Things to do in Ottawa

101 Things to Do in Ottawa

Last Updated on March 4, 2024 by Pamela MacNaughtan

The capital of Canada, Ottawa sits on the south side of the Ottawa River, which borders Ontario and Quebec. It’s home to the government of Canada, but don’t let that keep you from visiting, there are lots of fun and interesting things to do in Ottawa.

The food scene here is seriously delicious, there is a killer live music vibe, tons of green spaces, museums, interesting architecture, and sculptures. It’s a city that requires a little work, you’re not going to show up and feel like you’re in the heart of everything, as the gems are spread throughout the city. So wear some good shoes, buy a transit pass, and do some deep dives. Don’t try to see it all at once, Ottawa isn’t going anywhere, you can make plans to come back.

here are 101 things to do in ottawa


festivals + events


ice dragon boat festival

(february) • This festival began in 2018 and is headed by BeaverTails. It’s the world’s largest ice dragon boat race, with competitors from around the world. The two-day festival has a night race, as well as a world champion competition. When the boats are not on the ice, there are indoor concerts to enjoy. This event is free.

winterlude

(february) • Winterlude is among the best winter festivals in Canada. It was first held in 1979 as a way to celebrate Canada’s northern culture. There are a variety of events during the festival: Bed Race, ice carving, Indigenous stories, light shows, and more. Several activities are free.

winter pride

(february) • Yes, it’s a Pride Festival in the middle of winter, and it is glorious. This is a family-friendly event with drag queens and a rainbow ice mosaic. There is a silent disco, a pride ice parade, and a drag show. Winter Pride is the only one of its kind in Canada. Some activities are free, while others have a fee.

international film festival of ottawa

(march) • The International Film Festival of Ottawa had its first festival in 2020. It was founded by the Canadian Film Institute and features films by Canadians, as well as filmmakers from around the globe. Films are shown at ByTowne, Mayfair, or the Ottawa Art Gallery, and tickets can be purchased online. Tickets are generally 15 CAD per film.

gatineau festi bière

(march) • Located across the Ottawa River, the Gatineau Festi Bière brings together 30 brewers from Ontario and Quebec. There are roughly 350 craft beers, food trucks, a kids’ zone, and music. Tickets for this 3-day festival cost 23.95 CAD.

ottawa poutinefest

(april) • PoutineFest is a delicious excuse to check out several restaurants in a short period of time. More than 30 restaurants participate, and the creations range from yummy to “not today Satan” crazy. Prices differ, but most are under 23 CAD.

canadian tulip festival

(may) • The Canadian Tulip Festival is one of the best ways to celebrate spring. Shortly after WWII, Canada was gifted tulips by Dutch Royalty as a thank you and symbol of friendship. In 1953, the first tulip festival took place. The festival features 300,000 tulips of varying colours and varieties. The festival is held in Commissioners Park and is free to attend.

summer solstice indigenous festival

(june) • The Summer Solstice Indigenous Festival is one of four festivals celebrating the start of each season. It’s a good reason to visit Mādahòkì Farm, watch Pow Wow performances by local Indigenous peoples, and learn about their cultures and history. Visit the artisan marketplace, and eat as many delicious foods as you can!

ottawa jazz festival

(june) • Since its inception in 1981, the Ottawa Jazz Festival has welcomed an impressive variety of musical guests. Aretha Franklin, Toots Thielemans, Sonny Rollins, and Norah Jones have played in past festivals. There are several stages and venues to check out, and many shows on Canada Day are free. Full festival passes start at 236 CAD, and single-day passes are 38 to 85 CAD.

canada day

(july 1st) • As the capital of Canada, Ottawa is the most iconic place one can celebrate Canada Day. The day is filled with tons of free events and activities at Parliament Hill and throughout the city. There is food as well, and many live musical performances. Planning ahead will help you make the most of the day, and be sure to wear red and white! Don’t forget to grab an Obama cookie – it’s a maple leaf-shaped sugar cookie. ha!

northern lights at parliament hill

(summer) • The Northern Lights had its first season in 2015 and continues into 2023. The show, which begins after dark, features Canadian history through colourful images and illusions. Narration is given in French and English. A nice way to cap off the night before returning to your hotel or short-term rental. FREE

rbc bluesfest

(july) • The RBC Bluesfest is considered one of the best outdoor music festivals in the world. Around 300,000 people descend on Ottawa each year for 11 days of music, food, and drink. Despite the name, this music festival covers all genres. In 2023, performers include Weezer, Shania Twain, Death Cab for Cutie, and more!

