10 Things to do and see in Ottawa in Fall

The kids are back to school and memories of summer vacation are slowly giving way to thoughts of what to do with the kids in Ottawa this fall. Luckily, Ottawa has many great museums, trails and nearby attractions to keep families busy regardless of the time of year. If you’re looking to fill your weekend with fun activities this fall, here our ten suggestions:

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1) Take a hike

The National Capital Region is not only close to the hiking trails in vibrant Gatineau Park, but we also have the Trans Canada Trail and many other nature trails and conservation areas to explore. Depending on your area of the city, you can enjoy feeding the chickadees along Stony Swamp or taking in the scenes along Mer Bleu boardwalk. Enjoying the vibrant foliage of fall makes this time of year a beautiful time of year for a family hike. Click here to see our list of 5 family-friendly trails in and around Ottawa.

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2) Pick your own apples

Apple picking is an annual tradition in my house. Whether you go to Mountain Orchards, Log Cabin Orchards or elsewhere, Ottawa has bountiful orchards to pick many varieties of apples. Many of the orchards also have family-friendly activities such as wagon rides, corn mazes, small petting zoos, and more!

3) Visit a pumpkin patch

Many of the local apple orchards also have pumpkin patches. Cannamore Orchard, Log Cabin Orchard, Maple Hill Urban Farm, and Proulx Farm are just a few of the local farms offering pumpkins (as well as many other fun fall family activities).

4) Go to a fall fair

Fall Fairs in Ottawa

While some of the seasonal fairs have come and gone, Ottawa still has the Carp Fair and Metcalfe Fair left! A great opportunity to take in some fair rides, games and agricultural activities as a family; and eat cotton candy – I am all about the cotton candy. ;)

5) Conquer a corn maze

While Saunders Farm offers incredible mazes all summer long, Maple Hill Urban Farm, located in Ottawa’s West End, offers a 10-acre corn maze that makes for a fun and memorable fall weekend activity (the maze is closed Monday through Thursday).

6) Engage with Hot Wheels – Race to Win

If you’re looking for something to fill in those rainy or cooler fall days, the Children’s Museum at the Canadian Museum of History is presenting a special exhibition from Hot Wheels that is all about speed and power! Hot Wheels – Race to Win runs until January 7, 2018. It involves playing with Hot Wheels die-cast cars as well as interactive displays that will have kids experimenting with power, performance and learning intriguing facts a long the way.

7) Celebrate Halloween

If you love celebrating Halloween and love being scared then fall is your time of year! Saunders Farm is infamous for their Haunting Season and even have a new attraction this year to scare visitors even more than years previous. If you go – make sure you take the haunted hayride. It’s guaranteed to make you scream, but if you have young children you may only want to go during the day when the characters and exhibits are not quite as frightening.

There is also Pumpkin Inferno at Upper Canada Village (a less scarier way to celebrate Halloween as a family), as well as many other Halloween Activities. For a full listing of 2017 Halloween Activities, click here.

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8) Feed wildlife at Parc Omega

Located approximately one hour from Ottawa, Parc Omega is a great way to spend a fall day (or weekend!) with animals native to America, incluging bears, wolves, and elk – that will walk right up to your car. Bring a bag of carrots and get ready to get up close and personal with Canada’s wildlife. There are also picnic areas and hiking trails onsite.

9)  Visit the Canada Goose Arctic Gallery

If you haven’t had a chance to check out the new Canada Goose Arctic Gallery at the Canadian Museum of Nature, fall is a great opportunity to do so. It’s a permanent exhibition with many hands on activities and games. It’s a fun way for kids to learn about the impacts of climate chance and about Arctic culture and ecosystems.

The Royal Canadian Mint

10) Tour the Royal Canadian Mint

Another fascinating indoor activity is a tour of the Royal Canadian Mint. Children will not only learn about how coins are made, but will also get to see the world’s biggest coin and gold bars on display, as well as get to see an Olympic medal. The behind-the-scenes tour of this facility is fascinating for all ages – my daughter still talks about holding a gold bar!

5 Family-Friendly Ottawa Trails

The warmer weather is here (hopefully to stay), which means it’s a great opportunity to venture out to one of the many family-friendly trails in Ottawa.  Although some trails are open year-round for snowshoeing and cross-country skiing, spring opens up further opportunities to get outside and explore during what is usually a quieter time of year on the trails.

