If you’re coming to Ottawa, why not spend your time doing things that you cannot do anywhere else? Ottawa, Canada’s Capital, is located on the majestic Ottawa River, on the border of the provinces of Ontario and Québec. Due to its geographic location, Ottawa is an urban city characterized by beautiful waterways and green spaces, offering unique sporting activities for visitors of all ages and experience levels. Whether you visit during the cold snowy winter months or during the heat of the summer, the city has an activity to suit each and every active traveller.
During the colder weather of January and February, Ottawa is home to the world’s largest skating rink, as designated by Guinness World Records. From roughly late December to the end of February, the historic Rideau Canal freezes over to become a 7.8-kilometre (4.8-mile) long skating rink, which entertains an average of one million visitors per year. Beloved by tourists and residents alike, skating on the Rideau Canal, Ontario’s only UNESCO World Heritage Site, is THE thing to do in Ottawa during the winter. Start in Ottawa’s busy downtown core and enjoy lovely views as you skate all the way to the wide open Dows Lake.
And don’t forget to complete your visit to the canal with a BeaverTails pastry! This deep-fried, golden, beaver tail-shaped pastry was born in Ottawa in 1978. The local treat is available year-round in the busy ByWard Market neighbourhood, but there is nothing more Canadian than enjoying one on the frozen Rideau Canal Skateway in the winter. The wholewheat pastry is available in different flavours including Cinnamon and Sugar, Choco Banana and Oreo. Ottawa is also home to a historic skating rink, located on the grounds of Rideau Hall, the residence of Canada’s Governor General (the Queen’s representative in Canada). This smaller skating rink was originally built in 1872 by Canada’s third governor general, the Earl of Dufferin, along with his wife, who both loved this Canadian winter sport. Today, the charming skating rink is open to the public on Saturdays and Sundays from January to March.
But Ottawa’s unique activities are not limited to the winter season! During the summer months, you can watch a cricket match at Rideau Hall, as this is where one of the oldest established cricket clubs in the world, the Ottawa Cricket Club, plays. The Ottawa Cricket Club was founded in 1849. And beginning in May, visitors can enjoy a gentle urban whitewater rafting excursion with Ottawa City Adventures, operated by Wilderness Tours. This three-hour rafting trip allows paddlers to explore the Ottawa River from Britannia Beach in Ottawa’s west end, to just west of the Canadian War Museum. Paddle along as you retrace steps along the river taken by First Nations people, early explorers and voyageur fur traders. Also, take in breathtaking views of Parliament Hill from the water. Where else can you go rafting through a city’s downtown core? And if adrenaline is what you’re after, take it a step further and learn to whitewater kayak in downtown Ottawa. The Madawaska Kanu Centre (MKC) has an “MKC in the City” program offering whitewater kayaking instruction at the Pumphouse, right in the heart of downtown Ottawa. The Pumphouse is a conveniently located offshoot of the Ottawa River at LeBreton Flats, which is located just around the corner from the Canadian War Museum.
And for kayaking and surfing enthusiasts, the Ottawa River is also home to a great spot called the Champlain wave! Located just off of Bate Island in west Ottawa, the Champlain rapids feature a standing, ever-flowing wave each spring that attracts surfers and whitewater kayakers from around the world. Or if you’re looking for a little less of an adrenaline-packed activity, you can explore Ottawa’s more than 600 kilometres (373 miles) of bike paths that make their way through the city and follow the scenic banks of the Ottawa River. During the summer months (from May to August), visitors can take advantage of NOKIA Sunday Bikedays, which see more than 50 kilometres (31 miles) of parkways in Ottawa and the surrounding Gatineau, Québec, region closed to motorists and reserved for cyclists, in-line skaters, runners and walkers. More exciting outdoor adventure can be found just outside of Ottawa at Great Canadian Bungee in Chelsea, Québec. Located just 20 minutes north of downtown Ottawa, Great Canadian Bungee is home to a jumping site known as “The Rock.” Throw your cares away and enjoy a 61-metre (200-foot) drop into a 49-metre (160-foot) deep spring-fed lagoon that is surrounded by glowing white limestone cliffs.
This jumping site is the only place in North America where you can experience a 200-foot drop into water. The 160-foot rebound from your jump is also higher than the entire bungee jump height of any other site in the United States and Canada. Whether you’re skating, rafting, kayaking, biking or even bungee jumping, you’ll need somewhere to relax afterwards and there’s no better place than Nordik Spa-Nature. Also located in Chelsea, Nordik offers relaxing massages and outdoor Nordic baths. Enjoy the hot and temperate baths, and then cozy up next to a fireplace with a drink. This is the largest spa of its kind in North America! Nordik is also home to a special Dead Sea-inspired treatment called Källa. Float around in a quiet underground cave in a shallow pool of water saturated with healing Epsom salt. This salt water treatment offers many health benefits including improved blood circulation and a reduction of stress. Källa is a treatment unique to the Ottawa region, as it is only offered by one other spa in Switzerland!
Whether you come to Ottawa to see some of the sights or to participate in action-packed, high adrenaline adventure, you can be sure Canada’s capital offers experiences you won’t find anywhere else.