As the summer season and the end of the school year loom, it is time for parents to start planning their family vacation.

However, with gas prices on the rise, people will likely be looking to stay closer to home. With this in mind, it is good to know that there is no shortage of family-friendly venues within several hundred kilometres of Ottawa.

“A family-friendly activity is one that the whole family can participate in,” says Misty Wade-Hovey, communications co-ordinator with Tourism Ottawa. “It should be memorable, interactive and hands-on.”

For example, Saunders Farm in Munster, Ont., features the world’s largest collection of hedge mazes, as well as a water park and tree forts. “The kids can run around and spend some energy,” Wade-Hovey says.

Other family-friendly venues include Parc Omega in Montebello, Que., (, which features exotic animals such as wild boars, wapitis, buffaloes, alpine Ibexes and wolves. Visitors can walk the grounds and watch shows featuring the animals.

Also in Quebec are adventure parks, including Mont. Cascades Water Park and Camp Fortune’s Aerial Experience, a course of wires and rope bridges perched in the tree tops, which opens for the season May 3.

In an attempt to facilitate the planning process, Wade-Hovey points out that Tourism Ottawa’s website ( features a family discovery package, as well as an event calender that indicates family-friendly activities. The family discover package consists of a two-night stay at an area hotel, which is an initiative aimed at getting families to reconnect in an atmosphere close to home. The website includes a search function that allows parents to customize their search for local hotel rooms.

In the Kingston region, Tourism Kingston’s Chris Whyman points to Fort Henry as the most attractive family-friendly site. At the historic site, children can dress up like soldiers and visit an education museum. In addition, there is no shortage of places for children to run around and release some energy, including climbing gymnasiums and beaches, city parks for picknicking and fishing holes. “The kids seem to love the beaches here,” Whyman says.

There is also a ferry ride to Wolf Island that children seem to enjoy, Whyman adds. In Kingston, the 50-minute trolley ride is a popular way for families to tour the city, and of course, tours of the Thousand Islands.

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