Ottawa Tourism

Get Outdoors in Canada’s Capital City

As Canada’s Capital, Ottawa is home to several national museums as well as broad, priceless collections of cultural marvels. Here, you’ll find everything from priceless artifacts telling the story of Canada’s beginnings to world-class art.

But if adventure’s what you’re after, this cosmopolitan city has that too. Discover five experiences in Ottawa that are sure to get your adrenaline going!

“The Rock” at Great Canadian Bungee:

Located just 20 minutes north of downtown Ottawa, Great Canadian Bungee is home to a 61-metre or200-foot jump site known as “TheRock.” This jumping site is the only place in North America where you can experience a 200-foot drop into a spring-fed lagoon. And the 160-foot rebound from your jump is also higher than the entire bungee height of any other site in the United States and Canada. Strap in and enjoy this scenic freefall into a turquoise, spring-fed lagoon!

Parachute GO Skydive (GO Skydive):

Located just across the Ottawa River in Gatineau, Que., this local company has been specializing in skydiving since 2006. GO Skydive offers “First Jump” tandem and experienced jumper programs. If you’ve never jumped before, follow a 15-minute training session and then experience a 200-kilometre per hour (124-mile per hour) freefall! Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced jumper, once the parachute opens, you can take in beautiful, scenic views of the Ottawa-Gatineau region and the Ottawa River as you float down.

Ottawa Biplane Adventures:

Not into freefalling? No problem! Why not fly instead? Operating out of the Canada Aviation and Space Museum, Ottawa Biplane Adventures offers exciting flights over Ottawa in a vintage, WWII-era WACO UPF-7 biplane! Put on some vintage goggles – this is a great selfie opportunity – and feel the wind blow through your hair; the WACO is an open-cockpit aircraft.

Soar through the air and take in beautiful views of the Ottawa River, downtown Ottawa as well as the iconic Parliament Hill. The biplane can take two passengers per flight. This is an Ottawa experience you won’t soon forget!

Whitewater Rafting:

Did you know that the Ottawa Region is home to some of the best whitewater rafting in the entire world? It’s true!

West of Ottawa’s downtown core, you’ll find the area of Beachburg, Ont., which is home to several rafting companies that offer a variety of full-day and multi-day experiences ranging from mild to high adrenaline, expert level adventure.

And as there are a few companies in the same area, your rafting experience is completely customizable. Opt for a company that offers a sunset boat cruise or another one that offers hot tubs after a long day of bouncing down the river. The Ottawa region’s whitewater season goes from May to September.

Did you know that rafting in the Ottawa River region is a Canadian Signature Experience? It’s true! Determined by Destination Canada, OWL Rafting on the Ottawa River is a ‘Canadian Signature Experience,’ meaning that it responds to a traveller’s desire to venture beyond the beaten tourist path.

Camp Fortune’s Explorer Park:

A short 15-minute drive north of Ottawa’s downtown core, you’ll find Camp Fortune’s Explorer Park!

Grab your equipment and head out on a zip lining adventure that makes its way through the treetops of the scenic, luscious and expansive Gatineau Park. This two to three-hour adventure combines rope bridges, zip lines and other obstacles that challenge visitors and lead to a fun half day experience.

These are only a few suggestions to get your adrenaline-filled getaway to Ottawa started.

2-day Itinerary: An Adventure Getaway to Ottawa!

2-day Itinerary: An Adventure Getaway to Ottawa!

Arrive in Ottawa and check into the hotel of your choice. Ottawa has many hotels for you to choose from; from luxurious establishments to more economic options. Learn more about accommodations here.

DAY 1 – Cycling and Culture

Morning: Start off by seeing some of the sights! Head to RentABike (across from the Fairmont Château Laurier) and get ready to see Ottawa like a local. You can rent a bike by the hour, by the day or for a few days, and it comes with everything you need – a helmet and a bike lock.

9:45 a.m.: Be on the iconic Parliament Hill for the Changing of the Guard Ceremony at 10 a.m. Every summer since 1959, the Hill’s front lawn comes alive with colourful drills that are accompanied by a regimental band and pipers. Get there 15 minutes early, as this is a popular event for visitors and locals alike!

10:45 a.m.: As you’re already on Parliament Hill, opt for a guided tour of Centre Block. At the end of your tour, take the elevator to the top of the Peace Tower where you’ll get a dramatic, 360-degree view of the city. Bring your camera!

