Live like a local in Ottawa
August 9, 2022 10:00 AM   Subscribe

Will likely relocate to Ottawa at the end of the year. Give me the low down. What are fun year round activities for a family of two adults two kids 3&7. Food, outdoor, indoor, and schools. How would you spend a low key weekend when you’re not a tourist?

So, after I’ve visited the hill, skated the Rideau, visited the national art gallery and the tulip festival, and partied on Canada day what is there really to do? Hit me with your daily life recommendations. We might be in the Kanata area for tech (or not? If you can convince me a commute isn’t more than 25min and worth it). We speak French and are standard issue GenX yuppies.

Things like
- where to live / house commentary (the Dream is a hyoooge yard)
- good schools (private or public, but preferably not religious)
- weekend outdoor all year round
- restaurants / cool grocery stores
- kid things to do
- adult things to do
- fun neighborhoods to visit or live
- kids like swimming, airplanes and parks and sports
- adults like cooking, running, pick up soccer, meditation, music, home repair and decor
posted by St. Peepsburg to Travel & Transportation around Ottawa, ON (5 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I lived in Ottawa for most of my life but don't know most of these since I'm not much of an "activity" person. I can offer a few though:

-Outdoors stuff: You've probably heard Gatineau Park mentioned. That and the greenbelt in Ottawa are the main places for hiking and related activities. The trails are often very busy especially since the pandemic started, but still lovely. Some neighbourhoods in Kanata have greenbelt trails within walking distance. There are also some very long paved (but separated from the road) walk/bike trails in the city that you could prioritize living close to if you would like to use those. Depending where you live, there may or may not be any safe routes to bike to get onto those trails.

-Schools in Kanata should all be pretty ok. I'm guessing you're coming from the US? Here almost nobody does private schools since the public schools are fine. The public schools are either Catholic or not, and "Not" is the default option so you won't have trouble finding a non-religious school (you have to prove you're Catholic to attend those anyway).

-Kanata is a suburb and has all the usual suburb issues with terrible public transportation, walkability, racial diversity, night activities, "suburb atttitude" etc etc compared to closer to downtown. I'm not sure I'd call any neighbourhood in Kanata "fun" for that reason, though to be fair I haven't visited them all. If you live more centrally there are more "fun" (well, by Ottawa standards) neighbourhoods but houses get much more expensive and your commute may be bad if you're working in Kanata. So there's always tradeoffs.

-If you want a huge yard, you might consider looking further west to Stittsville or beyond (or south if it doesn't make your commute awful). Kanata has a lot of townhouses and the detached houses are usually on small lots all crammed together. Houses and yards get much bigger the further out of the city you go. It also gets much more Conservative politically as you get more rural, like most places. If you plan to work in Kanata the commute to those areas won't be too bad, but if your job(s) are elsewhere in Ottawa it'd be terrible. You could also consider living in Gatineau (Quebec) to be close to Gatineau Park but your commute to anywhere in Ottawa would be pretty bad.

-If you're interested in/capable of home repair you might benefit from aiming for a house that needs repairs. Houses in Ottawa are pricey, especially in the past few years.

-Not sure what counts as a "cool" grocery store but there's a few international grocery stores around the city that stock imported items (T&T, mid-east mart, a few others). I don't know what's in Kanata specifically but I'd guess there's at least one there. Most grocery stores will also have an international foods section.

