Summering near Ottawa

| June 30, 2016 | 0 Comments
A Company of Fools does theatre in the park between July 4 and August 20. (Photo: Company of Fools)

A Company of Fools does theatre in the park between July 4 and August 20. (Photo: Company of Fools)

Swishy garden parties, faraway beaches and lawn bowling are all fine, but summer’s also a time for forays into uncharted territory. And that doesn’t have to mean packing a suitcase. We’ve found a tonne of unexpected fun within easy striking distance of downtown. Better yet, it won’t break the bank.

Heritage homages: Plentiful and unassuming, the Ottawa Valley’s small museums sweep you into life as it once was. Smiths Falls’ Heritage House Museum re-creates an upper-class Victorian-era home complete with a two-storey privy (smithsfalls.ca). In Ottawa’s east end, the delightful Cumberland Heritage Village Museum showcases local life in the 1920s and ’30s (ottawa.ca). Other must-visits include the cosy Carleton Place and Beckwith Heritage Museum (cpbheritagemuseum.com).

The Bard’s band of fools: Physicality, polished acting and splashes of irreverence define A Company of Fools’ annual Torchlight Shakespeare production staged in parks around town. This year, it’s The Amazing Adventures of Pericles, Prince of Tyre, which is more or less what William Shakespeare called the original. Pared down to 90 minutes, the Fools’ take on the story is a swashbuckling one. Runs July 4 to Aug. 20. 613-863-7529, fools.ca

Scarlet tanagers, flying squirrels and red-backed salamanders add to the charm of Gillies Grove, a stately old-growth forest in Arnprior, 30 minutes west of Kanata. (Photo: Gilles Grove)

Scarlet tanagers, flying squirrels and red-backed salamanders add to the charm of Gillies Grove, a stately old-growth forest in Arnprior, 30 minutes west of Kanata. (Photo: Gilles Grove)

Into the woods: Towering white pines, sugar maples and yellow birch dot Gillies Grove, a stately old-growth forest in Arnprior, 30 minutes west of Kanata. Scarlet tanagers, flying squirrels and red-backed salamanders add to the charm. Other Arnprior highlights: the lovingly curated Arnprior & District Museum, Bonnie Jane’s Coffee House, fresh corn at McGregor’s veggie stand and world-class French fries at Wes’ Chips. arnprior.ca
Urban escape: Best on a sunny Saturday morning, the stretch of Wellington Street West between Parkdale and Smirle avenues is an exercise in citified diversity. West Park bowling alley, Fil’s Diner and Daniel O’Connell’s pub are a jaunty, connected trio. Cube Gallery and Gallery 3 feature lively art. The St. Vincent de Paul used goods store is legendary. For a snack or lunch, try the second floor at Thyme & Again. Within walking distance: John Ceprano’s astounding rock sculptures at Remic Rapids.

Mining matters: Who knew? Hundreds of small-scale mines peppered Eastern Ontario and Western Quebec in the late 1800s and early 1900s, their minerals shipped worldwide. Among them: the Silver Queen mica mine, now part of lovely Murphys Point Provincial Park on Big Rideau Lake. A visit takes you 70 feet down and includes a peek at a restored miners’ bunkhouse. About 75 minutes from downtown Ottawa, with a stop in historic Perth a must. 613-267-5060, ontarioparks.com

Conversation concerns: Its name is no grabber, but Mud Lake ranks among Ottawa’s in-town gems. Part of the 79-hectare Britannia Conservation Area close to Britannia Park, the lake — a sprawling pond, really — is home to fish, frogs and turtles, the latter enjoying few things more than sunbathing near the small bridge. Easily navigable trails, soaring pine trees and fabulous birdwatching round out a morning or afternoon here. ottawa.ca

Zippy ideas: Why just look at a magnificent canyon with whitewater rapids churning through it when you can fly right over the thing on a zip line? Chutes Coulonge Park, an historic log-driving site in west Quebec, also boasts rock climbing, trails and a cluster of other outdoor treats. Reservations required for some activities. 819-683-2770, chutescoulonge.qc.ca

Public art: The ByWard Market abounds not just in produce, but in soul-nourishing public art. Jean-Yves Vigneau’s bronze alley cats prowl and loll atop a parking garage at 141 Clarence St., colourful papier mâché characters float beneath the ceiling in the ByWard Market Square building and the reconstructed tin façade of an actual home enlivens a courtyard between Clarence and Murray streets just east of Sussex Drive. More at ottawatourism.ca/ottawa-insider/public-art-in-ottawa

Down in the country: There’s a reason some country fairs around Ottawa date back more than 150 years: They’re fun. That’s especially so for urbanites whose familiarity with brawny work horses, sticky cotton candy, raucous midways and home-grown vegetable competitions is likely minimal at best. Fairs run from June into the fall.

Patrick Langston is an Ottawa feature writer and adventurer.

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