DAY 1 – See Some Sights
Arrive in Ottawa in the mid-morning and check into the hotel of your choice. Ottawa has many hotels for you to choose from; from luxurious establishments to more economic options. Learn more about accommodations here.
Around 11:30 a.m.: Head out to see some of the sights! Down by the Ottawa Locks, which are attached to the Rideau Canal; Ontario’s only UNESCO World Heritage Site, you’ll find the electric and eco-friendly Au feel de l’eau Aqua-Taxi. Hop aboard and enjoy fabulous views of the iconic Parliament Buildings as you make your way across the Ottawa River and over to the Canadian Museum of History.
Afternoon: Explore this vast and expansive museum! First established in 1856, the Canadian Museum of History is Canada’s most visited museum. Take in thousands of priceless artifacts that recount 20,000 years of human history. And don’t miss the Grand Hall! This glass-walled section of the museum provides stunning views of Parliament Hill. It is also home to the world’s largest indoor collection of totem poles.
Visiting in 2017 or after? See the museum’s new Canadian History Hall. Opening on July 1, 2017, to mark Canada’s 150th birthday, the signature hall features 1,800 Canada-related artifacts that span over 15,000 years of Canadian history. Among the artifacts? The oldest hockey stick known to be in existence and the gun used to shoot Thomas D’Arcy McGee, one of Canada’s Fathers of Confederation!
About 3:00 p.m.: Head back across the Ottawa River via Aqua-Taxi or regular taxi and go to the Fairmont Château Laurier for Afternoon Tea.
Served in the Fairmont’s notable Zoe’s Lounge – it was named one of the Best Bars in Canada by enRoute magazine – this tea service offers tea of your choosing with recommendations from a tea sommelier if you wish, Victorian scones, small sandwiches and delicious Canadian-inspired desserts. Or to take your sophisticated tea experience one step further, add a glass of sparkling Moët Chandon. This is a unique Ottawa culinary experience that you don’t want to miss! We recommend making a reservation as this is a popular Ottawa activity.
Evening: Head back to your hotel to relax for a bit before heading out on a walking tour of the city with The Haunted Walk of Ottawa!
Follow a cloaked guide by soft lantern light through the downtown core as tales from the city’s darker past are told. The Haunted Walk tours typically leave from the corner of Sparks Street and Elgin Street at 8:00 p.m. and make their way through the historic ByWard Market neighbourhood and depending on the tour, over to the HI-Ottawa Jail Hostel, which used to be the Carleton County Gaol. Are you brave enough to step into a death row cell? We dare you. If you do, take a photo to prove it and share it with us at #MyOttawa.
Late night: Now after all of that walking, you will have worked up an appetite, and there’s no better place to get a late bite than the ByWard Market. In this bustling neighbourhood, you’ll find several dining options, from casual pubs to high-end, fine dining establishments.
Want to relax after your tour? Try Lowertown Brewery. Located at 73 York St., Lowertown offers a casual atmosphere, fresh pub fare and delicious, locally-made craft beer. This is a great way to end your first night in Canada’s Capital!
DAY 2 – A Bit of Culture & Fun
Around 8:30 a.m.: Head towards Parliament Hill and consider having breakfast in Ottawa’s downtown core. At 96 Sparks St., just steps from Parliament Hill, you’ll find Bridgehead Coffeehouse, which is a local favourite.
This Ottawa-owned company offers fairly-traded, organic coffee and teas as well as organic and gluten-free treats such as croissants, macaroons, brownies and more.
9:45 a.m.: Arrive on Parliament Hill for the Changing of the Guard Ceremony. We recommend getting here a bit early as this popular attraction begins at 10:00 a.m. Every summer since 1959, the Hill’s front lawn comes alive with colourful drills that are accompanied by a regimental band and pipers. Make sure to bring a camera! The Changing of the Guard is adored by Ottawa visitors and locals alike.
10:45 a.m.: As you’re already on Parliament Hill, opt to take a free guided tour of the iconic Centre Block, which is home to the 92.2-metre Peace Tower. Did you know that you can go to the very top of the Peace Tower? It’s true! Take the elevator to the top and enjoy a dramatic, 360-degree view of the city.
*Insider tip: If you’re in Ottawa from early May through August, you can participate in a FREE yoga class on Parliament Hill’s front lawn. Each Wednesday from noon to 1 o’clock, up to 1,000 people participate in this multi-level class presented by Lululemon Athletica. Bring your yoga mat and get ready to have some fun with fellow visitors and Ottawa locals alike!
Lunch: A short walk from Parliament Hill, you’ll find the National Arts Centre, which is also home to Le Café. Located at the Rideau Canal’s edge, enjoy a meal on the restaurant’s lovely covered patio as you watch boats float by gently on the canal’s calm waters.
