A recent Ottawa Citizen article reported that City Councillor Doug Thompson wants visitors to “come for Winterlude and stay for the farms.” With that in mind, I’ve put together a list of fun farm destinations that Ottawa visitors can enjoy in February (or any month really).
- A farm stay at Gillenderry Farms in Pakenham. If you’re from out of town, why not stay in a B&B on a 170 year old farm just outside Ottawa? Gillanderry Farms is a working dairy and cash crop farm in Ottawa’s west end. The B&B offers three guestrooms in a beautiful old stone home. In your free time, you can visit the livestock and tour the farm’s museum containing 30 antique farm tractors!
- The animal barns at Canada Agricultural Museum. The exhibition areas are closed until February 26, but the animal barns are open. Drop by and visit with the dairy and beef cattle, pigs, sheep, horses, and chickens. Best of all, there’s no admission charge at this time of year (but donations are encouraged)!
- RMCP Rockcliffe Stables: Visiting Ottawa on a Tuesday or Thursday during Winterlude? You might want to stop by the RMCP Rockcliffe Stables, where you can visit with the RCMP horses and learn all about the Musical Ride. Click here for my recent blog post about this destination.
- Beer and wine in Vankleek Hill: Make the trip out to Vankleek Hill to visit two alcohol-themed destinations: the very popular Beau’s Brewery, which offers tours daily from 10am-6pm, and the brand new Vankleek Hill Vineyard, which is open daily and offers terrific cold-climate wines by the glass or bottle. Vankleek Hill is about 1 hour east of Ottawa, and is worth visiting just to see the town’s beautiful gingerbread-style houses.
- A taste of Quebec: Head northeast of Ottawa to the Ripon area, an agritourism hotspot about an hour from downtown. Before you go, reserve a heritage farm tour at Les Trois Coteaux, a destination that I previously wrote about here. Also call ahead to the two wineries in the region, Domaine des Météores and Domaine Mont-Vezeau, to see if they are open for a visit. On your way up, stop by Fermes les Folies Bergères in Ste. Sixte to purchase some delicious sheep feta cheese.
- Parc Omega in Montebello: If you love the idea of getting up close to (semi) wild animals, you’ll have a great time at Parc Omega. This huge game park used to be a hunting preserve, but is now a popular tourist attraction offering close-up views of elk, deer, caribou, bison, wild boar, coyotes, and wolves. (They also have bears, but they hibernate during the winter.) You drive through the park in your own car, feeding carrots to the very friendly elk, deer, and boar through the car window. The animals are crazy for the carrots, so make sure to buy at least 2 bags per person (available in the visitors’ centre for $2/bag). While you’re in the area, stop at the historic log hotel, Chateau Montebello, for an outstanding buffet lunch.
- Skiing and snowshoeing at Wheelers Sugar Bush: Maple sugar season may still be a couple months away, but Wheelers is a great place to visit any time of the year. In the winter, their 15 km of trails are open (for free) for cross-country skiing, and they also offer snowshoes for rent ($5 for 2 hours). While you’re there, you can visit the maple museum and new logging museum, and then finish up with a meal at the pancake house. Located about an hour southwest of Ottawa, Wheelers is open daily from 9am to 5pm.
- Visiting the alpacas at Victory Farm Alpacas: If you’ve never been up close with an alpaca, you’re in for a big treat at Victory Farm Alpacas. These beautiful animals will bring a smile to your face as they greet you with sweetness and curiosity. After your tour, you can purchase alpaca products in the Victory Farm Store, where you can find some of the warmest socks and mittens you’ll ever come across. Victory Farm Alpaca is located in Lanark Highlands, not too far from Wheelers Sugar Bush. Open daily.
- An old-time store at Crerar Honey: Located on the southern outskirts of the city, the Crerar Honey store is a nostalgic step into the past. This family-owned business was established in 1914, with the current store added onto the family home in 1963. Walk into small, cramped store and be surrounded by honey history. You can even bring your own container to fill up from the honey tank. Open Monday to Saturday, 8am to 6pm.
- Apple cider and pie at Coronation Hall Cider Mills: Located near Shawville, Quebec (about an hour west of Ottawa), Coronation Hall Cider Mills sells apple cider, hard cider, and various apple baked goods sourced from local growers and the owner’s own apple orchard. There’s a very nice tearoom/café on site, and tours of the cidery can be arranged with advance notice in the winter. If you book a tour, ask to see the 1930’s dance hall that the owner and his family have restored – it’s not to be missed. Tearoom open Saturday 10am to 4pm and Sunday 1pm to 4pm.
If you’re visiting for Winterlude, I hope you’ll consider staying a full week and putting some of these rural tourism destinations on your to-do list. Some of Ottawa’s best winter fun happens outside of the urban area, as you’ll discover if you visit these great agritourism destinations!