When in Rome: The Ottawa Edition

Looking back, I can’t determine when Danielle (or @hippieindisguise) and I crossed paths. I’m pretty sure I was creeping on Carina’s insta-feed after reading her thoughtful comments again and again. Then I got a mad case of the envies after Martha Stewart (yes, that Martha Stewart) started re-gramming her work… Now that we have gotten to know this amazing Ottawan, I love her even more. Once a dancer, then a communications theory, art history, and philosophy nerd, and now forever more a mother, Danielle focuses on the little things that make life beautiful and inspiring. Simple fun, spending time outdoors, making and seeking out artful things. Danielle enjoys sharing her children’s delight in these activities on her Instagram gallery and on her website.

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Can you tell us a little bit about yourself, your family and of course where you live?

I’m Danielle, I’m passionate about parenting, art, adventure, minimalism, slow living, sustainability and community. I have two lively free-spirited children, Ro (my girl who is 10) and Sen (my boy who is 4). And very fortunate to be married to Matt, an avid cyclist, writer and thinker. We live, play and work in Canada’s capital, Ottawa. We are downtown, urban dwellers that seek adventure and nature in the city. We are pedestrians most of the time, cycling when walking can’t take us places. On a daily basis, I am motivated to ensure that my children are connected with each other, with their city and the natural environment. I love doing simple things with my children like exploring the city on foot on our “urban adventures,” collecting natural toys and treasures, discovering street art, and playing among the trees and plants we find on hidden paths and in abandoned lots; this is what I like to call minimalist fun.

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What are the 3 top spots that should not be missed when visiting your city with kids?

There are so many beautiful, fun and unique spots in Ottawa. My absolute favourite spot is along the Ottawa River Pathway, where a local artist John Ceprano works most days, weather permitting. (The spot is on Google Maps just search “John Ceprano Rock Sculptures”). Using the rocks that wash along the river, he builds rock balancing sculptures in an around the shallow waters. People are encouraged to interact with John and to build their own sculptures. I love any activity that mixes outdoor fun and art-making. We spend many full days and weekends at this spot, playing on our own, meeting new people, joining outdoor yoga classes, and exploring.

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Another great spot is the National Art Gallery, which is a very child friendly gallery with lots of interactive components in the exhibits and Artissimo (children’s lab) on the weekends. While I love what the gallery itself has to offer, I most love the location of the gallery because it is set on the Ottawa river, near beautiful walking paths and Major’s Hill Park. Each of these spots offer space to explore and move around after a more structured walk through the gallery. If you visit, don’t forget to explore the grounds around and behind the gallery, there is a lovely native plants garden and sculptures to enjoy.

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The grounds at the Central Experimental Farm are superb. Ottawa is fortunate to have a fully functioning farm in the downtown of the city. It’s not in the core of the downtown, but technically it is within the downtown perimeter. The farm is government-run and operates year round. The official museum spaces requires a fee to enter, however there is so much to explore that is free, that we usually only pay for entry twice a year: for the pumpkins in the fall and the newborn farm animals in the spring. The farm has a botanical garden on the grounds, which you can access for free any time of the day, it is great for picnicking and for hide and seek. Bonus: all the plants, trees and flowers are labelled so you can up your flora vocabulary each visit. Across the street from the farm is the Arboretum, with beautiful walking paths, steep hills, charming foot bridges, and of course, climbing trees and lots of fruit trees to forage from (shhh, don’t tell anyone, I want all the pears!). If you wander far enough you’ll come up to Dow’s Lake and the Rideau Canal, which border the Arboretum. We often spend entire days on the farm grounds and still wish we could stay longer.

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