Canadian-born singer/songwriter Dan Bremnes is fast becoming one of the hottest names in Christian music, following the 2014 release of his debut single “Beautiful.”The track, which is a testament to the power of Jesus’ love and the miracles it can create, has achieved numerous accolades since it dropped. His pensive lyrics and impressive vocals have won him fans around the world, and he recently sat down for a candid chat with The Christian Post in which he spoke about fatherhood and what it has taught him about pain and suffering, finding his calling during a missions trip to Australia, and overcoming the tragic death of his mother.
The following is an edited transcript of CP’s interview with Dan Bremnes.
CP: Your debut single “Beautiful” peaked at No. 14 on the National Christian Audience Chart and won you a few Canadian Dove awards. What inspired the song and are you surprised at how much it continues to resonate with so many people?
Bremnes: That was exciting because I actually wrote the song almost 10 years ago, and I think the reason why people have responded to it is it came from a very real place. I had just come back to God, and my life was kind of broken and it just kind of came out as a prayer.
I remember sitting on my couch and just praying those words: “God, I want everything that you’ve got for me; I won’t be satisfied until I find everything that you are.” And the chorus says “you changed me from what I used to be / you opened my eyes now I can see / you’re making this life so beautiful.”
And that really is what God started and continues to do in my life. And it was just this revelation I had of “man, the miracle of God changing a heart and changing a mind.” I wasn’t thinking radio, I wasn’t thinking anything, I was just singing to God.
CP: You’re the father of a 15-month-old boy named Eli. How has fatherhood impacted your faith?
Bremnes: I’ve started to see things a little bit differently now that I’m a father. You know, the Bible is full of all these parallels of how God’s our Father, and I look at Eli and one of the biggest revelations I’ve had is I hate it when he’s in pain. I can’t always stop it when he’s in pain. Sometimes it will be physical or emotional pain, and I look at him and I think I can see a little bit from God’s perspective.
Everyone wonders, why does God allow pain? Why does God allow suffering if God’s so good? But God’s just like our father, just like I’m Eli’s father. It doesn’t mean that He can stop every single bad thing, because we live in a fallen world.
We know that, basically, since the fall of man we have to deal with sin and struggle. And the Bible says that in this world we will have trouble but we’re also promised that He’s overcome the world and that He walks with us. So, I think in the same way I see Eli, God sees us and He wants to put His arms around us when we fall. He wants to rejoice with us when things are going great and He loves us, ultimately.
CP: You recently dropped your EP “Where The Light Is,” which is also the title of your current single. In it you sing: “When I’m lost in the night / When I’m losing the fight / Lead me where the light is / When the tears fill my eyes / When the hope’s hard to find / Lead me where the light is.” As a Christian artist, what’s been a struggle for you on your journey thus far and how has your faith helped you overcome that?
Bremnes: That song came out of probably the darkest point of my life and the song is called “Lead Me Where The Light Is.” I’d grown up as a Christian and kind of been surrounded in that, I wouldn’t say bubble, but just that kind of life where everything is awesome. I mean you’re surrounded in the light, you’re born into the light, and I didn’t face struggles that other kids might have faced growing up without the Gospel.
In some ways, I was sheltered from the darkness. But a few years ago, I was actually traveling at the time and I got the news that my Mom had lost her life that night in a car accident. I found myself in a very dark place, and for the first time in my life I realized I need Jesus as much as someone whose never known Him needs Him. And so, it was a faith structure for sure, and I remember just thinking all I know how to do is call to Jesus, and it was tough but it was also amazing because I realized that He’s there for me too.
Sometimes, as a Christian, we think, “oh Jesus wants to save all the people in darkness,” but as a Christian we face darkness [too]. We need Him to pull us back into the light. The Bible says that “He’s the light of the world.” … So that was a big moment for me. There are a lot of people who are facing darkness and sometimes you can feel like “this is my fault or how did I get here?” But we don’t have to figure that out, we just have to call on the name of Jesus.