-I played recreational-intermediate soccer for many years in a great co-ed league run by a good friend of mine (feel free to memail if you want to know which one). There are several good leagues in the city - I like this one because the attitude tends to be more friendly than the others. There are also pickup opportunities but I don't have any experience there.
posted by randomnity at 12:04 PM on August 9, 2022

Best answer: Nicastros in Byward Market has an amazing deli counter and yummy stuff. They also have a restaurant, LA Bottega, lunch only from Wed to Sat that you shouldn't miss
Walking along the canal is the most low key pleasure and leads you down to the market area.
For outings: Museum of Nature, Science Museum, War Museum.
Winter fest should not be missed for the long sledding chute and skating on the canal.
Join the Scouts to expand your children's friends options and have some fun that doesn't focus on competition.
posted by Enid Lareg at 11:34 PM on August 9, 2022

Best answer: > If you can convince me a commute isn’t more than 25min and worth it

You probably know this from lurking r/ottawa, but the local bus system is currently extremely unreliable. A number of commentators have had to buy cars because they couldn't count on buses to show up and run their routes.

I'd check on reddit if you're planning to buy/rent relying on one particular bus route.

Regarding trips to neighborhoods, Old Ottawa South has a good used bookstore, indie movie theater, library, and coffeeshops.
posted by sebastienbailard at 1:20 AM on August 10, 2022

Best answer: If you speak French you might want to consider living in Gatineau, as housing is considerably cheaper (though in the province of QC you will pay higher taxes so some people think it evens out). I think you are also more likely to get a bigger yard there. You can definitely get to Kanata in 25 mins from there but whether or not it's worth it, I'm not sure. I'm not a huge fan of Kanata tbh, as it didn't exist when I was a kid and I have this sense that it's all identical suburban developments, but that may be what you're looking for..

There's actually a lot to do in Ottawa, especially for kids.
- Canadian Children's Museum
- If they like airplanes, the Aviation Museum would be a good idea
- Science and Tech Museum - check out the crazy kitchen
- Joining soccer leagues, for adults there's OSSC and Ottawa footy sevens
- Walking in the Arboretum, Major's Hill Park, Strathcona Park, Andrew Hayden Park, Britannia Beach
- Day trips to Perth, Stittsville, Carleton Place, Wakefield (QC)
- Berry/apple/pumpkin picking in neighborhoods south of Ottawa
- Skating on the rideau canal in winter, kayaking on there in summer
- Downhill skiing at one of the local hills within a half hour drive (Camp Fortune, Edelweiss, Vorlage, Mont Cascades), or cross country skiing on the SJAM parkway or Gatineau park
- Board game cafés (the Loft)
- Public libraries always have a lot of activities
- Watching the locks go up and down at Rideau Locks
- Indoor rock climbing at one of the three gyms : Coyote, Altitude (Gatineau and Kanata) and Klimat

I grew up there so feel free to private message me for any info :)
posted by winterportage at 5:19 AM on August 10, 2022

Best answer: You're going to find a lot of good info on r/Ottawa. There are lots of "best x" posts (best restaurants, best shawarma, best bike trails, etc.) that I've found really useful. Most recently, I thought this post on Ottawa specific hacks had lots of interesting stuff.

I'd recommend having a look at Trilles des Bois for elementary schools. It's a French public school in Vanier but it's based on a Waldorf educational model - lots of art, music, and holistic stuff that works well, I think, at the elementary level. You don't have to live in Vanier for your kids to go there (French public board really wants bums in seats) but you or your spouse would need to be able to establish that you're francophone.

Vanier is an interesting neighbourhood with lots to offer and some possible downsides. On the plus side: v. close to downtown, pretty reasonably priced, tight neighbourhood spirit, close to lots of nature stuff, a few very good restaurants. On the minus side: some low level crime, some drug users, some poverty but I have friends who've raised their kids there and felt good about it.

A lot depends on where you live. I live close to "The Pond" and that is a hidden gem in the city. You can swim surrounded by trees and blue sky and nature and it's practically downtown (close to Vanier and Manor Park in the heart of Rockcliffe). If you want a big yard that means that you're going to have to live in the suburbs - either East, West, or South of downtown unless you have quite a bit of money and can afford to live in what used to count as the suburbs closer to the core (Westboro, the Glebe, Alta Vista, Manor Park, Rockliffe (eek!))
posted by kaymac at 7:02 AM on August 10, 2022

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