Thankfully, I didn’t need to answer any of those questions because the train has flat screen televisions throughout that have GPS triggered commentary. Passengers will learn about the history of the Algoma Central Railway, told in a way that brings history to life. The commentary is peppered with fun facts like the one about the special whistle that had to be invented to scare off moose because some moose like to charge moving objects such as trains. My kids loved this fact and now think that moose are at Clint Eastwood coolness levels.

Railway Tour through Agawa Canyon

Spoiler alert – we did not, in fact see any moose. However, when we stepped off the train, I felt like an explorer touching down on uncharted soil (despite the fact that well over 300,000 people have made this journey before me). Seeing the natural beauty that surrounded me, it was easy to see why so many of the members of the Group of Seven came here for inspiration. From the towering height of the canyon itself to the black and gold waters of the Agawa River, to the rushing waters of Black Beaver Falls, artistic inspiration is everywhere.

Railway Tour to untouched wilderness

 

After our hour and a half layover in the park, we re-boarded the train for the journey back to Sault Ste. Marie. Like the journey there, it was leisurely, unhurried, and full of time to talk. As a family we snuggled, napped, gazed at the landscape zipping by, and pondered coming back to do some of the adventure trips on offer. We were torn between snowmobiling in the winter and camping in a rail car at the bottom of the canyon in the summer. As we approached the end of our journey, I noticed that I once again had cellular service so I did the only thing I could think of: I slipped the phone back into my purse and enjoyed being out of reach for just a bit longer.

Railway Tour, Ontario, Sault Ste. Marie

If You Go:

Bring on the train:

  • A Picnic lunch if you’re so inclined; otherwise you can enjoy both breakfast and lunch in the dining car.
  • A Blanket – the train can get a bit chilly and a soft blanket is great for napping with
  • Your Camera – (fully charged) – you’ll want to take lots of pictures
  • Playing cards, colouring books, reading books – some quiet entertainment for everyone.

Stay:

  • At Glenview Cottages and Campground. This lovely campground keeps you in the wilderness state of mind. If you are bringing your own accommodations, like we did, they have a great site for RVs with pull-thrus and full service hook-ups available. If you prefer buildings, there are camper cabins and cottages on site to rent. The location is very central – so you’re not far from any of the area attractions. As an added bonus there’s an indoor hot tub and sauna, and an outdoor pool for the summer.

See:

  • Sault Ste. Marie isn’t a day trip – but you wouldn’t want it to be when there’s so much to do in Algoma Country! You should visit Pancake Bay Provincial Park – voted best beach on both sides of Lake Superior. You can also tour the Canadian Bushplane Heritage Centre to see how bushplane and forest fire operations have changed over the years. Explore the natural beauty of the area by car, RV, rail, ATV, boat, or snowmobile.

 




Dogsledding in Mont Tremblant with Expedition Wolf

There are few things that tug on my heartstrings quite like dogs do. So when my daughters and I had the opportunity to try dogsledding in Mont Tremblant we jumped at the chance. 

dogsledding in Tremblant

Dogsledding is as old as Canada and it’s origins can be traced back to our northern Aboriginal people. When fur traders and explorers arrived on the scene they found dogsledding a most efficient way to get around town. The rest as they say is history; dogsledding is as Canadian as maple syrup, back bacon and poutine.

I will admit that I had my reservations about dogsledding.  My dog, a Golden Doodle, is nothing short of a princess. She has full access to beds and couches, and I’m quite sure if you asked her to “work” for a living, she’d faint with disbelief. The Husky, as I’ve since learned, does not want any of your lazing about. These dogs want to pull, they long to run, and asking them to sit still is nothing short of cruelty. 

When we arrived at Expedition Wolf, we were greeted by the owners and our guides. We were given a quick briefing inside their building, and then we walked across the street to meet our dog team. 

dogsledding in Tremblant, Huskies

The staff and owners at Expedition Wolf are excellent. They are absolutely devoted to the over 200 dogs they keep on premises and it shows. They know every single dog by name, and introduce guests to their dogsled team one by one. After a brief introduction, guests lead their dogs to their sled to be hitched up. Guides then show guests how to drive their sled so that the dogs don’t get hurt. 

dogsledding in Mont Tremblant

Typically, one person will drive the sled and one person can travel in luxury wrapped up in blankets. Guess which position I opted for? 

dogsledding in Tremblant

In total, we spent about an hour traveling with our dog team through a breathtaking Quebec forest, with a nice break for hot chocolate and cookies. Expedition Wolf is roughly a 35 minute drive from the Mont Tremblant Village; guests can drive themselves or take advantage of the transportation provided when booking through the Tremblant Activity Centre

Upon return to the kennel, guests help unhitch the dogs and return them to their kennel. If you’re lucky enough, you may even be there when there are puppies! PUPPIES!

dogsledding in Mont Tremblant

As tempting as it was to tuck one (ok, the whole litter) in our coats, I gained a new appreciation and respect for the Husky and Malamute breeds from our time at Expedition Wolf. As lovely and sweet as these dogs are, they need super active families and wide open spaces to play. If you can not offer that, then this is not the breed for you. We had the pleasure of meeting Skyla, a rescue who was given to Expedition Wolf after her owners realized that they couldn’t keep up with her energetic personality. As you can see below, she seems to have found her happy place at Expedition Wolf. 

dogsledding in Mont Tremblant

Dogsledding in Mont Tremblant is the perfect family activity when visiting. There are four experiences to choose from and this excursion can only be booked during the winter months. Be sure to dress warm and have hand and foot warmers, as well as face masks with you. 

You can see more of our dogsledding trip through the woods on the video below.

Life in Pleasantville was invited to experience dogsledding at Expedition Wolf through the Tremblant Activity Centre. All opinions expressed are mine.