Summer staycation: Choose a direction for a fun family day trip from Ottawa

by DaniGirl on August 7, 2013 · 1 comment

in Ottawa Family Fun

No big vacation plans for you this summer? No problem! Whether you want to go north, south, east or west, here’s four suggestions for great little family-friendly day trips that you can take from Ottawa. A change is as good as a rest, right?

1. North to Wakefield, Quebec

We discovered Wakefield on my birthday last summer. It’s about an hour’s drive from our place, but probably less than half an hour from downtown. The scenic drive up Autoroute 5 is straight off the King Edward bridge and easy to find, and the drive is lovely! The red covered bridge for which Wakefield is known is a wee drive outside the village core and a bit too far to walk, but worth the extra effort.

Wakefield

If you go, don’t miss the covered bridge, the bakery, the candy store, the eclectic little shops, the great little restaurants (we liked Kaffe 1870) and the old-fashioned round-about for the old steam train (which I hear will be running again in 2014!)

2. West to Almonte, Ontario

Our trip to Almonte last year was a Mother’s Day present to me. (Do you sense a theme here? Oh yes, I will totally play the mom card to coerce the kids into tolerating a road trip on my behalf!) Almonte is a picturesque little town maybe 45 minutes due west of here. You can get there off the 417, but I prefer the back roads that march through farm and forest as the Canadian Shield fights the Ottawa Valley for dominance.

We were antiquing in Almonte and found lots of cute little shops in which to browse. My favourite by far, though, was my main reason for wanting to go: the Tin Barn Market. It’s a good thing this little shop is a two-hour round-trip drive from Manotick or I swear I would have no money left for groceries each week. They have the most amazing selection of eclectic used, repurposed and vintage things you could ever imagine. We also checked out the Almonte Flea Market, looking for a replacement for our old favourite the Antrim Flea Market, which ceased operations in 2011. It was still early in the season when we visited, but there were a good number of vendors with interesting items there.

Mother's Day in Almonte

If vintage and repurposed isn’t your thing, you’ll still likely enjoy a walk along Almonte’s river walk, where you can see some of the textile mills that contributed to the founding of the town. It’s a lovely walk in any season! And if you’re in the mood for a truly gorgeous scene, just zip another 15 minutes along the Mississippi River to Pakenham, where you can see the old five-arch stone bridge.

One autumn day in Pakenham

3. East to Lachute, Quebec

You might have sensed a theme here. We love flea markets. LOVE them. I don’t even need to buy a lot of stuff, I am just completely fascinated by the browsing. But the buying is fun, too, and the boys like the treasure-hunting aspect of perusing a good flea market. It’s a bit of a surprise, then, that before this year we’d never made the two-hour trek out to Lachute, Quebec for the Lachute Farmers Market, the “largest flea market in Western Quebec.” (We knew we had to go when we saw it featured on Canadian Pickers last year!)

It was a zoo, the biggest, craziest, busiest flea market we’ve ever seen. We had to wait in traffic for 10 minutes just to get near enough to park, and people were parking *everywhere*. It turns out that the day we went (it runs Sunday and Tuesday, but Tuesday is the bigger day) was during Quebec’s annual construction holiday, so that may have been a bit of a tactical error on our part. But crowds aside, I have never seen a flea market like this – they had the usual grey-market knock-off stuff, but rows and rows of it, so much that we couldn’t at first find the vintage stuff we were looking for. (You know it’s a big flea market when you can’t get oriented and wish you had a map!) They had live music, a little restaurant, stupidly long lineups for the washrooms, pony rides and even livestock among the trash and treasures for sale.

Flea market

I seriously regret not buying the old wooden spindles I saw ($4 each) and the vintage tin spinning top ($20). And I wish we’d had more time to take in this advice I got in reply to my tweet about the madness of the flea market, but it was just too crowded to linger and we didn’t want to leave Bella in her crate too late.

Next time we go, we will head out much earlier. By noon many of the vintage and antiques sellers were already packing up their tables. If you love flea markets with a festival flavour, you’ll love Lachute!

4. South to Morrisburg and Upper Canada Village
At least once a year, we make our way down Highway 31 (otherwise known as Bank Street) past Metcalfe, through Vernon and Williamsburg (be sure to admire the crumbling beauty of the Picadilly Theatre on your way by!) and then down Highway 2 to Upper Canada Village. Just before you get to the 401, if you’re out on a Sunday it’s well worth a gander to poke around McHaffie’s flea market since you’re out there. (Big, but not as crazy as Lachute, and well worth the drive!)

Here’s our trip to Upper Canada Village back in 2010, which conveniently coincided with a civil war re-enactment. (Taken through the viewfinder of an old Duaflex twin-lens reflex camera. Remember when I was obsessed with TtV?)

521:1000 Back in the day, TTV

Aside from Upper Canada Village, which is always an adventure in itself, you can hop on the wee train out front and extend your trip to Crysler Beach. And one of these days we’ll get around to checking out Prehistoric World, now that Lucas is in a dinosaur phase.

So there’s a day trip worth of adventure on every point of the compass from Ottawa. Stay tuned, I have a new one to share with you soon!

What’s your favourite day trip?


{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

1 Lynn August 8, 2013 at 9:16 am

Looooooved this post, Dani. You always do seem to find the best little out-of-the-way places to spend quiet, sweet family days. I want to try them all!

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