Of course, the term “family-friendly” is subjective. If you have a stroller some of the trails may be a little difficult to navigate. Mer Bleue, which has a boardwalk trail, may be okay. The idea is that these trails are not difficult to walk, are not overly long to complete, and are scenic - offering kids of all ages a chance to explore the best that Mother Nature has to offer in Ottawa.

Ottawa trails

1) Mud Lake Trail

Located along the Ottawa River in west Ottawa, Mud Lake is a 2-kilometre trail through deciduous swampland. It is a popular migratory stop for many species of birds (over 250 bird species have apparently been recorded there!) and this area is currently being studied for its invasive plant species. There are tall pines, lake views and you can walk over to Britannia Beach from the trail.

This area is very unique and the trail is a great length for younger kids. Because this is an ecologically sensitive area, visitors are asked to not pick plants, and not capture or handle any animals. Free parking.

2) Mer Bleue Bog Trail

A popular trail in the east end, Mer Bleue Bog Trail follows a boardwalk that loops around the wetland. This 1.2 km trail is short enough that young kids can explore it with ease. There are other trails off the boardwalk as well for older kids or those looking for more outdoor adventure. Parking is free.

3) Stony Swamp Trails

Located in Southwest Ottawa, Stony Swamp has over 40 kilometres of trails, some of which connect to the Trans Canada Trail. Some of the more family-friendly ones include Jack Pine Trail, which crosses over beaver tails, and Sarsaparilla Trail, which has a lookout over a beaver pond. The Wild Bird Care Centre is also located along Stony Swamp. Free parking outside the trail entrances.

4) Shirley’s Bay

In addition to 7 kilometers of hiking trails, Shirley’s Bay also has 19 kilometres of walking trails. The shoreline trail (tail #10) is a 4 km loop that provides great views of the Ottawa River. This is also a great spot to bring your canoe or kayak, as well as a picnic lunch!

5) Green’s Creek

A great tail for older kids, Green’s Creek has some steeper hills, but offers some unique urban ruins, including ruins from an old train trestle bridge. If you're looking for something a little different and about more than just bird watching and nature, this is a great trail to try.

Before venturing out with the family for a leisurely hike, here are a few tips:

1)    Pack bug spray. Once the snow melts and the temperatures rise, remember the bug spray! This is especially important in early spring when the black flies make their appearance.

2)    Wear shoes and socks. Ticks and Lyme disease are on the rise in Eastern Ontario and although not all the paths and trails have long grass, many do. Ticks also like to hide out in cedars and other bushes.

3)    Don’t forget snacks and water. Kids get hungry and thirsty, so it’s great to be prepared. When their tummy rumbles half way through the hike you have some snacks to get them through… also some special treats are a good incentive if they suddenly don’t want to walk anymore.

4)    Don’t get burned. Even in spring the sun can be strong, so remember the sunscreen, sunglasses and hats!

5) Dogs are not always welcome. While some Ottawa trails welcome dogs, some do not. You’re always best to check the NCC website to ensure your furry family member is welcome

50 things to do with kids in Ottawa

Ottawa has so many amazing things to see and do with kids! We wanted to put together the ultimate list, so that you can grab loads of ideas from one spot!

From museums, indoor activities, outdoor activities and parks - there's always something to do in Ottawa, no matter the season!

50 things to do with kids in ottawa

 

MUSEUMS

Having lived in other cities in Canada, I think the best thing about Ottawa is our amazing museums. There are many options that will please young and old!

Billings estate

Visit the historic estate of one of Ottawa's founding families and spend the day enjoying one of their special events (including awesome themed teas!) or kid-friendly programs.  

Bytown museum

The Bytown Museum offers plenty of interactive activities for our young and young at heart visitors!

Canadian Agriculture and Food Museum

Snuggly animals, food demonstrations, and special events - the agriculture museum has it all!

Canadian Aviation and Space Museum

Aviation is the third museum, along with Agriculture and Science and Tech (which is currently being rebuilt!), that makes up a great 3-in-1 membership for families. This museum is perfect for the little ones that love planes, space and so much more. There are daily kids activities, camps and a special play area for the kiddos!

Canada Science and Technology Museum

We’re so excited to finally be adding this one back into our “50 things” post! Completely renovated, this museum offers SO much for all ages. The best part for little ones (under 8) is the new Zoom exhibit!!

