Ottawa has so many amazing things to see and do - whether you're a family, an individual or a couple. We wanted to put together a list that you can come back to over and over during Canada's 150th year. Think of this as your 150 bucket list! As the NY Times mentioned, there's always something to see, do or explore in Canada's Capital!
Whether you are going to the Billings Estate for a tea party or a preschool play date, this National Historic Site offers family-friendly programming, collections and exhibits all year round.
Explore the history of Ottawa from its Bytown days to the present at the Bytown Museum. It’s located at the UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Ottawa Locks on the Rideau Canal and offers beautiful views of the city and natural surroundings.
Open all year, the Canadian Agriculture and Food Museum has things to do and animals to see for kids of all ages. Visitors will learn more about Canadian agriculture including diary cows, pigs, and can even participate in cooking demonstrations and workshops. Spring visits usually means adorable piglets too!
The Canadian Aviation and Space Museum is more than just airplanes (which kids find cool anyway). The Museum always adds new workshops, shows and games (a staple is the mini airplanes for the kids like to ride around on.)
If you have a child who is a history buff they will love this museum. There are photographs, art and videos as well as artifacts on display. Keep in mind that some of the exhibits may need explaining, so be prepared to talk about war.
Located within the History Museum, The Canadian Children’s Museum offers guests the opportunity to travel the world, while enriching their lives and broadening their experience. Kids can explore other cultures through exhibitions, costumes, hands-on props, and artifacts, including an extraordinary assortment of toys and games.
This small town museum recreates rural life in 1920s Ontario. Visitors can stop by the General Store, take a seat in the one-room schoolhouse, and check out the antique vehicles at the garage.
Whether you’re a history buff or just like exploring fun and mysterious places, the Diefunbunker is a great way to spend a few hours with the family. There are lots of things to explore, touch and experience, which makes the Diefenbunker particularly family-friendly.
If you love architecture then you will love this 19th century Gothic Revival farmhouse located in Nepean. It was originally built on 660 acres of farmland and the museum tells its story as well as the history of the areas surrounding it.
10. Goulbourn Museum
Located outside of Stittsville in the west end of Ottawa, the Goulbourn Museum not only houses artefacts and antiques from the early 1800s, but also offers children’s events and family workshops.
Ottawa is rich in history and the Osgoode Township Museum in South Ottawa is an extension of this with artifacts and exhibits from the Township of Osgoode. This museum is also a repository for indigenous Native and pioneer relics.
Located in Ottawa’s far west end, Pinhey’s Point features a nearly 200-year-old manor house and surrounding ruins. This site is a popular summertime picnic destination for boaters and cyclists.
Dinosaurs, mammals, birds and more, The Canadian Museum of Nature is housed in an impressive castle-like building that immediately wins the hearts of kids young and old. The Canadian Museum also hosts an adult-only evening on the last Friday of every month (excluding December, July and August) called Nature Nocturne.
The Canadian Galleries are closed until June 14, 2017 when they will then reopen for something special to celebrate Canada’s 150th birthday. In the meantime there is still plenty to see and do in their other galleries and exhibitions.
15. Vanier Museopark
Vanier Museopark is a park, a museum, a maple grove and more. It is the only francophone museum Ottawa and is dedicated to preserving the heritage of Quartier Vanier and Richelieu Parl.
16. Watson's Mill
There are always fun family and community events taking place at the Watson’s Mill, located in scenic Manotick. Starting June 4th there is a Farmer’s Market every Saturday from 9am to 2 pm and there are milling demonstrations Sundays from 1pm to 3pm.
17. Casino Lac-Leamy Sound of Light (August 2017)
If you love fireworks, this show is amazing! There are 5 beautiful fireworks displays from different countries that take place from August 5 to 19, 2017.
Offering some of the best lookouts in Ottawa, Major’s Hill Park is one of the Capital’s main event locations (including for Canada Day celebrations!). When it’s not in festival mode, Major’s Hill Park is a great downtown resting or picnic spot.
Rideau Hall offers free family events throughout the year including ice-skating in the winter. It’s located on 79-acres within the city and is only a few minutes from downtown Ottawa.
Zoe’s Lounge, located within the Chateau Laurier in downtown Ottawa offers wonderful afternoon tea including cute finger sandwiches and a vast selection of teas (reservations required), including offering younger tea party fans hot chocolate.
Located in a historic building in central Ottawa, the Royal Canadian Mint offers 45-minute tours (reservations recommended). The Mint is within walking distance of the Byward Market.
Northern Lights is a 30-minute sound and light show that takes the audience on an unforgettable journey through Canada’s history. It’s a free, bilingual show, presented nightly on Parliament Hill from July 11 to September 16, 2017.
