With a crisp fall breeze, warm sunshine, and a kaleidoscope of beautiful fall colours, autumn is a wonderful time to explore Ottawa. To help get you started, we’ve prepared a suggested outline for the perfect three-day Ottawa fall getaway. Follow this itinerary throughout your trip or use it as a base to create your own customized visit. You’ll fall in love with Canada’s capital this autumn!
DAY 1 – Explore & Relax
Arrive in Ottawa and settle into your hotel. Take a look at our accommodation members, most of which are located downtown near most of Ottawa’s attractions. Take your pick amongst luxurious, historical and economical establishments.
Drive 20 minutes north of Ottawa’s downtown core to see the region’s most spectacular display of fall colours in Gatineau Park.
To celebrate this annual phenomenon, the 361 square kilometre (90,000 acre) park hosts the Fall Rhapsody festival each year. On weekends during the event, you can easily get there by hopping on the free shuttles that depart from the Supreme Court of Canada or Camp Fortune. For details, visit our Fall Rhapsody page.
You can walk, bike or hike the many trails in Gatineau Park. One highlight is to explore the 1.9-kilometre (1.2 mile) King Mountain trail. A bit of an uphill climb, this lovely hike takes 45 minutes to an hour to complete and offers 10 lookouts with spectacular views of Ottawa and its surrounding region. The trek culminates at the Eardley Escarpment with a stunning view from 344 metres (1,129 feet) above the Ottawa Valley.
If you want more of an adrenaline-packed activity, try Camp Fortune’s Aerial Experience.
Also located in Gatineau Park, Aerial Experience invites visitors to explore the colourful tree tops on a rope bridge and zip line adventure. Get all set with a harness and enjoy this two to three-hour adventure that will have you soaring through the trees.
Have the little ones in tow? No problem! Opt for the aerial children’s park. Modeled on the adult experience, the children’s park offers hanging bridges and zip lines that are placed at a lower, more child-friendly height. Just make sure to reserve your spot as this is a popular experience among visitors and locals alike. The Aerial Experience operates rain or shine, but not during thunderstorms.
Now, after all of that hiking or zip lining, you’ll probably want to relax, and there’s no better place to do that than Nordik Spa-Nature.
Located just outside Gatineau Park, this is the largest outdoor nature spa of its kind in North America. Enjoy Nordik’s relaxing thermal baths and saunas experience, which invites you to move through several cold and temperate baths, different saunas and an infinity pool that overlooks Ottawa’s beautiful skyline.
Nordik has several restaurants on site, so you can easily spend the rest of the day here if you wish. Cozy up near a fire with a snack and a drink and enjoy the natural fall beauty that surrounds you. Special treatments are also available. Nordik closes late every night of the week!
Optional evening activity:
If you’re back in the city in time, consider an entertaining Haunted Walk tour. A cloaked guide leads you to special locations while sharing historical information and documented ghost stories along the way. Take note when visiting in October: their special Halloween season tours are extremely popular so book ahead!
DAY 2 – See the Sights & Shop
Start your day with breakfast in Ottawa’s ByWard Market neighbourhood. The ByWard Market area is home to one of the oldest and largest farmers’ markets in Canada. The name however, also lends itself to the myriad of restaurants and boutiques that surround it.
For a quick breakfast on the go, visit French-style bakery Le Moulin de Provence. They have delicious baked goods and treats like the famous Obama and Trudeau cookies which make a great Ottawa souvenir.
For an expertly pressed espresso or coffee – and many other beverages and treats – visit Mantovani 1946. (Return later for their artisan gelato.)
If you’re looking for more of a bacon and eggs type of breakfast, try Zak’s Diner (open 24-hours a day!). Here, you’ll find classic diner fare and the best milkshakes in town.
BeaverTails – the original Ottawa pastry treat – are delicious any time of day. Visit the original kiosk in the ByWard Market and choose regular topping options like cinnamon and sugar, or try the special fall flavour, PumpkinTail!
Get on a bus tour to see the city!
Want to see Ottawa from land and from the water? Hop on a Lady Dive Splash Tour. Get on Lady Dive’s Amphibus to explore interesting sites in the Ottawa-Gatineau area and… On the Ottawa River, a Canadian Heritage River. On the bilingual, one-hour tour, you’ll learn about more than 75 important Ottawa sites.
If you’d rather stay on dry land, opt for a Gray Line Ottawa bus tour. This Hop-on Hop-off tour makes its way around the city daily from May through October. Stay on the bus for the full guided tour or hop off and on at sites that interest you like museums and historic sites. Like the Amphibus tour, this bus tour also lets you discover more than 75 Ottawa landmarks including…
Rideau Hall, the majestic estate of Canada’s Governor General. The gates of Rideau Hall are open daily until sunset and admission is free. Take in the beauty of fall by strolling through the property’s 79 acres of landscaped grounds, which feature more than 130 commemorative maple and oak trees. A bronze plaque at the base of each tree lists the name and title of the person who planted it. Over the years, trees were planted by members of the British Royal Family and American President John F. Kennedy, among many others.