Noon: Participate in a noon-hour yoga class on Parliament Hill’s front lawn! Each Wednesday from May to September, Lululemon Athletica offers a free ‘guerilla yoga’ class. Up to 1,000 people – visitors and locals – participate on a weekly basis.

Lunch: If you’re hungry, opt to stop at one of Ottawa’s independent coffee shops. There are a few in the ByWard Market neighbourhood that are worth visiting. At these establishments, you’ll find fairly-traded, organic coffee and teas, as well as light lunch items and delicious treats.

Afternoon: Head down past the Ottawa Locks and cycle along the scenic Ottawa River pathway over to the Canadian War Museum.

3:00 p.m.: Lock up your bike and visit the Canadian War Museum. This energy-efficient facility showcases Canada’s proud military history. Here, you’ll find large artifacts such as tanks and airplanes, as well as a stunning collection of war art, including airplane “nose art” from WWII. This museum even has a piece of the famous Berlin Wall!

5:00 p.m.: Head back along the Ottawa River pathway towards the downtown core.

Need a drink or a snack? Stop by the Mill Street Brew Pub. This 140-year-old building is around the corner from the War Museum and as it’s at the water’s edge, it’s the perfect place for a late afternoon pint!

8-8:30 p.m.: Head into the ByWard Market neighbourhood for a late dinner. “The Market,” as it’s known locally, offers several restaurants. But for tonight, try SIDEDOOR – a unique spot where Mexican and Asian cuisine unite. The tacos are a must!

Late night: Don’t feel like going to bed? No problem! In the ByWard Market neighbourhood, you’ll find a plethora of clubs and pubs to entertain you all night long.

DAY 2 – Whitewater Adventure

Morning: Have a car or you’ve rented one? Head west of Ottawa to the area of Beachburg, Ont., which is home to the city’s whitewater playground. This area, which is about 90 minutes from the downtown core, is actually home to some of the best whitewater adventure in the entire world!

Here, you’ll find several rafting companies that offer a variety of full-day or multi-day experiences ranging from gentle, family-focused rafting to high adrenaline, expert level adventure. Set out onto the river with your seasoned guide for a day of fun, complete with a barbecue lunch on the banks of the river. This is a favourite activity of visitors and locals alike!

And as there are a few companies in the same area, your rafting experience is completely customizable. Opt for a company that offers a sunset boat cruise or another one that offers hot tubs after a long day of bouncing down the river. The choice is yours!

Late afternoon: If you’ve only gone rafting for the day, head back into Ottawa to relax for a while and get ready for dinner.

8:30 p.m.: Enjoy a late dinner at Play Food & Wine. Located in the ByWard Market neighbourhood on York Street, this funky restaurant is operated by Ottawa restaurateur Stephen Beckta and offers small plates that are great for sharing. Enjoy one more delectable meal in Ottawa before turning in for the night. You’ll definitely be tired after all of that daytime adventure!

5-day Itinerary: A Summer Getaway to Ottawa!

5-day Itinerary: A Summer Getaway to Ottawa!

DAY 1 – The Great Outdoors

Arrive in Ottawa in the mid-morning and check into the hotel of your choice. Ottawa has many hotels for you to choose from; from luxurious establishments to more economic options. Learn more about accommodations here.

Shopping in the ByWard MarketAround 11:30 a.m.: If you’re hungry, get a quick bite to eat in Ottawa’s bustling ByWard Market neighbourhood. In this popular Ottawa area, you’ll find several dining options, from casual pubs to high-end, fine dining establishments.

Grab something to go! Stroll into the ByWard Market Square building, which houses various food vendors including French bakery Le Moulin de Provence. Here, you’ll find great sandwiches, salads as well as beautiful cookies and other desserts that are all available for take-out.

Around 12:30 p.m.: Hop in a taxi or take your car if you have one, and head just across the Ottawa River to the scenic Gatineau Park. This luscious park, which spans over 361-square-kilometres (90,000 acres), is a favourite hiking spot for visitors and locals alike in any season.

Camp Fortune Aerial ExperienceOpt to explore the 1.9-kilometre (1.2 mile) King Mountain trail, which features 10 lookouts that provide a spectacular view of Ottawa and the surrounding region. This 45-minute hike leads up to the Eardley Escarpment, which provides a stunning view from 300 metres (984 feet) above the Ottawa Valley. Make sure to bring a water bottle and to have a camera with you!

Afternoon: If you’d like more outdoor adventure, head to Camp Fortune’s Explorer Park. Nestled amongst Gatineau Park’s treetops, this fun aerial adventure offers various obstacles and ziplines. Take advantage of some shade in the afternoon and enjoy soaring through the trees in this experience that takes about 2.5 to 3 hours to complete.

