We’ve been busier in August with a lot of errands and obligations, as well as back to school shopping – already! I have mixed feelings about the end of summer – on one hand it will be good to have bickering-free time to myself again, on the other hand I dread lunches and homework and also I actually will miss the little people. At least Sir Monkeypants has the last two weeks of August off, so it will likely be quiet around the ol’ blog as we send summer out with a bang.
In the meantime, here’s a few more mini updates in case you’re still looking for something to do.
Rideau Hall. I love it at Rideau Hall, and the kids had a fairly good time. It certainly helped that I had to stop on Elgin Street on the way there for an errand, and the kids got to pick up a big bag of candy at rarely-visited Sugar Mountain. Once there we settled in for a picnic lunch (with candy dessert) and spent a LOT of time on their play structure (which is nice, but nothing super special, telling me the kids have not been to the park often enough this summer, doh).
I wouldn’t say the kids were crazy about Rideau Hall, but it was a lovely, quiet, calm day, with lots of room to run around if you want to burn off some steam. Highlights included crafts in the visitor centre (they designed their own coat of arms); watching the mini Changing of the Guard (much quicker than on Parliament Hill, and you can walk along the road with the soldiers which is fun); wishing in the two fountains; and running all over the grounds to find trees planted by famous people (leading to a discussion of both tree species and historical world leaders – the Captain was especially interested in both). Not as good: the tour of the building, which actually was fascinating and our guide was totally awesome at getting the kids involved, but at an hour long, it was just a smidgeon past their patience point and the last 10 minutes or so involved a lot of lecturing and eye rolling. Still worth it, though, in my opinion.
Tips: It’s all street parking around Rideau Hall, so be prepared for a bit of a walk – strollers on the grounds are just fine. Definitely bring a picnic or snacks as there’s nowhere to buy food on site and you’re far from everything and anything else. If you head out on a Friday or Saturday, there’s storytime in the afternoons near the visitor centre. Big Tip: There’s a fall festival happening on September 8th that will allow you access to the lovely back gardens and greenhouses, which are not part of the regular tour.
Company of Fools. The Fools are a Shakespearean acting company that tour Ottawa area parks all summer long with outdoor performances. I’ve been wanting to go for years because I love me some Shakespeare but always backed out at the last minute because the kids seemed too small to handle the late night and weird language. We finally went this year and I was delighted that the kids actually really liked it. Our youngest, at age 7, was probably the littlest kid there that was actually able to sit through it and pay attention (there were a few younger kids who all toddled off mid-performance to use the play structure, also a totally valid option). It absolutely helped that we talked about the play a LOT before hand – As You Like It. I told them about the language, and most importantly, actually performed a simplified version of the whole play using Lego characters (I gave them a “cast list” and they had to go off and build all the characters and sets for me, and then I played all the parts in a Totes Hilarious manner, if I do say so myself).
I thought the play might be simplified for the masses – either the language changed or made shorter – but no, it was the full play with the full text, so if you’re thinking of going, definitely prepare your kids for that. Having them know the basics of the plot and characters in advance is essential, I’d say. That said, there were plenty of surprises and the kids laughed – THEY LAUGHED AT SHAKESPEARE – and we all had a good time. AT A PLAY. It was a minor miracle.
Tips: Tickets are not required; you pay after the play in a pass-the-hat fashion. They recommend $15 per person but we decided to give $40 for our entire family of five. It’s up to you, but bring cash – although they do have a credit card machine with them, it’s just easier and faster when you’re trying to get the kids home to bed (the show ran until 8:45 so it’s a late night for a preschooler). Try to arrive early – if you’re with kids, an hour in advance is a good idea to get seats near the front – and respect the Outdoor Venue code of blankets up front, chairs in the back. A few early-arriving families had started the first row of chairs back far enough to allow for two or three blankets in front of them, then put down a blanket for their kids, too, so the little ones could see while parents sat in comfort. They also had brought coolers full of snacks which is pretty genius.
Note that the shows run rain or shine (only cancelled in the case of severe thunderstorms) so if it’s a drizzly night, throw on a raincoat and bring an umbrella and head out anyway. You can see their full (remaining) schedule on their website to find a park near you.
Funhaven. It was so cold and rainy last week that I had to abandon my plans for various outdoor activities and cave in to Funhaven. I usually avoid it because it’s pretty expensive, but as our only outing for the week I figured it was worth the splurge. The kids, predictably, had a fantastic time.
The Little Miss is finally tall enough to ride the bumper cars (the height minimum is 44 inches) and they had a great time on those, as well as in the jungle gym area (socks required!!), in the arcade, and playing laser tag. We were there for five hours and probably could have stayed longer.
I was afraid it would be packed due to the cold, rainy weather, but despite the presence of two day camps it was pretty quiet – we never had to wait for anything. It helped that it was a Thursday, and we got there shortly after the 10 a.m. opening. Things picked up a bit by 2 p.m. or so but we never felt over crowded.
Tips: Funhaven has a special promotion on where if you go Monday through Thursday, you can add unlimited laser tag to your entrance package for the same price as a single game – woot! But, even though it’s unlimited, you still need a ticket for each game you want to play – so plan ahead and pick up a ticket from the front desk well in advance of when you want to play (you might even want to pick up tickets for a few games in a row while you’re there). Also, there’s no outside food allowed at Funhaven (although I did see some mothers with toddlers handing out bottles/sippy cups) – I would recommend bringing a water bottle or two (there’s a handy refill station near the bathrooms).
Wear comfy shoes, as you’ll be on your feet the whole time, and if you don’t have a stroller with you, be sure to bring a backpack to hold prizes from the arcade, cast-off sweatshirts, water bottles, and souvenir cups from the snack stand. Don’t forget to wear or bring socks if you want to play in the jungle gym area – parents too, as you might find yourself crawling in to rescue a stuck kid. In fact, one great thing about Funhaven is that parents don’t have to pay an entry fee, but are given a lot of liberty to supervise their kids – you can go inside the laser tag arena, for example, if you have a small child and think they might need help or reassurance, even if you aren’t playing yourself (but, uh, consider playing yourself because TOTES FUN).
Another Funhaven plus is that they do try to accommodate a range of ages; I saw lots of babies and toddlers in their little people play area, preschoolers running around the jungle gym and bowling, while bigger kids played laser tag and rode the bumper cars. So if you have a wide age range of kids, it’s a great place for everyone to play.