I took the kids on a walking tour of downtown Ottawa this week to look at statues and other outdoor art, with my friend Tudor and her two boys. Here in Ottawa you can’t really turn around without falling over another statue or memorial or monument, and there are some that are really interesting, and I really, really wanted to check them all out. In fact, I wish I could have gone to ALL of them, like literally every single one in the city, but in the end I had to try to restrict myself to a reasonable downtown area. And even then, it wasn’t all that reasonable as we were walking around for FOUR hours and enthusiasm, I’m sure you can imagine, waned a bit at the end there.
But overall I had a good time and although I’m not sure this will be THE event of the summer, I think the kids liked it okay, and learned quite a bit about Ottawa and history and what they would and would not consider art, so that’s definitely a summertime win. Plus, they now have a few favourites so next time we are downtown, we can be sure to revisit the best ones and spend more time there and hopefully make a lasting happy memory.
I wanted it to be a little interactive for the kids so I set up our walking tour like an Amazing Race – I had a pile of clues and I gave the kids them one at a time to lead them to the next statue. Each kid also had a map of downtown that they could mark things on, or use to trace their route. I’d say this approach had mixed success. Since we had a variety of ages, I made the clues really simple (along the lines of, “Go north a block, and look for some giant stones”) and the older boys (aged 13, 12, and 11) found that got pretty boring after a while, although the level of clues was perfect for my almost-8-year-old, so not sure I could have found clues that would work for the whole group anyway.
I’d say, if I were to do it again, I’d revamp it and do one of the following instead:
For an older tween or teen crowd, I’d reduce the number of statues, and make the clues way harder – number puzzles or word scrambles or history clues that require lookup on a smartphone.
Or, also for an older crowd, keep the simple clues but rather than handing them out one by one, give them the whole list of clues, divide them into teams, and make it into a race.
For younger kids, instead of clues, maybe lead them on the walking tour and give them a scavenger hunt list – say they need to watch out for a “bronze feather” or a “statue made of wood” or “someone wearing a three-pointed hat” or things like that. In fact, I think this is my favourite idea.
Or, also for younger kids, go totally laid back and just take them to a specific area – city hall, or Major’s Hill Park, or Parliament Hill – and have them wander freely and find what they are going to find; possibly gently guide them to a few hidden statues of particular interest.
I’ll leave those ideas as an exercise to the reader.
We ended the tour with ice cream in the market and let me say that the promise of ice cream, as well as snacks and pop and candy along the way, went a LONG way to making this event a success. Things to pack, in addition to sugar (or pocket money to purchase sugar along the way): sunscreen, hats, camera, lots of water, clipboards (OMG, there was SO MUCH love for the dollar store clipboards I brought); possibly a compass for the directionally challenged.
Below you’ll find links to the stuff I used, including the list of statues we went to, maps used, and clue sheets, if they can be of use to you. There are 37 statues on the main list, with a few bonus ones you can go see if you’re up for some side trips, but as I mentioned above it took us almost 4 hours to do this walk, which is almost 7 km long, including breaks for rests/snacks/drinks and the end walk back to the car. For smaller kids I would definitely recommend shortening this up. Either you can have a look at the full list and make your own hit list, or I would recommend just focusing on some or all of these that were favourites of my own kids:
- #3 – The Living Room, City Hall
- #7 – Ottawa Firefighters Memorial, City Hall
- #11 – Kwakiutl Totem, Confederation Park
- #12 – Animals In War/Boer War Memorial, Confederation Park
- #13 – Oscar Peterson outside the NAC
- #19 – Grizzly Bear (“Territorial Prerogative”) on Sparks Street
- #22 – Famous Five on Parliament Hill
- #23 – Lafontaine and Baldwin Statue – Whispering Wall, Parliament Hill
- #27 – Ruins of Colonel By’s home, Major’s Hill Park
- #28 – Anishinabe Scout, Major’s Hill Park
- #31 – Maman, National Gallery
- #32 – Majestic (Lampposts from Hurricane Katrina), National Gallery
- #33 – One Hundred Foot Line, National Gallery
- #37 – Dancing Bear, Jeanne D’Arc Court in the Market
Here’s a link to my full document.
Here’s a link to just the “clues” if you want to print them out for the kids to use.
Here’s a link to my Google Map that lays out the whole route, and marks the exact location of each statue.
Just let me know if you have any questions – I’d be happy to chat about it!
6 thoughts on “Ottawa Statues Walking Tour”
Everybody must know Lynn was AMAZING, AMAZING, AMAZING to plan this. Did I mention AMAZING? As I told her, I believe it’s really great / important to just walk through your city now and then. To go downtown. To remember it’s easy, and accessible, and friendly. This was a really good guided way to get hands-on with Ottawa. I was born here, and have lived here almost my whole life – just a few breaks now and then – and there were things I’ve never seen before that I saw on the statues tour. And now my kids have seen those things and they’re only 11 and 13!
Thank you again so much Lynn! And I love spending time with your kids … they’re so nice, and funny, and smart 🙂
that looks great Lynn! I love stuff like this 🙂 the only time I planned something similar was on one of our trips to NYC when the boys were around 5&8 . I really wanted to walk the length of Central Park with them so I planned a “scavenger hunt” check list kind of thing.. where they had to check out various statues, bridges, fountains along the route! the internet was great help in the planning, and it did the trick! they walked the entire way, often running ahead to find the next item on the list! it was well worth the time spent ahead planning it 🙂
Will you adopt me and take me on the next statue walk?! I’ll be a big kid or a little kid, either one, and I promise not to whine for ice cream the WHOLE time…
What a fabulous outing, Lynn! I’m going to check out all the links and add my fave statue, the boy and girl on the bench outside the National Archives. Still don’t know the story of that one!
What a cool idea. I am in awe of your talents! I’m wondering if I could do something similar here in Toronto. We could track all the construction, for example, which would begin steps away from our house…lol. Sigh.
My dad is a tour guide and would probably love the idea of something like this in Toronto. Next time we come to Ottawa I’m bookmarking this post. Thanks!!
Happy summer. 🙂
Ha! Love the idea of a construction tour. If only my oldest was still five – he was SO into it then. Hope the construction around you ends soon!
Construction never ends. Kinda like hockey ’round here… 🙂
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