10 Things to Do in Ottawa

Things to do in Ottawa.jpg

Many Things To Do In Ottawa

Many years ago I lived in Ottawa. Over the years we travelled back to Ottawa for short visits. There were several things to do in Ottawa that tempted us to visit.

Most of the things high on my list were summer activities. In the cold winter weather, we even had one activity that was perfect.

1) See the Changing of the Guard

In the summer months, we got a special treat. There was pomp and ceremony at the changing of the guard in front of the Canadian parliament buildings. The ceremony included a great marching band that started off the ritual. The new guard then marched on as the old guard was changed out.

Changing of the Guard - Things to Do in Ottawa Canada.jpg

Changing of the Guard.jpg

If you are around to see the changing of the guard, you can also do a tour of the Parliament Buildings.

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Parliament Buildings - Things to Do in Ottawa Canada.jpg

The capital of Canada was one of the unique things to do in Ottawa!

2) Spring Tulip Festival

When we visited Ottawa in the early spring, we went to the tulip festival.  Spread along Dows Lake we saw huge beds of colourful tulips.

Spring Tulip Festival - Things to Do in Ottawa Canada.jpg

Ever hopeful Canadians knows that this is a sign that the winter truly is coming to an end! If you have had enough of cold weather, this is a great one of the things to do in Ottawa to usher out the winter!

3) Northern Lights

For some parts of the summer, you can see a great light and music show after dark on Parliament Hill. The Northern Lights themes changed.  But it always included a great display of light and art projected onto the Parliament buildings. Check in advance to see if the display will be on when you are there.

Northern Lights.jpg

Northern Lights - Things to Do in Ottawa Canada.jpg

Bring your blankets or your chairs and settle in to watch the show.

4) Canada Day

There was no better place in Canada to celebrate Canada Day than in Ottawa. The whole city seemed to dress in red and white.

Canada Day.jpg

Adorned with every possible Canadian symbol, people wandered around the entire downtown and Rideau market area.

Canada Day.jpg

The festivities started about 9am and concluded with a great fireworks display after dark.

Canada Day - Things to Do in Ottawa Canada.jpg

5) Explore the Locks and The Rideau Canal

You can come to Ottawa by boat. The main locks in downtown moved boats between the Rideau Canal system and the Ottawa River. We watched the series of 8 locks right under the Parliament Buildings step boats up and down 80 feet. The locks were actually a UNESCO World Heritage site!

Rideau Locks - Things to Do in Ottawa Canada.jpg

Rideau Locks - Things to Do in Ottawa Canada.jpg

Rideau Locks.jpg

Rideau Locks - Things to Do in Ottawa Canada.jpg

Once on the Rideau Canal, there are spots to dock so you can enjoy the downtown area. Slowly moving along the canal, you will hit the Ottawa River and can continue on through Smith’s Falls and ultimately to Kingston.

Rideau Canal - Things to Do in Ottawa Canada.jpg

If you are staying in Ottawa, you can stroll along the banks of the Rideau Canal. There are also lots of spots around town where you can rent a bicycle. It is a lot of fun to bike along the Rideau Canal or head out along the paths.

Rideau Canal.jpg

If you head away from downtown you will first go past Landsdowne Park and then hit Dows Lake. At Dows Lake you can stroll around the park or even rent a kayak or paddle boat.

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Enjoying the Rideau Canal is certainly one of the things to do in Ottawa!

6) Wander the Downtown

Located in downtown, you will find the ByTown Market. It is a short walk from the Parliament Buildings and the other attractions on the Ottawa River downtown. In the summer there are outdoor stalls filled with fresh food and colourful flowers.

ByTown Market - Things to Do in Ottawa Canada.jpg

ByTown Market.jpg

ByTown Market - Things to Do in Ottawa Canada.jpg

You can find any type of food in any price range in the ByTown Market. Since you are in Canada, find some Lobster Poutine for a gourmet delight!

Lobster Poutine - Things to Do in Ottawa Canada.jpg

If you meander around the downtown area, there are lots of little gems for you to find.

OscarPeterson Statue - Things to Do in Ottawa Canada.jpg

Firefighters Memorial Statue - Things to Do in Ottawa Canada.jpg

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Parliament Hill Statue - Things to Do in Ottawa Canada.jpg

Reconciliation Statue - Things to Do in Ottawa Canada.jpg

Reconciliation Statue.jpg

Art Gallery Spider Statue - Things to Do in Ottawa Canada.jpg

Parliament Hill - Things to Do in Ottawa Canada.jpg

7) History at the DiefenBunker

The Diefenbunker was built in the middle of the Cold War (between 1959 and 1961). This
100,000 square foot underground bunker and was built to be home to Canadian government officials and military officers in case of a nuclear war. The bunker was named for the Prime Minister at the time, John Diefenbaker.

The facility is now open to the public to tour. You can wander through the 4 storey, 300 room underground bunker and be transported back in time. As techy geeks, we immediately zeroed in on ancient telephone handsets, manual typewriters and tape drives!

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The Diefenbunker is a short drive out of town so you will need a car. But it is one of the great history things to do in Ottawa!

8) Remembrance Day

Just as Ottawa is a perfect spot to enjoy Canada Day, it is also a perfect spot for Remembrance Day. There is a large celebration on Parliament Hill. Poppies are placed on the monument to the Unknown Soldier.

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Remembrance Day - Things to Do in Ottawa Canada.jpg

Remembrance Day in Ottawa is always well attended and a special way to give thanks.

9) Visit a Museum

There are a number of major museums to visit in Ottawa:

  • Canadian Museum of Nature
  • Canadian Museum of History
  • National Gallery of Canada
  • Canadian War Museum
  • Canadian Aviation and Space Museum
  • Royal Canadian Mint
  • Canada Science and Technology Museum

Ottawa Art Gallery - Things to Do in Ottawa Canada.jpg

History Museum - Things to Do in Ottawa Canada.jpg

Whatever your interest, you will be entertained and educated.

10) A Winter Escape

Come in the winter for Winterlude! In February, when the ice is frozen on the canal, this great winter celebration is a big draw. There are lots of family activities during Winterlude.

You can ice skate along the Rideau Canal. If you stop at one of the many booths along the canal or in the Byword Market, you can have a traditional Canadian “beaver tail”.

Beaver Tails.jpg

Beaver Tails.jpg

Will this become one of your favourite winter things to do in Ottawa?


There are lots of things to do in Ottawa. If you are looking for history, pageantry, outdoor fun or even a winter adventure, consider Ottawa.

What is one of your favourite things to do in Ottawa? What of the above list is now top on your list?

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  1. I can’t believe its been nearly ten years since I been to Ottawa! I still remember my visit like yesterday. OK, so I stayed a couple of days here with friends who live in the city and I remember driving to nearby Parc Omega for one of them, but the actual city itself, all I remember was seeing one of the Northern Light themes at night on the parliament, which was truly amazing and er….just seeing the parliament hill area. Looks like there is quite a few things I missed but I am hoping to be back here soon to see my friends (and also combining it with a trip to nearby Winniepeg…I think it’s only down the road.. 😀 ).

    • Danik, I hope you do get to go back to Ottawa. We have one child there now so we get back a few times a year. Always something new to discover. The museums are amazing too. Linda

  2. I think the Northern Lights show is hardly miss when visiting Ottawa in the summer. It looks spectacular. My family and I will also enjoy the DiefenBunker. It reminded me of Minuteman Missile in South Dakota.

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