There’s only one way to ensure your kids inherit your love of nature: get them outside! Here are our picks for the best parks and picnic spots in and around Ottawa.
Andrew Haydon Park
Andrew Haydon Park is a huge green space right next to the Ottawa River. Multiple play structures for children of all ages with sand taken right from the beach make for extreme fun. There are swings and a water feature, plus plenty of room to run.
You’ll find charcoal fire pits for family bbqs so make a day out of it and enjoy this beautiful area.
Located across from Carleton University, Brewer Park has everything you could ask for in a park. Big trees shade multiple play structures including toddler-friendly ones and bigger ones for older kids. Your little ones will be drawn to the fire truck while big kids will race up the structures and zoom down the slides.
There’s a waterpark area with a big slide for those really hot days and parents will appreciate the clean bathrooms on site.
For East end residents, Millennium Park is the place to be. This park boasts two impressive structures—one is a pirate ship that lets imaginations run wild, the other takes the shape of a miniature set of parliament buildings complete with two-story slide.
With space to run and play, even those in the West end will enjoy making the trip.
Richcraft Recreation Complex
If you’re in the West end, check out the Richcraft Complex. This brand new facility has all the typical park things like play structures and swings, but also a splash pad and a skate park.
It’s located right next to an indoor facility with a pool and exercise classes, plus 15km of multi-use trails if you want to explore further on bikes or on foot.
If you’re up for the hike, go to the Gatineau Hills!
Pink Lake is a great destination, but be warned: the Parkway can get really busy during peak periods. Check the NCC website for maps of trails that are a good fit for your family before you head out.
The Waterfall Trail at the Mackenzie King Estate was apparently one of our former Prime Minister’s favourite strolls, and it’s worth a visit just to see the cool ruins.
The Queen Elizabeth Drive, and Colonel By Drive, along the Rideau Canal, are also beautiful places to see some nature.
Lime Kiln Trail
Lime Kiln Trail is one of several trails within the Stony Swamp area. It’s a short hike with a big payoff. This particular one leads to the ruins of a pioneer lime factory, the kind that was common in Canada in the 1800s. It’s an easy walk, and kids of all ages will enjoy the opportunity to explore this historic site. Visually, it’s amazing. Imagine stone ruins nestled in the woods, slowly being reclaimed by the wilderness.
Stop and listen. You’ll hear nothing but silence and birdsong.
The Experimental Farm
The Experimental Farm is an oasis in the city and offers a network of trails, many of them paved, which wander among interesting trees and gardens. Look for signs on the tress that explain their species. Be warned—older kids will want to climb them!
You’ll also find free parking near the Agricultural Museum, and an easy 90-minute walking tour of the farm grounds begins there and winds its way past the Tropical Greenhouse, Arboretum, and Ornamental Gardens.
*Image courtesy Kenneth Leong
La Forêt La Blanche
La Forêt La Blanche Ecological Reserve, near Buckingham, Quebec (about an hour from Ottawa) is a 2,000-hectare protected forest with hikes and trails for all ages and abilities. This is a great way to introduce your kids to a variety of endangered plants, native birds and animals, and old-growth forests (don’t forget the mini-lecture on the need to protect ecosystems).
There is a picnic area near the Interpretation Centre.
The Rideau Hall grounds at 1 Sussex Drive are an ideal picnic destination. Here you can take an optional guided tour, or take yourselves on a self-guided tour from either entrance, following interpretive panels. There are more than 10,000 trees here for shade as well as an inuksuk, a totem pole, a play structure, water fountains and benches.
The grounds are open daily from 8 am to an hour before sunset.
Mackenzie King Estate
Mackenzie King Estate, formerly the home of Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King, is the perfect venue for an al fresco lunch. King left the entire 231-hectare estate to Canada when he died, and you can still explore restored cottages, beautifully kept gardens, ruins, and paths that lead elsewhere in the park.
The tearoom is open from May to October, so if you didn’t quite manage to get lunch packed, no worries.