Visiting Ottawa(10 Posts)
So, we are considering moving to Ottawa from the UK. My husband has a job interview there in February, so my DD (she'll be 4 then) and myself are travelling out with him, to have a look around and see if we like the place.
So, I know it's going to be cold and snowy, and whilst maybe not an ideal time to go, we realise that it's snowy and cold there quite a lot, and so maybe it is better to see it then than in summer when it's nice and warm and sunny. We think we might get a more realistic picture of whether we can live there!
But in trying to plan our trip, I realise I have no idea about what to take, or where we should visit. We have a couple of friends out there already, but they don't have kids and live a slightly different lifestyle to us. Where should we be going in order to get a realistic picture of what it's actually like? We had thought about a week in Ottawa itself, then maybe a few days staying with our friend in the suburbs (which is more likely to be where we would live if we moved there), and then maybe taking a trip for a few days to Toronto or Montreal. We were planning on seeing Winterlude whilst in Ottawa. We only have 2 weeks.
I also realise that I have no concept of how cold and snowy it might be, and therefore trying to think of things we need to get for our trip is tricky. What clothes do we need? Snowboots? Ski jackets etc? Thermals? Is it easier/possible to buy things there or would we freeze before we get them? I am guessing there would be a greater choice over there, especially for our DD.
There will be a much bigger choice there, so you can top up and buy items when you arrive. Any department store like Sears, Walmart (aka Asda), Hudson Bay Co, will have everthying you need to kit out all of you. However, you should also pack some warm clothes. You will need (unless it is unseasonably warm) winter coats, boots, woolly hats, scarves and mittens from the moment you leave the airport , so make sure you know where you have packed them and that they are easy to retrieve.
I suggest taking your warmest winter clothes and seeing if you need anything warmer. Don't forget boots for your DD, children's feet get cold very quickly. Mittens will also keep hands warmer than gloves. I would also recommend uniqlo thermal layers, if you are planing to go skating on the canal or taking part in any outdoor activity.
You will be surprised at just how long it takes to dress kids up before going out. Plan your schedule accordingly.
There are some very nice galleries and museums in Ottawa, I think the National Gallery has children activities when you are turned of the cold. I don't know Ottawa very well, I'm sure others will come along with advice. Montreal is fun, but it can be pretty grim in February - either very cold or really grey and rainy. It's a longish drive from Ottawa. Would you consider going to a country hotel instead, to enjoy winter pursuits? Chateau Montebello isn't far from Ottawa and has old fashioned log-cabin-and-fireplaces charm (but don't expect luxury).
Feb. is a tough month to visit Canadian cities. We are long past the novel thrill of the first snowfall of the winter, and still months away from the optimistic promise of the last snowfall of the winter. In Feb. the snow is grey and dirty, the populance takes a hunkered-down stance, the streets are tough to traverse, the days are short and the nights dreadfully long. Our family survive Februarys by wrapping up and getting out to skate (fast to keep warm) on the outdoor ice rinks most evenings after work. That probably isn't going to be an option for you and your family, although I thoroughly recommend skating under the stars! (and 4 yr olds learn to skate really fast!)
The trick to winters here is to have the right clothing and be active. Most Canadians take their overseas vacation to Cuba in Feb. so the shops are full of swimsuits and shorts. It is hard to buy a kids snowsuit in Feb. (which is when my DD always outgrows the last years one that still fit in Sept. when the shops are full of them.) I would bring as many layers as possible, any skiing-type stuff you own and borrowing from your friend when you get here. Indoors is always warm, but appropriate layers have to be donned at the door. Both Montreal and Toronto have extensive pedestrian pathway systems so you travel about the city without going outdoors at all.
A week in Ottawa seems like a long time. I have a DD10 and 3 or 4 days is enough to do the touristy things and eat beavertails. Toronto is warmer than Montreal at that time of year and there is loads to do here. If you are outdoorsy I would second the country winter pursuits suggestion. However, ideally I would delay the trip until the weather gets warmer - spring in Ottawa is famously lovely!
If you choose to move to Ottawa, you will be able to get organised with appropriate clothing and be busy (rather than just hanging out) in the winter and it really will be fine. Canadian winters are much more enjoyable if you are living here, rather than visiting or outdoors in the countryside.
