Ottawa is well known for its lively winter activities like skating on the world-famous Rideau Canal Skateway, cross country skiing in Gatineau Park and enjoying ice sculptures and snow slides during the annual Winterlude festival. But when you need to warm up, there are tons of tasty, tropical, relaxing and fun things to do indoors. Here are a few of Ottawa’s best indoor activities this winter season.
Start with a hot mug of traditional Gluhwein at Das Lokal, a restaurant that serves German and Austrian-inspired cuisine in the ByWard Market neighbourhood. The flavours of orange, cinnamon, cloves, raisins and French brandy will warm your tummy. Enjoy a cup in the cozy restaurant or by their outdoor firepit as you browse the menu (think cheese raclette, spätzle and flammkuchen).
Also in the Byward Market, Fatboys Southern Smokehouse specializes in mouth-watering southern BBQ served in a friendly biker-style ambiance. They use a custom Southern Pride smoker to prepare their slow-cooked BBQ including Memphis ribs, Carolina pulled pork, Texan beef brisket and chopped BBQ chicken. Make sure to try one of the hearty side dishes like Kansas corn bread, Texan black bean and corn chili, or smoked bacon mac ‘n cheese. The smell alone will suck you into its doors!
Union Local 613, a Centretown hotspot, serves southern-inspired cuisine. Satisfy your appetite with a spread of chicken and waffles, or opt for shrimp and grits with a side of homemade buttery biscuits. Communal seating gives it a casual and friendly atmosphere, and a great selection of local craft beer and bourbon cocktails are available to warm you from the inside out.
Sometimes a good fondue is the perfect antidote to chilly evenings. Meule et Caquelon in Gatineau lets you take control by providing your table with its own raclette stove, raclette du Valais or Chinese fondue. Choose from a large variety of items (cheese, meats, fish, vegetables and much more) and relax as you watch your meal sizzle. Bon appetit!
One of the best places to warm up in Ottawa this winter is the Canadian Museum of Nature as it is hosting a Butterflies in Flight exhibit. You’ll feel like you’re on a mini vacation as you stroll through the warm, humid and relaxing solarium filled with luscious plants and hundreds of fluttering butterflies. (Since admission to this popular exhibit is by timed entry, it is recommended that you reserve tickets in advance on the museum website). Complete your visit by cozying up in the museum’s theatre to see more tropical creatures in the film Amazon Adventure 3D.
The Central Experimental Farm (where the Canada Agriculture and Food Museum is located) may not be hosting butterflies, but its permanent tropical greenhouse is another balmy spot to warm up in. You’ll find a diverse collection of exotic plants beautifully presented in the elegant octagonal structure – a heritage building. Access is free!
Holtz Spa is a local favourite located in the ByWard Market area near the CF Rideau Centre. Their signature Tropical Escape treatment is a great way to rejuvenate your skin and awaken your senses. After a full body mango body scrub and a citrus body buff, you’ll be pampered with a luxurious vitamin C facial, and a heavenly raindrop massage. You’re guaranteed to leave feeling revitalized and invigorated.
In Centretown, you can try floatation therapy at ISÖ Spa. Enter one of the private float tanks filled with body temperature water mixed with over a thousand pounds of Epsom salts. The combination will make you feel amazingly buoyant as well as soothe aching muscles, detoxify your body and rejuvenate your skin and hair. The low sensory deprivation environment also soothes the mind.
Looking for a full day escape? Head 10 minutes north of Ottawa to Nordik Spa-Nature, an award-winning spa oasis in Chelsea, Que. Nordik’s signature thermal experience is the perfect way to relax on a cold winter day. In a picture-perfect winter setting, move from a series of warm and hot baths, saunas, and whirlpools, all aimed at relaxing muscles, boosting the immune system and eliminating toxins from the body. Add on a massage or the unique Källa treatment (their therapeutic underground salt-water pool), for the ultimate day of indulgence.
Cultural fun (day and night)
On the last Friday of each month, the Canadian Museum of Nature heats up in the evening during their popular Nature Nocturne event. The museum transforms into an exciting venue with music, dancing, mingling and engaging activities that are perfect for an outing with friends (for ages 19 and up). Or opt to join local company Escape Manor for two adrenaline-pumping escape room mysteries inside the museum (for ages 13 and up). Book now as these escape adventures are only available in the evenings from Friday to Sunday until April 30, 2018.
A must-do in Ottawa is to join a free tour of Parliament Hill’s Centre Block. Depending on Parliamentary activity, you might see the Canadian Senate, the House of Commons and the beautiful Library of Parliament. At the end of the tour, you can take an elevator to the top of the Peace Tower for an amazing 360-degree view of downtown Ottawa and its surroundings. (If your itinerary is jam-packed, request a ticket to go up the Peace Tower without the tour.) During the winter months, you can satisfy your political junkie cravings by viewing live debates in the Senate and House of Commons, on a first-come first-served basis. Keep your eyes peeled while in Centre Block – you might just see the Prime Minister or special guests!
If the arts scene is more your cup of tea, then a visit to the National Gallery of Canada should be at the top of your list. You’ll warm up as you explore the vast permanent collections of Canadian and Indigenous art, amazing special exhibits, and even the on-site Canadian Photography Institute. Don’t miss the beauty and tranquility of the glass covered landscaped courtyards of the Garden Court, a calm place to rest after a few hours of art appreciation. The architecture of the building, including the Great Hall, and the grand cathedral-like Colonnade, are simply stunning. Stop in the Gallery’s gift shop on your way out for some unique artistic take homes.
No matter how you choose to warm up indoors during your Ottawa visit, we recommend you embrace winter at its fullest by getting active as well. See our Winter Activities page for suggestions!