CP: You grew up in the church and it was during a missions trip in Australia that you discovered your passion for writing God-glorifying music. Is that right?
Bremnes: Yeah, I’d always wanted to write music and I kind of wanted to be a rockstar. … I went on this missions trip and God really changed my heart and my life. I started to see how the music wouldn’t lead people toward me but it was leading them toward God, and I was like, that is so much bigger and better than me, and I wanted to be a part of that.
So I switched gears and I was like, “I think I feel called to writing music that glorifies God,” not that the other music doesn’t [but] I just felt called to the church. I felt called to write music for Christians. Now that doesn’t mean someone who isn’t Christian couldn’t hear the music and be led to Christ, but it was just this moment I had. I started just thinking this is going to change the way I do things, and it did.
CP: Your debut album is slated for release in June, what do you hope people can take away from listening to your music?
Bremnes: My prayer and hope is that when people hear my music it brings them closer to God … because in the presence of God is where we’re changed. For me, when I came back to God, it was through music — it was through worship music. I would just lock myself in my room and I would just lose myself in God’s presence, and that’s where the change came in my life. I always hope and pray that it happens to other people.
CP: You’re currently touring with singer Crowder on the Neon Steeple Tour. What’s the best part about performing live?
Bremnes: I just love getting on stage. To be able to sing, to be able to call this my living — that’s such an honor. Everytime I get to do it I’m like, “I cannot take this for granted.” This tour has been awesome … it’s like a dream come true. The fact that people are listening, I’m like “that’s cool!”
Once upon a time, scientists believed that once the human brain finished developing in early adulthood, it was more or less set for life—immutable. They don’t think that anymore.
In fact, research indicates that frequent and repetitive thoughts actually change your brain’s physiology. They etch neural pathways in your brain. In other words, the more you think a specific thought (and especially reinforce the thought by speaking or writing it), the more you groove a path in your brain, making it easier, perhaps unavoidable, to have that thought again.
This helps to explain, for example, why that negative message you heard repeatedly while growing up (such as, “Don’t be so stupid!” or “You’re so clumsy!”) keeps popping up in your thoughts. It helps to explain why some people find it hard to think positive thoughts, while others seem to do so with ease.
But that doesn’t mean you and I are stuck with the “grooves” our thought patterns have etched in our brains. Research also indicates that we can create new neural pathways by changing our thought patterns, a process like that recommended by the great church planter Paul, who said to “be transformed by the renewal of your mind” (Romans 12:2, ESV). In other words, you can teach an old brain new tricks!
And prayer is the best way to do this.
When you pray, of course, God hears. John, the “beloved disciple,” wrote, “This is the confidence that we have toward [God], that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us” (1 John 5:14, ESV). This is the first of the many blessings of prayer. But there are more.
Why not start today? Determine what neural pathways you want to cultivate—what thoughts and prayers you want to be commonplace to you, say, a year or two from now. Then start regularly praying such things, daily—even several times a day—and “let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think” (Romans 12:2, NLT).
“There are no secrets to success. It is the result of preparation, hard work, persistence, and learning from failure” —Colin Powell.After leaving the Navy SEAL Teams, I went to grad school, met my business partner, and we started our first company. The housing market was booming, so we created a vertical search engine for finding new homes and condos. Then the bubble burst. I should have listened to my economics professor.Diversification was needed, and needed fast. We learned so much about digital marketing while building that company that we decided to say “yes” to the question, “Do you guys also offer marketing services?” We borrowed money from that business to start the new business, gave those shareholders equal shares in the new company, and Internet Marketing Inc. was born.
As a motivational speaker, most of what I present in my keynote presentations is based on principles I learned in SEAL training and combat, which we have applied in growing our digital-marketing agency.
Based mostly on learning from failure, here are 15 rules for achieving success in your personal and professional life.
Get comfortable being uncomfortable. Get outside your comfort zone on a regular basis. The more you do, the wider that area becomes. Things that used to seem impossible can become part of your everyday life.
