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Fun Things to do in Ottawa

Ontario

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city guide

As Canadas capital, Ottawa is the perfect place to experience some of the countrys best attractions, celebrations and flavours in one welcoming city. With its unique blend of urban and rural beauty, year-round outdoor activities, and vibrant neighbourhoods, the Ottawa region is best explored over three days or more.

About

Best time to go

The best time to visit Ottawa is between March and May, when temperatures begin to rise and the city starts to bloom. This is also when some of the capital's favorite special events including the beloved Tulip Festival take place.

Weather

Fun city facts and activities

    A capital city with a small town feel, its hard to believe that Ottawa was ever known as the city that fun forgot. Beyond its bureaucratic facade, this government town is home to myriad festivals, a growing restaurant scene, beautiful green spaces, comfortable hotels and interesting indie shops. As Canadas capital, Ottawa also offers plenty of world-class cultural attractions and unique museums.

    Some seasonal attractionslike skating along the Rideau Canal in the winter time or admiring the thousands of blooming bulbs during the springs Tulip Festivalare hard to miss (and you shouldnt!). But no matter the season or the weather (and there are some extremes here), the city is anything but boring, as proven by this list of awesome things to do in Ottawa.
City facts

Neighborhoods to explore

    The Glebe
    Sandy Hill
    Alta Vista
    Westboro
    New Edinburgh
    Kanata
    Dow's Lake
    Orl̩ans
Neighborhoods

Restaurants
Food Specialties

    If poutine and BeaverTails are the main things that come to mind when you think of Ottawa food, then trust us youve got some culinary exploring to do! Luckily, the local food scene has grown exponentially in recent years, giving rise to upscale casual eateries, chef-run restaurants and speciality shops focusing on everything from ice cream to charcuterie.

    It would be easy to stick to one neighbourhood: theres a row of great restaurants along Wellington West in Hintonburg, and plenty to choose from in Little Italy. Great things are popping up just east of downtown and you cant miss the gems just across the Ottawa River in Qu̩bec. Youll find a diverse array of cuisines (at diverse price points) across the capital city, which means that traveling to eat at the best restaurants in Ottawa will help you explore local sights and things to do that you should have on your bucket list.
Restaurants
Events

Ottawa Offbeat activities

Free or cheap things to do

1. Urban Adventures Ottawa - This tour offers a unique way to explore the city and discover the hidden gems of Ottawa. Visit local businesses, explore neighbourhoods, and meet the locals to gain insight into the city's culture.

2. Haunted Walk of Ottawa - This spooky tour will take you to the dark side of Ottawa, exploring its haunted past and discovering the secrets of its haunted locations.

3. Ottawa River Tubing - Spend a day floating down the Ottawa River on a tube. The tour will take you through the Rideau Canal, Ottawa's historic landmark, and you'll get a chance to explore some of the city's most beautiful parks, beaches and islands.

4. Ottawa Street Art Tour - Explore the vibrant street art culture of Ottawa on a guided tour. You'll get to check out the artwork of artists from around the world, and learn more about the local art scene.

5. Ottawa Valley Rail Trail - Take a scenic ride along

Offbeat activites
Kid friendly

Fun things to do in with kids

Free or cheap things to do

1- Byward Market
Byward Market isnt just a great spot to spend some time and do some shopping. Its actually one of the most historic farmers markets in Canada. The Ottawa market is open 363 days per year. Its only closed on Christmas Day and New Years Day. Whether you are looking for fresh fruits and vegetables, mouth-watering baked goods, local maple syrup, or trinkets and crafts from across Canada and the world, Byward Market is always one of the top things to do in Ottawa.

2- The Royal Canadian Mint
Ive lost count on how many times Ive been to the Royal Canadian Mint. And its still one of my favorite things to do in Ottawa. From learning about the craft of coin making to lugging a $750,000 bar of gold, the mint is mint. Im not entirely sure how theyve made the art of designing and printing money so fascinating, but I always have a blast when I go here. You can learn more about the Royal Canadian Mint here.