northern lights at parliament hill

(summer) • The Northern Lights had its first season in 2015 and continues into 2023. The show, which begins after dark, features Canadian history through colourful images and illusions. Narration is given in French and English. A nice way to cap off the night before returning to your hotel or short-term rental. FREE

ottawa international busker fest

(august) • The Ottawa International Busker Fest is quirky and eclectic and fun for all ages. There are jugglers, clowns, magicians, and acrobats. The festival takes place on Sparks Street over four days. The events and performances are free to attend, but making donations is highly recommended.

ottawa asian festival night market

(september) • Held over a weekend in September, the Asian Festival Night Market takes place on Spark Street in downtown Ottawa. Over 40,000 people attend the event each year, which celebrates Asian cultures through music, K-pop dancers, games, and delicious street foods. Wear stretchy pants!

day of the dead festival

(october) • This is one of the best ways to learn about and experience Mexican culture in Ottawa. Each year, the Day of the Dead Festival takes place in the ByWard Market. There are traditional Mexican foods, live Latin Bands, a Piñata workshop, an altar exhibition, a giant sugar skull competition, dance competitions, and more. The festival is free to attend.


arts + entertainment


Things to do in Ottawa: Ottawa Sign
Things to do in Ottawa: Dancing Bear

alley cats

In an around the parking garage on Murray Street in the ByWard Market, you’ll see small bronze kittens. They were created by local sculptor, Jean-Yves Vigneau in 1993. There are 14 sculptures in total, each with arching backs. Can you find them all?

absolute comedy

Near The Glebe is Absolute Comedy. Monday night is open mic, and tickets are only 10 CAD. The rest of the week is 15 to 20 CAD. They feature different comedians each week, so it’s best to check the website. Reservations are required A pitcher of beer will cost you 24 CAD.

anishinabe scout

Located in Major’s Hill Park, the Anishinabe Scout is a bronze sculpture created by Hamilton MacCarthy in 1918. The sculpture was supposed to be kneeling inside a canoe, but not enough funds were raised. The sculpture was created in recognition of the role First Nations peoples played in the development of Canada.

dancing bear

Tucked away in the Jeanne d’Arc Courtyard is the Dancing Bear, a bronze sculpture. It was created by Pauta Saila, an Inuit artist from Baffin Island. An abstract sculpture of an upright dancing polar bear, this is one of many dancing bears created by Saila in the 1980s.

escape manor

Escape rooms can be a fun way to pass the time on bad weather days, and in Ottawa, there are 15 rooms to tackle. Escape Manor has rooms on Elgin Street, as well as Wellington St West in Hintonburg. The rooms at the Deifenbunker are quite fun, too. Rooms are 27 to 29 CAD and need a min of 2 players.

great canadian theatre company

In Wellington West, the Great Canadian Theatre Company is known for its provocative programming. Shows often have special nights such as pay what you can, ASL performance, and post-show talkback. Tickets are around 39 CAD to 55 CAD and can be reserved online.

house of targ

Across the street from the Mayfair Theatre is the House of TARG. Of all the things to do in Ottawa, make sure you have time for this one. It’s a live music venue and an old-school pinball arcade. Oh, and they serve up some seriously great perogies. Sunday nights after 8 pm are free-play nights for 10 CAD.

karaoke and drag at swizzles

Swizzles in downtown Ottawa is known for being the only bias-free bar in the city. Monday night is amateur comedy night, karaoke is on Wednesdays, and drag shows are on Thursdays. After checking out Swizzles, pop over to The Lookout in the ByWard Market – they’ve been partying for the last 25 years!

murals

Almost every neighbourhood in Ottawa has gorgeous murals to discover and admire. Begin with the huge whale mural on the corner of George St and Dalhousie St in the ByWard Market. Then travel down Bank St through Downtown, and The Glebe. Go to Wellington West, Little Italy, and Chinatown.

mayfair theatre

The Mayfair Theatre is a neighbourhood icon/ You’ll find it on Bank Street in Old Ottawa South. The theatre has been operating since 1932. Settl into the old bucket theatre seats and watch hot new movie releases. Tickets are 12.50 CAD for non-members. Tickets are first come, first serve.