If gardens are your passion, you should explore the Garden Promenade circuit. Several routes grouped by geographical areas are mapped out, so you can easily garden-hop on your own through the more than 70 garden experiences! Guided bus tours are also available.
When it’s time to eat, consider having lunch while visiting one of Ottawa’s seven national museums.
One great option is the Canadian Museum of History; Canada’s most visited museum and home to the world’s largest indoor collection of totem poles. Stroll through the Grand Hall to admire these tall structures and enjoy beautiful views of the Parliament Buildings as well as the Ottawa River.
Enjoy a meal at Bistro Boréal, a lovely restaurant on the museum’s main floor, or in the large cafeteria downstairs which has views overlooking the Ottawa River.
What’s a getaway without some shopping?
The CF Rideau Centre is downtown Ottawa’s sleek and modern shopping destination. You’ll find all your favourite brands like Tiffany, Nordstrom, Simons, H&M, Anthropologie, Zara and many more.
For retail therapy with more unique results, return to the ByWard Market area and browse the many boutiques and shops that line the streets. You’ll find a variety of products that are made in Ottawa, Canada and beyond.
While there, take a stroll through the open-air ByWard Market itself. In the fall, you’ll find up to 175 vendors offering fresh produce, handmade jewellery and gift items, decorated pumpkins and more. This is also a great place to find Canadian maple products year-round.
Take a short bike, bus or car ride south of the downtown core to the Glebe neighbourhood. This lively residential area is lined with great restaurants, shops and businesses, as well as beautiful tree-lined streets with historic homes.
Love craft beer? Head to Lansdowne where you’ll find CRAFT Beer Market among many other great restaurants and businesses. CRAFT Beer Market offers tasty food as well as 100 craft beers on tap, including lots of local brews. Read more about how you can explore Ottawa’s hopping craft beer scene.
Optional evening activity:
If you’re a football fan, see if the Ottawa REDBLACKS are playing at TD Place Stadium and join dedicated Ottawa fans. Ottawa’s Canadian Football League (CFL) team plays into early November.
After dinner, explore venues at Lansdowne, in the adjacent Glebe neighbourhood, or in the ByWard Market area. Each place offers great locations to have a drink, enjoy some live music or just people watch.
DAY 3 – Explore Ottawa On Your Own
Cycling is one of the best ways to explore the city on your own.
Located just across from the Fairmont Château Laurier hotel, RentABike offers bikes for rent by the hour, the day or even by the week. Each bike comes with a bike lock, which makes it easy for you to stop at interesting spots along your way. Escape Bicycle Tours and Rentals, located at 65 Sparks Street, also offers daily bicycle rentals with similar inclusions. Both companies, which are open until the end of October, offer guided tours as well.
If it’s a nice day, follow the Ottawa River pathway all the way to the Canadian War Museum. All along the way, you can take in lovely views of the river, the Canadian Museum of History and other beautiful sites.
Cycling is one of many different ways to experience the Rideau Canal – a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Its pathways take you on a flat and picturesque ride under bridges, along lovely residential areas, and to Dows Lake. Just beyond, you can bike through the Dominion Arboretum and the Experimental Farm, where many species of trees colour the landscape. A jewel of nature near the city centre!
If you’d rather stay in the downtown core, you could stroll through lovely Major’s Hill Park to Nepean Point, which is located just behind the National Gallery of Canada. Enjoy dramatic, 360-degree views of Ottawa and the Ottawa River.
For more amazing views, consult our webpage, Top places to photograph this fall.
No trip to Ottawa is complete without a visit to the iconic Parliament Hill.
Built between 1859 and 1927, the Parliament Buildings are home to Canada’s federal government. You’ll see the neo-gothic exterior of the emblematic Centre Block including the tall Peace Tower, as well as the symbolic Centennial Flame. Though the interior of the Centre Block is closed to visitors for a decade-long rehabilitation, you can take a guided tour of the new and temporary interior spaces: the House of Commons in the West Block, and the Senate in Ottawa’s original train station. Reserve your free tour tickets online or in person!
After all of that cycling and sightseeing, you’re probably getting hungry. Why not enjoy Afternoon Tea at the Fairmont Château Laurier?
Served in the historic hotel’s Zoé’s Lounge – named one of the best bars in Canada by enRoute magazine – Afternoon Tea features Canadian delicacies from across the country. Sit by the solarium-style windows, select your tea with help from the tea sommelier, and nosh on sweet and savoury treats like mini sandwiches and scones. Reservations recommended.
After tea, head over to the Bytown Museum.
Housed in Ottawa’s oldest stone building located between the Fairmont and Parliament Hill, this quaint, local museum tells the stories of Ottawa’s lumbering past. Here, you can also learn how the Rideau Canal was built (much of it was dug out by hand through the Canadian wilderness)!
Meals are an important component to any trip. In addition to the eatery options mentioned above, check out our recommendations for some of Ottawa’s great restaurants and Family-friendly restaurants and places to eat in Ottawa.
And if you’re looking for even more fall fun, check out our suggestions of awesome autumn adventures and activities in Ottawa.