Canadian War museum 

When you think "kids," you may not think the war museum - but the little ones still get a kick out of looking at all the exhibits. And if you have older children, you may all get lost in there reading and exploring!

Children's museum

My kiddos LOVE this museum, and we make it a special treat. Their main attraction changes every few months or so, but the regular exhibits are a huge hit. And don't forget to try to check out a movie at the Imax theatre!

Cumberland Heritage Village Museum

My daughter's Sparks group recently spent the day at the Cumberland Museum, and we had SO much fun! What a fantastic way to teach our children about the past, with many activities and displays scheduled throughout the day. Also check out their special events, including the Village of Lights in the winter!

Diefenbunker

Check out Lara's trip to the Diefenbunker with her kids! This giant underground bunker was built during the cold war to house government officials in the event of nuclear war. It's sure to be a fun place for kids to explore.

Museum of Nature

The first time I visited the museum, I didn't allocate enough time. Floors of amazing exhibits, activities for kids young and old, and an Imax theatre. The special exhibits that arrive every six months or so are always a big hit!

National gallery

You wouldn't think an art gallery, with really beautiful, expensive art, would be a great place for kids, but if you follow some tips, it can still be a fun outing. Check out their Family Sundays, or take a walk around with your baby.

Vanier museopark

What's better than a park and sugar bush smack in the middle of an urban neighbourhood? A great place to walk your dog too!

 

ATTRACTIONS

Governor General estate

THE NAC has so many amazing children focused events

THE NAC has so many amazing children focused events

Whatever season, Rideau Hall is a beautiful place for a visit. Special events are often held there, and winter is great for a skate or celebration!

NAC children's events

The National Arts Centre has some fantastic children's programming, and you can read about French Youth Theatre here! 

High tea at the Chateau Laurier

Your kids will love you forever if you take them for high tea at the superb Chateau Laurier. Who doesn't love tiny sandwiches?

The Mint

Call ahead to book a tour at the Mint! Our experience has been that tours are great for children ages 5 and up, although most kids will get a kick out of the facility that produces Canada's investment and collector coins. 

Parliament Hill

The free sound and lights show on Parliament is SPECTACULAR, and a must-see if your kids are able to stay up until 10pm in July, 9:30pm in August and 9pm in September. Check out our blog post from the Mosaika show, and stay tuned to read all about the new show in 2017! 

Changing of the guard

Not for the wee ones, the changing of the guard would be great for your tweens and teens who have the patience and interest to sit for the show. If you have little ones they may still enjoy watching a few minutes! 


FESTIVALS

Children’s Festival

Winterlude!

Winterlude!

Award-winning programming from Canada and across the world! Check out one of our reader's past experience at the festival.

Ottawa International Buskerfest

The ultimate live performance event, Buskerfest is a huge crowd pleaser! 

Winterlude

This festival is an essential part of Ottawan life, even if you're not too fussy about snow and ice! Whether you're snow tubing, skating, or maybe just enjoying a beaver tail, there is much to see and do! Check out our tips for heading down to the festival.

The Tulip Festival

The Tulip Festival is one of many great things to enjoy about Spring in Ottawa. There's nothing better than seeing the tulip bulbs pop up when the snow has melted!

 

INDOOR PLAY

Cosmic Adventures

Flying squirrel trampoline park

Flying squirrel trampoline park

Kids of all ages can have a blast at Cosmic, an indoor play place in Gloucester (east end of Ottawa.) There are slides, climbing structures, ball pits and a smaller area for the wee ones. A place to go on really cold, hot or rainy days!

Kids Kingdom

With locations in the West and East end of the cities, this indoor play place is a local favourite - they also have daycare for parents looking for a fun and active centre for their child. Birthday parties and laser tag are other faves!

Funhaven

Perfect for those in the West end (or even if you're willing to make the drive!) The number of things you can do indoors at Funhaven is astounding - games, jungle gym, toddler play, laser tag, mini bowling, and so much more!

SkyZone

My children are quite distraught that I have still not taken them to SkyZone, the indoor trampoline park. I'll get there at some point soon, but our Kids in the Capital contributors have so many great things to say about it!

Worth a Visit: SkyZone
SkyZone Trampoline Park
Toddler Time at SkyZone 

Flying Squirrel

Another great indoor trampoline park in the East end!

