Summer vacation is fast approaching and the kids are at the age where boredom arises very quickly, especially for my 9-year-old. Years ago, when the kids were smaller, I was very good at planning days around naps. We went on outings to parks and museums, we had structured times for snacks and crafts and, for the most part, the day went very smoothly until the suicide hour (dinner prep time)…of which no stay-at-home parent has much control. That daily catastrophe seems to have lessened with time, happily, but the need for structure, is still relevant…especially for me. As much as I love the freedom of summer, I also have difficulty moving from a structured school year to a completely open calendar. Now lest you think I am one of these parents who schedules their children to death. No, I am not. I definitely believe in the advantages of free play. But there is only an advantage to it if the kids are engaged and not complaining of boredom or not spending all of their time in front of a screen. So, I have decided to take summer by the reigns and ride it out with a theme in mind. Canadian History.
It may actually be more appropriately named, Ontario History, as Canada is such a huge country with a diverse history, it would take us multiple summers to skim the surface. But, whatever, I’m not putting out a bloody brochure so I shall digress no further. Luckily, Ottawa is a great place to be if you want to delve into the history of the country, the province, and the city. The first place I always think of when someone says they want to know more about Canadian History, is the Canadian Museum of Civilization. My kids love the Children’s Museum, which is a section of the Museum of Civilization. This year, I may, however, encourage them to explore beyond the Children’s Museum. As good as it is for kids, there are so many interesting things in the main museum that give excellent insight into our history. Not only does the museum cover our pioneer past, they have in-depth exhibits on aboriginal history and arctic exploration.
The Canadian Museum of Nature, the Canada Museum of Science and Technology, the Canadian Aviation and Space Museum, the Canada Agriculture Museum and the Canadian War Museum are all national museums to which we have access, not to mention Parliament Hill and the Governor General’s Estate. I’m sure we will visit each one but I would like to go beyond the big names and search out the smaller places too that focus on local history. Places like Pinhey’s Point Historic Site, Billings Estate Museum, and the Bytown Museum have quaint charm as well as being great resources for history. A nicely compiled list of Ottawa and area museums to visit can be found here if you are interested. (I should also mention that cemeteries are another great way to absorb local and national history while enjoying the lovely grounds. See my post here on Canada’s National Cemetery here in Ottawa.)
Of course, moving beyond Ottawa, the variety of museums and historical sites is so numerous, I wouldn’t even try to mention them all here. But I will tell you of a few places I have visited that I would highly recommend. About an hour south of Ottawa is the beautiful Upper Canada Village located just outside of Morrisburg. Here you can see and experience the way pioneers lived and take part in fun events like carriage rides, old-fashioned weddings, and bi-plane rides. Further West is Kingston’s Fort Henry. There you can explore the fort as well as get an idea of what living there would have been like in the mid-1800’s. Like Upper Canada Village, it is situated overlooking the beautiful St. Lawrence river and also hosts exciting events like the sunset ceremonies and a military tatoo. Even further West is another museum hub…Toronto. A couple of my favourite places to visit there are the Royal Ontario Museum and Black Creek Pioneer Village. The ROM focuses on natural and world history where as Black Creek focuses on local pioneer history. Black Creek, like Upper Canada Village, as well as being educational, is just a beautiful place to walk in and spend the day. Toronto also has Casa Loma and historic Fort York (which I haven’t been to yet), and even more numerous other places than Ottawa.
Finally, I can’t not mention Thunder Bay’s Fort William Historical Park. It is one of my most favourite historical sites in all of Ontario. It’s a pity it’s so far away but if you’re ever in the area, do not…I mean it…DO NOT miss it! It’s not like the forts we have here in Southern Ontario, made of stone and full of tunnels and trenches. It is laid out more like a pioneer village and surrounded with a massive log fence. It has a huge courtyard, numerous buildings, a farm, canons, canoe rides, and lots of hands-on activities and other fun and exciting events throughout the summer. I shall not go further into what Northern Ontario has to offer in the way of history as I’m not that knowledgeable. If a reader is from the area and wants to make some suggestions, I’d be delighted to read them. If not, there are online resources like this one which list museums and museum events according to locale.
Also, before I conclude, something that I discovered while doing research for the is post I must pass along to all the parents out there. If your child is attending an Ontario school you can sign up at Ontario Fun Pass and get free passes for many of the museums and historical parks around the province. Go get them here!
Here’s to a fun and adventurous summer that I hope will prove to also be educational. Enjoy the sunshine and free spirit of summer!
(For all those readers not from the area, thanks for reading and if you ever visit, you’ll have a good head start on what to see! :))