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 – Culinary Discovery
9:45 a.m.: Discover Ottawa on a walking culinary adventure tour at 10 a.m.! Head out with one of C’est Bon Cooking’s expert guides to learn the evolution of Ottawa’s food scene by visiting award-winning restaurants and unique fine food shops. And the best part? Tasty samples are provided all along the way!
Early afternoon: Visiting Ottawa in May? Head to Major’s Hill Park and/or to Dows Lake to take in the splendour and beauty of the Canadian Tulip Festival.
Each May, Ottawa gets decorated with more than one million tulips in 50 varieties. Though you’ll see them all over the city, you’ll find 300,000 tulips in bloom at Commissioners Park (Dows Lake) alone. This beautiful spring festival provides the perfect photo opportunity, so be sure to have a camera with you.
3-3:30 p.m.: If you visit Dows Lake, opt to rent a canoe or kayak and explore the famous Rideau Canal on your own! Connecting the cities of Kingston and Ottawa, this waterway is Ontario’s only UNESCO World Heritage Site. Paddle for a while and enjoy the lovely arched bridges that stretch over the calm water.
5-5:30 p.m.: Take a taxi or if you’ve rented a bike for a few days, cycle back to the downtown core.
7:30 p.m.: Have dinner at Union Local 613. Don’t let its rough exterior façade fool you, this place is a local gem!
Enjoy fantastic whiskey-inspired cocktails, fresh, local ingredients and Southern-inspired cuisine. This is THE place to go to in Ottawa for fried chicken and grits!
Around 9:00 p.m.: Walk back up to Parliament Hill to take in Northern Lights, a Sound and Light Show that is projected onto the Parliament Buildings. Playing nightly throughout the summer, this free show depicts Canadian stories of nation-building, discovery, valour and more. Northern Lights lasts 30 minutes. Bring a blanket and enjoy the experience!
DAY 3 – 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!