national arts centre

Along the Rideau Canal, in downtown Ottawa is the National Arts Centre. It’s the city’s premier performing arts centre. The programming includes music, dance, theatre, and talks. They have an Indigenous theatre program, as well as workshops. They also offer several free performances.

nature girls

I fell in love with these bronze sculptures years ago, and I love to see them each time I’m in Ottawa. Created by Welsh artist, Laura Ford, Stump Girl, Conifer Girl, and Bush Girl can be found in front of the British Commission on Elgin Street.

o-train stations

There are two O-Train lines in Ottawa, one running north to south, the other running east to west. It’s a great way to get to different neighbourhoods quickly, and as it turns out, an artistic adventure, too! Each station has an art installation, whether its murals, sculptures, or intriguing design details. On a rainy day, it can be fun to ride the O-Trains and check each stop.

ottawa sign

The “Ottawa” sign first appeared in Inspiration Village during Canada’s 150 celebrations in 2017. A year later, the sign was placed in the York Street Plaza and is now a popular tourist attraction. The sign is lit, 24/7, and the plaza has colourful Muskoka-style chairs, which are perfect for taking a wee break. So, get your selfie on, and maybe do a TikTok?

red bird live

This new music venue on Bank Street is a great place to experience the local music scene. They have open stage nights, as well as musical guests throughout the year. It’s also a music school, and there is a café with yummy pastries and treats, and decent coffee, too. Event tickets are under 40 CAD.

street art miniatures

In the neighbourhood of Wellington West, paying attention to the fine details can pay off. SAM creates life-like miniatures of foods and objects and attaches them to flat surfaces, cracks, and crevices. You can see their work on Instagram, but the fun begins when you begin to scour the buildings of Wellington West.

wellington marbles

Wellington Street West is a vibrant neighbourhood, with plenty of street art and murals to enjoy. There are 18 Wellington Marbles, each one a hand-carved marble (quarried in Carrara, Italy) fire hydrant fused with a food, artistic tool, or musical instrument. I’m a fan of the one that looks like a fire hydrant with an artichoke top.

york step

Over the last three years or so, the York Steps have featured artwork by a variety of Canadian muralists. The steps are located at the junction of Sussex Drive and York Street. Directly across from the Ottawa sign at York Plaza. The current mural, Dancing Shoes, may be painted over some time in 2023. Stay tuned!


museums + galleries


Canadian Museum of Nature • photo credit: Ottawa Tourism
Canadian Museum of Nature • photo credit: Ottawa Tourism

bank of canada museum

This small museum houses the world’s most comprehensive collection of Canadian currency. The exhibits are interactive and cover Canadian economics, trading partners, currency history, and more. A lot of fun for kids and adults alike. During March Break, the museum offers crafts and activities for kids. Sundays in April are sensory-friendly in conjunction with Autism Awareness Month.

30 bank street • website • free

bytown museum

Located beside the Rideau Canal, near the Ottawa Locks, is the Bytown Museum. It’s housed in one of the oldest stone structures in Ottawa and tells of the city’s cultural heritage. There are over 7,000 artefacts, and exhibits tell of Lt-Col John By, who built the Rideau Canal and the ByWard Market, as well as the early days of Bytown, through to WWI.


1 canal lane • website • 8 CAD

canada agriculture and food museum

This family-friendly museum is also the world’s only working farm located in the heart of a capital city. A visit to the museum includes opportunities to see a variety of farm animals and learn about the importance of canola, Canada’s agricultural heritage, and agricultural science and technology. They have a lot of fun events, like the Sheep Shearing Festival and the Ice Cream Festival.


901 prince of wales drive • website • 13.50 CAD, free from 4pm to 5pm

canada aviation and space museum

On a former military air base 6 km from downtown, the Canada Aviation and Space Museum is one of the more intriguing things to do in Ottawa. The museum is home to the Canadarm, which was on the Endeavour spaceship, as well as a WWII Lancaster Bomber, and an impressive collection of engines. There are a couple of fascinating space-themed exhibits that are a must-see, especially Health in Space: Daring to Explore.

11 aviation parkway • website • 16.25 CAD, free from 4pm to 5pm

canada science and technology museum

Kids will love this museum, and fun-loving adults, too. It’s filled with interesting artefacts and interactive displays. The Crazy Kitchen +, which is modeled after a 1967 kitchen, has some optical illusions, and From Earth to Us focuses on how natural resources are used in everyday objects. Medical Sensations is fun, and Hidden Worlds involves. a lot of hands-on interaction with microscopes and telescopes.