Never quit. Unless you’re doing something you should stop doing. Just because something doesn’t work out the first time doesn’t mean there isn’t a different approach or a better way to do it. We used to say in the Teams, “Plan your dive and dive your plan.” Don’t change course just because you face obstacles.
Know the difference between preparation and planning. Plans are great and essential for success. But preparation and execution are what gets it done. As General Patton once said, “A good plan executed violently today is far better than a great plan tomorrow.”
Eat the elephant one bite at a time. Setting and achieving lofty goals is great. But those big, far-reaching goals mean nothing without a series of more near-term strategic achievable goals and milestone set along that path to the achievement of the larger goal. Break the big goals into bite-size chunks, making them less daunting and more achievable.
Never stop moving forward. One of my favorite quotes from Martin Luther King Jr. says, “If you can’t fly, you run; if you can’t run, you walk; and if you can’t walk, you crawl. But no matter what, you keep moving forward.” If you are not focusing on improving your life and career every day, things will stagnate. If you aren’t always trying to improve, then what’s the point?
Measure everything that is important. If you aren’t measuring the success of your activities, there isn’t much chance they will thrive. But if you do, there is little chance they won’t improve.
Manage everything that is important. I don’t know how many times I’ve set something on cruise control to focus on other initiatives only to circle back later to find things either in shambles or with zero progress. It doesn’t have to be you, but someone needs to be actively managing the important aspects of your business or life.
Know that life isn’t fair. I’ve been in combat, lost brothers, spent years as a single dad while trying to lead a company, gone through costly divorce, battled to maintain much needed full custody of my son, and worked hard to recover from inevitable business mistakes. But God doesn’t put us in situations we can’t handle. He blessed me with the most amazing wife who saved my life. And she blessed us with a beautiful baby girl. Then she was born with a birth defect and spent a month in the neonatal intensive care unit. That’s life. As long as you take every day knowing things aren’t fair, you’ll be just fine. Never be out of the fight.
Laugh when you would rather cry. There is always a reason to smile, especially when you are leading a team. Positivity and calmness are contagious. As is panic. Decide what type of environment you want to promote. Lead by example.
Know the difference between skill and success. The world is full of highly skilled people or teams that fall short of achieving true success. In SEAL training, often it was the most elite athletes who were the first to quit. Although they had the physicality, they lacked the mental fortitude to compete and win at that level. They lacked the ability to adapt. We have to be able to bridge the gap between skill and applying that skill to achieving goals.
Surround yourself with subject-matter experts. And then take credit for all of their work. Just joking! I would never be where I am today without my wife, business partners, advisers, and our amazing team. I am the least important person at my company. As soon as I realized that, I knew how to get out of the way.
These are just some of the things I have learned along the way. There will be many more lessons to come.
“I was holding onto a lot of old prejudices about organized religion,” he says. “Some other organized religions where ‘You can’t do this’ and ‘If you do that, Jesus isn’t going to love you’ come from a negative, disciplined place. Hillsong is the opposite of that. They’re like, ‘Jesus loves you no matter what. Come as you are.’ I thought that was a version of organized religion that I could stay open to and that I felt good about.”Words from the non-Christian Director of the new Hillsong United documentary. When you encounter true believers who live out their faith the way Jesus intended, you can’t help but be changed.
They’ve sold millions of albums and toured the world. Is Hillsong United ready for the big screen?“I walk in the door and there’s all these cameras and I’m just like ‘Oh my gosh, what’s happening?’”
Taya Smith is recounting a time she walked into the studios at Sony where she was recording with the rest of her band, Hillsong United. Smith is the voice behind “Oceans”—yes, that “Oceans,” the song that, as of this writing, is America’s fourth most popular worship song, despite being released in 2013. In person, Smith crackles with energy, positively bursting with a charming sense of being gung-ho for just about anything.
Still, finding your music studio flooded with cameras would set just about anyone back. Including her. She approached Hillsong United’s guitarist, Michael Guy Chislett, and asked him what exactly was going on.
“And he’s like, ‘Oh yeah. You know that movie thing? It’s happening.’”