Nordik Spa-NatureWant to relax instead? Also in Gatineau Park, you’ll find Nordik Spa-Nature; the largest spa of its kind in North America!

Spend the rest of your day enjoying Nordik’s Thermal Baths and Saunas experience. Enjoy hot tubs, more temperate pools, steam rooms and an infinity pool that faces the downtown Ottawa skyline. Nordik also offers massages and a unique Källa salt water treatment. Other than at Nordik, you’ll only find this treatment at a spa in Switzerland!

And with two restaurants on site, it’s easy to spend a full day here. Take a break from the baths and recharge with a meal, dessert, a glass of wine, a beer or even a martini. This is a great way to spend your first evening in Ottawa and re-energize after your trip into the city!

DAY 2 – See Some Sights

Morning: If you like history and culture, Ottawa is definitely the city for you. Did you know that Ottawa is home to 7 national museums? Use today to discover some of the city’s unique cultural assets!

Changing of the Guard9:45 a.m.: Arrive on Parliament Hill for the Changing of the Guard Ceremony. We recommend getting here a bit early as this popular attraction begins at 10:00 a.m. Every summer since 1959, the Hill’s front lawn comes alive with colourful military drills that are accompanied by a regimental band and pipers. Make sure to bring a camera! The Changing of the Guard Ceremony is adored by Ottawa visitors and locals alike.

10:45 a.m.: As you’re already on Parliament Hill, opt to take a free guided tour of the iconic Centre Block, which is home to the 92.2-metre Peace Tower. Did you know that you can go to the very top of the Peace Tower? It’s true! Take the elevator to the top and enjoy a dramatic, 360-degree view of the city.

Yoga on Parliament Hill*Insider tip: If you’re in Ottawa from early May through August, you can participate in a FREE yoga class on Parliament Hill’s front lawn. Each Wednesday from noon to 1 o’clock, up to 1,000 people participate in this multi-level class presented by Lululemon Athletica. Bring your yoga mat and get ready to have some fun with fellow visitors and Ottawa locals alike!

Around noon: From Parliament Hill, walk towards the Rideau Canal where just across from the Fairmont Château Laurier, you’ll find RentABike. Here, you can rent bikes by the hour, the day or even by the week. And each bike comes with everything you need; a helmet and a bike lock.

Canadian Museum of HistoryTake your bike and cycle down Sussex Drive to take the Alexandra Bridge over the Ottawa River to the Canadian Museum of History. First established in 1856, this is Canada’s most visited museum! Here, you’ll find thousands of priceless artifacts that recount 20,000 years of human history. And don’t miss the museum’s impressive Grand Hall, which is home to the world’s largest indoor collection of totem poles. This hall also offers stunning views of the Ottawa River and the historic Parliament Buildings.

Visiting in 2017? See the museum’s brand new Canadian History Hall, which opens on July 1, 2017 (Canada Day).

Afternoon: Once you’ve enjoyed the Museum of History, opt to cycle west over to the Canadian War Museum. This bunker-like museum is where stories of Canada’s proud military past are told. Here, you’ll find larger artifacts such as tanks, artillery and unique airplane “nose art” from WWII. This museum even has a piece of the historic Berlin Wall!

Mill Street Brew Pub – OttawaAround 5:00 p.m.: Leave the War Museum and cycle back towards the downtown core. If you’re hungry, opt to stop for dinner at the Mill Street Brew Pub. Located at the edge of the Ottawa River in a charming 140-year-old building, “Mill Street” as it’s known locally, is a cozy place to enjoy great pub fare and craft beer. This restaurant is charming at any time of the year. But during the warmer weather months, take advantage of Mill Street’s lovely stone patio. Relax with a beer and enjoy the heat of an Ottawa summer night as the Ottawa River flows by!

Evening: After dinner, opt to get out of the heat for a little bit by relaxing back at your hotel.

Northern Lights: The Sound and Light Show on Parliament HillLate evening: Walk up to Parliament Hill to catch Northern Lights. This is Ottawa’s free and unique 30-minute Sound and Light Show that is set against the backdrop of the beautiful Parliament Buildings. Through impressive digital technology, this show depicts Canadian stories of nation-building, discovery, valour and more. Bring a blanket and enjoy this unique outdoor experience!

DAY 3 – Discover the Rideau Canal

Morning: Opt to have breakfast in the ByWard Market neighbourhood. Like chocolate? Then head to Cacao 70.

