Though the kids have gone back to school, evenings and weekends still provide ample opportunities for having fun. Why not get the family together and enjoy the crisp, cooler weather? From nature walks among the fallen leaves, to bustling outdoor markets, the Ottawa region has something to entertain you and your little ones all harvest season long!
Located just a short 20-minute drive north of downtown Ottawa, Gatineau Park provides the ideal place for the family to explore and run free in any season. Covering 361 kilometres (almost 90,000 acres), the park offers many different picturesque hiking trails that vary in distance from 1 kilometre (0.6 miles) to 4.5 kilometres (2.8 miles). Explore these many trails on your own or take a guided tour of the park’s popular Sugar Bush Trail, which begins at the Gatineau Park Visitor Centre in Chelsea, Québec. The Sugar Bush Trail is an easy, flat, 45-minute trail that is stroller accessible. It is conveniently located adjacent to the Visitor Centre, which offers clean indoor washrooms and water fountains. Stroll happily along and learn more about the park’s Canadian flora and fauna.
During the winter months, this trail is open for snowshoeing, a quintessential Canadian activity. Enjoy Sugar Bush activities during the day or participate in the Friends of Gatineau Park organization’s Snowshoeing Under the Stars activity, which invites you to explore the trail by twilight. The park’s Visitor Centre even rents out snowshoes for hourly, daily and overnight periods.
And if your family requires more of a challenge, try the park’s King Mountain Trail. This 45-minute 1.9-kilometre (1.2 mile) hike leads to the Eardley Escarpment, located about 300 metres (984.3 feet) above sea level. While you walk, enjoy 10 lookout stops that offer spectacular views of the Gatineau Hills and of the Ottawa Valley. This trail is popular throughout the year, but it is specially favoured in the fall when the green leaves of summer change into a riot of golden yellows, oranges and reds!
The ByWard Market is one of the oldest and largest farmers’ markets in Canada. Open year-round, this outdoor market features up to 175 stalls selling plants, vegetables, fruits, flowers, maple products as well as arts and crafts. Walk around and explore the colourful stalls that also offer decorated pumpkins and fresh pine decorations during the harvest season.
If you need to warm up, stop by the BeaverTails stand on William Street at George Street. Ottawa is where the delicious, doughy, golden BeaverTails pastry was born in 1978! Choose from flavours such as Cinnamon and Sugar, Choco Banana and Oreo. These whole wheat deep-fried pastries are available in the ByWard Market year-round, but there is nothing more Canadian than enjoying one on the frozen Rideau Canal Skateway in the winter. And for extra warmth, pair your BeaverTail with hot chocolate or hot apple cider, which are available seasonally.
The Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory, located in the ByWard Market Square building, is also worth a visit. Offering a selection of chocolates, candies, ice cream, as well as intricately decorated candy and caramel apples, this store is sure to delight children and children at heart!
Located in Ottawa’s countryside, Saunders Farm is an award-winning 100-acre farm that is home to the largest collection of full-sized hedge mazes in North America. Each fall (until November), Saunders welcomes its ‘Haunting Season,’ featuring family-friendly harvest time and Halloween-themed fun! If you have a young family, visit the farm during the day to enjoy activities such as hedge mazes, a pedal cart track, giant jumping pillows, puppet shows and a pumpkin patch hayride. And for the older and more adventurous families, visit Saunders Farm at night. After the sun goes down, Saunders turns into a creepy, barren place populated by ghosts, goblins and monsters of all kinds. If you are brave enough, visit the Barn of Terror or go on a Haunted Hayride. These attractions are not recommended for guests under 10 years old. New this year; go back in time with a vintage 1930’s era carnival. Enjoy a 1917 carousel, a 1930 Ferris wheel and more!
The Pumpkinferno festival takes place during the fall season (until the end of October) at stroller-friendly Upper Canada Village, located in Morrisburg, Ontario –about an hour drive south of downtown Ottawa. After sunset, visit the quaint 1860’s village that is decorated with about 7,000 hand-carved pumpkins, making up statues of forest animals, sea-creatures, story book heroes, mythical characters and many more. These mesmerizing, glowing carvings are sure to delight and entertain any age. Make sure to bring a camera!
If ghosts don’t scare you, go on a walking tour of Ottawa’s downtown core with the Haunted Walk of Ottawa. Head out to explore Ottawa’s darker past by lantern light. These 90-minute tours take place in the evening, when the lights are low and the atmosphere is just right for a good ghost story. Tour guides wear long black cloaks and carry a small glowing lantern as they lead you from one haunted site to the next. Stops along the way include the Rideau Canal, Ontario’s only UNESCO World Heritage Site, and the HI-Ottawa Jail Hostel, which is often said to be one of Canada’s most haunted buildings. These walking tours are available year-round and are not recommended for young children.
Though the autumn air may be chilly, the family can still head out and explore the city by bike! Visit RentABike, located just across the street from the Fairmont Château Laurier, to choose from a selection of more than 300 new adult and youth bikes, which come complete with a bike lock. Bikes can be rented by the hour, the day or by the week. Once you are outfitted, head out as a group to enjoy more than 170 kilometres (106 miles) of recreational downtown-area pathways that link popular world-class museums and attractions. Take the scenic Ottawa River pathway, which winds and twists its way past Parliament Hill, stretching west to the Canadian War Museum.
There are plenty of things to do in Ottawa! For more ideas, explore our See & Do page.