Every morning at 10 a.m. from June 25 to August 26 the Changing of the Guard takes place on Parliament Hill. The Guards march from Cartier Square Drill Hall (south of Parliament Hill) and up Elgin Street. If you’re bringing little ones, arrive at Parliament Hill early to get a good view.
The National Arts Centre is rich with musical, dramatic and theatrical performances all year long. They also periodically offer bilingual one-hour concerts as part of their TD Family Adventure Series.
25. Story Time at Rideau Hall (June 25th to August 20th)
A summer tradition, Story Time at Rideau Hall takes place every Friday and Saturday from 1 to 3 p.m. from June 25 to August 20th. It’s hosted outdoors on the lawn of Rideau Hall is a free event!
The Ottawa Little Theatre is Canada’s oldest community playhouse. It presents eight plays per year from September through May. This year the Ottawa Little Theatre is presenting To Kill A Mockingbird, Marion Bridge and more!
From expos to live music concerts, to galleries and exhibitions, the Shenkman Arts Centre, located in Orleans (east Ottawa) always has something on the go for locals and visitors!
Ottawa is lucky to have many community and smaller theatres. Centrepointe often offers concerts from international recording artists as well as theatrical performances, including this year’s production of Mary Poppins. There is something for all ages happening at Centrepointe Theatres in Nepean (west Ottawa).
In the summer Upper Canada Village, a historic village devoted to showing what life was like during the 1860s in Canada, offers educational tours, activities and fun for the entire family. In the fall it’s transformed into a pumpkin inferno and during the holiday season it is Alight the Night with thousands of dazzling Christmas lights!
Whatever the weather and whatever the season Ottawa offers visitors many festivals! There is something for everyone including children, food lovers, wine lovers, music lovers and more! Ottawa loves its festivals!
32. Fringe Fest
34. TD Jazz Festival
36. RBC Blues Fest
37. Westboro FUSE
42. Poutine Fest
43. Capital RibFest
From east to west and places in between, the City of Ottawa has many great Farmer’s Markets that showcase food, harvests and crafts from local farmers and artisans.
50. Cosmic Adventures
Perfect for a rainy day or a day you need to keep some active kids contained. Cosmic has lots of great spaces for kids to climb, run and slide while safely in a space they can’t leave without their parents. There is lots of great seating for parents to have a snack or a coffee and connect to wifi while their kids play as well. Cosmic is a great for a solo visit or buy a membership for the year and visit unlimited times in the year.
Funhaven has it all! Laser tag, a nerf ball pit, and now a roller coaster! Whether you are looking for a place to spend a couple of hours or an entire day, Funhaven is a great place for the entire family. You can pay to go once or pay for an annual membership. They even host birthday parties.
Have some kids that need to get some extra energy out? Bounce it out!! SkyZone's trampolines from wall to wall are a great workout for the whole family.
53. Altitude climbing gym
No more climbing the furniture, instead let the kids climb the walls - all kinds of different walls, at Altitude!
54. Midway Fun Park
55. Putting Edge
56. Kid’s Kingdom
Wesley Clover Parks is more than just a beautiful equestrian centre, there is also a nearby campground with scenic trails! Wesley Clover Parks also hosts numerous events throughout the year including polo and family fun days.
We had a blast participating in one of NVAC’s family workshops last Christmas, and there are TONS of other courses for adults, children and families. Movie making, pottery, visual arts, and so much more.
Ottawa is filled with many outdoor farms, trails, events and exciting things to see and do including:
63. Parc Omega
64. Mont Cascades
65. Eco Odysee
67. Gatineau Park
79. Geo caching
80. Saunders Farm
83. Mer Bleu
88. Sugar Shacks
If you have kids then knowing where some of Ottawa’s favourite family friendly parks are is important. Here are some parks that are Kids in the Capital approved!
89. Lansdowne Park
We head over to Lansdowne to check out the Ottawa Farmer’s Market most weekends, and there are a lot of great things for the kids to do! A climbing structure, public art blackboard and skateboard park top the list. If your fur babies need some fun, there is also plenty of space for the doggies to go for a run!
Whether you're admiring the sailboats while walking along the river or enjoying the large play structure, Andrew Haydon Park is a great place for playground fun, picnics (when the geese are not ruling the roost) and evening walks.
91. Millennium Park
With two enormous play structures (a pirate ship and one fashioned after the Parliament buildings), and a brand new splash pad that is possibly the best in the city, Millennium is worth the drive from any part of the city to check out!
92. Brewer Park
Voted one of the best parks in Ottawa, this play area has fantastic slides, play structures and a splash pad.
