Catherine Brunelle (website/Twitter) is a freelance writer who recently moved back to Ottawa after an extended adventure abroad. Born and raised in Kanata, she’s always up for exposing her newly immigrated husband to the wonders of Ottawa. Her own blog offers a light approach to life’s many challenges, from breast cancer and immigration, to traveling and job-searching.
With this bizarre winter promising an early spring arrival, it’s easy to look ahead and say: “I’ll go outside when it warms up.” And you might think it becomes doubly easy to make this self-promise when living in a suburb like Kanata, away from the cafes, culture and social excitement of downtown Ottawa. Yeah, we’ve got the Scotiabank Place in our backyard, but when it comes to free, outdoor and active fun – there’s a certain impression that we suburb dwellers are strapped for choice.
Kanata has a little secret, much like many other suburbs. While central Ottawa has it’s shows and bars and poetry readings – all so very awesome – suburbs have a different sort of entertainment, and no, I’m not counting trips to Costco or visiting out the newest WalMart installation.
This winter my husband and I moved to Kanata. Before this we lived in Southampton, England, but following a decision to ‘return home to Canada’ we literally returned ‘home’ to my parent’s house in Kanata. And as winter descended upon us, we looked for inexpensive ways to enjoy ourselves and stay fit.
Here’s what we came up with:
The Kanata Recreation Complex (KRC) hill. It’s got to be number one on this list, simply due to its massive size. You’d be hard-pressed to find another sledding hill this huge. But sled with care, because it’s fast, icy and will send you gliding at breakneck speeds. (All this to say, it might injure you, but it’s really good fun. Since we’re not kids anymore, just be smart and avoid the jumps. Some people wear helmets.) The KRC hill is an integral part of Kanata – hosting winter activities (sledding and skating) and the Canada Day events. I can remember when they built this giant hill. That’s right, it’s not a natural phenomenon to have a huge mound of earth on the edge of farmers’ fields. The soil, at least some of it, was taken from another sledding hill that led onto a busy road. We used to call it ‘Death Hill’ before it was dug up by the city. Maybe that’s why the KRC is so wickedly fast in terms of sledding … memories of Death Hill are persevering.
The KRC is free and fun. The workout walking up, coupled with the adrenaline of sliding down, is worthwhile to anyone of any age who’s hankering for a thrill.
Frozen ponds and public rinks. It’s incredible how these have remained prevalent. Tucked between the paths and parks within Kanata (and chances are, all around Ottawa) are small, frozen over, community-tended skating rinks. The Young’s Pond Park rink attracts crowds of kids, adults and families strapping on the skates, playing hockey and shoveling away the snow. There’s little better on a winter night in the suburbs than going for a skate in the light of the moon. (Plus the light on that pole in the neighbour’s yard – another sign of community involvement when it comes to rinks.)
Get your skates on while it’s still possible. This weirdly warm February is melting away the ice … but keep your fingers crossed for a few more good days. The rinks are free and open to anyone.
The Greenbelt. Ah, the Greenbelt – for those of us in Kanata, it may otherwise be known as ‘that strip of farm land and trees between Kanata and downtown along the 417.’ But for anyone with a love of bird-feeding, cross country skiing or show shoeing … it’s far more than just scenery. Free trails are available all year round, shared with animals like deer and rabbits. If you feel like taking an hour-long holiday from the city, the high tech, or the big box stores … get yourself some snowshoes and escape to nature. On the outskirts of Kanata along March Road, Eagleson Road, Tim Road and the 417, there are paths for exploration. This is my absolutely favourite way to spend a bright Saturday afternoon. Snow or no snow, the Greebelt is a piece of land that we’re lucky to have close.
Again, it’s free and easily accessible. Beautiful in the winter with mounds of snow and ice … and while the cross-country conditions are abysmal at the moment, try using snow shoes instead – they have no problems with patches of ice.
And that is how we’ve spent our winter. Yes the suburbs are different than the city, but there’s a reason people move out here. This winter, it was a delight to escape and have fun. In terms of ‘touring’ Kanata – can’t ask for better than free hills, free rinks, and free paths.
Sounds amazing, Catherine! Have any must-do winter events Ottawans should take in before spring arrives? Leave a suggestion below!