Located at 53 William St., Cacao 70 offers several delectable chocolate-inspired dishes. Try the Illegal Chocolate Waffle, which is topped with melted Belgian chocolate, chocolate shavings and caramelized bananas. Yum! Not a fan of chocolate? No problem! Cacao 70 has all of the savoury breakfast options too. Here, you’ll also find omelets, ham and spinach crepes, salads, sandwiches and more.

Rideau Canal – UNESCO World Heritage SiteMid-morning: Head out to discover the famous Rideau Canal; Ontario’s only UNESCO World Heritage Site!

Option 1: Hop in a taxi and take a short ride over to Dows Lake. At the Dows Lake Pavilion, rent a canoe, kayak, stand up paddle board (SUP) or pedal boat and explore the scenic Rideau Canal on your own. If you want to, paddle all the way to the downtown core and back. Rentals are $15 to $20 CDN for one hour and $8 for each additional hour.

Option 2: If you’d prefer a guided Rideau Canal experience, opt to go on a boat tour with Rideau Canal Cruises. Float along gently on a quiet, electric boat and learn all about how the historic canal was built. Did you know that a large part of it was dug out by hand?

National Gallery of CanadaAround 2:00 p.m.: Get out of the hot sun for a little bit and visit the National Gallery of Canada. In this beautiful glass building, you’ll find the world’s most comprehensive collection of Canadian art, including Aboriginal and Inuit art.

*Insider tip: Don’t miss the Rideau Street Convent Chapel! These beautiful wood carvings were saved from the demolition of the Convent of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart in Ottawa in 1972. They were designed by diocesan architect Canon Georges Bouillon in 1887 and have been reconstructed in the Canadian galleries. This is a peaceful spot that visitors and locals love!

Fairmont Château LaurierAt 4:30 p.m.: Enjoy Afternoon Tea at the historic Fairmont Château Laurier! At the Fairmont’s Zoe’s Lounge – named one of the best bars in Canada by enRoute magazine – you’ll want to order the Canadian tea, which features Canadian delicacies from across the country. Sit by the solarium-style windows, sip your maple tea and melt away the rest of your afternoon by watching the comings and goings along the busy Rideau Street.

Around 6:15 p.m.: Return to your hotel to relax and to get ready for dinner. Or if you’re all set, opt to do some shopping at the newly renovated CF Rideau Centre.

This is Ottawa’s downtown shopping mall and having undergone a recent $360-million renovation, it is now home to high-end brands such as Tiffany & Co., Kate Spade New York, Nordstrom and many more. Browse the mall and get something that will make you think of Ottawa each time you put it on.

Around 8:30 p.m.: Enjoy a late dinner at Play food and wine! Located at 1 York St. in the ByWard Market neighbourhood, Play offers small delicious plates that are perfect for sharing. Order a few plates with some great wine and enjoy the rest of your evening in Ottawa!

DAY 4 – Whitewater Adventure

Did you know that the Ottawa region is one of the top whitewater adventure spots in the entire world? It’s true! Today, discover Ottawa’s great whitewater assets.

Whitewater rafting in downtown Ottawa with Ottawa City RaftingOption 1: Stay within minutes of the downtown core and discover the majestic Ottawa River with Ottawa City Rafting!

Operated seasonally by veteran outdoor adventure company Wilderness Tours, Ottawa City Rafting offers 3.5-hour ‘urban’ rafting trips down the Ottawa River. Get into your guided raft at Britannia Beach – located 10 minutes west of the downtown core – and have fun paddling and bouncing along as you make your way through three sets of Class I and II rapids. And the best part? You’ll get spectacular views of Ottawa landmarks all along the way, including the Parliament Buildings. This is a gentle rafting adventure that is great for participants from five to 65 years old.

You can also use some of your free time in the city today to do some souvenir shopping or to see some other sights like the Bytown Museum or the Canadian Museum of Nature.

Ottawa: A “Signature” Rafting DestinationOption 2: If you’re looking for a high adrenaline whitewater experience, take your car or rent one and head 90 minutes west of Ottawa to the area of Beachburg, Ont., which is known as the region’s whitewater playground.

Here, you’ll find several outdoor adventure companies that offer everything from gentle family rafting trips, to expert level rafting, whitewater kayaking and more. Just choose what kind of experience you want and get ready to spend a whole day on the water. This is a one-of-a-kind Canadian experience that you won’t soon forget! A reservation is required.