Afternoon: Cross the bridge and visit RentABike. Here, you can rent bikes by the hour, the day or even by the week. And each bike comes with everything you need; a helmet and a bike lock. Rent a bike and head down towards the Ottawa Locks to cycle along the scenic Ottawa River Pathway over to the Canadian War Museum.
Another national museum, this is where stories about Canada’s proud military history are told. Opened in 2005, the Canadian War Museum offers amazing artifacts that recount Canada’s involvement in conflicts from the beginning of time to now. See large-scale artifacts such as tanks, artillery and more. The museum even has a large piece of the historic Berlin Wall!
Evening: If you’ve rented a bike for more than a day and you’re visiting Ottawa in July, consider spending your evening at RBC Bluesfest!
Taking place at LeBreton Flats, just in front of the museum, this is one of North America’s biggest outdoor music festivals. Close to 300,000 fans attend this multi-day, multi-stage festival each year, which has hosted iconic acts such as Sting, Van Morrison, Lady Gaga and countless others. See a great act and dance the night away under the stars!
Option 2: If you don’t feel like spending your evening at RBC Bluesfest, cycle back towards the downtown core.
Drop off your bike and if you want to get out of the summer heat for a bit, go back to your hotel or stroll around CF Rideau Centre. Having undergone a $360-million renovation, this downtown shopping mall is now home to high-end brands such as Tiffany & Co., Kate Spade New York, Michael Kors, Stuart Weitzman and Nordstrom, to name a few. Cool down with some window shopping or buy something that’ll make you think of Ottawa every time you put in on!
Dinner: Walk over to Union Local 613. Don’t let its rough exterior façade fool you, this place is a local gem! Located at 315 Somerset St. West, “Union” as it’s known locally, offers fantastic whiskey-inspired cocktails, fresh, local ingredients and Southern-inspired cuisine. This is THE place to go in Ottawa for fried chicken and grits!
*Insider tip: After dinner, head downstairs where behind a bookcase, you’ll find Union’s now legendary speakeasy.
Late evening: If you’re in Ottawa from mid-July to early September, catch Northern Lights; a FREE, bilingual Sound and Light Show on Parliament Hill. Playing nightly throughout the summer, this show is projected onto the Parliament Buildings and depicts Canadian stories of nation-building, discovery, valour and more. The show lasts for 30 minutes. Bring a blanket and enjoy the experience!
DAY 3 – Culinary Discovery & Outdoor Fun
Morning: Head out on a guided culinary walking tour of Ottawa! Ottawa company C’est Bon Cooking offers gourmet food tours through the bustling ByWard Market and other neighbourhoods such as The Glebe, Wellington West and Chinatown.
Follow your guide to learn about the evolution of Ottawa’s food scene by visiting award-winning restaurants and unique fine food shops. There’s even a Chocolate Lover’s Tour. And the best part? Tasty samples are provided all along the way!
Afternoon: How you spend your last afternoon and evening in Ottawa is entirely up to you!
Option 1: Head over to the Dows Lake Pavilion to rent a canoe, kayak, stand up paddle board (SUP) or pedal boat to explore the scenic Rideau Canal. You can rent whatever you prefer for an hour or a few hours. From the beautiful Dows Lake, you can paddle all the way to the downtown core and back, if you wish.
Now after all of that paddling, why not reward your tired muscles? Just across the street from CF Rideau Centre, you’ll find Holtz Spa. Here, at Ottawa’s first luxury spa, you’ll find a wide range of services including massages, facials, body wraps and more.
Want something uniquely Canadian? Opt for Holtz Spa’s Maple Luscious Body Scrub and Wrap. This luxurious treatment uses maple syrup-based spa products that are made by Fulton’s Pancake House and Sugar Bush, which is located in Pakenham, Ont., just west of Ottawa’s downtown core. It doesn’t get more Canadian than that!
For dinner, after you’re all relaxed, consider getting dressed up and enjoying a meal at Restaurant e18hteen. Located at 18 York St., this CAA Four Diamond rated restaurant offers fine dining in a sumptuous atmosphere.
Option 2: Want to have a lazy, hazy summer day instead? We’ve got you covered. Hop in a taxi and head 20 minutes north of Ottawa’s downtown core to Nordik Spa-Nature. Located in the luscious Gatineau Park, this is North America’s largest outdoor nature spa!
Here, you’ll find hot tubs, saunas, steam rooms as well as an infinity pool that faces Ottawa’s lovely downtown skyline. Massages are available as well as a unique saltwater Källa treatment. Other than Switzerland, Nordik is the only place you’ll find Källa!
And with two restaurants on site, it’s easy to spend the whole rest of your day here. Rest and relax to your heart’s content, then enjoy a meal with a glass of wine, a beer or even a martini. After a full afternoon and evening at Nordik, you’re sure to be well-rested for your trip home.
Now of course, these are only a few ideas to get your trip planning started. From art to world-class whitewater rafting and more, the possibilities for a summer getaway to Canada’s Capital are endless! For more ideas, go to our Visitors section and consult our See & Do page.