Special Events and Programs

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Easter at the Estate

Saturday, April 19 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

One of our most popular events, Easter at the Estate has all the things you’d expect– egg dyeing, egg races, an Easter egg hunt, and of course the Easter Bunny himself is there to visit with families and he loves to have his photo taken! But did you know we take Easter to another level with our depictions of rabbits throughout popular culture (think Bugs Bunny, the Velveteen Rabbit, Peter Rabbit, and more) and our custom Elmer Fudd “shooting gallery”? Cost: $6/person, $10/pair, $16/family.

Ever wonder why bunnies are an iconic image for Easter? Since rabbits were associated with goddesses of spring and fertility in 13th century Teutonic culture and because the date of Easter was traditionally chosen based on the date of the spring equinox, rabbits and Easter became linked.

The first known record of the Easter bunny tradition occurred some 200 years later in 15th century German literature. German settlers brought the Easter bunny tradition with them to Pennsylvania another 300 years later, in the 18th century.

Similar to leaving out cookies for Santa Claus, German children would leave out carrots for the Easter Bunny in hopes he would leave them extra special candy.

Our event explores the images of bunnies and rabbits through the course of modern history, focusing on the images present in popular culture. Children will learn-age appropriate information about these popular bunnies like Bugs Bunny, Peter Rabbit, the White Rabbit (from Alice in Wonderland), Thumper (from the movie “Bambi”), and several others - including the Duracell and Energizer bunnies. Adults might learn a thing or two about these images while they’re on site, too!

Mother’s Day Tea

Sunday, May 11 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Enjoying music in the gardens while sipping tea is the perfect way to celebrate Mother’s Day. Harpists and a small group performing music from the Victorian period make coming to the Estate for our three-tier tea service a great way to show the women in your life how much they mean to you.  Don’t miss the display of musical artefacts from our collection while you’re here! Cost: Admission to the museum is free with tea room purchase.  Regular tea room prices apply.

Travelling Tent Show: Live Performance

Friday, May 30 from 7 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.

If you’ve never been to a tent show in the past, here’s your opportunity to experience some vintage entertainment. Popular until the 1930s, when radios and cinemas became more accessible, tent shows helped to spread different kinds of art and entertainment right across North America.  This year’s show focuses on the stories from the Great War, including the stories of our own Hugh and Charles Alexander Billings – men who heroically served our country in the Great War. Cost: $15/person.

Doors Open Ottawa

Saturday and Sunday, June 7 and 8 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Take advantage of this citywide event to tour our National Historic Site and learn about one of the oldest houses in Ottawa. Guided tours lead you from the basement to the attic, and through the evolution of the Estate from when it was first built to how it appears today.  Bring your family and take a stab at building the Billings house from Lego™! Cost:  Free admission.

Father’s Day Antique Car Show

Sunday, June 15 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Featuring some of the coolest cars in town, this classic Estate event lets you get up close and personal with awesome examples of beautifully preserved automotive history – including our own 1959 Cadillac. Family activities exploring 1950s and ‘60s Popular Mechanics are: building simple machines and batteries, making your own circuits, and playing a circuitry game. Cost: $6/person, $10/pair or $16/family.

Canada Day Tea Service

Tuesday, July 1 from 11 am to 4 p.m.

Looking to celebrate Canada’s history but want to avoid the downtown crowds? To mark 2014 as the 100th anniversary of the start of the First World War, we’ve added a twist to our popular tea service: the Triple Entente Three-Tier Service and the Central Powers Platter featuring foods from each side of the War. Top off your Canada Day by exploring our new exhibition, In it Together: Our City during The Great War, and learn about uniforms and fashion that were popular during the War by experimenting with our large-scale paper dolls. Cost: Admission to the museum is free with tea room purchase.  Regular tea room prices apply.

Captains of Industry

Wednesdays in July from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m.

Do you have a future Captain of Industry in your family? This series of programs introduces young visitors to the people who helped make local history great. Just to name a few of the Captains of Industry topics and activities: build a steamboat and play a traditional canal builders’ game to learn about Colonel By, learn about Philemon Wright and the lumber industry by exploring the forestry at the estate and building a log cabin with Lincoln Logs™, with Thomas McKay’s story told through making cement stones and using Jenga™ to understand the engineering of walls.  Ages 8  - 12. Cost: $6/participant.

Geology Rocks

Thursdays in July from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m.

Not many people nowadays know that Elkanah Billings was the first professional paleontologist in Canada and worked in the field of geology. This series of programs for budding scientists celebrates Elkanah’s efforts by using hands-on activities to teach about fossils and dinosaurs, minerals, land formations, and volcanoes and earthquakes – including building a beaker volcano using sand and wax! Ages 8 – 12. Cost: $6/participant.

Little Critters

Fridays in July from 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.

With 8 acres of parkland so close to the downtown core, this program encourages discovery of the littlest critters living on site. Inspired by the Billings’ own amateur entomologist – Braddish II – young children will learn about a new insect and its lifecycle each week, play insect-related games, go on bug hunts, and make crafts to take home. Bring a picnic lunch or pick up one from our tea room and spend the rest of the afternoon relaxing on the grounds. Ages 3 – 5. Cost: $6/participant.

Preschool Picnics at the Museum

Fridays in August from 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.

Introduce your little ones to the wonders of museums at an early age! Preschool Picnics encourage imaginative learning through role playing as Jack from Jack and the Beanstalk (and others!), making fossils to learn about natural history, doing “chores” like pioneer children would have done, and playing matching games to learn about big vs. little to help them understand the world around them. A small picnic lunch is provided. Ages 3 – 5. Cost: $8/participant.

Can You Dig It?

Wednesdays in August from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m.

Unearth Ottawa’s best kept secrets by digging into our outdoor, hands-on archaeology program! Each one of these weekly programs focuses on a different aspect of archaeology, and delves into the past by having children participate in archaeological digs to discover buried artefacts. Topics range from how to set up a digging grid, to artifact dating techniques, to making a time capsule.  Ages 6 – 12. Cost: $6/participant.

History Detectives

Thursdays in August from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m.

Do you have an aspiring Sherlock Holmes at home? Our History Detectives series of weekly programs presents a different mystery to solve by collecting a series of clues, studying evidence, and carrying out investigative work to crack the case! Helping children develop deductive reasoning skills and teaching them about the history of the Estate becomes fun with cases like: The Case of the Lost Lumber, the Missing Tea Biscuits, the Case of the Train Delay, and more! Ages 6 – 12. Cost: $6/participant. 

Vintage Motorcycle Show

Sunday, August 17 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Come meet the keepers of vintage motorcycles and their prized possessions! You’ll learn about different types of motorcycles from different parts of the world and can test your motorcycle knowledge with our family-friendly scavenger hunt. Cost: $6/person, $10/pair or $16/family.