Monday, May 21, 2012

Ottawa to Halifax..with a van

For the past 11 years we have been driving to Halifax at various times with kid (and then kids) in tow.  While we sometimes fly more often we choose the more economical mode of travel.  We have three boys - now 10, eight and two, and as you can imagine entertainment and physical activity en route is critical to each trip's success. 

A few days ago, I scrawled out a quick list for a colleague embarking on his first Ottawa-Halifax drive this summer. I've done that countless times before. So this time I thought I would write them here.  I'm not going to elaborate to much on the various stops but if you have questions feel free to ask!

In order, west to east:
  • Montreal's Biodome or Botanical Gardens; Both of these are excellent. If you want to be outside, try the botanical gardens - the Chinese and Japanese gardens are particularly beautiful in my view. On a rainy day, or if your kids love unique animals, definitely choose the Biodome. Make sure you (and the kids) don't get too tired before you reach the penquins at the end as they are super cute.
  • Old Quebec City
  • Quebec City Aquarium;
  • La Pocatiere rest stop - this is just a rest stop, but more than a rest stop. It has an absolutely beautiful view of the Lower Saint Lawrence river. There is a Tim Horton's on the other side of the highway so you can grab a lunch and have it outside. If the tide is out your kids may want to walk closer to the water - just be careful as puddles can be much deeper (and muddier!) than they look. In case of an "incident" the visitor centre keeps an outdoor hose on hand that you can use to wash yourselves down before getting back in the car.
  • New Brunswick Botanical Gardens (with camping and a pool nextdoor); Beautiful and includes a butterfly room. Great way for kids to run around and be outside in the fresh air.
  • King's Landing - A historical village. If it's very hot I don't recommend it as there is a fair bit of walking between buildings but if it's cooler it's nice.
  • Covered Bridge Chip Factory - this I have always wanted to do but never have. Let me know if you go there!
  • Fredericton - downtown park with awesome huge wading pool that is always open and lots of play structures. As a treat, I also recommend staying at the Delta Fredericton as it is right on the river, has an indoor and outdoor pool and outdoor restaurant. The boy got their first taste of poolside service there last year and were quite impressed that someone would bring them chicken finger while they swam! 'tis a good life. They will also tend to have popsicles available at their outdoor bar/patio.
  • Moncton - Crystal Palace indoor amusement park Sometimes you may need this to get your kids through the drive.
  • Shubenacadie Wildlife Park (off the highway between Truro and Halifax) My kids love this place as there are LOTS of animals to see. Try to go when it's not too hot so the animals are livelier. They sell corn there to feed the ducks/deer etc.
Always travel with a bucket, some clean-up cloths, and water just in case (we also use gravol but our kids are prone to car sickness).

Virtually every town has a school and virtually every school has a play structure when you really need to get those sillies out.

Choose the time of day you travel - what's best for adults may not work with kids. We, for example, do not drive in the morning. We find all the "puppies" need to be exercised before they go in a car : )

Don't always listen to what the kids want to do.  My older boys complained about the botanical gardens and then loved both (there were frogs in the NB one!).