Located in Kanata, Walter Baker Park has a big hill ideal for sledding in the winter or exhausting little legs with running races any time of year! There is also a fitness park for the adults and two play structures. And for those really hot days, Walter Baker Park also has a splash pad!
94. Strathcona Park
95. Petrie Island
An east end gem, this beach and natural wildlife area has something for everyone (except your dog – dogs are not allowed!) Take the kids to spot the turtles, take a dip in the Ottawa River, or just enjoy the sun and sand! This is a great place to visit anytime of the year, and we’ve enjoyed our visits in the Spring, Summer and Fall (if you visit in the winter, we’ve heard about great ice fishing nearby!)
This park has an area to represent each province and territory in Canada – and if you look at it from the sky it is shaped like Canada! This park was built with the help of kids and it’s grand opening is on July 1, 2017. The building of the park will be featured on TVO’s Giver in 2017.
Ottawa is the home of many amateur and professional sports teams - check out a game this year with the:
97. Ottawa Redblacks
98. Ottawa 67s
99. Ottawa Senators
101. Ottawa Fury
102. Carleton Ravens
103. Ottawa Gee Gees
104. Bell Canada Cup
If you love to run (or cheer on athletes) then you’ll want to check out these well known local road races:
Whether you want to challenge yourself to run 5K or 10K or even a marathon - or participate as a family in the 2K Family Run, Tamarack Race Weekend is the biggest of it's kind in Ottawa.
107. Insane Inflatable 5K
This 5K race has you climbing, sliding and crawling through inflatables during the 5K course. A race that's definitely family friendly, while being fun and a little bit hilarious at the same time.
108. The Army Run
The Canada Army Run is an event that supports the Canadian Air Force, Army, and Navy. Canadians, current members of and members who have served all come together for this unique race that is full pf pride and community.
This family-friendly local run supports Ottawa and area emergency support personnel and first responders including Firefighters, Police Officers and Paramedics.
Looking for a night out? Whether you are looking for a relaxing evening or a fun adventure, Ottawa has many adult-only activities and venues perfect for any occasion!
111. Le Nordik Spa
113. Chateau Montebello
114. Options Jazz Lounge
115. Bytowne Theatre
116. Gladstone Theatre
117. Play Food and Wine
118. House of TARG
119. Absolute Comedy
120. Nature Nocturne
SHOPPING & RESTAURANTS
120. Byward Market
This bustling market is the most popular farmer’s market in Ottawa. Purchase both local and international produce, and make a visit to the famous Moulin de Provence for a cookie, just like Obama did in 2009!
If we are allowed to endorse a coffee shop here at Kids in the Capital, we have to make it Bridgehead. A home grown success, locations now dot the Ottawa map, and they have even made their way out to the suburbs! Enjoy their fair trade organic blends, or sample some of their locally made soups, sandwiches and treats.
122. NEXT Restaurant
Ottawa has many (MANY) fantastic restaurants, but NEXT, located in the middle of the suburbs in Stittsville, Ontario is unique not only because of its location, but because it always offers delicious shared dining experience based on Chef Blackie’s best food and travel memories that change seasonally.
123. Quitters Coffeehouse
When famed musician Kathleen Edwards decided to pull the plug on her music career, she opened up a coffeehouse (aptly named “Quitters”) in Stittsville – west of Ottawa, this is a place with a true “small town” feel. Visit for a delicious cuppa, or head out for an evening of drinks and music.
124. Tag Along Toys
We featured Tag Along Toys in our recent Holiday Gift Guide and continue to support their two locations because we know they offer the best in puzzles, games, LEGO, Playmobil and more. Whether you are looking for something in particular or have no idea what you are looking for they friendly and knowledgeable staff at Tag Along Toys are always willing to help.
125. Mansfield’s Shoes
It’s hard to find a good shoe store with quality brand names and customer services, but Mansfield’s Shoes in Manotick is one such shoe store. Family owned and operated with heart, Mansfield’s Shoes carries men’s and women’s shoes, handbags and slippers of all sizes and styles. The owner decides what brands to carry based on the feedback from her customers – how many shoe stores do you know that do that?
Decorate your own donuts! How fun is that for kids - young and old!
If you are an outdoor enthusiast then you will want to drop by one of Bushtukah’s two locations in Ottawa. This local store has everything you need for cycling, camping, snowsports and more! And it’s local (and we like local).
128. Beau’s Beer
Beau’s Beer is offered in many restaurants across the City of Ottawa and Lug-Tread is the official beer of Canada’s 150th! The brewery, located in Vankleek Hill is open 7 days a week and offers free wours and samples!
129. Sparks Street
Known as the pedestrian mall, Sparks Street features trendy clothing and jewellery shops, boutiques as well as national chain stores. There is something for everyone and it’s only a couple of blocks away from Parliament Hill!
