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Pick them up some snowshoes for an outdoor gift experience! Photo: emrold/Apt613 Flickr pool.

#Support613 Gift Guide: Things you can do together

By Aileen Duncan on November 30, 2020

Part 7 of Apt613’s holiday gift guide showcases things you can do with your family, friends and loved ones.

Sometimes, the best gifts are memories and shared experiences. Are you looking for something fun and safe to do with your friends, family, and loved ones, which you can give instead of a physical gift? Here are some great options.

Make beautiful things with your hands

Unleash your inner artist! You can do a guided session with a paint night, or you can pick up some artist supplies and let the creativity flow freely by getting supplies at Wallack’s on Bank St. Painting sessions are $15, and art supplies are flexible in price. Prefer something more tactile? You can take a pottery class and make your own ornaments or a ceramic mug at the Hintonburg Pottery Shop, which has been able to hold classes with pottery wheels that maintain social distancing. For those with a green thumb, Flowers Talk Tivoli offer DIY kits and online workshops. They provide all of the materials you would need to make your own holiday displays, air plant terrariums, or the succulent garden of your dreams.

Walking with alpacas and llamas

I kid you not. Get an alpaca walk for every.single.person (at least, that’s what I’m planning to do). The cost is $20-35 per person per hour – Serendipity is less expensive, and Jock River is closer to Ottawa. Both are freaking cute though. All proceeds from these walks go to directly to the care and feeding of these very special animals.

Chill with critters

Don’t want to go outside but still crave a close encounter with a critter? You can book a virtual creature feature with a lizard, scorpion, Sphinx cat, and more from Kemptville-based Reptile Rainforest, which offers fun and educational experiences that demystify the world of reptiles. Having transitioned online makes it easier than ever to meet a cool animal without ever having to step outside your door! Great for kids but I for one am booking a lizard-meet for my holiday zoom party at work.

Meal kit to make together

The way to anyone’s heart is through their stomach, right? So why not support local and make a fun meal with the assistance of a meal kit from a local restaurant? I see literally no downsides. More affordable than a takeout meal, and you can do some stuff yourself. There are probably more than I know, but here are a few options:

Performing arts event

The performing arts have been one of the hardest-hit industries during the pandemic. Some groups are doing virtual events, while others are tentatively rescheduling. There’s more uncertainty than most industries in this gift; however, there are also some great opportunities to provide gifts. Check the following resources for idea on events which may appeal to you and your loved ones:

Family portrait

2020 was such a monumental year, why not commemorate it? I, for one, would like to showcase my clammy skin from lack of sun and my quarantine 15. It’s a heck of a year. (But seriously, might as well capture the occasion with fun props and professional photography). There aren’t a lot of big weddings this year, so your local wedding or concert photographer might need some help.

There are quite a few photographers and one of the most important things is to find someone that you and your family feel comfortable with. Google it, check your Instagram for friends who are photographers, or use one of these photographers.

Outdoor gear for winter activities

Winter can be tough, but finding ways to get outside and stay active are one of the ways to stay sane. It’s not directly an experience, but why not invest in some kind of winter outdoors/sports equipment for someone in your life? That stuff is expensive to get all at once! Here are some suggestions: snowshoes, skis, snow pants, gloves, skates, or a toboggan. You can buy used equipment from Play it Again Sports (which also minimizes environmental impact) or check out a different store and make a donation to whichever land trust manages the land you use for recreational purposes.

Skate in the forest

This epic skating and showshoeing area is a 3km course through a forest! It’s a winding and looping journey through mature trees, and is located about 45 minutes away from Ottawa (OK, technically outside the National Capital Region, but it’s still awesome). It’s $14 for a day for adults, $10 for youth, and free for children under 6. There are also family rates, and you can rent equipment onsite. Season passes are also available. There is a washroom and outdoor canteen.

Shake through the forest this winter! Photo: Patinage en foret.

Gatineau Park & NCC trails

OK, can we take a second to appreciate all the amazing trails we have access to thanks to the National Capital Commission? Plan a winter walk through the greenbelt on one of the many groomed trails around the city. In the west end, Stony Swamp has an amazing 40km network of short and longer trails, while in the east end, Pine Grove and Mer Bleue each have around 20km of trail to let you wander happily. Pick a parking “P” to start from and see where you end up – a new adventure every time!

Look at some art

The lovely new Ottawa Art Gallery reopened earlier this year and is still free to visit, but a ticket is required due to pandemic restrictions. Make an afternoon out of it — bring sketchbooks and pencils (also a lovely gift available at many art supply stores!) and practice drawing what you see, then grab a coffee and take a stroll by the canal while you compare the results.


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Babysitting services

Doesn’t every parent need a bit of time away from their children, to have an actual date or maybe just some quiet time?? OK, I’m not a parent and I don’t know how to find a babysitter, nor can I comment on what parents need. However, this strikes me as a gift that would be super appreciated by all the parents in your life. Here’s some info about babysitting during COVID.

Horseback riding

Riding is a great family-friendly activity that might ignite a passion in some people or recall childhood experiences. There are a few places around the capital where you can take lessons, including Wesley Clover Park and Royale Equestrian Center, or try a trail ride at Captiva Farms.


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Embodied experiences:

These two are 18+ so please read with caution!

Sex toys & accessories

I mean, we are spending so much time at home… might as well make the best of it? Surprise your partner with a sensual experience to help pass this long winter. I can’t make any recommendations because everyone has different desires, kinks, and bodies – but can confirm that the lovely people at Venus Envy are very much able to offer suggestions. They also have a great bookshop.


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Cannabis vaporiser

Local industries include our newly legalized recreational crop, cannabis. Might I suggest a gift that enables an embodied experience and minimizes the impact on the body? Consume without the smoke. Get a vaporizer for your favourite pot smoker. Some options here from Tweed, which have their HQ in Kanata. Or you can check out your local pot store.

Any other cool experiences around the capital to suggest? Leave us a note in the comments.