Frugal and Fun Road Trip – Ottawa to Toronto

This is part two to our little summer adventure! You can read the fist part here, which shares the stops we made while driving from the Greater Toronto Area to Ottawa and what fun we had in Ottawa that first day.

Day 2

Stop 1: Breakfast in the hotel (FREE). One of the things I look for in a hotel is that it includes a free breakfast, this not only saves time, but it saves money! Our hotel had a great selection of cereal fruit, hot and cold items, and a toaster with varies breads. Nothing super fancy, but enough to fill bellies before heading out into the city to explore.

Stop 2: Canadian War Museum ($11 children $17 adult, they offer great deals on family passes too). Ottawa has so many amazing museums to visit, it was hard to narrow it down to just 2 for our short stay. We picked the Nature Museum and the War museum as my kids hadn’t really been to anything like those before. This museum amazed them (I’ve been to it before), especially the current Amour exhibit! It was however a little intense for my 6 year old daughter, and I can’t blame her for being a little overwhelmed by some of it. War is intense and scary, but it is part of our history, they need to learn about how so many people gave their lives and what our country went through to become the amazing country it is today. I tried to stay ahead of her and make her skip over anything that might be too much (like some of the telephone recordings, and the picture of the bullet vs shrapnel!). It was a great lesson for them to take the time and read and learn, and not act silly, it’s a great museum and interactive for kids, but it can also be a somber place and visitors need to have a little more respect while visiting it. There are often Veterans and families of those who gave their lives; it can be difficult to visit for those who lived through what is in the exhibits, so keep that in mind. We arrived right when it opened, and essentially had the place to ourselves the entire three hours we were there, so I highly recommend going early if you have younger ones! 

Stop 3: Notre Dame Basilica. We parked near the ByWard Market and headed to the Basilica for the 12:15 Friday Mass. I love visiting local Parishes when we travel, especially when’s it’s as incredible as the Basilica in Ottawa! Beautiful inside and out, and a perfect location in the heart of the down town!

Stop 4: Zak’s Diner (typical family restaurant prices).  You can’t visit Ottawa without wandering the ByWard Market! It’s a great mix of shops and restaurants, indoor and outdoor stalls, with something for everyone! We enjoyed a delicious lunch at one of my fav places, Zak’s Diner. Typical diner food, and I even treated the kids to their famous milkshakes!

Stop 4: Rideau Canal (FREE). After lunch, we wandered through the market and made our way to the Canal. We had amazing timing, after the long walk down the hill to where the canal meets the Ottawa River, and got to see several large yachts and a guy on a canoe leaving the last lock! The kids were fascinated by the multiple locks, and the fact that an entire crew of people worked together to open and close the locks! We also saw a small parade/show put on by some soldiers from the Bytown Museum!

Stop 5: Parliament Hill (FREE). This was our last stop in Ottawa, as we were getting tired and hot from all the walking around, and had to start heading home. We walked over and took a few pictures, but it was a very busy day on the Hill with stands being set up and moved around, we didn’t stay very long. They do offer tours, but I wasn’t sure my guys would enjoy them at their current ages, but they were still amazed at the size of the buildings!

Stop 6: Brockville Train Tunnel (FREE). On our drive back home, we had of course planned to make some fun stops, different from the stops we made on the drive to Ottawa. Our first stop was the train tunnel in Brockville. None of us were expecting very much from this, but we were all totally amazed by it. Fun lights and music playing, its a really neat walk under the city through a tunnel that trains used to use to deliver supplies to the industries that were located near the water front. It was much longer than we thought it would be, the lights change colours which is super fun, and there are signs with street names and how high above the road is located, as well as signs with some of the history of the tunnel and other information. A must stop for families travelling on the 401! 

Stop 7: Confederation Park Gananoque (FREE). A beautiful park located on the water in the heart of their cute downtown area. This was a great spot to stretch our legs a bit and get some fresh air before stopping for dinner. The park has lots of sculptures, I believe it’s the largest outdoor collection in Canada.

We also stopped at a Tim Horton’s for a coffee for me, and in Kingston at a Wendy’s for a quick dinner, but drove straight home after that since it was getting late.

It was such a great adventure with just my oldest kids! I highly recommend splitting your kids up (if you have more than one) and focusing on just some of them for a change. It’s easier to take a road trip with just my older kids, 6 and 8 are such magical ages! I was able to answer every single one of their questions and to laugh at all their silliness instead of being exhausted and frustrated by it. It was fun for all three of us and something I hope they always look back on with happy thoughts.

Have you done the drive Toronto-Ottawa drive? Where are some other places you like to stop? 

Remember to check out Part 1 in this serious if you missed it. I also have lots of other posts filled with tips on saving money and tips for surviving long drives with little kids so check out the Vacation Tips tab for those!

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