Fun Things to Do in Watson’s Mill, Ottawa

Fun Things to Do in Watson’s Mill, Ottawa

Growing up as a kid, my parents and I would often visit historic sites across Ottawa to relax and have fun together. One of our favorite places is Watson’s Mill, which is located within the Dickinson Square of Manotick village.

Built in 1860, Watson’s Mill remains an active flour mill throughout the year and a seasonal site from May to October. 

So if you’re planning to visit, here’s a quick rundown of some of the fun activities you can do at this heritage site.

1. Join the Historic Walking Tour

Join the Historic Walking Tour

Registering for this walking tour will enable you to see and experience the entire Dickinson Square, along with the significant buildings and other elements within its premises. 

You’ll get the opportunity to explore and learn more about the historical relevance of the site’s two main attractions – the water-powered Watson’s Mill and the heritage home of the mill’s past owners, the Dickinson House.

During the tour, you’ll also get the chance to see and better understand the cultural significance of the Manotick Dam and the original Carriage Shed. 

As you go along, you’ll enjoy the natural beauty of the Rideau River and the scenic landscapes of Remembrance Park.

While daily guided tours are offered for free, you may opt to give some donations to help maintain this beautiful site. 

Pro Tip: 

If you’re coming in as a group, I suggest calling +1 613-692-6455 for advanced reservations. Customized tours and programs can also be arranged by contacting Elaine Eagen, the Programming and Visitor Experience Manager.

For those who can’t physically come to see the historic structures, there are available Watson’s Mill and Dickinson House virtual tours on Watson’s Mill’s official website.

2. See Daily Life and Flour Grinding Demonstrations

See Daily Life and Flour Grinding Demonstrations

Featuring displays and interactive activities, daily life demonstrations are a fun way to get a glimpse of what life was like during the Victorian Era. 

As these demonstrations cover a wide range of topics, you’ll pretty much learn a lot of things here – from traditional cooking and craftsmanship to farming and social customs.  

You’ll even get to see cool 19th-century machinery like water wheels and learn how helpful these were to people in the past.

While daily life demonstrations are all about domestic living, the flour grinding demonstration, on the other hand, shows the various processes involved in producing flour and other products.

Apart from learning about the traditional methods of milling grain, this demonstration also provides details on how the mill was built, its significance to the people of Ottawa, and its impact on the local economy and community.

As an educational and immersive experience, seeing these special demonstrations will help you better connect with history. 

Pro Tip: 

Daily Life Demonstrations happen at Dickinson House on the third Sunday of every month, from May to September. Flour grinding demonstrations at Watson’s Mill are conducted at 1-3 PM on Sundays from May until October.

3. Attend School Programs and Summer Camps

Attend School Programs and Summer Camps

While operating primarily as a heritage site, Watson’s Mill also offers curriculum-based educational programs that are perfect for elementary students. 

These programs focus on subjects like Science and Technology, Social Studies, and History. There are also those that highlight environmental education, which extends from learning about wildlife to conserving the surroundings. 

But among these, the most popular one is about simple machines. Here, kids can learn and explore the use of levers, pulleys, screws, and wheels and axles. 

Apart from educational classes, Watson’s Mill also holds camps during the summer season. Ideal for children and the youth, these camps include outdoor activities and fun hands-on workshops on topics like traditional milling and baking.

Pro Tip: 

All educational programs and summer camp activities require reservations. As these programs change over time, I suggest checking out the official website or contacting them directly to get the latest offerings.

4. Take Part in Special Events

Take Part in Special Events

Throughout the year, Watson’s Mill remains a popular venue for special events. Among the most common ones include Heritage Day, which is a way for its people to celebrate the mill’s rich history. 

At this event, you can expect guided tours and demonstrations of traditional milling. If you’re lucky enough, you’ll also get to witness some historical reenactments that are fun to watch. 

Sometimes, the place holds art exhibits that feature paintings and sculptures of some local artists. There are also instances when concerts and performances take place at annual festivals.

But what I like best are the mill’s holiday-themed celebrations. I particularly enjoy coming here to take photos of awesome decorations and have fun with various activities during the Halloween and Christmas seasons. 

Pro Tip: 

]If you’re thinking of holding your event in this historic location, Watson’s Mill has facilities that can be rented out for birthdays, weddings, and corporate gatherings. 

Just make sure that you check out Watson’s Mill’s event calendar to ensure availability. You may also contact the Watson’s Mill office for inquiries and bookings. 

5. Go on a Picnic

Go on a Picnic

As Dickinson House is generally a peaceful space along the banks of the Rideau River, it is also a perfect spot to relish al fresco meals. 

On the lawn in front of the house are several picnic tables and chairs, scattered throughout the area to provide convenient seating. There are also shaded spots under the surrounding trees that picnickers can occupy on hot summer days.

Pro Tip: 

The availability of picnic facilities and rules are subject to change. I suggest that you check the official website of Watson’s Mill for announcements or contact the administration before planning your picnic. 

6. Take Photos of Scenic Surroundings

Take Photos of Scenic Surroundings

More than just a historic gristmill, Watson’s Mill is also home to some of the most beautiful scenes that are camera-worthy. 

Among these include the historic structure of Watson’s Mill. I recommend taking photos of this from different angles and lighting conditions to create amazing snapshots. 

If you avail of the tour, the various machines and historical artifacts inside the mill can also produce some of the most interesting and unique photographs. 

Alongside Watson’s Mill’s building are picturesque houses, streets, and changing landscapes that are also worth capturing.

For lovely reflection and water-scene photography, you could use the mill pond and the dam within the premises as subjects. 

You might also want to keep an eye out for some wildlife shots. As Watson’s Mill is situated along the Rideau River, you can expect to see ducks, birds, and other wildlife in the area. 

Pro Tip: 

As a popular venue for different events or festivals, Watson’s Mill is also an ideal place for event photography.

7. Shop at the Used Book Store

Shop at the Used Book Store

Watson’s Mill has a bookstore where you can find and purchase all sorts of stuff – from used books and jigsaw puzzles to audiobooks and DVDs.

As these merchandise are donated by the public, all proceeds are used to maintain the store and the other buildings in the area. Some are also used to finance free programs and other day-to-day operations at Watson’s Mill and Dickinson House.

So if you’re feeling generous, I recommend buying some stuff here before heading home. 

Alternatively, you may also opt to bring in some used books to donate. Just make sure, though, that you come in with 5 boxes/bags or less of used books. 

Pro Tip: 

Given the store’s varying schedules, I suggest checking out its opening hours before visiting. 

FAQs about Watson’s Mill