Also, OWL Rafting on the Ottawa River received a Canadian Signature Experience designation, meaning that its experiences respond to a traveller’s desire to go beyond the beaten tourist path. The Ottawa region’s whitewater season typically runs from late May to early September.

DAY 5 – Culinary & Discovery

Morning: Start your last day in Ottawa with a little taste of Canadiana! Located at 354a Preston St. in Ottawa’s Little Italy neighbourhood, Flapjack’s Canadian Diner  is a local favourite! Enjoy specialty buttermilk pancakes and breakfast sandwiches, all based on an authentically Canadian lumberjack theme.

After breakfast, spend a bit of time exploring this unique and lively neighbourhood where you’ll find various shops as well as a few quaint Italian cafés with desserts to die for!

Mid-morning: If you want to explore more of Ottawa’s culinary scene, opt to go on a culinary walking tour of the city. Local company C’est Bon Cooking offers tours that explore different Ottawa neighbourhoods such as the ByWard Market, Wellington West, Chinatown and more. There’s even a weekend Chocolate Lover’s Tour! And the best part? Food samples are provided all along the way. A reservation is required.

Biplane Canada Aviation and Space MuseumEarly afternoon: Chances are that you won’t be hungry after your culinary tour, so hop in a taxi and head to the Canada Aviation and Space Museum to see Canada’s Capital from above.

Operating at the museum, Ottawa Biplane Adventures offers scenic flights over Ottawa’s downtown core and the surrounding region. Put on a pair of vintage aviator goggles and soar high above Ottawa in a WWII-era WACO UPF-7 open cockpit biplane. See what it’s like to have the wind whip through your hair as you take in beautiful views of the city. This is a unique Ottawa experience!

Alternatively, if you’d rather be shielded from the wind, consider hopping into a Robinson R44 and enjoying a helicopter tour of the city. Take in scenic views of Ottawa in this bubbled helicopter operated by Héli-Tremblant!

BeaverTails, ByWard MarketLate afternoon: How you decide to spend the rest of the day is up to you. Head back into the downtown core to do some more souvenir shopping or to take in a few more attractions that you haven’t yet seen.

If you head back into the ByWard Market area, make sure to grab a BeaverTails pastry as a snack. The ByWard Market is where this delicious, beaver tail-shaped delicacy was born in 1978! Enjoy flavours such as cinnamon and sugar, oreo, maple butter and banana chocolate, among several others.

If you want to send your last night in Ottawa out in style, opt to enjoy dinner at Signatures Restaurant at Le Cordon Bleu. Get dressed up and head to 453 Laurier Avenue East and enjoy French-inspired cuisine in a charming 1877 former lumber baron mansion. Savour multiple courses and delicious wine while you chat about your recent Ottawa adventures by candlelight.

Calypso Theme WaterparkAlternatively, if you’re here on a balmy summer day and you think that it’s too hot for sightseeing, consider spending the day at Calypso Theme Waterpark. Located to the south of Ottawa’s downtown core in Limoges, Ont., Calypso is Canada’s largest waterpark and offers fun for all ages; from young couples to families alike. Here, you’ll find many waterslides, two themed river rides, a wave pool that’s the size of three NHL rinks, a toddler-friendly water play area and much more. This is a great way to spend a hot summer day!

Getting to Ottawa

Traveling to Ottawa from the Northeast US is a breeze! Direct flights of less than two hours are offered daily from Boston, New York City, and Philadelphia airports into Ottawa Macdonald-Cartier International Airport (YOW). The state-of-the-art Ottawa airport is located a short, 20-minute taxi or bus ride from the city’s scenic downtown core. And it’s a US pre-clearance airport, meaning that US-bound passengers are processed by US Customs prior to their departure. So your return home is as quick and easy as a domestic flight!

Did you know that Air Canada – Canada's national airline – offers daily non-stop flights between New York and Ottawa? It’s true! From Newark, you’ll find three non-stop flights per weekday to Ottawa and up to two flights on Saturday and Sunday.

Also, non-stop flight time from New York is 90 minutes, which makes Canada’s Capital at the perfect traveling distance for a quick weekend getaway or for something a little longer.

If you prefer road trips, Ottawa is easily reachable by car. Its convenient location near the US border, and the fact that it’s situated between other major cities in Ontario and Quebec makes it a great destination. If rail travel is more your speed, VIA Rail Canada offers train service between Canadian destinations, and also connects with Amtrack.

Book your Ottawa Getaway today!

Book your hotel now! Or for more Ottawa getaway ideas, view our online Visitor Guide or order a printed copy today.

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