“That movie thing” is Let Hope Rise, a big-budget documentary coming to theaters this fall. Smith had heard rumors about a movie—most of the band had—but they had all considered it a distant pipe dream. When asked about their initial reaction to having a big-budget documentary released about their band, each member of Hillsong United says the exact same thing: “Who would want to watch a movie about us?” It seemed like an incredible longshot.
But, remember, this is Hillsong United. Their last album, Zion, debuted at No. 1 on iTunes. Their last tour sold out the world’s biggest and most iconic arenas. They were described on the front page of The New York Times as a “phenomenon.” They are, by almost any measurable standard, the most successful Christian act in the modern recording industry.
They’ve been dealing in longshots for the entirety of their career.
But still. A movie?
A Different Direction
The band wasn’t the only one who met all this with skepticism. It was also the first reaction of Michael John Warren, who was approached with the task of directing the documentary by a friend. According to Warren, the idea of a Hillsong United movie had been “kicking around in Hollywood for a few years,” but nobody could decide on a director. Warren’s name was put on the list, and even he’s not entirely sure why.
“A friend of mine called me up and said, ‘Hey, have you heard of Hillsong?’” he says. “And I was like, ‘Nope. Never heard of them.’
“I was raised very Catholic, actually,” he explains. “I was an altar boy and went to Catholic high school and got confirmed. Then, when I was a teenager, I told my parents ‘I’m not doing this anymore.’ I hadn’t really thought about religion actually for, like, 20 years. So when this came across, I was like, ‘Oh, this is something I never would have even thought of doing.’”
Philosophically, Warren may not seem like the obvious fit to document a praise and worship act. But professionally, he’s almost overqualified. He made his name as a hip-hop-centric filmmaker, having crafted compelling, intimate documentaries about everyone from Nicki Minaj to Drake. His film about Jay-Z, Fade to Black, is considered a classic of the genre.
Warren is a gifted storyteller and a fearless interviewer. He speaks in vivid, full sentences, clearly a crafter of compelling narratives. But one thing he is not—and he’s very clear on this point—he’s not a Christian. He uses the term “searcher.”
“I don’t necessarily believe, but I also don’t necessarily not believe,” he explains. “My point is that I’m not so sure. I’m just open to it all.”
Being spiritually skeptical, it’s no surprise he didn’t exactly jump at the chance to direct a movie about a church worship band, no matter how successful. It’s hard to say why he decided to even give Hillsong United a shot in the first place, but once he did, he was all but sold.
“Once I realized the music was actually good, it was a big step in the right direction for me,” he says.
“Then I went to one of the services in New York and I was really impressed at how multicultural the attendance was and how warm the vibe was. Then the service started and it started with about 20 minutes of music.”
To people familiar with Hillsong’s brand of worship, it’s easy to forget just how unusual it all is to an outsider. But unusual doesn’t mean off-putting, and, in Warren’s case, it piqued his interest.
“It was hands in the air, people singing every word,” Warren says. “It was a very moving environment, and that’s when I first started thinking that this was going to be a pretty compelling movie. You start to understand the church and what the band has done and you realize that there’s a lot of story here. That was critical for me: making sure there was going to be a plot more than just music. That started to reveal itself to me.”
Warren set up a meeting with Hillsong’s leadership team, including Hillsong United frontman Joel Houston. Houston remembers the meeting well.
“He didn’t understand anything about us or really about faith or Jesus,” Houston says, laughing. “I just told him we’re going to share a lot and he was all about it. He said he’s just going to be a fly on the wall and I said, ‘That’s great. Except the problem with the fly on the wall is that it’s a six-person production team with a giant camera.’ It was hard to ignore it.”
Taya Smith had a different reaction.
“I know this sounds really rude, but I just ignored them,” she says. “I wasn’t trying to be someone I’m not. Whether you have cameras on you or whether you’re on platform or off platform, what I believe in is what I’m living all the time. I felt like the guys were themselves as well, and hopefully that’s part of the appealing nature of the film. We’re just ordinary everyday people.”
