Just because summer is coming to an end, it doesn’t mean that Ottawa’s pace is slowing down. Coming to Ottawa for a meeting or a conference this September? That’s perfect! Get here, settle into your hotel room and then, head out to let yourself be enchanted by the early fall season in Canada’s Capital.
Not sure where to start your visit? No problem. Below, you’ll find seven suggestions for activities that will help you make the most of your free time in Ottawa this September. And the best part? Most of these fun activities are either at a short walk or a short taxi ride from most downtown area hotels.
1. See the Sound and Light Show on Parliament Hill:
Northern Lights, the free, nightly sound and light show on Parliament Hill has been running all summer and goes until Sept. 10 for the 2016 season. Until this date, you can watch Canada’s history be recounted on the walls of the historic Parliament Buildings. Sit on the iconic front lawn and watch as Canadian stories of nation-building, discovery and valor are told with impressive lights, images and sounds. In September, the 30-minute show starts at 9:00 p.m.
2. See Star Trek – The Starfleet Academy Experience:
Get the inside scoop on this famous show at the Canada Aviation and Space Museum. Running until Sept. 5, 2016, this world premiere Star Trek-themed exhibit looks at the actual science behind well-known Star Trek gadgets such as tricorders, phasers, teleporters and more. Go through this bright and futuristic exhibit as a Starfleet Academy cadet and complete various tasks in the fields of communications, medicine, navigation, science, engineering, tactical and command. Also, don’t forget to take a seat in the iconic Commander’s chair of the Starship Enterprise. Whether you’re a trekie or not, this is a fun exhibit that you don’t want to miss. Make sure to bring a camera.
3. Attend Baconpalooza:
If you like bacon, you won’t want to miss Baconpalooza! Running from Sept. 9-11, 2016, this is the Canada Agriculture and Food Museum’s outdoor bacon festival. Over the festival’s three days, enjoy tastings, cooking demonstrations, live music and more. Vendors will also be on site to sell bacon-inspired goods. And on the Sunday, enjoy a ‘Bacon, Bourbon & Bands’ theme. This is sure to be a delicious event!
4. Catch CityFolk:
Have a conference or a meeting in Ottawa in mid-September? You might want to extend your stay by a couple of days to catch some acts at this outdoor music festival.
Running from Sept. 15-18, 2016 at Lansdowne – at just a short drive south of the downtown core – CityFolk is a four-day celebration of music, dance, visual arts and community. Here, you’ll find more than 25 eclectic music performances, music workshops, special children’s and family performances, artisan and craft vendors and more. This year’s headliners include the Dropkick Murphys, James Bay, Vance Joy, Dean Brody and Blind Pilot, among many others.
5. Relax at Nordik Spa-Nature:
Have an evening free during your conference or meeting? Hop in a cab and head 20 minutes north of Ottawa’s downtown core to Nordik Spa-Nature; the largest outdoor spa of its kind in North America.
Enjoy the cooler, early fall breeze as you take in Nordik’s therapeutic baths and saunas experience. Relax and make your way through the spa, alternating between hot and more temperate waters. Also, you’ll be surrounded by the beauty of fall the entire time as Nordik is set within the luscious Gatineau Park. And don’t miss Nordik’s infinity pool. Wade through the pool peacefully and take in lovely views of Ottawa’s twinkling skyline. Nordik is open year-round, seven days a week until late into the evening. Is there anything better than enjoying a crisp fall breeze from a bubbling hot tub?
6. Go for a scenic hike in Gatineau Park:
Located just around the corner from Nordik, Gatineau Park offers about 90,000 acres of Canadian wilderness that is home to several beautiful hiking trails. If you’re in Ottawa for a conference or a meeting in late-September, this is a great place to experience the fall colors.
If you don’t have a lot of free time, opt to explore the short and beginner-friendly Sugar Bush trail. This trail begins at the Gatineau Park Visitor Centre and takes about 45 minutes to complete at a slow pace. Along the flat trail, you can learn more about Canadian flora and fauna.
Alternatively, if you’d like more of a challenge, explore the 1.9-kilometre (1.2-mile) King Mountain trail. This steeper trail features 10 lookouts that offer spectacular views of Ottawa and the surrounding region. The trail leads up to the Eardley Escarpment, which provides a scenic view from 300 metres (984 feet) above the Ottawa Valley.
Gatineau Park is open year-round and admission is free. Just make sure to have a camera ready to capture the beautiful Canadian fall colors.
7. Cycle around Ottawa:
With a mix of hot sun and a cooler breeze, September is the perfect time to see Ottawa by bike!
Opt to RentABike and explore Ottawa’s more than 600 kilometres (373 miles) of scenic pathways. You can rent a bike by the hour, the day or even the week. Also, each bike comes with a bike lock. This is a great way to experience Ottawa on your own time.
Head out to explore pathways along the Ottawa River – one of Canada’s 42 heritage rivers – or along the Rideau Canal, which is Ontario’s only UNESCO World Heritage Site. Also, venture into the ByWard Market neighborhood to visit its well-known, open air market.
Established in 1826, the ByWard Market is one of the oldest and largest farmers’ markets in Canada. At any time of the year, you’ll find about 175 outdoor stalls with vendors selling fresh produce, plants, arts and crafts and more. During the fall season, the market becomes the perfect place for photos as vendors offer colorful corn stalks, bright, decorated pumpkins and more. But at any time of the year, you’ll find an array of locally-made maple products, which make a perfect Ottawa souvenir.
Alternatively, if you’d prefer a guided Ottawa experience and you have a couple of hours of free time, opt for a Lady Dive Splash Tour. Hop on Lady Dive’s Amphibus and explore interesting sites in the Ottawa-Gatineau area and… On the Ottawa River. On this one-hour tour, you can experience Ottawa both on land and water. On this bilingual tour, you’ll learn about more than 75 important Ottawa sites. Amphibus tours for the 2016 season run until Oct. 9.
These are only a few suggestions on how to spend your free time during your conference or meeting in Ottawa this September. For more ideas, read our Upcoming Ottawa Festivals and Events article and explore our See & Do page.