Monday, March 12, 2012

Go Wild - An Animal Inspired Spring Break

If you're not going south or going skiing for March break, and if you happen to have little ones who LOVE animals, below are some suggestions for animal-inspired activities either within the City, within day or 2-day trip distance.  For Quebec City you might well want to add a second night and visit the fabulous ice hotel just west of the City on your way home.

Canada Agriculture Museum - you've probably been there lots of times but remember this is the season when new babies start to be born; it's also the beginning of the Museum's new season and they have lots going on for their March Barnyard Break.  There are calves to be named, rabbits to be cared for and much more.  If you like to cook they are also teaching about cooking with maple syrup (yum!) and making butter.Check out all the details of their Barnyard Break activities here:

Wild Bird Care Centre - We first heard about the wild bird care centre after my son found a bird in the middle of the road with a broken wing.  Searching the internet we realized this was the place to go. And it's quite an amazing little place just outside Ottawa. It's open to visitors daily from noon until 3:00.  It's located next to the Stoney Swamp Conservation Area parking lots and there are lots of hiking/skiing trails that surround the centre though I would definately take your rubber boots (a good suggestion for almost anything at this time of year!) For more information about the centre and to see some pictures of what to expect, visit their website at

Mud Lake - OK, I love Mud Lake and you are sure to see lots of birds at this time of year. It is a place that makes you fully appreciate how full of life the land around us is. It is truly lovely and the trail down to the river can be particularly beautiful at this time of year because of the melting ice and snow (just HOLD ON to your kids!). Check out this past post for more details (and it also links you to another post by Andrea of Quietfish) .

Bearbrook Farms - At this farm just east of Ottawa (5396 Dunning Road, 1 km. south of Russell Road)
you can walk or drive around the property to see elk, deer, buffalo, llama, peacocks and chickens.  The farm is open to visitors on Tuesdays through Sundays from 2-5 pm.  The farm does produce and sell a variety of wild game food products.
Parc Omega - I did a separate blog post about Parc Omega last year and have to say, again, that this is one of the best times of year to go. Fewer cars, excellent visibility because the leaves aren't out yet, and animals that actually WANT your carrots because they've been on a sparser diet throughout the winter.  See this post for details and pictures:

Montreal Biodome - The Biodome is an old favorite and shouldn't be too busy given that Quebec's March Break already took place last week. You'll experience 4 diverse climates: the tropical rainforest, the Laurentian Maple Forest, the Gulf of St. Lawrence and the Labrador Coast / sub-Antarctic Islands.  The penguins are actually my favorites so try not to get too tired out before you get to the end.  Or walk all the way through and work your way backwards!

There is also an excellent "Insider Guide", published earlier this month by Where Canada, at

Montreal Insectarium - You may more likely frequent the insectarium in the summer months when the botanical gardens are also open, but if you are in Montreal over March Break, consider dropping by.. It's open Tuesdays through Thursdays from 9 to 5. It is very close to the Biodome (see above).

Granby Zoo - This is my favorite summertime zoo (for families it's much more accessible than the Toronto Zoo).  It started opening in the winter last year and even though it's hours are limited (for Ontario March Break it's only open on March 17 and 18, the 2nd weekend), I suspect it's still worth a visit.  Ideally, I'd probably combine it with a days skiing at nearby Bromont (which yes, is currently open, but check the ski conditions before you go).
Riverview Park and Zoo. Peterborough -  I've had a hankering to go to Peterborough since last summer when I realized that it had a zoo. Although I have not yet ever been, I can tell you that the zoo is open from 8:30 am until dusk and there is an otter feeding demonstration daily at 1:00 pm.  The sledding hill would be open except that I suspect the snow is gone by now. For details about the zoo see the website

When you're finished with the zoo take a bit of time to explore historic Peterborough before heading back to Ottawa.  Include in this a visit to Hutchison House, a living history museum featuring life of the 1800's.  For details of it and its march break activities (which include paper making and native story telling) see  Keep in mind that the programs are for children aged 6-12, they take places on Tuesday through Friday mornings, and they may require pre-registration.

Quebec City Aquarium - We often drive to Halifax and sometimes we're doing it in the winter or spring. Regardless of weather we are always looking for a place where the boys can get out and run around. Many people don't know of the Quebec City Aquarium as one of it's key attractions (it's not necessarily part of everyone's romantic get-away!) but when you're travelling with kids it's great. In winter, it may be cold but the advantage is that you get to see many of the outdoor animals (because it's not all fish!) in any more natural climate. Outside there are polar bears, walruses, otters, seals and many others. Whereas in the summer you may be vying with crowds hoping to see the feedings and shows, in the winter, you may in fact be the only people at a particular feeding or show! The advantage? Great sight lines and lots of time to talk with the feeders and trainers who, at least our experience, have been more than willing to answer all of our many questions. You will not get that in the summer. When you need to warm up just head inside but don't forget to take in the amazing view of the St. Lawrence River first!