The Holidays in Ottawa: 25 things to do under $25

The following list of activities and events are those that you can do in the weeks leading up to the holidays, and the weeks you have off together as a family. I've based most of my recommendations on families of four, but of course many of the activities will accomodate larger families without too much of an additional cost! Have anything to add? Leave a comment and tell me what it is!

1) Vintage Village of Lights at the Cumberland Museum: Go back in time to experience an old-fashioned Christmas. Cost: $19.25 for a family pass (2 adults and all of your children!)

2) Christmas Lights Across Canada (CLAC) program: we're proud to have this sponsor on the blog again this year! CLAC will be launched with an official illumination ceremony to kick off the holiday celebrations on December 5th, 2018 at 7 p.m. Stay tuned to the blog for more details in the coming days! Cost: FREE!

3) Magical Winter Lightscapes projection show, a walk through Confederation Park and hot chocolate: If you miss the illumination ceremony in #2, you can still head downtown and see the lights! There will also be a beautiful winter lightscapes projection show playing all month long on Parliament Hill. It plays on loop every night from 5pm - 11pm throughout the Christmas Lights period. Cost: under $20 for 4 hot chocolates

4) The Ottawa Farmer's Market Christmas Market. Some delectable delights can be found at this central market in Ottawa. If heading down to Lansdowne isn't your thing, there are Christmas markets ALL over town including North Gower, Cumberland, and even one at the Canadian Museum of History! Cost: FREE, unless you spend a lot of money on gifts and treats - can't help you with that one :)

5) Sledding: there are hills all over the region, and here's a handy map on the City of Ottawa's website. I've heard Walter Baker Park has some great sledding!

6) Snowshoe or hike in Gatineau Park: Gatineau has one of the largest trail networks in North America with 60km of snowshoe trails! Cost: this will vary depending on whether you own snowshoes or not. Day passes to Gatineau Park cost $13.92 for adults, and are free for children under 12. If you have young kids, a short winter hike might be a better option.

7) Free time at Ottawa's museums: did you know that most of our museum's have free times every week? 

National Gallery - Thursdays 5-8pm
Canadian Museum of Nature - Thursdays 5-8pm
Canada Agriculture and Food Museum - wed - sun, 4-5pm
Canada Aviation and Space Museum - every day, 4-5pm
Canadian Museum of History and War Museum - Thursdays 5-8pm
Canadian Science and Technology Museum - every day, 4-5pm

8) Volunteer at Toy Mountain: I've been volunteering with this great cause for three years now, and I would highly recommend you check it out as a family. Email for more information. Cost: your time.

9) Skating on an outdoor rink: is there anything more romantic than skating outside in the winter? Your little puffs of breath in the air, the bright stars....and ya, okay, the freezing toes and whining children. Do it anyway - it's a great memory for them :) There is a lovely rink at Lansdowne and the Governor General's Residence Cost: Free, but you need skates. If you don't own skates, borrow a pair!

10) Build a snow fort! Cost: free! Check out Chris's tips for making your snow fort safe.

11) Taffy Lane: there's no website for this, but here is Taffy Lane on Google Maps. This is a street in Orleans that goes light-crazy every year, and people drive from all over to catch a glimpse. It's bright and fun, and the kids love it! (Expert tip: park your car at the Orleans United Church and walk the block…much more fun than sitting in a car!!) Cost: FREE!

12 a) CP Holiday Train: The Canadian Pacific (CP) Holiday Train will soon set out once again to entertain hundreds of thousands of people, celebrating 20 years of collecting food and raising funds for food banks across North America. On November 28th head to Merickville, Smiths Falls or Perth to see some local performers. Cost: free, but make a donation to the Food Bank!

12 b) As an “add-on” to this one, you can also check out the Railway Museum of Eastern Ontario and see the North Pole Express from November 24 - December 1. Cost: tickets are $7 each, and free for those ages 3 and under. Hurry and grab these soon, as they sell out!!

13) Santa Claus Parades: here is Kids in the Capital's  roundup of parades around town. Because we're in the East end, we love attending Parade of Lights here in Orleans. Cost: a donation to the firefighters association if you wish to make one.

14) Visit the Mint! Get a sneak peek into where hand-crafted coins get developed and made - a great activity for your budding engineer! Cost: $20 per family of four.

15) Almonte's Light up the Night: You might know how much we love Almonte here at Kids in the Capital. I lust about moving out there! This is a fantastic night, hosted by none other than Wayne Rostad! Cost: free!

16) Wagon rides at Byward market: this market comes alive with Christmas spirit over the holidays. You can get a complimentary wagon rides on the first three weekends in December on Saturday or Sunday from 12 - 4pm (pickup at William and York.) Also head over to George Street Plaza (right in front of the main Byward market building) to listen to local carolers from choirs all across Ottawa! Cost: Free!!

17) Cut down a Christmas tree: we try to do this every year - there's something so special about a real Christmas tree (although yes, yes I know some of you love your plastic!). It's the experience that counts, and there's nothing better than a cold walk through the woods and hot chocolate after carrying your tree back to the car. There are places all around Ottawa, but our favourite is Briggs Trees out in the East end. Cost: Depends! Do you want a Charlie Brown tree or something more majestic?

18) Elves of the Estate: do your kids love to dress up? Get them a pair of Elf ears and head over to Billings Estate for a party with Santa and Mrs. Claus. Saturday December 1st from 10 - 4. Cost: $17.25 per family

19) Mayor's Christmas Party: this annual bash is held at Ottawa City Hall and is a fun-filled afternoon with skating, free beavertails, live performances and more. Cost: free, and OC Transpo rides there are free too! Stay tuned for details on this year’s party, usually held on a Saturday in early December.

20) Olde Fashioned Christmas in Manotick: I've never been, but this event looks fantastic! Shop for crafts, see Santa, get a wagon ride or listen to carollers! Cost: free, unless you want to do some shopping and eating!

21) Photos with Santa: Santa Pierre at Place D'Orleans has been around for many years, and is a favourite for young children. I've never been successful at getting my kids to sit with Santa, but we still enjoy going to look at him from a safe distance ;) Santa Pierre will be back on November 25th, so stay tuned to the website for schedule updates. Cost: digital photos for $15

22) Go see a movie! I have so many wonderful memories seeing movies with my parents over the holidays. Imagine Cinemas ($22 per family of four, cheaper on Tuesdays) and Cine Starz ($20 per family) are great affordable options.

23) Magic of Lights: this is a drive-through light display at Wesley Clover Parks - and it promises to be bigger and better than ever! This is presented by MAJIC 100 in support of the Sens Foundation, and cost this year is $20 online or $25-$30 at the gate (depending whether you go weekdays or on a weekend)


24) Canadian Museum of History's tree lighting ceremony: Thursday November 29th at 6pm. Count down to the lighting of the tree, while enjoying Christmas carols, Beaver Bites and hot chocolate!

25) Too tired to do any more activities? Stay home, put on Elf and pig out on homemade caramel popcorn. Stoke the fire and hug your loved ones.