30 Incredible Things to do in Ottawa Canada
Canada is celebrating its 150th birthday this year. Canadians are busily preparing for such a milestone with commemorative merchandise, events, artwork, and much more. Heck, even Lake Louise, an iconic landmark in the country is having a fireworks display on the 1st of July to celebrate this momentous occasion. With all of this hype, you can only imagine how important this year would be to the nation’s capital – Ottawa. Here are 30 things to do in Ottawa while here to acknowledge the big birthday and honour one of the country’s most respected cities.
Fun Things to Do in Ottawa
1 – Take a tour of the Canadian Mint – 4.50
Enjoy a 45-min guided tour to see just where all the collector and investment coins, as well as the Olympic medals are made! See the machines used and learn about how the images are chosen on the currency. Afterward, why not splurge on some pretty unique and valuable proof sets in their exclusive boutique!
2- Hold a Really Valuable Gold Block – FREE
Take a stroll in the Mint’s boutique shop and have your photo taken holding a block of gold worth over $750,000! That heavy thing is of course bolted to its display, but guests can attempt a lift it for the photographs. Exciting stuff! It’s your “golden opportunity” to have the Midas touch 😉
3- Visit the National Gallery of Canada – $12.00
Are you an artsy nerd? If so, you will love the Art gallery here and it’s a must-add to your list of things to do in Ottawa. Enjoy guided tours or just a stroll to enjoy many pieces of art, including works of famous national artists such as the Group of Seven. You won’t have a problem finding the building with the large spider sculpture featured at the entrance!
4- Have Breakfast at the Scone Witch – Price Varies
This cute little cafe is the epitome of adorable. Stop in for a fluffy scone and coffee to start your day off right. There are three locations within the main city centre area to serve you and they now do beautiful baskets for your every gift-giving need.
5- Go Shopping at the Rideau Centre – Free Without Purchase
This mall has everything you could possibly need on three floors! If you would like a quick retail therapy trip, this is the place for you. The new Nordstrom store has opened up and there are many other boutique shops ready to impress.
6- Go Skating on the Rideau Canal in the Winter – FREE
Enjoy a leisurely skate across the longest public outdoor skating rink in the world! It is such a popular way of transport here in Ottawa that citizens opt to commute even to work with briefcase in hand! So, dress warmly, lace up and head down the canal. This is one of the most exciting things to do in Ottawa, especially in the winter.
7- Take a Tour of Parliament – FREE
You cannot talk about things to do in Ottawa without this entry. Enjoy a guided tour in Canada’s parliament! Before entering the building be sure to stop at the Centennial flame and grab a photograph among all the provincial crests. Then head on over to join your tour. Plan on going on a Sunday if possible as you will see rooms that you wouldn’t be able to see when business is in session. Tours are free and 45 minutes in length. Ensure you arrive a half hour before your tour to get through the thorough security process.
8 – Check out the Gorgeous Parliament Library
The Library is a site like no other. It hold thousands of books, with the most valuable priced at over $2 million. (No, you sadly don’t get to see it, but it is a book of beautiful bird sketches given to the Canadian government as a gift from the artist’s wife.) This beautiful library was the only surviving part of the Parliament building that burnt down in the fire of 1916. This was possible thanks to the iron doors that were closed just in time.
9- Check out the House of Commons and the Senate! – FREE
I have added this separately in the list of things to do in Ottawa as these are not available during session. Try to book your tour of Parliament on a weekend to see the beautiful rooms where the important politicians make all the country’s decisions and pass the many bills. Act quickly on the House of Commons as it will be going under renovation shortly.
10 – Go up to the Observatory in Peace Tower! – FREE
Take the guided elevator trip up the Peace Tower to see beautiful views of the city. The platform is just under the clock that was modelled after none other than Big Ben in London!
11- Pay Your Respects at the Memorial Chambers in the Peace Tower – FREE (+ a few tears :()
Canada has fought some infamous battles through history and they have all left a dent in our nation’s memories and our hearts. Before ascending to the top of the Peace Tower, have a stop in the memorial area to view the names of the many soldiers lost at war. A page is turned daily for each battle fought displaying the brave men and women who died giving Canada freedom. In particular do stop at the list of those lost at the battle of Vimy Ridge. This year marks 100 years since this fight. Visit The Canadian government website for details on the planned ceremony to honour the fallen. Lest We Forget.
12 – Check out the Tulip Festival – FREE
During the month of May the Netherlands send thousands of tulips to Ottawa as a symbol of gratitude for their bravery in helping their nation gain freedom in WWII. The tulips of all colours fill garden beds throughout the city centre and are certainly a sight to see. Admission is free with various exhibits throughout the city. Also, be on the lookout for ceramic tulip statues all over town with different artwork all over them!
13- Enjoy an Incredible Lunch at the Lord Elgin – Price Varies
One of the most luxurious hotels in the city, the Lord Elgin has an ambiance all its own. With nostalgia in its walls, mixed with a modernized dining area, you are bound to feel right at home as you enjoy a meal with favourite people.
What makes the Lord Elgin’s restaurant experience exceptional is their offered Butternut Squash Ravioli. I have been to Italy and enjoyed many a pasta dish in my life, but nothing like this. What I love is the brown butter sauce mixed with the homemade pasta and sage – absolutely scrumptious.
Start off your meal by sharing their delicious charcuterie plate of meats and cheeses, then enjoy the ravioli as you wash it down with a bottle of red wine. The service is top notch and the food absolutely sublime. Do yourself a favour and stop by for a bite.
14- Visit the Prime Minister – FREE
Head on over to 24 Sussex Drive and see exactly where the current Prime Minister resides. You won’t see inside, but you do get a great shot of the security gate. If you drive to the other side of the river, you can catch a glimpse of the home from a waterfront standpoint.
