Looking for something fun to do with the kids during your stay in Canada’s Capital? Head out to see some of the cuddly, exotic and even creepy creatures that call Ottawa home. From traditional farm animals like cows, pigs and horses, to ferocious alligators, slippery snakes and intriguing insects, the whole family is sure to be delighted at one of Ottawa’s animal-focused attractions. If you or your children are animal lovers, here are some great places to visit!
Canada Agriculture and Food Museum
Located at 901 Prince of Wales Drive less than 15-minutes’ drive south of Ottawa’s downtown core, the Canada Agriculture and Food Museum offers a look into Canada’s unique agricultural heritage. This museum is a working farm, complete with live pigs, horses, sheep and other friendly barnyard animals. In fact, Ottawa is the only capital city in the world with a working farm at its heart!
Open year-round, this is a great place for the whole family to meet farm animals like horses, alpacas, goats, rabbits and much more. Visit the cows in the dairy barn and learn how milk is collected. Learn how different breeds of sheep are sources of wool, milk and meat. Daily demonstrations offered throughout the day cover topics like chocolate, bread and caring for animals. Visit in the spring to see adorable baby animals, catch the Sheep Shearing Festival in May and learn how to make frozen treats at the Ice Cream Festival in July. The museum also offers interactive exhibits on tractors, the benefits of Space technology for farmers, food preservation and much more. The museum is open daily from March through October and is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays from November to the end of February. Admission to the museum is free between 4:00 p.m. and 5:00 p.m. daily.
In the warmer months, the beautiful Dominion Arboretum is a great place to visit and to take photos. It covers about 26 hectares of rolling manicured grounds decorated with a variety of trees, shrubs and flowers. Many of the trees and shrubs were planted in 1889 and now represent some of the largest specimens of their kind in Canada! You’ll likely see birds, squirrels, groundhogs and other creatures that call Ottawa home. The Arboretum is always free and open dawn until dusk year-round.
Located in Montebello, Que., just a 45-minute drive from downtown Ottawa, Parc Oméga is a wildlife-lover’s dream. Take a 15-kilometre (9 mile) Canadian safari in the comfort of your own car through the park’s forests, meadows, lakes and boreal landscapes. Along the way, you’ll see moose, elk, deer, bison, wolves, bears and birds in their natural environment. Stretch your legs and learn about First Nations and colonization history by walking or snowshoeing the park’s trails. Play areas, special activities and entertaining animations keep the kids engaged.
Bring a lunch (or buy one on-site) to eat in one of the picnic areas and stay for the entire day, or make it a truly unforgettable experience by staying overnight in the park’s rustic and cozy accommodations! Parc Oméga is open year-round.
Little Ray’s Nature Centre
Located at 5305 Bank Street, about a 25-minute drive from Ottawa’s downtown core, “Little Ray’s” as it’s known locally, specializes in exotic animals and features Canada’s largest collection of unwanted and rescued reptiles. This indoor zoo offers 25 permanent animal exhibits that feature some of the world’s most famous reptiles including alligators, snapping turtles and a variety of snakes. There are also 20 special “feature animal” exhibits that rotate every six months. And make sure to stop by Little Ray’s 3,000-gallon aquarium where feeding demonstrations take place every weekend. In total, the zoo has over 150 animals in its collection, which includes cobras, rattlesnakes, tarantulas and various birds of prey.
Little Ray’s Nature Centre is open seven days a week, parking is free and they recommend you allow two hours to enjoy your experience. This is a great option when the weather isn’t ideal!
Valleyview Little Animal Farm
Located at 4750 Fallowfield Road, about a 20-minute drive from Ottawa’s downtown core, Valleyview is a great family entertainment destination. Kids (and adults) can get up close to a variety of animals such as birds, alpacas, goats, ponies, geese and more. Once you’ve petted all the cute animals, kids can enjoy the farm’s playgrounds and the whole family can board the Valleyview Express Train for a ride through fields of corn, soybeans, pumpkins, hay and a sunflower forest.
Valleyview Little Animal Farm is open spring through fall, Tuesday through Sunday (open holiday Mondays).
Canadian Museum of Nature
If prehistoric and iconic Canadian animals are what you’re looking for, the Canadian Museum of Nature is definitely worth a visit! Located at 240 McLeod Street in Ottawa’s downtown core, this castle-like museum offers everything from gigantic dinosaurs, to insects and spiders, to Canadian bird species and much more.
Visit the Mammal Gallery to see impressive specimens such as bears, cougars and bison. In the Bird Gallery, visitors can see a collection of hundreds of birds found in Canada and enjoy a wild bird care clinic play area. Make sure to visit the museum’s Water Gallery, which features an impressive 19-metre (65-foot) skeleton of a blue whale, the largest animal on the planet. And don’t miss the Nature Live zone where you can get up close and personal with critters like beetles, honey bees, spiders, cockroaches and many other creepy crawly creatures.
The museum is open daily in the summer and from Tuesday through to Sunday in the winter months. Admission to the permanent galleries is free between 5:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m. each Thursday night.
For the ultimate critter-rific experience, visit the Ottawa Insectarium on Sparks Street, just steps from Parliament Hill. Explore the fascinating world of entomology (the scientific study of insects) through mounted specimens from all over the world, including butterflies, moths, tarantulas, scorpions, leaf insects and many more. You can also admire and even hold live specimens! The Insectarium is open year-round, however operating hours vary by season.
If you prefer cuddly, domestic cats, pounce over to the Feline Café in the vibrant Hintonburg area just west of downtown Ottawa. Select from the food and beverage menu if you like before joining the six to 12 cats in the cozy lounge. Sit back, relax and let the kitties come to you, or see if they’re interested in playing with one of the cat toys. The café even hosts special events like yoga with the cats! You can feel good while getting your feline fix because all of the cats are adoptable fosters from local rescue organizations. The Feline Café charges a minimal admission fee and hours vary.
We want to see your wild or sweet animal moments! Share them with us by using the #MyOttawa hashtag on social media.
Looking for more wild encounters in Ottawa’s vast countryside? Discover the many other attractions located in rural Ottawa.