1867 st laurent blvd • website • 18.50 CAD, free from 4pm to 5pm

canadian museum of history

One of many reasons to pop over to Gatineau, Quebec, the Canadian Museum of History is an essential part of learning about Canadian and Indigenous history. Begin in First Peoples Hall, which features over 2,000 historical artefacts, images, and documents. Grand Hall is the most impressive, with its wood-carved pieces by First Peoples of the Northwest Coast, including Bill Reid and Robert Davidson.

100 laurier street, gatineau • websitebuy tickets online • 25 CAD, free on Thurs 5 pm to 7 pm

canadian museum of nature

This natural history museum rivals that of the ROM in Toronto. In fact, the Canadian Museum of Nature is known for having one of the best natural history collections in the world. They have an incredible collection of dinosaur models and skeletons, as well as a full blue whale skeleton. The Our Land, Our Art exhibit is on until Oct 2024 and highlights the art and voices of Indigenous artists from 14 remote villages in Nunavik.

240 mcleod street • website • 17 CAD, free on Thurs 5 pm to 8 pm

canadian war museum

Memorial Hall is a sobering way to begin your time at the Canadian War Museum but sets an impactful tone as you experience exhibits on early wars in Canada, world wars, the cold war, and present-day wars. See weapons, uniforms, tanks, and planes. Read stories about those who fought, and how these wars have shaped Canada. The museum is also home to wartime art. End our time with a little meditation in Moriyama Regeneration Hall.

1 vimy place • websitebuy tickets online • 21 CAD, free on Thurs 5 pm to 7 pm

central art garage

In Chinatown is a fabulous small gallery called Central Art Garage. It’s a garage that has been converted into an art gallery, what could be better? They feature work by a variety of Canadian artists: Bozica Radjenovic, Joi T Arcand, Camille Turner, Robert Houle… Check their website or Facebook page for details on current and upcoming exhibitions. And plan to hit up a noodle house afterward, you’re in Chinatown, enjoy it!

66 b lebanon st n • website

diefenbunker cold war museum

This is one of the more unique things to do in Ottawa. The Diefenbunker was built between 1959 and 1961, in case of nuclear war. It’s four stories and includes a cafeteria, dormitories, and offices, as well as everything needed to run the country: Prime Minister’s suite, Bank of Canada vault, CBC radion studio, map rooms, and situation rooms. There is also an escape room, which is run in cooperation with Escape Manor.

3929 carp road • website • 18.50 CAD, closed Mon & Tues

national gallery of canada

This art gallery began with a single painting in 1880. Today, it’s a stunning gallery with 750,000 works of art. A giant bronze spider, Maman, stands outside the National Gallery of Canada, an intriguing introduction to the art world which awaits inside. The collections of Canadian and Indigenous art are fantastic. European, American, and Contemporary art are good as well.

380 susses drive • website • 20 CAD, free on Thurs 5 pm to 8 pm

ottawa art gallery

Housed in a beautiful modern building, behind Le Germain Hôtel. The gallery is small, with four gallery rooms. The OAG features historical and contemporary art by Ottawa-Gatineau artists. The gallery holds creative workshops over zoom, as well as activities for children, and art auctions.



50 mackenzie king bridge • website • free


tours


Ottawa Palapa Tours
photo credit: Ottawa Palapa Tours

biplane tour

Among the best things to do in Ottawa is a vintage biplane tour with Ottawa Biplane Adventures. There are four tours to choose from: river, parliament, Gatineau Hills, and an eco tour which includes the parliament tour on the return leg. Tours range from 10 to 35 minutes and cost 95 to 199 CAD.

book a tour

dog sledding tour (winter)

Aventure Outaouais offers a spectacular 1-hour dog sledding tour, as well as snowshoeing and sliding on this 4 hour 30 min day trip adventure from Ottawa. The tour includes a professional musher and guide, a meal, hot chocolate, and transportation from Ottawa. Dress warmly!

book a tour

cobblestone tours (winter)

