Last month Outaouais Tourisme invited me to try out the new  Parc Omega camping in the park experience.  I was skeptical at first, camping for the first time as a single parent, but I bribed begged managed to woo Ann into joining us for 2 days of fun.

The Experience

The Outaouais region is a popular destination packed with hidden gems just waiting to be discovered.  Located in southwestern Quebec by our nation’s capital it’s an easy choice for family getaways no matter the season.

We’ve been to Parc Omega many times – almost twice yearly since Jasmine was a toddler.  Seasoned veterans we still discovered new things and lived an unforgettable experience.

Our adventure started with a private tour led by the park’s zoological director, Serge.  We had brought plenty of carrots to feed the large animals but if you didn’t come prepared you can purchase some onsite.

We visited the Old Farm including pony rides for the three girls.  A black wolf sat in front of her den, newborn pups peering out from just beyond the edge.  A visibly pregnant arctic fox digging a tunnel kept us entertained as she started and stopped to look at us.

There were so many little moments of magic, and perhaps a few good lessons.  Keep reading as I share the captured moments and anecdotes.  You’ll also find some some time-saving, stress-busting tips along with a few hard lessons learned.

Last month Outaouais Tourisme invited me to try out the new  Parc Omega camping in the park experience.  I was skeptical at first, camping for the first time as a single parent, but I bribed begged managed to woo Ann into joining us for 2 days of fun.

The Experience

The Outaouais region is a popular destination packed with hidden gems just waiting to be discovered.  Located in southwestern Quebec by our nation’s capital it’s an easy choice for family getaways no matter the season.

We’ve been to Parc Omega many times – almost twice yearly since Jasmine was a toddler.  Seasoned veterans we still discovered new things and lived an unforgettable experience.

Our adventure started with a private tour led by the park’s zoological director, Serge.  We had brought plenty of carrots to feed the large animals but if you didn’t come prepared you can purchase some onsite.

We visited the Old Farm including pony rides for the three girls.  A black wolf sat in front of her den, newborn pups peering out from just beyond the edge.  A visibly pregnant arctic fox digging a tunnel kept us entertained as she started and stopped to look at us.

There were so many little moments of magic, and perhaps a few good lessons.  Keep reading as I share the captured moments and anecdotes.  You’ll also find some some time-saving, stress-busting tips along with a few hard lessons learned.

parc omega fox digging

Making Memories

After several stressful months a day with nature was just what the girls & I needed. A short break from real life to reset the mind.

Edited to add: A year later they’re all still talking about how much fun they had.

parc omega
parc omega
parc omega
parc omega
parc omega
parc omega animal encounters

Pony Rides

Pony rides are always fun, whether at the local fair, the zoo, or other attraction. At $3 per ride (or 2 for $5) this is one of the easiest (read: affordable) ways to give all three some breathing space.

Much needed when traveling in close quarters.

parc omega pony rides
parc omega pony rides
parc omega pony rides
parc omega pony rides
parc omega pony rides

More than carrots

The animals you see on the trail are just a fraction of the four-legged contingent. All species are provided a balanced diet to meet their nutritional needs. Their care is overseen by Parc Omega’s zoological director.

Carrots, however, a huge treat for them. When the urge to snack comes on, they wander over to the trails where your kids’ hands are waiting with carrots.

context travel in montreal
context travel in montreal
context travel in montreal
context travel in montreal
context travel in montreal
context travel in montreal
context travel in montreal

Baby Fever

Visiting Parc Omega in May you might get a few glimpses of babies and some very pregnant mommas.

The kids had fun trying to spot the mums-to-be and looking for babies in the various dens.

parc omega
parc omega

Baby Fever

Visiting Parc Omega in May you might get a few glimpses of babies and some very pregnant mommas.

The kids had fun trying to spot the mums-to-be and looking for babies in the various dens.

parc omega

Staying the Night: What You Need to Know

parc omega accommodations

Pro Tip

It may sound silly but it never occurred to me there would be little to no cell service in the deep woods of Parc Omega.  Yeah…  it’s not like it was the playoffs or anything….

If you’re planning on entertaining yourself after the kids go to bed have your devices fully charged before you arrive.  Remember to also download your e-books or Netflix show.

parc omega solar energy
parc omega dry toilet
parc omega camping trail to site
parc omega camping trail to site

Accommodations

(updated spring 2017)
Parc Omega features five types of accommodations: tipis, wi-tents (3), prospector tents (3), log cabins, and a house on stilts (1).

Each site features a private dry toilet a few meters away, a fire pit, and beds.  Bedding is available for rent if you forget to bring your own.  You may also purchase fire wood and carrots for the animals.

Solar energy is used for lighting inside all lodgings (except for tipis) and there is access to a community building with stoves, microwaves, coffee makers ( ! ), kettles, heaters, and more.

As you can see from the map above, there is ample space between each site providing plenty of privacy. This also means there’s quite a hike from the parking lot to your cabin. Thankfully the park provides a utility wagon for each site to facilitate the process of getting all your gear up the trail (and back to your car when you leave).

We stayed in prospector tent #1.  The wagon was very useful, but it’s still a winding, uphill, trail in the woods.  A pair of sneakers to switch into would have been great, instead of my ‘ol trusty flip flops.