She pauses, and laughs for a second. “I trip over things all the time, so hopefully that’s in there.”
Smith refers to the rest of the band as her older brothers (“whether they like it or not”) and, in truth, that is very much their dynamic. Smith is the carefree little sister, who took to the documentary crew with ease, despite her initial surprise. Houston played the part of a more protective older brother. When asked if he had any hesitations about the film, Houston answers with a firm, immediate, “absolutely.”
“I think we started off and we were like, ‘This is not going to happen,’” he says. “You know, we didn’t make the movie so we didn’t really control the narrative or how it was going to be depicted, and that is a scary thing in some respects. Because in the same way, whenever we do CNN or whatever, they’ll take whatever they want from it, and we were aware that could happen on this scale.”
“But the more we talked to the producers about the ideas they wanted the film to present, we realized it presented some opportunities that were fully in line and consistent with what we’re about and trying to get the message of Jesus out, and His grace and His desire—His plan for all people regardless of where they’re from or what their path as been.
“If the film can bridge that gap and humanize us in a way that makes God and the way He works more evident, then I thought it was certainly something we could entertain. Over time, our excuses were trumped by the opportunity of it all. It will be interesting to see how it all plays out.”
“Interesting” is the same word Warren uses to describe the movie and his role in it.
“I think that was an interesting choice by the church and by the producers—to put someone like me at the helm,” he says. “Because they could have gotten someone who would have toed the company line without blinking. That would have been great, I guess, but it wouldn’t have been the movie we came up with.”
About the movie itself, neither Warren nor the band want to give too much away (Houston himself hasn’t watched the final cut, and says he has no plans to.) But Warren is genuinely excited about it.
“The movie we came up with is really compelling,” he says. “I think the fact that it’s told through my lens almost opens this film up to a bigger audience than just people who have heard of Hillsong. Because you can hear my questions. We’re very real with each other about all that. The way they’re explaining stuff to me is basically like explaining stuff to a non-believer.
“You could play this film in New York City where the nucleus of jaded American culture exists and I think half the people would maybe stop and think a little bit—and I think the other half would stand up and praise.
“I find that really compelling, and I’m really excited about that element of it. It sort of dances this line, and I think the film has landed in this really interesting position where a non-believer can watch it and walk away being like, ‘Maybe I don’t believe everything they believe, but I really respect their mission and what they’re after.’”
This could all sound like the words of a director trying to sell people on his movie but for one very key fact: Warren himself.
“I was holding onto a lot of old prejudices about organized religion,” he says. “Some other organized religions where ‘You can’t do this’ and ‘If you do that, Jesus isn’t going to love you’ come from a negative, disciplined place. Hillsong is the opposite of that. They’re like, ‘Jesus loves you no matter what. Come as you are.’ I thought that was a version of organized religion that I could stay open to and that I felt good about.”
Take What You Want
If you’re thinking this all ends with Warren praying the prayer of salvation while tears stream down his face, well, you’re not alone.
“People’s first question is, ‘Have you been saved?’” Warren laughs. “And they ask optimistically. Kind of like, ‘Have you lost your mind?’ I tell them, ‘No, I haven’t been saved, but I have learned a lot this year.’”
Warren admits some of his colleagues are “a bit weirded out” by the movie. In fact, on the way to our interview, he says a friend stopped him to ask about what he’s been working on lately. Warren told him about the movie and asked if he was interested in watching it.
“He said, ‘No, I’m not,’” Warren says. “I’m like, ‘I think you should! Look, believe what you believe, but there are lessons in this film on how to have a better life. Whether you take these lessons as Jesus taught it to us, or humankind has lived long enough to come up with some set of rules on how to love and how to serve other people and how that leads to happiness—take what you want and leave the rest behind.’”
Warren’s take on the film is that it is not terribly evangelistic (although he readily acknowledges that watching the movie could cause someone to, in his words, “get saved”) but Hillsong United sees the film as an opportunity to not only showcase the greatness of their God, but their own flaws.