Cobblestone Tours operates the only winter bus tour in Ottawa. The “bus” is a vintage trolley car, and the tour has 11 stops. The fun begins on George Street in the ByWard Market, with a departure at 2:30 pm and another at 4 pm. The tour duration is 1 hour 10 mins and includes Rideau Hall, Canadian War Museum, Lansdowne Park, and Dows Lake. Round trip tour is 34.79 CAD. Hop-on Hop-off day passes are available Nov 1st to Apr 30th for 42.79 CAD

book a tourbuy a day pass

floating tiki bar tour

On a warm summer’s day, sitting around a tiki bar, drinking a cocktail or a soda, and floating down the Ottawa River is peak #lifegoals. Palapa Tours started up during the pandemic and has quickly become one of the more popular things to do in Ottawa. The tours are 90 minutes and include a drink, as well as a souvenir cup. Mondays are Margaritaville, and Wednesdays are karaoke. Tours are 50 CAD. Book early for the Canada Day fireworks tour.

book a tour

gatineau park nocturnal snowshoe tour (winter)

A moderate to difficult physical level, this 3-hour 30-minute tour is about 7.5 km in length. You’ll use snowshoes or crampons, hiking poles, and a headlamp, and hike through Gatineau Park, in the dark. The tour includes equipment, a guide, dinner, and transportation. Tour cost is 67.50 CAD.

book a tour

haunted walk

Ottawa is filled with stories of scandal and intrigue, aside from our current government (ha!). Haunted Walk of Ottawa tours begin after dark, with a guide dressed in black and holding a lantern. The tour takes you to some of the city’s most haunted places and weaves sine-tingling tales. The duration is around 1 hour 30mins, and the tour cost is 28.24 CAD.

book a tour

hop-on hop-off ottawa bus tour

Hop-on hop-off tours are one of the best things to do in a new (to you) city. They often give a great overview of the city and its history and can help you decide where to dig deeper. In Ottawa, this tour includes Rideau Hall and Parliament Hill, as well as the RCMP Stables and ByWard Market. There are over 15 stops. Tour costs 36.99 CAD.

book a tour

ottawa boat cruise

Paul’s Boat Lines started way back in 1932 with canoes and rowboats at Hog’s Back. Today, their Ekeau River Cruise departs from the Ottawa Dock and includes a pass by the Canadian Museum of History, Parliament Hill, Rideau Falls, and Rockcliffe Park Pavillion. The tour is 90 minutes and costs 44.92 CAD. There are snacks for purchase onboard, but it’s better to bring your own.

book a tour

parliament hill

If you’re looking for free things to do in Ottawa, then Parliament Hill should be near the top of your list. Wander around the grounds and monuments, then head inside for a guided tour of the House of Commons (as long as it’s not in session). Tours are offered in English and French, and reservations must be made online.

book a tour

royal canadian mint

The Royal Canadian Mint in Ottawa is where all of the collector coins, gold and silver bullion, medals, and tokens are made. The mint was founded in 1908, and the 45-minute tour covers the production, design, and history of the mint. Plus, there are some cool coins on display. Tour cost is 12 CAD.

book a tour

rideau canal tour

The Rideau Canal is 202 km long and retains its original layout. It’s also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In summer, a boat tour on the canal is a lovely way to see some of Ottawa’s tranquil spaces. The tour is 90 minutes long, in a 100% electric boat. Pass by sites like the National Arts Centre, Dow’s Lake Pavilion, and the Canadian Museum of Nature. Tour cost is 46.71 CAD.

book a tour

tulip festival bike tour

In spring, the Tulip Festival is a must-see, with thousands of colourful tulips on display. There are a few fun things to do during the festival, including this guided bike tour which takes in the tulips, as well as Little Italy, the Ottawa River pathway, and Chaudière Falls. The tour is 3 hours and costs 83 CAD.

book a tour


parks, beaches, and waterfalls


Ottawa Locks photo credit: Benoit Debais
Ottawa Locks photo credit: Benoit Debais

bate island

Drive down Island Park Drive, towards Gatineau is a small island just before Champlain Bridge. It’s a popular spot for fishing, kayaking, and relaxing. Plus, there are views of Remic Rapids. The park is open from 6 am to 10 pm, and dogs are generally welcome as long as they are on a leash.

chaudière falls

Chaudière Falls is also known as Akikodjiwan Falls. They are made of up cascades and a waterfall where the Ottawa narrows. To get to the park and the falls viewpoint, drive down Eddy Street towards Gatineau, past the Canadian War Museum. There is Zibi parking on Chaudière Private (road) and the viewpoint is a short walk from there. A great sunset spot.

