Though the kids have gone back to school, autumn 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 tasty fall treats, 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 is the ideal place for the family to explore and run free in any season. Each autumn, the park hosts its Fall Rhapsody celebrations with special activities and events that encourage visitors to enjoy the colourful foliage and outdoor activities. And it’s never been easier to access the park during Fall Rhapsody! On weekends during the event, you can leave the car behind and take one of the free shuttles that depart from the ByWard Market neighbourhood in Ottawa, or from Camp Fortune in Gatineau.
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.
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!
Views, zipline and brunch
Camp Fortune, a multi-use recreational resort located within Gatineau Park, offers special fall programming on weekends and on select dates. Take a scenic chairlift ride round-trip, or choose a one-way trip up and hike back down. For an adrenaline rush, admire the fall colours from the tree tops at the aerial park and ziplines! To top it off, you could enjoy brunch in the main lodge overlooking the spectacular colours (select dates).
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, go inside the ByWard Market Square building to Moulin de Provence. This French bakery makes beautiful treats year-round, including fall-themed shortbread cookies that are shaped and decorated like pumpkins, maple leaves and ghosts.
For a warm treat, 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. Or go full-on fall with a PumpkinTail which is topped with pumpkin pie filling, cinnamon and whipped cream. And for extra warmth, pair your BeaverTail with hot chocolate or hot apple cider, which are available seasonally.
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, Saunders Farm welcomes its Haunting Season and Frighfest 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 folks, visit Saunders Farm at night. After the sun goes down, Saunders turns into a creepy place populated by ghosts, goblins and monsters of all kinds. If you are brave enough, visit the Barn of Terror, The Coven, the Big Top Fear House, or go on a Haunted Hayride. These attractions are not recommended for guests under 10 years old.
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.
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 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. The Haunted Walk’s Halloween season offers exciting twists on existing tours and showcases special events, some of which are available in both English and French!
Paddle through fall
Paddle your way through a water maze in the countryside surrounded by fall colours at Éco-Odyssée during select weekends in September and October. Take a relaxing canoe or pedal boat journey through an iconic Canadian landscape where lush vegetation attracts beavers, turtles and other flora and fauna. You might also see rare migrating birds as they fly south for the winter! Éco-Odyssée is located near the lovely community of Wakefield in the province of Quebec, just 30 minutes north of downtown Ottawa.
The crisp autumn air is often the best time for the family to head out and explore the city by bike! Visit RentABike, located just across the street from the Fairmont Château Laurier, or Escape Bicycle Tours and Rentals, located at 65 Sparks Street, to choose from a large selection of new adult and youth bikes, which come complete with a helmet and a bike lock. Bikes can be rented by the hour, the day or by the week. Once you are outfitted, head out 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. No matter which pathway you take in Ottawa, you’ll find plenty of colourful foliage for great photo opportunities!
If frightful fun is what your family loves, take a look at our suggestions for Spooky and fun Halloween activities in Ottawa this fall.