15 – Visit the Police Memorial – FREE
This is another one of the great free things to do in Ottawa. Take a walk along the Ottawa River and pay a visit to the Police memorial that honours the fallen during the line of duty.
16- Treat Yourself to a Stay at the Lac Leamy Hotel – Price Varies
Just across the river is the beautiful province of Quebec. Why not enjoy a night or two at the beautiful 5-star hotel the Hilton Lac Leamy. If your budget allows, get a beautiful suite on the executive floor and enjoy the benefits of access to the exclusive lounge. Morning breakfast, 5 pm hors d’oeuvres, evening dessert selection, fully stocked coffee and tea area, and delightful cash bar for that cognac you are craving. Enjoy Nespresso in your room, delightful pool and Jacuzzi facilities, comfortable beds, and much more.
17 – Pose with Laura Secord – FREE
Not only known for incredible chocolates, but Laura Secord was an integral woman in Canadian history. Grab a photo beside her as you stroll down the busy Ottawa streets. She is located just across from the Chateau Laurier.
18 – Check out the Chateau Laurier – Free without purchase
Considered the most posh and elegant accommodation in Ottawa, why not take a look at this beautiful hotel of choice for HRM Queen Elizabeth II when she visits. Stop in and check out the British mail box and the brilliant decor within the building.
19- Enjoy Dinner at Arome Restaurant
Located within the Hilton Lac Leamy in Gatineau, the Arome restaurant is a beautiful gastronomic environment, perfect for an upscale meal. Enjoy prime rib, rack of lamb, lobster, or vegetarian options. Should you choose the Prix Fixe, enjoy an appetizer to start, your selected main, coffee or tea, and a selection of desserts from their buffet. Perhaps indulge in a slice of sugar pie – a Quebecois classic.
20 – Attend Winterlude! – FREE
Every February Ottawa celebrates the beautiful winter season by showcasing ornate ice sculptures combined with popular winter activities including skating, skiing, and building artistic snowmen. Have a blast as you embrace the cold with some fun snowy activities. There are many hot chocolate stands nearby for quick fix to keep those cheeks rosy. Do dress warmly as it gets quite cold!
21- Enjoy a classic Beaver Tail – Price Varies by Flavour
Famously introduced in the Canadian capital these sugary treats are bound to impress! Try one of their new unique flavours or stick to the original of cinnamon and sugar :). The original stand is located at the Byward Market and is open all year round. Should you travel to Ottawa in the winter, it is the only location open for business.
22- Walk Past the Supreme Court – FREE
The Supreme Court is where many a federal case is solved and verdicts declared. Walk by and grab a selfie in front of this beautiful building.
23- Enjoy a “Casino Coffee” at the Lac Leamy Casino! – Price Varies
You may not be a gambler, but place your bets on this incredible spiked coffee offered at the casino lounge! Beautifully brewed coffee with shots of Kahlua, Bailey’s, and Grand Marnier, then decoratively topped with whipped cream and chocolate espresso beans, finished with a rim of sugar. Absolutely divine.
24 – Learn about the Victoria Bell – FREE
Before the fire in 1916, The Peace Tower was known as “Victoria Tower.” The bell is the only surviving piece. In the year 2000 it was restored and placed on Parliament property as a monument to remember the original building. Since it is free, it is a must in your list of things to do in Ottawa.
25 – Browse through the Canadian Museum of History – Price varies
Especially renowned for the architecture, check out the Canadian Museum of History! Enjoy many exhibits of historical significance and priceless artifacts that shaped our nation. Enjoy until October a special showcase on Canada’s sport of hockey.
26 – Enjoy Afternoon tea at the National Gallery – Price Varies
If you love British afternoon tea as much as I do, than you will love the experience among some beautiful pieces of artwork. Enjoy tea sandwiches, a personal pot of tea, and some delightful fancies. Do speak with staff on the daily selections! I loved the bone china as well in keeping with British tradition!
27 – Support local businesses at the Byward Markets – Free without purchase
The Byward Markets are a great place to grab local items including produce, flowers, Canadian maple products, and and crafts. Situated in the heart of the city centre across from the Rideau Shopping Mall, the Byward Market is a lovely stroll on a sunny day. If you visit during winter, the market is not has plentiful, but there are a few brave artisans.
28- Visit Terry Fox – FREE
A beloved Canadian hero who died fighting for cancer by running across Canada is remembered for his courage and heart here in Ottawa. Since his death the Terry Fox Run has raised millions of dollars in his memory for cancer research. There is a beautiful statue just across from Parliament Hill honouring him. Do stop by and read more about him and his life.
29- Check out the Statue Trail around Parliament Hill
The Canadian Parliament is surrounded by monuments paying tribute to those who have made integral contributions to the nation’s history. See such people as John A. MacDonald, Canada’s first Prime Minister, Queen Victoria, Queen Elizabeth II, The Group of 5 – women who fought for the right to vote, Lester B. Pearson, a well respected Prime Minister, and Winston Churchill. It is one of the recommended things to do in Ottawa for the history geeks.
30- Do the Hop on Hop Off Tour
A famously brilliant way to see landmarks in cities is the Hop on Hop off bus! It is one of the most fun things to do in Ottawa and learn more about this incredible city. They only run in the summer, so if you have your heart set on this tour, be sure to visit in the seasonal months. While on tour, catch a glimpse at many statues throughout town including Maurice Richard – Great Montreal Canadiens Hockey Player, and Oscar Peterson famously tickling the ivories.
As you can see there is so much to see and things to do in Ottawa. Do try to head there this year (2017) as they have many festivals and events planned to honour Canada’s milestone birthday!h