commissioners park

Located in The Glebe, hugging the top of Dow’s Lake is Commissioners Park. The park is known best for being the site of the Tulip Festival. It’s also home to the sculpture, Man with Two Hats by Henk Visch. The sculpture commemorates the liberation of Holland by Canadian troops in WWII. The Air India Victims Memorial can be found here as well. There are pathways for walking or jogging, and plenty of shaded spots to relax.

dominion arboretum

A short walk from Commissioners Park, Dominion Arboretum is home to around 10,000 different plant species. There are walking trails and gorgeous trees, a heritage rose garden and a peony garden. Don’t miss the Arboretum lookout, Heart Island, and Aron’s secret picnic lawn. Honestly, you could spend a day here, walking, and enjoying the trees, flowers, and wildlife. The park is open from dawn until dusk.

gatineau park

A short drive into Quebec, Gatineau Park is 361 square kilometers of fabulous. The park is a must-see year-round. It is absolutely stunning in autumn, and there are lots of hiking trails to enjoy in summer and winter. There is also swimming, rock climbing, boating, and fishing in summer. Visit the Mackenzie King Estate, and the Carbide Wilson Ruins at Meech Lake. Pink Lake is beautiful, too, but it’s actually green, it gets its name from the Pink family who settled in the area in 1826.

hog’s back park

Prior to its creation as a park in 1950, this area was the site of one of the most challenging dam-building projects during the building of the Rideau Canal. Have a picnic and hike the trails through the park and along the canal. The Hog’s Back Falls is quite impressive and especially beautiful in autumn when the leaves have changed colour, or after heavy snowfall in winter. There is free parking from May to December and plenty of picnic tables for sunny day snacks in summer.

lansdowne park

In The Glebe, close to Old Ottawa South, is Landsdowne Park. It’s a sprawling park with a skate park, a skating rink in winter, walking trails, and places to relax under shady trees. The Great Lawn is often used for festivals and special events, and it’s near TD Place, where the Ottawa RedBlacks (CFL) and the 67s (OHL) play.

major’s hill park

At the mouth of the Rideau Canal, behind Fairmont Château Laurier, is Major’s Hill Park. Kìwekì Point has one of the best views of Parliament Hill and the Ottawa River. The Trans-Canada Trail winds its way through, and there are intriguing statues and monuments, including the Celtic Cross, Lt-Col John By, and Anishinabe Scout.

mer bleue bog

Mer Bleue is a 3,500-hectare conservation area, a serene day trip from Ottawa (about 18 km). The bog is said to be 7,700 years old, with rare plants, and birds like the yellow rail, great grey owl, and black tern. You may also see deer, beaver, and coyotes. Spend a day hiking the trails and communing with nature. In winter, this is a popular spot for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing.

mooney’s bay park and beach

Just south of the Hog’s Back Dam is Mooney’s Bay Park and Beach. There’s a playground for children and the Terry Fox Athletic Facility. In summer, the sandy beach is a popular gathering spot, and the waters of the Rideau River are refreshing. There is parking available, and a burger shack near the beach. Bringing a picnic is highly recommended.

mud lake and trail

The Mud Lake and trail area is an ecological gem in Ottawa. The wetlands surrounding the lake are known as the Britannia Conservation Area. It’s a perfect spot for bird watching, as there are 269 bird species here. When hiking on the trails, do not wander off, this is a delicate ecosystem and needs to be protected.

ottawa locks

There are 22 lockstations in the Rideau Canal, beginning in Ottawa and leading all the way to Kingston, Ontario. In summer, locks 1-8 are teamed with boats passing from the Rideau Canal into the Ottawa River (and vice versa). It’s interesting to watch the boats slowly raise or lower – and even more fun if you’re on one of the boats.

princess louise falls

Princess Louise Falls and the associated hiking trail are about 19 km from downtown Ottawa. It’s a vertical plunge on sedimentary rock. There is no parking nearby, so the best way to see the waterfalls is to hike the trail. Bus 131 Chapel Hill has a stop at one of the trailheads. The waterfall is small compared to others in Ottawa, but still quite pretty.

remic rapids park

Along the Sir John A Macdonald Parkway, near the Embassy of Indonesia, is Remic Rapids Park. The balanced rock sculptures by John Felice Ceprano are the highlight here. Ceprano has been creating sculptures from fossilized rock since 1986. The park was once a trading and rest area used by Indigenous peoples and European explorers.

rideau falls park and green island

The Rideau Falls are twin falls located where the Rideau River meets the Ottawa River. Surrounding the falls is a 2.89-hectare park. On Green Island, you’ll find Deifenbunker, the 1950s shelter built to house important figures in case of a nuclear attack. The park is home to several monuments, as well as the International Peace Garden.

