Thursday, March 24, 2011

Parc Omega

When you have three kids spanning three age groups finding a family activity that does not inspire groans from at least one moody member is a huge coup...and we have found one.

Parc Omega

Located  about an hour from Ottawa, and an hour and a half drive from my neck of the woods, Long Sault, Parc Omega is a little bit of wilderness in our back yard, minutes from quaint downtown Montebello. It is a terrific stop if you are on your way to Mont Tremblant.

The parc is comprised of 1500 acres, offering a 10 kilometer driving path through meadows, lakes, forests and rocky hills harboring a virtual pot pourri of exciting wildlife.

And I mean exciting. Especially if you happen to be in the possession of carrots.

Why? Because the wildlife that calls Parc Omega home loves their carrots.

What kind of wildlife? Wapiti, black bears, buffalo, red deer, white tail deer, caribou, beavers, the fallow, arctic wolves and timberwolves. And the boars. Oh, the little piggy boars!

With the exception of the wolves and the black bears, the collection of animals at Parc Omega roam free and plentiful, jauntily approaching your vehicles for food.

And this is where the multigenerational family bonding begins...all my children were initially equally terrified of the huge noses probing their way into the truck, sniffing out the food they knew must be in there somewhere.

The tour at Parc Omega starts at the front gate, with imposing statues that got the kids excited right away ( okay, maybe not the teenager).
The park is open year round, offering different adventures for every season, and there is seasonal pricing. From November 1 to May 31 adults are 14$, kids ages 6-15 are 10$ each and children ages 2-5 are 5$ each. From June 1 until October 31st, adults are 18$, kids 6-15 are 13$ and children 2-5 are 6$.The hours vary as well, so check before heading out.

The first stop is at the "House of Park", a log cabin housing a snack bar  ( the teenager got excited about this...fries...yum ), a gift shop ( all the kids dug this;)) and a lower area where nature exhibitions are held. When we visited in February, there was a spectacular nature photography exhibition, with huge prints taken within the park. There were also arctic wolf pups playing and nestling up against the windows of the building, in a fenced in area where the parc often places it's most vulnerable members - babies and recovering animals. These little guys were a huge hit with children and adults alike.

The most important thing to note about this stop are the carrots.

Carrots make the drive through the park more fun and they are available by the bag at the gift shop cash, for 2$ a bag. You can bring your own ( carrots are the preferred food for the animals as they are sweet and safe for them ), but the park carrots are nice and long making feeding very easy for your children. There are rules around who to feed and not feed, depending on the season, and all this is explained to you upon entering the park. We were not allowed to feed the buffalos...and one look at them lumbering up to and rubbing against the truck explained why. They are huge.

Once on the road, you will be greeted almost immediately by large caribou who anticipate your carrot sharing. The drive through the park is slow going, with most cars making the most of the feeding opportunities. You do have to be mindful of fingers and staying inside the vehicle, but in 10 years of visits we have never had a bitten finger.

You are able to tune your radio to FM 88.1 in English or FM 90.1 in French to listen to a good narrative about the park, it's history, philosophy and the animals found within it's boundary...which sometimes includes wildlife from outside the boundaries...

There are three walking paths available to visitors, and often you are able to visit with and feed deer along these protected trails. We were lucky enough to catch the opening weekend of the "cabane a sucre", and enjoyed taffy on a stick and a short walk in the brisk sunny weather. This is a new feature at the park and it was busy and popular the day we were there. The maple trees are tapped right there.

So, with all these possibilities, what did my kids enjoy the most? The teen enjoyed the fries, the tween loved feeding the deer and caribou ( after her initial "squeeeeeeee" moment ) and the baby loved pointing out all the boars. Of which there are many. Too many, lol, and not very bright...I was worried about hitting them a few times.

I loved the flying wild turkeys and my husband was thrilled with the fact that the cranky caribou did not leave a permanent hoof print on the truck when he kicked the door when cut off from his carrot fix.

All of us were thrilled to see the black bears out of hibernation THAT DAY, enjoying the sun. That was really exciting as they were very close to the fence.

The whole tour took us an hour and a bit, and you are allowed to go around as many times as you wish. Many people, in the summer, bring picnics and enjoy lakeside dining on the patio at the  "House of the Park". There are statues for the kids to clamber over and inquire about and lots of place for them to run during and after the car ride. There are also bird of prey shows in July and August.

A side note...if you are hungry after leaving Parc Omega, there is a great greasy spoon/ casse croute in Montebello called "La Belle Bedaine". The poutine was too die for. Seriously worth the stop:).

This post was written for the Ottawa area blog *Kids in the Capital* .

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