Summer! Of! Awesome! 2012!

Summertime is almost upon us, and that means it’s time to Bring the Awesome. Unlike my Year of Epic posts, the Summer of Awesome is less about one-time events, and more about taking time to visit all the great ongoing attractions this city has to offer. I like to think of it as being a tourist in my own town.

It’s not enough, for me at least, just to make the list of places to go and things to see. I also actually schedule everything on our calendar. It’s not set in stone – I can make adjustments if the weather is bad or we’re just too tired. But I find unless I actually write it down, then it’s too easy to spend our days lazing around, playing endless Lego, and eventually, coming to vicious blows and wiping each other out.

Talk about Summer of DOWNER.

Over the past couple of years I have accumulated a huge list of things to do in Ottawa. One family can’t possibly do everything on the list in one season, so we’ll be picking and choosing. We’ve happily been able to visit many of the places on the list, so we’ll be giving them a break this year in favour of new things. Of course, there’s always places that we loved so much, we will be back every year that the kids can stand it. AWESOME.

Just for complete awesomeness, I’m going to list here everything that we’ve done in the past or would like to do in the future, but there’s no way we’ll actually do all this stuff. I’ve put an asterisk next to things that I plan to actually do this year, for Summer of Awesome 2012.

I hope you’ll make your own list – maybe some things from here, maybe some of your own ideas. I love reading about other people’s summer plans so please drop me a line or leave me a comment letting me know what you’re looking forward to this season.

Anyway, here goes:


Scheduled Events

Late June – RCMP Musical Ride
July 1 – Canada Day on Parliament Hill – there’s also annual celebrations in Kanata, Barrhaven, and Orleans
August long weekend – Sparks Street Busker Festival
Mid-Late August – Lumiere Festival
Labour Day weekend – Gatineau Hot Air Balloon Festival


Classic About Town Attractions

Museum of Civilization
Museum of Nature
* Museum of Science (be sure to go on a day when the steam train is running, which I think are Sundays and Wednesdays, or better yet, go during Railway Weekend, July 21/22; there’s also evening stargazing on July 6 and August 10)
Museum of Agriculture
* Aviation and Space Museum
* National Art Gallery (Artissimo crafts run on Sat and Sun at 11 a.m. over the summer)
War Museum
Currency Museum
* The City Museums – Pinhey’s Point, Billings Bridge Estate, Cumberland Heritage Museum (Pinhey’s Point in particular has kids’ activities and workshops all summer long, which we plan to check out this year)
Mackenzie King Estate
Watson’s Mill
* Parliament Hill Tours (also check out Fortissimo, a massed military band, August 9-11, or Mosaika, an amazing sound and light show running nightly from July 6 through September 3)
Rideau Hall (be sure to catch the simple Changing of the Guard ceremony that happens hourly, or pop by on Friday afternoons for storytime)
* RCMP Stables
NAC – did you know you can tour the NAC every Monday, Wednesday, or Friday at 11 a.m. or 1:30 p.m., for free?


Free (or Nearly Free) Activities About Town

* The Public Library (Just a quick word here: the city’s libraries offer more than just books. There’s a reading club all summer long, where you can earn prizes for reading, but even more than that, almost all branches offer a ton of fun classes, workshops, and activities. I was going to list some here but there are literally SO many, it would take me all day – just for any one given branch! So click here and go find some activities at your local branch – most require preregistration.)
* Splash pad parks
* Hiking in the Greenbelt – I particularly recommend the Stony Swamp Trails, one of which leads to the Wild Bird Care Centre, which you can visit for free any afternoon; or Mud Lake (link leads to Dani’s excellent description of her family’s visit)
* Alcatel-Lucent bike days on the parkway
* Picnic and rock balancing at Bate Island
* Byward Market walk and browse (well, free-ish, if you can stop yourself from buying up ALL THE FOOD); also many other Farmer’s Markets including the Carp Market, Parkdale Market, and Ottawa Farmer’s Market – see a comprehensive list of Ottawa markets over at OttawaStart)
Gatineau park (hiking, biking, camping, beaches, and caves)
* A Company of Fools – Shakespeare in the park for a modern audience
Ottawa Sports Hall of Fame
* Backyard events: water balloons, tea parties, backyard camping, gardening
* Cruise night at Hazeldean Mall, Tuesdays
* Ottawa Beaches
* Ottawa indoor and outdoor pools (okay, not free, but pretty close)
* Strawberry Picking – Cannamore Orchard (also lots of other activities here – make it a day trip!), Dekok Family Berry Farm, Shouldice – Three Locations, Proulx Berry Farm


Fancy Pants Activity Centres and Shops

* Altitude Gym Clip and Climb
Lafleche Adventure Park – including caving and aerial climbing courses
* Ray’s Reptiles
* Saunders Farm
Karters’ Korner
Valleyview Little Animal Farm
La Fleche Caves
Cosmic Adventures
Midway Family Fun Park
* Pinto Valley Ranch
* Capital City Speedway – the best value is the Capital City Summer Slam, held the first or second weekend in September – a whole day’s worth of races plus monster trucks, WOOT
Putting Edge
* Mini Golf Gardens
Skyzone Ottawa
Merivale Bowling
Ottawa Fat Cats Baseball Game (possibly in their last season)
Ottawa Fury Soccer Game (read about our super fun trip to see the Fury here)
* Chinatown Day Trip featuring The Daily Grind Cafe (sells gluten-free, vegan treats which my allergic kid an actually eat – very exciting!), Global Homeware, Kowloon Market, Bubblicity – see Andrea from the fishbowl‘s great post on how to do Chinatown right
* Movies – oh how I miss AMC’s $1 summer movies, now cancelled. GAH. However, it’s still cheap if you hit the AMC before noon (tickets are half price)
Urban Quest (great for slightly older kids or teenagers)
Haunted Walk of Ottawa
Boat Tours: Pirate Adventures, Paul’s Boat Lines
Creative Places: Gotta Paint, 4Cats, The Mud Oven, Sassy Bead Company
* Dairy Queen – we usually go once to mark the beginning of summer; our super allergic kid gets a slushy; there’s also great treats to be had at Menchies, Kiwi Kraze, or for the super allergic, coconut ice cream at Thimblecakes Cafes (now in Barrhaven)
* Destination Shopping Spots: Chapters Kanata or Indigo Barrhaven, The Comic Book Shoppe, Kaleidescope Kids, Playvalue, Toys on Fire


Day Trips/Out of Town

(obviously there’s endless possibilities here, but these are some we have tried and loved, or would like to try)
* Mont Cascades or Calypso water parks
Papanack Zoo
Parc Omega
Granby Zoo
Camp Fortune
* Camping weekend at a provincial park
* Biodome
1000 islands boat cruise to Boldt Castle – read Allison’s review of it here
Upper Canada Village
Wakefield Steam Train (closed this year; hoping to reopen a limited part of the track in 2014)
Toronto activities: Canada’s Wonderland, Museum of Science, Zoo, Centre Island, CN Tower, Casa Loma
Niagara Falls: including Maid of the Mist and Marineland

7 thoughts on “Summer! Of! Awesome! 2012!

  1. Melanie Jackson

    Super list! I’ve bookmarked it so that I can find it when the kids start to complain about being bored this summer 🙂
    I’m not sure whether there’s a Cineplex theatre near you, but they have a family movie program Saturday mornings at 11. The movies are older, but admission is only $2.50.

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