There are times to splurge and do the BIG activities with your kids, but who can afford that all summer long? We’ve come up with a list of over 30 free things to do with kids in Ottawa over the summer months!
Canadian Museum of Nature
Thursdays 5–8 pm
The Canadian Agriculture and Food Museum
Daily 4–5 pm
The Canadian Museum of History
Daily 4–5 pm
The Canadian Science and Technology Museum
Daily 4–5 pm
The Canadian Space and Aviation Museum
Daily 4–5 pm
All their programs are free too, but you have to sign up in advance!
3) Park hop
Speaking of parks, the Park-ticipate program is a free, informal drop-in program offered by the Bob MacQuarrie Recreation Complex-Orléans at various local, rural and urban parks throughout East Ottawa. Children aged 4 to 10 are invited to join staff in this fun-filled program of crafts, games and sports.
5) Visit the parliament buildings
Although Centre Block is closed for tours for many years to come, you can still do tours of the grounds, Senate and House of Commons!
6) Yoga on the hill/zumba on the hill
7) Free Festivals
Canadian Tulip Festival May 10–20, 2019 (Admission to Commissioners Park, the Tulip Plaza & Festival Pavilions are free of charge.)
WestFest June 7–9, 2019
Summer Solstice Indigenous Festival June 20–23, 2019
Capital Ukrainian Festival July 19–21, 2019
Ottawa International Busker Fest August 2-5, 2019
Lumière Festival August 24, 2019
8) Sunset ceremonies (RCMP)
9) Shenkman Arts Centre Summer Series
Head to Shenkman for a weekly dose of fun at their summer lunchtime series. These free concerts will take place at 12:30 pm every Thursday in July and August.
10) Fire Station
Call your local fire station and set up a tour!
11) Outdoor movies
Check out this great list of local outdoor movies from Ottawa Kids!
12) Head to a beach!
We’ve got a list of all the local swimming holes around Ottawa. If you’re squeamish about lake swimming (or they’re closed due to e. coli) then check out one of our great outdoor pools!
13) Northern Lights Show on Parliament
If you’re looking for a fun nighttime outing, the light show on Parliament Hill runs all summer until September 8th!
14) Family-Friendly Hikes
There are so many local hikes to enjoy in our area. Check out our list of 5 family friendly hiking trails!
A quick tip about those passes, which seem impossible to get. Don’t just go to your local branch to try to find them - check online and find out where they’re available, and then make a trip to that library to snag one!
17) Hog’s Back Falls
Take a bike ride or drive to Hog’s Back and enjoy a beautiful walk by the falls.
18) Rockliffe rockeries
Some spectacular lookouts can be found at Rockliffe Park!
19) Mackenzie King Estate
Access to the National Capital Commission’s parks is free year-round! It’s always a fun outing to go for a hike or to explore the different ruins across the property.
20) Mer Bleue
Mer Bleue is the perfect spot for a picnic, hike or feeding the amazing chickadees!
21) Visit the Humane Society
You wouldn’t think of this as a fun free outing, but who doesn’t love taking a peek at the cats, bunnies, pups and more! You can also inquire about volunteer opportunities or other ways to support the Humane Society! Full tours and “behind the scenes” are available, but there is a cost.
22) Walk or bike along the canal any day
24) Explore Lansdowne Park
There are a number of fun and free activities at Lansdowne Park, so check out the City of Ottawa’s schedule. You could also just do a park visit, have a picnic, or browse the Ottawa Farmer’s Market on Sundays!
25) Changing of the Guard
Changing of the guard takes place most days this summer,
26) Drive through Gatineau Park
Remember Sunday drives? They’re totally still a thing! Take a beautiful drive through the park, and maybe you can stop at La Cigale for an ice cream? (not free - but had to be suggested!!)
27) Tour Rideau Hall
Rideau Hall is the place to be all year round! A tour of the grounds or residence is super fun, and in the winter there’s free skating for groups!
OK hear us out - we realize the bus may not be fun for YOU. But if you’re a family that typically drives to most destinations, the bus will be the best part of any outing - especially if you get the kids sitting in the middle of the “accordion.” Ages 5 and under are FREE - 6+ is $1.75.
29) Byward Market
Tour the Byward Market - the new Pedestrian Street is perfect for little ones to play and rest!
30) Public Art
Do a scavenger hunt of all the statues or public art on display in our capital!
31) Public Spaces events at the National Arts Centre
The NAC’s renovations have led to some super fun programming in many of their public spaces. Check out their listings for more details!