Spring in Ottawa means warmer weather, longer days and tons of family activities. There are endless ways to awaken your senses, including tasting delicious maple syrup, meeting adorable animals and exploring the fresh outdoor air. Enjoy the best of the spring season in Canada’s capital with these fun and family-friendly outdoor experiences.
Visiting a sugar bush is a quintessential Canadian activity between February and April, and Ottawa has many of these sweet places located within the city and in the nearby countryside. Most sugar shacks offer traditional and decadent fare like pancakes, baked ham and sugar pie – all of which you can douse with copious amounts of maple syrup. You might be able to jump on a horse drawn sleigh ride, visit barn animals and take part in outdoor activities.
Many sugar bushes provide demonstrations on the syrup-making process, including how sap is collected from maple trees and boiled down to make maple syrup. Visit our Maple Syrup Fun page to find out more about maple syrup-related activities in the Ottawa region!
Canadian Tulip Festival
Over a few weeks in May each year (May 8-18, 2020), more than one million tulips bloom throughout the city during the world-famous Canadian Tulip Festival. Kids and adults love to explore the many flower beds, take photos and enjoy the festivities.
The festival itself takes place in Commissioners Park at Dows Lake along the Rideau Canal waterway. This urban green space features giant garden beds planted with over 300,000 tulips, pavilions with live music and heritage programming, as well as a tulip boutique and food trucks. Visit our Canadian Tulip Festival page for more about this year’s event.
Canada Agriculture and Food Museum
Did you know that you can visit a working farm within the city of Ottawa? The Canada Agriculture and Food Museum, located just a 10-minute drive from the downtown core, is especially fun to visit when many farm animals give birth in the spring. Explore the different barns and barnyards to see lambs, piglets, calves, foals and ducklings among other baby animals. You can also attend the museum’s fun and educational daily demonstrations like baking with chocolate, cow milking and Meet the Ducklings. And don’t miss the Sheep Shearing Festival in May!
The surrounding grounds are also home to the Ornamental Gardens and the Dominion Arboretum. Pick a spot and take in beautiful views of roses, fragrant lilacs, irises and daylilies among other flowers (depending on the time of year). You can also stroll through the Arboretum and see different tree species such as magnolias, crab apple trees and hostas.
When wilderness calls, just head to Gatineau Park, an outdoor mecca located within a 10-minute drive from downtown Ottawa in Gatineau, Quebec! Outdoor enthusiasts visit this playground all year long, however full site access, programming and services vary with each site, with most being available from mid-May to late October (weather permitting). General admission to the park is free, though some fees apply to certain sites or activities.
Head out on foot and explore one of the scenic hiking trails that vary in distance from 1 kilometre (0.6 mile) to 4.5 kilometres (2.8 miles). Paths lead you to unique lakes, green forests as well as picturesque views from 300 metres (984 feet) above the Ottawa Valley. For more about trails in Gatineau Park and elsewhere in the Ottawa area, visit our hiking page.
The park is also home to the historic Mackenzie King Estate, which is open mid-May to mid-October. You can visit the historic cottages and surrounding grounds that belonged to Canada’s 10th and longest-serving Prime Minister, including ruins, gardens and exhibits. Complete your Gatineau Park experience by relaxing over a meal at the on-site Mackenzie King Tearoom.
Parc Oméga, located in Montebello, Quebec (just a 45-minute drive from downtown Ottawa) is a magical place where you can discover Canadian wildlife such as moose, elk, bison, wolves and bears, all within their natural environment. During your self-drive safari through the park, you’ll get to see wild animals as well as feed friendly ones along the way! Parc Oméga also offers programming related to Canadian history, early pioneer life and Aboriginal culture.
One of the best ways to get around Ottawa is on two wheels. Bring your own bikes or rent some from local companies Escape Bicycle Tours and Rentals or RentABike, and explore the more than 800 kilometres (497 miles) of pathways which criss-cross the city and the countryside. You can access several easy and flat routes just a few blocks from most downtown hotels, including the family-friendly Ottawa River and Rideau Canal pathways. Or take a guided cycling tour for a more in-depth experience.
For extra cycling access, time your ride on a Sunday from 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. from late May to early September (weather permitting). During the NOKIA Sunday Bikedays, several scenic parkways in the Ottawa area are closed to motorists and reserved for walkers, runners, in-line skaters and cyclists. Head out for a family walk or ride on over 50 kilometers (30 miles) of paved roads and don’t worry about traffic!
Camp Fortune Aerial Experience
For a dose of adrenaline, try an exciting zip lining and tree top climbing adventure at Camp Fortune’s Aerial Experience! Located about 20 minutes from downtown Ottawa in Gatineau Park, Aerial Experience offers an exhilarating 1.5 or three-hour trek across rope bridges, suspended walkways and net gangways. Then finish your high-altitude journey by gliding down a giant zip line.
For kid-sized aerial fun, visit the Children’s Park where kids can enjoy a supervised one-hour adventure across suspended walkways, monkey bridges, suspended stirrups and mini zip lines that are sized just for them. Camp Fortune’s Aerial Experience opens each year in early May.
Getting hungry after all that activity? Consider these family-friendly restaurants and places to eat in Ottawa.
And don’t forget to share your spring moments with us by using the hashtag #MyOttawa on social media.