3- Notre Dame Cathedral
Like most great cities, Ottawa has a beautiful cathedral. And, like many great cities, that Cathedral is named Notre Dame! Notre Dame is a great place to visit in Ottawa. Especially during the hot summer days or cold winter evenings when a visit to this beautiful cathedral offers a comforting respite from the weather. Notre Dame cathedral is a short walk from Byward Market and the National Gallery of Canada.

4- The Best Adventure Activities In Ottawa For Kids
I LOVE adventure. Whether we are ziplining, canoeing, hiking, or sandboarding, I rarely recommend a destination that doesnt have some incredible family adventure activities. Ottawa is at the center of great adventures in Ontario. Whether you want to be on the water or on the trails, there are amazing opportunities for adventure in Ottawa with kids.

5- Whitewater Rafting
Did you know that the Ottawa region is a whitewater rafting mecca? Whether youre looking for epic class V rapids to boost your adrenaline or a class II to get your heart racing without any real danger, Ottawa rafting has what youre looking for. The fast water trips are fun by companies such as Wilderness Tours. Theyre located about an hour from the city center.

6- Explore The Rideau Canal
The Rideau Canal is one of the most iconic parts of Ottawa. Whether you visit Ottawa in the winter or summer, spending some time on Rideau should be a compulsory visitor activity. During the summer you can join a Rideau Canal cruise to experience the sites and sounds of the capital.

7-Indigenous Experiences
Currently running out of the Canadian Museum of History in Gatineau, Indigenous Experiences holds the title of one of Canadas Signature Experiences. And if youve ever been interested in learning more about First Nations history and culture, this is one of the best places to start.

8- Ottawa Beaches
Ill admit it. Until my last visit to the capital, I had no idea that there were so many great beaches in Ottawa. It turns out that the Ottawa River is lined with excellent patches of sand that are just perfect for a day of soaking in the sun and splashing in the waters of the Ottawa River.

9- The Canadian Museum Of Nature
If youre asking me for my favorite museum in Ottawa for children, it has to be the Canadian Museum of Nature. The Nature Museum always has a great selection of special exhibits. And they have dinosaurs too! Including a room with life-sized dinos that you can actually touch. When we visited in 2019 they had an incredible flying reptile exhibit that featured amazing interactive displays. And one of the new features is the massive moon display hanging in the Queens Lantern. You can even find a real piece of moon rock on display in the Earth Gallery.

10-The Canadian Childrens Museum
A great childrens museum can be a lifesaver if you get stuck with bad weather during a visit. The Ottawa Childrens Museum is definitely one of the top things to do for kids in Ottawa. The interactive exhibits are a love letter to Canadas immigrants. Kids will be enthralled collecting passport stamps from each of the countries on display. And combining learning with travel is pretty much the best way to win over my familys heart.

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City data and FAQ 

Is Ottawa worth visiting?
With a walkable downtown area, great public transport links, an abundance of parks, an outdoor dining and cafe culture, super friendly people and beautiful rural suburbs, it's easy to see why Ottawa is one of the world's best-loved capital cities.

How many days do you need in Ottawa?
There is more than enough to keep you busy for a full weekend in Ottawa, with plenty of history, food, and culture to explore. Using this suggested Ottawa itinerary, 2 days is just enough to enjoy the highlights.
Ottawa can be visited in two days. If a traveler wants to see Ottawa in depth, maybe three to a max of four days.
Lynn - Legal Support Contractor

Do you need a car in Ottawa?
You don't need a car in either Toronto or Ottawa. However if you want to explore the countryside outside the city, a car, while not a necessity, provides greater flexibility.

What is Ottawa famous for?
So, what is Ottawa known and famous for? Ottawa is known for its international music festivals, its record-breaking ice skating rink, and its beautiful nature. Ottawa is also known for its bilingual character, politeness, internationally influenced cuisine, and hunger for beaver tails (yes, you read that correctly).

How many restaurants are there in Ottawa?
According to online travel site Tripadvisor.com, there are more than 2,100 restaurants in Ottawa, a far cry from the days when Mamma's, Nate's, Kardish, The Mill, Green Valley and Green Dragon restaurants ruled.

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