westboro beach

*Set to reopen in 2024 after an extensive revitalization project.* On a hot summer day, hitting up a beach is one of the best things to do in Ottawa if you want to chill. The beach has epic sunsets, there’s a café and parking, shaded green space, and a sandy beach.


sports + outdoor adventures


axe throwing

Axe throwing is a cathartic thing to do in Ottawa, or anywhere that has axe throwing. Get out some frustrations in a fun and safe environment at BATL. Similar to bowling, you need at least two people to play. You’ll get some safety coaching, a private lane, and axes. Pints at the bar are 7.25 CAD, and there is a small food menu. Play for an hour for 34 CAD or two hours for 48 CAD – prices are per person.

bikes and e-bikes

Given all of the pathways in and around Ottawa, renting a bike for a half-day, day, or more, is an excellent way to experience Ottawa. There are several options. Neuron has kick-scooters scattered throughout the city. Download the app, add payment details, scan, and go! You can also rent bikes from Ottawa’s e-bike rental or Escape Bicycle Tours.

canoeing

The Rideau Canal is a popular spot for canoeing, but not the only one. Head to Gatineau Park, Dow’s Lake, Rideau River and Britannia Beach as well. Canoe rentals are usually around 30 CAD per hour.

go hiking

There are quite a few hiking trails and pathways throughout Ottawa, including the Trans-Canada Trail. Hit up Mer Bleue, Mud Lake Trail, the Ottawa River Pathway, Rideau Canal Western Pathway, and Hog’s Back Park – to name a few.

ice skating on the rideau canal (winter)

For over fifty years the Rideau Canal in Ottawa has been converted into a giant ice skating rink. It’s one of the top things to do in winter, especially during the Winterlude festival. Rent some skates, dress warmly, and plan to stop by a bar or café afterward to warm up.

ottawa redblacks game

Ottawa RedBlacks are part of the CFL (Canadian Football League) East Division. They play at the stadium in TD Place, next to Lansdowne Park. Join scores of fanatic locals in the stands. Single tickets can be found for around 30 CAD, and you’ll be in the nosebleeds, but that is part of the fun!

paddleboarding

Urban Ocean is a go-to for SUP enthusiasts. , as well as novices. They offer different lesson options, as well as SUP with your pup. Lessons start at 100 CAD per person and go from there. It’s a great way to get some exercise, and enjoy the Ottawa River, too.

rafting on the ottawa river

Go whitewater rafting on the river once traversed by European explorers like Samuel de Champlain. Rafting adventures are about 2.5 hours, and fun for the whole family (as long as everyone is at least 50 lbs + 5 years old. The cost for adults is 94 CAD.

the yard indoor skatepark

This indoor skatepark is also fun for BMXers and scooter riders. It’s great for kids, and adults as well. Monday night is ladies night, and Friday night is just for grown-ups. The Yard offers skate lessons for adults and kids (on different days). Day passes are 20 to 25 CAD, and evening passes (the last two hours) are 15 CAD.

zipline from ontario to quebec

Interzip Rogers is a zipline that spans the Ottawa River, from Quebec to Ontario. The zipline is 1200 ft long, and your zip rate (?) will be around 50 km/hr. The views of the river and Ottawa are fabulous. A single-ride ticket is 45.98 CAD, and they take a video of your ride, which you can also buy (19 CAD).


foodies + beer lovers


Things to do in Ottawa: eat at Beavertails
Beavertails in the ByWard Market
Things to do in Ottawa: Café crawl
Arlington Five café

beavertails

BeaverTails started in 1978 at a fair just west of Ottawa. Shortly afterward, they opened up in the ByWard Market. While the outside looks different today, the same fried dough goodness can be found. The classic, cinnamon and sugar, is always good, but there are other concoctions to try as well. Avalanche is cheesecake spread with Skor pieces and caramel. It’s super sweet but quite good!

beehive tour (private)

Bees are an essential part of everyday life. Watching them work and produce honey can be fascinating. GeeBees Honey Company in Ottawa has interesting private tours and beekeeping lessons. The tours are private and provide a deep dive into all things honeybee. The tour is about an hour in length and costs 113 CAD per person.