“I guess what appealed to me the most about doing the whole thing was that we could present what it means to be absolutely passionate about Jesus and who He is and what His grace looks like, and we can just kind of avoid all the pretenses and the illusions,” Houston says.
“Christians, I think, look at people sometimes who are in ministry and feel like you have to be a super Christian,” he continues. “My experience is that God touches very ordinary people and He loves to operate most through very broken vessels. I think [the movie] can amplify the fact that He’s going to use anybody who would make themselves available.
“For God, it’s not about how good we are or how good we aren’t. That’s not what God’s after. God is not looking for perfect. He’s not looking for a flawless performance. He’s just looking for a broken spirit and people who are willing to allow God to do whatever He wants to do. And I think that’s what the story has been for us over many years, our church, and many other churches and Christians around the world and that’s all God’s looking for. At some point we just have to go, ‘Look, we look stupid and we’re making mistakes and that’s OK.’”
On this point, Houston and Smith are in total agreement.
“To be there with Hillsong United and how they are as individuals, it’s kind of nice that people actually get to see them be themselves and see them be real,” Smith says. “They struggle with some things and they’re not perfect. They’ve got kids to look after, and still maintain marriages and all this stuff. Watching it just made me love them more.”
Warren takes a higher view of the band.
“Yeah, sure, on some level, they want to sell albums and they want to be applauded. It’s human nature,” he says. “But the real, real, real thing they’re after, when you really get after it and you talk to Joel and all of them, you realize this is because they believe in heaven and hell and that everyone needs to know that Jesus loves them, so when the end times come they’re bringing as many people as possible to eternity to sit by Jesus. They are trying to save souls for eternity.”
The 700 Club Canada was in Ottawa in early May to host several of the show’s episodes from our Nation’s Capital, including LIVE from the CHRI studios!
You can watch these episodes June 1st through 23rd at 10:30am ET weekday mornings on VisionTV.
Watch hosts Brian Warren and Laura-Lynn Tyler Thompson with CHRI’s Dan Adams and Care Baldwin as well as other special guests from the city.
Check out photos from the 700 Club Canada in the CHRI studios on Facebook.
*Depending on your cable and satellite systems some you may also receive the program via HOPE TV (10 am & 10 pm ET) and JoyTV 10 (10 am ET).
It is also available online by noon each day at www.700Club.ca under “Archived Episodes”
AIRING SCHEDULE: June 1 – 5 – CHRI station
June 1 – Marriage (with Dan Adams)
June 2 – Addictions (with Dan Adams)
June 3 – Shame from the past (with Care Baldwin)
June 4 – Family (with Care Baldwin)
June 5 – Spiritual Growth (with Care Baldwin)
June 8 – 12 – Politics
June 8 – Mark Warawa
June 9 – Joy Smith
June 10 – Bob Zimmer
June 11 – Stephen Woodworth
June 12 – Rick Chiarelli
June 15 – 23 – Ottawa-Area Ministries
June 15 – Janet Buckingham – Laurentian Leadership Centre
June 16 – Paul Huggins – Athletes in Action
June 17 – Terrence Prendergast – Archbishop of Ottawa
June 18 – Ken Maclaren – Innercity Ottawa Services
June 19 – Michael Hart – Elim Counselling Services
June 22 – Mat & Nicole Crisp – Recording artists & worship pastors
June 23 – Josée Lusignan – Aime Ta Ville/Love Your City
After one of the longest and coldest winters in recent memory, there’s no question that the capital is ready to get outside. What better way to soak up the sun than to find a picturesque picnic site and eat al fresco? Boasting tons of green space, interesting landmarks, and breathtaking scenery, Ottawa’s got plenty of places to throw down a blanket and cheers to the warm weather.
If you’re searching for a scenic picnic spot, Hog’s Back is one of Ottawa’s best. Located at Hog’s Back and Riverside, there is ample free parking and you can even get there by boat on the Rideau. The waterfall at the south end of the park creates a stunning background, and winding paths bring you right up to the water’s edge. There’s plenty of green grass perfect for throwing a Frisbee and grabbing a bite to eat. Keep an eye out for summer festivals and family-friendly events.