Successfully making fire on my first solo trip with the girls felt like I’d conquered the world. I may have thumped my chest and lifted my hands up in the air declaring fire. The kids may have shook their heads in shame over my exuberance.

parc omega prospector tent

Pro Tip

After going through a few dozen matches trying to light said fire I gave up and shoved the lit citronella garden stake in the fire pit (where I’d already added kindling and paper) and Voila!

< thumps chest triumphly > I didn’t fail at fire – I succeeded at thinking outside the box. That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it. < / end celebratory shenanigans because kids >

parc omega camping fire pit

Last But Not Least: Packing

Pro Tip

We had planned to go offsite for dinner – except it was a holiday Monday in the middle of nowhere. We had to drive quite a bit to find an open diner, restaurant, or casse-croute.

A few minutes of research can save you lots of driving. Short-list a few possibilities and you can choose the day of. If you’re traveling on a weekend or holiday, call them to confirm hours of operation.

Gear Up!

Packing up for a few days with 3 kids is a challenge.  Packing it all up in a small car while remaining visibility is an art.  They don’t call me the Luggage Whisperer for nothing!

Have just bought a new car, a newer-model Ford Escape (which is significantly smaller than older models), it took some imagination to get everything – and everyone – in comfortably.

The kids, being used to our old van, bickered the whole way up.  Something about breathing the same air as their siblings.  They also whined, bitched, and complained all the way from Parc Omega to downtown Montreal the next morning.

Edited to add (2017): Lets just say… I’m pretty sure Ann is still suffering from PTSD after this experience.  

 

parc omega car gear

Soft Shell Cooler – Huge

Costco has these great insulated bags in the spring. I added some ice and put all the perishables (see list above) in this bag. It also held the snack foods that didn’t fit in the smaller one, such as the chips and corn puffs.

One of the girls had an ear infection at the time. I put her meds in this bag.

Food – lunch meat, mustard, juice box X 6, apples, 1 package of hot dogs, a bag of corn puffs, a bag of chips, 2 cans of beer, 3 X 1 liter water bottles, 1 box of cereal, 6 iogo minis, a big bag of ice.

Soft Shell Cooler – Small

A generic soft shell cooler bag designed for beers and such will do. This bag had the bread, snacks, peanut butter, a few butter knives, and one of the beer cans (taken from the fridge) to keep things relatively cool.

Food – loaf of bread, jar of peanut butter, roughly 30 granola bars and such, 2 cans of beer

Personal care – 1 brush, toothbrushes and paste, a handful of elastics, medication (mine), Advil (kids & adult), allergy meds (kids & adult), sunscreen, deodorant, bug spray, 2 packages of baby wipes,

Beach / Park blanket

This rolled up beach blanket was great for sitting on by the fire.  It was also used to cover the stroller when Chloe fell asleep on our Montreal tour.

A wrap style baby sling is also great for covering the stroller, as you can configure it in many ways.

Camping Stuff – 1 large beach / picnic blanket, 4 citronella garden stakes, a pack of matches.  The park provided us with bedding and wood as part of our experience.

Full-size Stroller

We were booked for a 3+ hr walking tour of Montreal on day 2.  Need I say more?

Full-size versus umbrella will take up more space but make your life much easier.  We placed it on it’s side to maximize trunk space.

Miscellaneous – 1 stroller (full size), Ann’s stuff (a few bags, a camera bag, several water bottles and some pop)

Canvas basket

Given the size of the car, the amount of people going in it, and the afore-mentioned stroller I put all of our clothes in a soft-sided, collapsible, canvas laundry basket.

You can’t see it in the picture, but it’s hiding behind the small cooler and part of the stroller.  It doesn’t matter how big your stroller is, or which wheel gets in the way – it will always fit.

Clothes – 2 pairs of underwear for everyone; 1 each [pant, short, t-shirt, sweater, socks] per kid, 1 pant and 1 short for myself, 2 t-shirts for myself,  Sneakers for the kids as we were in Montreal the following day.

Electronics

I put all the chargers, batteries, and electronics in one bag so we wouldn’t constantly be looking through bags to find them.

This particular one is an insulated lunch bag. I put it in the fridge the night before (or the freezer, if there’s room) with the top open.  This helps prevent overheating, specially if it will be in the car for 2 days.

Electronics – chargers – phone, camera, laptop, Surface Pro 3, my camera, and a power inverter (the kind you plug into your car to power).

Famous Last Words

Parc Omega is always a fun day with the family. Regardless of how you feel about your “outdoor” skills and experience, consider staying the night at the parc.

The accommodations are rustic – I wouldn’t mistake this for “glamping” – but it’s definitely a few steps up from pitching a tent in the ground and hoping the wind doesn’t blow you away.

Bonus: Unlike many other campgrounds here you are pretty much guaranteed to not run into a bear or two. Fallow deer and other small animals run freely in the lodging area but the bears and other animals are nicely contained in their respective areas.

You need a key to drive into the lodging area, there’s a guard on duty 24/7, and being afraid of bears is no longer an obstacle. There’s plenty of privacy and you get to sleep on a real mattress. Heck, you don’t even need to pee in a bush!

So what say you? Feeling up to an adventure you won’t soon forget? Check out Parc Omega’s website and start planning your stay!

parc omega outaouais tourisme
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