Altitude climbing gym

Lara got a chance to check out Altitude gym last summer, and her three kids really enjoyed the indoor climbing walls. 

Public swimming / wave pools / wading pools

There is nothing better than heading out for a swim when you're stuck for something to do with the kids. In the summer it's great to check out the outdoor pools and wading pools, but in the winter, sometimes we just want to imagine we're on the beach, getting hit by a huge wave. Happy swimming! 

Public skates

There are some great outdoor skating rinks to enjoy in the winter (including the free one at Lansdowne,) but it can be a fun summer activity to cool off on a sweltering day. Check out the City of Ottawa for public skating schedules, or maybe you have a local pond to discover when everything freezes over!


OUTDOOR PLAY

Parc omega

Calypso Water Park

Calypso Water Park

We visited Parc Omega for the first time last summer, and I was really impressed by the experience. The property is SO huge, but there are options to take nature walks and picnics if you don't feel like sitting in your car.

Mont cascades

A lovely, small water park, nestled in the Gatineau hills. And you really can't beat the price when taking the whole family!

Eco odysee

A water maze adventure in the Outaouais region!

Calypso

A water park that invented the saying "go big or go home." This is the ultimate water park experience for your family, and just a quick jaunt just outside Ottawa!

Gatineau Park

THE best place in the Ottawa region to see the Fall leaves, head out for a nighttime snowshoe (yup, kids would enjoy this too!) or spend a bit of time there with both winter and summer camping. There are also great hikes for the older kids, and a short walk around Pink Lake for the younger ones.

Rideau canal boating or skating

Boating in the summer, or skating in the winter - everyone can enjoy this beautiful heritage site in the heart of Ottawa! 

Rideau canal Locks

Don't want to boat OR skate on the canal? Just head down with the kids in the summer to see a boat make its' way through the locks!

Kayaking

Yup, kids can definitely kayak, and it's easier than you think! Check out Lara's post on kayaking and SUPing (Stand Up Paddle Boarding) with her kids.

Pirate adventures

Take an imaginary pirate adventure along the Rideau Canal, and have a barrel of laughs! Arrrrr! 

Feeding the ducks near billings 

There are so many activities in Ottawa that don't cost an arm and a leg, and kids will have so much fun - feeding cute ducks is definitely one of those activities to file away for the days when your kids are whining "I'm bored!!" 

Geo caching

Who knew there were secret treasures hiding all around this city? And people are on the hunt to find them

Saunders farm

Boasting one of the best mazes in the city, along with fantastic activities all summer long (and check out their spooky Halloween activities!) this is a place you'll want to visit again and again. 

Valleyview Little Animal farm

A farm with a tiny train to ride and animals to pet, located in Southwest Ottawa. A great alternative to the Canadian Agriculture and Food Museum if you feel like switching things up!

Proulx Farm

We love this farm out in the East end, with their horse-drawn wagon rides, pancake breakfasts, pumpkin patch, strawberry picking and so much more! Proulx Farm is also a staple at some of the farmer's markets around the city.

Mer Bleue Boardwalk

The perfect walk for little ones, with ample snow and ski trails in the winter. Don't forget to bring the bird seed to feed the chickadees!

Mooney's Bay

The perfect place to cool off in the summer, check out Ottawa's Dragonboat Festival, or take a picnic to the park!

Sunday bike days

Each year from mid-May to early September you can cycle along some car-free roads in Ottawa every Sunday. Don’t forget your yearly bike tune-up! 

Petrie Island

In the East end, this beach is great in many seasons, with summer fun and beautiful Fall colours. For the avid naturalist, it's also a great place to spot turtles and participate in Nature Camps!

Ottawa Farmers' Markets

My kids LOVE the Ottawa Farmer's Market. There are locations all over the city, and we usually visit the Orleans location or the big Landsdowne location. My girls enjoy the free samples, picking out fruit and vegetables, and the occasional special events like face painting or balloon animals. 

 

PARKS

Canada-Themed playground at Mooney’s Bay

Canada-Themed playground at Mooney’s Bay

We have so many awesome parks in the city, and when we surveyed YOU, our lovely readers, you told us that these four were your favourites:

Canada-themed playground at Mooney's Bay

Brewer Park

Walter Baker Park

Andrew Haydon Park

Millenium Park

And that's a wrap on our 50 things to do with kids in Ottawa - what's YOUR favourite things to do?