As Canada’s vibrant capital city, Ottawa offers a host of fabulous activities in any season. Whether you want to see cultural marvels, priceless, world-class art or get outside and have some fun, Ottawa will have a special exhibit or event that is sure to delight even the most discerning of visitors.
Thinking of coming to Ottawa for a getaway? Discover some of the gems that make this city worth visiting – even in the middle of winter! We’ve put together a few ideas to get your Ottawa trip planning started.
See the tulips at the Canadian Tulip Festival:
Thinking of coming to Ottawa in the spring? You’ll want your visit to coincide with this beautiful festival!
Each May, Ottawa becomes decorated with more than one million tulips in bloom in about 50 different varieties. You’ll find them all along the banks of the Rideau Canal – Ontario’s only UNESCO World Heritage Site – in Major’s Hill Park and many other areas. One of the best ways to take in the colourful flower beds is to grab your camera and either stroll or cycle along the Rideau Canal to Commissioners Park at Dows Lake. At this unique site alone, you’ll find about 300,000 tulips in bloom. This park is a great springtime photo opportunity.
In the evening, enjoy live music and flower-themed fireworks over the water. This is an Ottawa springtime event that you don’t want to miss!
Experience Canada Day Ottawa-Style:
Each July 1, the country meets in Ottawa, as this is where Canada’s main birthday celebration takes place!
On the morning of July 1 each year, you’ll find Ottawa transformed as the downtown core is closed off to motor vehicles and thousands upon thousands of revellers take to the streets in a sea of red and white.
Start your day on Parliament Hill with the official Flag Raising Ceremony at 9:00 a.m. and then, enjoy the sights and sounds of Canada Day in Ottawa. Enjoy a plethora of free concerts, outdoor activities and street performers. Or if you need to take a break from the summer heat, visit one of Ottawa’s museums, which all offer free admission on Canada Day. Visiting for Canada Day in 2017, the country’s 150th anniversary? You might want to visit the Canadian Museum of History, as it will open its brand new Canadian History Hall on July 1, 2017.
But no matter when you visit Ottawa for Canada Day, you’re sure to have a good time. Just make sure to find a comfy spot by 10:00 p.m. – we recommend Major’s Hill Park – because that’s when fireworks light up the sky!
Visit the Canadian Museum of History:
Located just across the Ottawa River, this impressive and expansive museum is adored by Ottawa locals and visitors alike. The Museum of History is actually Canada’s most visited museum!
Take in a broad, permanent collection of artifacts that looks at 20,000 years of human history as well as different special exhibits. And you don’t want to miss the Grand Hall! This iconic Ottawa spot is home to the world’s largest indoor collection of totem poles. The Grand Hall’s floor to ceiling windows also offer fantastic views of Parliament Hill and the Ottawa River. So make sure to have a camera with you!
See a concert at RBC Bluesfest:
Taking place each July, this outdoor music festival is one of Ottawa’s biggest summer events and one of North America’s largest music festivals.
Each year, about 300,000 music fans gather at LeBreton Flats (in front of the Canadian War Museum) to see major headliners in a relaxed atmosphere. Past headliners include Sting, Van Morrison, Snoop Dogg, Bob Dylan, Keith Urban and Blake Shelton, to name a few. Full festival passes and single day passes are available.
“Bluesfest,” as it’s known locally, first began in 1994 and has grown exponentially since then, offering various music genres with hundreds of acts across five stages. If you’re visiting Ottawa in July, you’ll want this festival to be on your activities list.
Also, if you’re visiting Ottawa between July and September, be sure to take in Northern Lights. This is a 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 to sit on and enjoy the experience.
Experience Winterlude in Ottawa:
Each February, Winterlude – Ottawa’s winter festival – takes over the city for three fun-filled weekends.
Kick off your Winterlude experience with a skate on the famous Rideau Canal Skateway! Over the winter, from roughly late January to late February, the Rideau Canal freezes over to become the world’s largest skating rink as designated by Guinness World Records. Put on your own skates or rent a pair and skate along the scenic 7.8 kilometres (4.8 miles) of ice that stretch from Ottawa’s downtown core to Dows Lake.
Need to warm up along the way? Stop for a hot chocolate and a BeaverTails pastry! This delicious, deep fried, beaver tail-shaped treat was created in Ottawa in 1978. There’s nothing more Canadian than enjoying one on the frozen Rideau Canal in the winter.
Also worth visiting during Winterlude is Confederation Park. During the festival, this downtown park is transformed into the Crystal Garden, which is home to beautiful ice sculptures carved by sculptors from all over the world. The best time to visit this spot is at night, when all the sculptures are lit up with coloured lights!
You’ll find all kinds of activities going on during this festival, from cross-country skiing to dog sledding and there’s even a ByWard Market Stew Cook-Off. Put on your winter gear and get ready to have fun!
These are only a few suggested gems to help you plan your perfect getaway to Canada’s Capital. For more ideas on what to see and do, browse Ottawa Tourism’s website.