Which of our parks is most fun?

Betsy Mann

Once the snow has melted and the mud has dried, Laurier Park will again be full of families enjoying the climbing structures and sand pit. It’s just one of the parks where, until May 5, you can join in the game of hide and seek the #OCF Rocks, organized by the Children’s Festival. For details, go to

Spring is coming and our neighbourhood parks are slowly emerging from their blanket of snow. Soon the mud will dry up too and it will be time to take the kids to the park. But which Sandy Hill park is the best one for children? Turns out, opinions vary, partly on the season and partly on the age of the children.

With her two girls, aged 4 and 6, Clara Winer says, “My vote would be Sandy Hill Park, the one behind the community centre!” This park has attractions for all seasons: the skating rink and change rooms in the winter, the two-level wading pool in the summer and the play structures all year round. Washrooms in the community centre can be an important feature for the young crowd too.

Suneeta Millington and Guylaine Lemaire like Wilfrid Laurier Park on Chapel with its splash pad, colourful climbing apparatus and big trees that provide shade. They also like the fact that it is fenced to keep the kids safe. “Now if we could find a way to keep the dogs and their owners out!” Guylaine adds. There are signs at the entrance, but they’re not always respected. Both Suneeta and Guylaine mention that in season, this park is the regular meeting place for a group of friends and neighbours who gather to chat while their children play. “We really miss that community when the cold weather arrives,” laments Guylaine.

Leanne Moussa agrees that the group of neighbours who frequent Wilfrid Laurier Park and the fence for safety make this a favourite with her younger children, who enjoy the water and sand play. On the other hand, she says, “My older kids vote for Strathcona every time—lots of space to kick a ball.” Strathcona Park also houses the award-winning play structure, designed by Stephen Braithwaite, which doubles as a giant sandbox. Called Strathcona’s Folly, it was assembled in part from bits and pieces salvaged from Ottawa buildings, among others the Daly Building, the Capitol Theatre, L’Institut Jeanne-d’Arc, and the Windsor-Duvernay Hotel. The two big stone faces that have enchanted many children since the play structure was built in 1992 come from a branch of the Bank of Montreal. Public washrooms are located near the wading pool and are open in season.

All our parks have their attractions. Try them all and decide if you and your children have a favourite.

The Children’s Festival rocks in our parks

The Children’s Festival will be bringing a host of entertainers to Lebreton Flats Park from May 8 to 12, but before then, organizers have started a game of hide and seek in parks all over the city. Starting April 22, they will be hiding rocks with the words “#OCFRocks” in city parks and are inviting children to go seek them. When children find a rock—not just any rock, but one marked “#OCFRocks”!—they should take a photo of it and post it on social media (Facebook, Twitter or Instagram), using #OCFRocks. They should include the name of the park where it is hidden and be sure to leave the rock there for someone else to find. If the family does not have access to social media they can email the photo to and organizers will post it for them.

Until May 5, children can join in the game by painting their own rocks and placing them in their favourite park for others to find. The place they choose should be hidden enough to make the game interesting, but not so well hidden that no one will find their rock. They can paint the rock with one of the monsters in the Children’s Festival colouring book ( or create their own design, but the rock must also have #OCFRocks on it.

Organizer Joni Hamlin explains that the idea behind the game is to spread joy in the community. “If a child finds a decorated rock it is certain to make them happy,” she says. They’ll be even happier if they are one of the winners of a family pass to the Children’s Festival. “All the photos will be entered in a contest for a chance to win,” Joni adds. So get painting and visit your favourite park to hide your rock. Maybe you’ll find someone else’s when you’re there; be prepared to take a photo!