brunch and a haircut

It’s not often that you can visit a salon, and enjoy a cocktail or fancy coffee while getting your hair done. HQ has a beautiful salon, and their restaurant serves up brunch, as well as dinner. Haircuts start at 85 CAD, while main dishes start at 12.75 CAD. Most cocktails are 15.50 CAD.

café crawl

One of my favourite things to do in Ottawa is taking breaks in different cafés while exploring neighbourhoods. Thankfully, Ottawa has a decent café scene. Happy Goat and Drip House are local franchises. Arlington Five, Good Eats Café, and Art House are good, too. There are so many to discover and enjoy.

city beers bus tour

Ottawa has a thriving craft beer scene and this 4-hour beer bus tour is a tasty introduction. It’s also a good way to find a brewery or two to hang out in. Plus, craft beer souvenirs are always a good idea.

book a tour

croffles

Croffles are what you get when you cross a croissant and a waffle. I’m a croissant snob, of sorts, of even I cannot deny that these treats from First Bite Treats are super tasty. You can get one topped with fresh whipped cream and strawberries or whipped cream and crushed Oreos.

oats + scotch

I love a duel business concept, and this is no different. Come by during the day for a slightly gourmet oatmeal bowl. There’s one with lemon curd, or kale and roasted root vegetables – but that’s not all. At night, Oat Couture on Bank Street turns into Montgomery Scotch Lounge. There are Gluten-free and vegan options available.

parkdale night market

The Parkdale Night Market is most popular in summer, but they have one in winter, too, near Christmas time. It’s held from 4 pm to 8 pm and is great for picking up locally produced products, as well as fresh fruits and veg. The Parkdale Market first opened in 1924, on the site of a former wood planting mill.

postcard chocolate bars

Alicja’s Confections is a women-owned business in Westboro that serves up some seriously sweet Treats. She is best known for her delicious gourmet chocolate bars, which are also postcards. It’s a genius idea. Buy some postcards in person, and bonbons, too. Then pop onto her website and send some postcards to your friends!

st albert cheese co-op

An hour from downtown Ottawa is cheese heaven. It’s called St Albert Cheese Co-op. They’ve been making yummy cheese since 1894. They make camembert, swiss, smoked cheddar, and brie. The best, though, are the squeaky cheese curds. They are perfect for poutine, but I usually devour them before I have time to make fries and brown sauce.

take a cooking class

C’est Bon is known for their cooking classes and food tours. Now that the pandemic is over, in-person classes are back on. Learn how to make pasta, sushi, or a variety of bread. They have classes on knife skills as well. The class on Inuit Country Cuisine is one-of-a-kind in the city.

taste of the byward market tour

This ByWard Market food tour is a must if you’re a foodie. You’ll spend 2.5 hours exploring the history and foods of the market area, and make six stops along the way. The majority of the foods will be savoury, but there are a couple of sweet ones, too. This is one of the best food tours in Ottawa.


souvenirs + trinkets


613flea

613flea is a non-profit working to promote local independent artists and creators. The fleamarket takes place at the Aberdeen Pavillion next to Lansdowne Park. There is an eclectic mix of vintage goods, handicrafts, and artisanal products. The dates vary, so it’s best to consult their website.

highjinx

Highjinx is a social enterprise and a vintage gem. There are some pretty cool finds here if you love hunting for items that are quirky and different. The furniture bank is for members of the community can pick up items they need at home. They rely on donations, both to help the community, and to sell so they can pay rent.

irving rivers souvenir shop

If you’re looking for kitschy souvenirs or trinkets, then Irving Rivers in the ByWard Market is a must. They’ve been in business for over 70 years. You’ll find everything from cheesy souvenirs to Sorel boots, camping gear, and underwear. It’s a treasure trove of goodies.

paper papier

If you’re a paper and notebook addict like myself, then you’ll love the Paper Papier shop in the ByWard Market. The trick is to not spend all of your money. They have luscious papers, a variety of notebooks, ByWard Market-themed jigsaw puzzles, and more. They’ve been open since 1982, making them a neighbourhood institution.

the record centre

On Wellington St West, near one of my favourite bakeries, is The Record Centre. Browse through new and used records, you can find some pretty good ones for around 30 CAD. There are some impressive collectibles, too. They also sell new and used gear, and buy used vinyl as well as gear.

This article, while long, merely scratches the surface of things to do in Ottawa. This city is rich in culture, history, and delicious food. My best advice is to pick a few things from this list, then dig deeper as you go along. You won’t be disappointed.

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