Hog’s Back Park’s sister to the north, the two used to be connected until Heron Road separated them in 1969. Since then, this lush green space has earned it’s own reputation for scenic bike paths, rolling green meadows and awesome picnic areas. Equipped with barbecue pits, picnic tables, and a bandstand, this is a popular spot for corporate picnics and family reunions. They also have a bandstand, and a very cool low impact pavilion that uses recycled water and solar power to run the washrooms.
A fantastic family picnic spot, Brewer Park is located across from Carleton University, just off Bronson. Outfitted with several playgrounds (including a rotary accessible one), splash pad, pond, three ball diamonds and three sports fields, this is a great place to tire out the wee ones. The park is also home to one of the city’s legal graffiti walls, and the annual House of Paint hip hop festival (which takes place this year from September 10 to 14).
More waterfalls? Yes please! These ones are located right downtown, though you’d hardly know it with all the natural beauty. Take a tour of Rideau Hall then take a stroll to 50 Sussex Drive and find twin waterfalls where the Ottawa River meets the Rideau. The park is home to several monuments and memorials, and makes for an interesting and educational visit. There are lots of grassy areas that are perfect for picnicking, and this is one of the best places in the city to watch the Lac Leamy Sound of Light fireworks show.
Not far from the falls lives another New Edinburgh gem. Also known as Stanley Park, this is the location of the annual Lumière Festival (this year’s festival takes place August 15), where paper lanterns light up the night along with costumes, a labyrinth, music, and mystical performers. Also home to one of the city’s best unofficial off-leash dog parks, you can bring your furry friend with you for lunch! There’s a gravel beach where your pooch can cool off, public washrooms, and a great bike path.
Venture even further east and out to Orleans, and you’ll find a beautiful island park with two beautiful beaches, nature trails, and a huge shaded picnic area. A perfect spot to bring the whole gang, there’s plenty of space to play both in and out of the water. You’re likely to see dragon boat practices, kayakers, and swimmers sharing the water, and there’s a great rock ledge to fish off of on the east side of the island. There are water fountains, a canteen, change rooms and washrooms, so you can plan to spend the day at this family-friendly locale.
Easily one of the city’s most recognizable landmarks, this castle makes a whimsical backdrop to any outdoor meal. Located on McLeod Street between Elgin and O’Connor, it’s right in the middle of the city. Perfect for families, you can stop here and eat lunch before a trip to one of the most magical museums in Ottawa. There’s a large grassy area on the west side of the museum where you’ll find dogs playing, giant prehistoric animal statues and several trees for shade.
West Ottawa’s most popular beach, you can cycle, swim, boat, walk, or drive to this sandy slice of heaven. Pack your own lunch or grill on their barbecue pits, but your best bet might be to pick up some delicious grub at the Westboro Beach Café, which has live music on the patio from Thursday to Sunday. This beach also boasts outdoor showers, volleyball pits, standup paddleboard rentals and spectacular sunset views.
Journey out to the city’s rural west community of Dunrobin and you’ll find Piney’s Point, nestled on the shores of the Ottawa River. The site features a historical manor home that’s nearly 200 years old along with stone ruins and beautiful landscaping. The grounds offer a lovely area for picnics, boating and cycling, and there’s often special events and activities happening at the manor. There’s plenty of space to throw down a blanket on the riverbank, or grill up some hamburgers on their barbecue pits.
Looking for a quiet spot just south of the city? At Watson’s Mill you’ll find beauty, history, and maybe even spot a ghost! Located in the heart of this charming village, the mill is a working industrial heritage site with a political and romantic past. Take a tour of the mill, and then stroll down the steps and across the bridge to find the perfect picnic site. With a view of the mill on the bank of the Rideau River, this is a wonderful spot for a romantic meal with that special someone.
This article was compiled by Andrea Banks, Community Manager for Yelp Ottawa.