Must See Small Towns
If there’s one thing we can say about Almontonians, it’s that they’re really proud of their town! And what’s not to be proud of? Lots of small shops, great local music, and yummy doughnuts from HFT!
One drive through the village of Appleton and you will want to buy a house there. It’s nestled on the shoes of the Mississippi River and is rich in history and beautiful scenery.
Whether you are looking to stay at a quaint B&B or shop for antiques and collectibles, the town of Merrickville is not only historic, but it offers unique shopping and places to eat too. It’s the perfect afternoon destination for the shopaholic who loves to support small businesses.
The village of Carp is located west of Ottawa and was a major centre for agricultural activities in the 1800s. Its history is celebrated every year at the annual Carp Fair and can be seen on a mural located at the Carp Farmer’s Market that runs every weekend from April to October. Carp is also home to the Diefenbunker Museum.
Founded in 1802, the town of Cumberland is a quaint, historic town that always has family-friendly activities including home and village tours as well as a harvest market.
This small town is known for its cheese! It’s worth the drive to St-Albert's east end simply for the cheese factory. You can buy the very best of curd, flavoured cheeses and stay for lunch at their restaurant!
It’s easy to drive by this small town on Highway 7, but take a few hours and make a stop. Or better yet, do a day trip with some friends or your significant other, and relax at the beautiful Tay River Reflections spa!
If you’re visiting the town of Pakenham in the winter be sure to check out Mount Pakenham for family-friendly skiing and winter tubing. Pakenham is also known for its historic five span stone bridge and the Pakenham General Store. If you’re visiting Pakenham in the summer be sure to stop for ice cream at Scoops! It’s a cottager-favourite!
For Canada’s 150th Birthday!
138. Interprovincial Picnic on the Bridge (July 2, 2017)
Residents and tourists from both sides of the Ottawa River are invited to enjoy a historic moment on the Alexandra Bridge – an Interprovincial picnic! The bridge will be transformed into a picnic-perfect green haven with incredible views of the Ottawa River! There will also be entertainment and other activities.
139. La Machine (July 26-30)
La Machine are oversized mechanical machines, including fire-breathing dragons, that are set to take to the streets of downtown Ottawa in late July. Should make for some great selfies!
140. Red Bull Crashed Ice (March 3-4)
If you like speed, the Ice Cross Downhill World Series is for you and it's taking place at the Ottawa Locks on the Rideau Canal, which not only makes it unique but historic!
141. Grey Cup 2017 (November 21-26)
The 105th Grey Cup Festival will take place at Lansdowne Park. The Festival will include a number of free and ticketed events, that reflect Canada’s rich and diverse traditions, for fans from coast to coast to enjoy.
142. Stanley Cup Tribute (March 15-18)
The contemporary Ottawa Senators may have yet to bring the Stanley Cup home, but this 4-day tribute (conveniently being held over the March Break) will celebrate this esteemed hockey trophy!
143. Juno Week (March 27 - April 2)
The 46th Annual JUNO Awards are returning to Ottawa, which means the city will be crawling with talented musicians participating in JUNO Cup, JUNOfest, JUNO Fan Fare, and JUNO Songwriters’ Circle! The awards are being held at the Canadian Tire Centre in Kanata on April 2nd.
In the fall, an ambient lighting display will illuminate Chaudière falls. The lights, combined with music, will evoke the culture of Indigenous people and in particular highlight the Algonquin heritage of the region. This display is in collaboration with the local First Nations, Métis and Inuit communities.
145. Urban Camping (June 29th to July 3rd)
A limited number of urban camping sites will be available (site reservations opened January 16th) in numerous parking lots and green spaces around Ottawa - all in celebration of Canada's 150th!
146. MOSAÏCANADA 150/Gatineau 2017 (July 1- October 15)
For 107 days, Jacques-Cartier Park will host the biggest horticultural event in Canada including unique sculptures and paintings that reflect 150 years of history, culture and arts in Canada.
147. Kontinuum (End of June to Mid-September)
Touted to be an engaging underground multi-media experience that will project the future of Light Rail Transit in Ottawa now and in the future!
148. Agri 150 (all year long)
Rural Ottawa will celebrate Canada’s 150th with a series of unique outdoor events that will celebrate our local agriculture.
149. Sky Lounge (July 7-22)
Ottawa is known for it’s fantastic dining options and in the month of July, Ottawa is taking diners culinary experience to a whole new level by offering two weeks of dining over 150 feet in the air!
150. Canada Day on Parliament Hill (July 1st!)
Dress in red and white and join thousands of other Canadians to celebrate Canada’s 150th birthday celebration on Parliament Hill! There will be live musical and theatrical performances and of course a fireworks display to remember!