Brilliant, thank you both so much for your replies. I agree that Feb probably isn't the nicest time to visit, but we can't change it - that's when the interviews/presentations etc are, so we're kind of stuck with that. We'd thought a week in Ottawa because 3 days of that will be taken up with interviews (sounds a bit intense TBH!) so I will be on my own with DD for most of those days, and the amount we will do will be limited, probably just a bit of hanging around, drinking hot chocolate etc... This will also be the visit where we decide to say yes or no (depending on offers etc) so we felt we need to get a real feel for the place, as well as doing tourist things, though if we were visiting just for a holiday, we probably wouldn't spend so long there!
Unfortunately while my husband could borrow from his friend I definitely can't - his wife is small and skinny and I am... less so!
OK so clothing-wise, I have a North Face Arctic Parka - is that likely to be enough (with some warm layers underneath, hat, scarf etc)? I would obviously buy some proper boots too, as I have nothing that is likely to be helpful. Or even waterproof! For my DD, she has this coat, which is warm enough for here, but should I look at getting her something warmer, a ski jacket or something? I've had a look for snow boots for her here, there isn't too much around in her size, they are mostly for older kids, but would something like these be warm enough? I was also thinking about some kind of fleece-lined waterproof trousers for her - she usually tends to refuse to wear anything other than leggings so I thought that might be a useful option, if she wears those over some thermal-type leggings?
Sorry for all the questions - I really have no concept of how cold it is in winter there!
Thanks for the uniqlo recommendation, that's really helpful.
Good suggestion about the country hotel - I would quite like that I think. Chateau Montebello looks pretty expensive though, is there anywhere else nearby (ish) you can think of?
Oh, February is tough! Take your warmest clothes and buy what you need when you assess the temp when you get there. It can literally be extremely cold (ie., - 30) or it can be a general cold at minus 10. It will be cheaper there though, so don't overpack from the UK. Good luck! Ottawa is great.
I think your coat should be warm enough. Your daughter's coat however looks a bit thin. Ski jackets are pretty much the norm in winter. Could you perhaps order one online and have it delivered locally? www.sears.ca/catalog/kids-toys-girls-clothing-girls-jackets-outerwear-en-wp-277
Of course what is bound to happen is that if you buy a snowsuit, the weather is going to be really warm and you will have wasted the money. Try and buy a large enough one that you can reuse it next year 😀
Well of course! Sod's law and all that!
We have some friends who will be leaving Ottawa for sunnier climes in Perth by the time we get there, so have asked my DH to get in touch with them to see if they have anything that might fit my DD. They have two daughters, not sure how old, as then they can leave if for us with our other friend. Let's face it, they won't need it in Perth!
I've found an online shop here that seems to do a good range of ski clothes and Sorel snow boots for children in my DD's size at not too horrendous prices, so may well order from them.
Have spoken to my DH, we are definitely liking the idea of winter sports and log fires...
When you are in Ottawa make sure to skate on the Rideau Canal. Have a beaver tail too
You can hire skates easily right on the ice.
Children's museum for your daughter : www.historymuseum.ca/visit/childrens-museum/
You can also take a tour of the Parliament Hill - www.lop.parl.gc.ca/Visitors/index-e.html
Good if it's very cold outside.
Byward market is fun too. www.byward-market.com
Definitely try to get to Montreal, it's a lot more cosmopolitan than Ottawa and only an hour and a half on the train.
Definitely plan to buy stuff in Canada, I can't overestimate the need to be warm, otherwise you'll be miserable for two weeks.
(I'm a Brit living in Canada for 8 years, it's amazing, you'll love it over here, even the winter, it's such a different cold to the UK!)
Agree with the other posters. Everything will look grey and drab in February unfortunately. We're based in Toronto and our first trip was in March - I was getting quite disheartened by how grey everything seemed but, seriously, when spring and summer are in full bloom it's simply stunning! We are finding autumn and winter much sunnier here too, it's cold but crisp with blue skies and not really the damp weather we get in winter in the UK. I would try to buy winter clothes before your trip to be honest, people are buying everything now, and there won't be much left in the stores by Feb. We bought ski jackets, snowpants (only for the kids), scarves, hats and mittens in Mountain Warehouse in the UK and that served us well (it was -24C during our visit). We're really happy here, four proper seasons and homes, shops, public transport etc are very well prepared and warm in winter and the summers are sunny and hot.
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