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?

 

Arctic Alive! Giant Arctic Floor Map at the Museum of Nature

IMG_2146-Medium-225x300.jpg

There is a giant map of the Arctic at the Museum of Nature. You can go check it out over the holidays and let me tell you: it's really cool. I got to see first hand the impact this map had on students' awareness and perception of the Arctic. It was impressive.

When we think of the Arctic we think cold, snowy, and quiet. Those are some of the exact words students from a grade 5/6 class used in the beginning. After spending 20 minutes walking over the map and learning about the plants, animals, fossils and minerals found in the Arctic, you know how they described it? Vibrant, colourful, and alive. Just how the plant scientist who collected specimens there did. Their understanding of the great white North had completely changed.

IMG_2144-Medium-300x225.jpg

From December 26th to January 4th anyone visiting the Museum of Nature can take a stroll through the Arctic. Five copies of this 8mx11m map and real specimens will spend 2015 traveling across Canada to schools where students will learn about the Arctic. In fact, there are lesson plans available from kindergarten through grade 12.

IMG_2165-Medium-300x225.jpg
IMG_2166-Medium-300x225.jpg

While you're at the museum I strongly encourage you to check out the special exhibit called Arctic Voices. There were lots of great hands-on things for kids, beautiful images, and interesting info.

IMG_2207-Medium-225x300.jpg
IMG_2205-Medium-225x300.jpg

Arctic Alive! is a joint venture between the Canadian Museum of Nature and Canadian Geographic Education. The map and specimens will be available to the general public from December 26th to January 4th as part of the holiday programming at the museum.

Arctic Voices is a fascinating new exhibit at the museum that runs from December 5th, 2014 until May 3rd, 2015

Disclaimer: I was able to check out Arctic Alive! and Arctic Voices free of charge. All opinions are my own.

A Journey Through Time: The Vale Earth Gallery at the Museum of Nature

by Victoria When the invitation went out from Karen and Lara at Kids In The Capital for a blogger (or two) to attend the members’ only opening of the new Vale Earth Gallery at the Canadian Museum of Nature, the timing couldn’t have been better. I was on the cusp of starting a new job at NRCan in the Earth Sciences Sector, so I wanted to spend an evening at the museum learning more about the work of my colleagues, in addition to introducing my two older children to the wonders of geology.

The result of two years of planning and three months of renovations, the 8,000 sq. ft. Vale Earth Gallery is a smaller, permanent renewal of the gallery that opened in 2010. There is quite a lot to experience in the gallery, from building a volcano to exploring a limestone cave with a dripping waterfall (complete with life-like bats) to manipulating a two-metre animated globe. The hands-on exhibits make the whole experience literally come alive for both parents and children, with plenty of buttons to push, knobs to spin, and levers to pull.

Best of all, however, are the 14 giant minerals, including crystals, which reportedly weigh between 45 and 225 kg. It was neat to be able to show my daughter one of the best examples of an amethyst - the February purple gem that also happens to be my birthstone - in the world. I was entranced by the diamonds from theNorthwest Territories’ Akati mine, cousins to the stone in my engagement ring by source alone.

My teenage son enjoyed himself immensely with the Sedimentator, the Magmanator, and the Metamorphicator, three simulation machines that allow visitors the chance to create their own type of rock. The ability to cause an earthquake, albeit in a controlled setting, created one of the best bonding opportunities between a child and his stepfather that a mother could ask for. Their goofy grins will forever be embedded in my memory.

Entry to the Vale Earth Gallery is included with regular museum admission. For full details, including fees and hours, go to nature.ca.

Victoria Martin blogs at Girl Gone Wired (www.girlgonewired.net), a parenting and lifestyle blog; and is the Social Media Lead for Kruising for Keely (www.kruisingforkeely.ca), a family team devoted to raising funds for a cure for Type 1 Diabetes. She lives inOttawa,Ontariowith her fiancé, David, and their three children.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Whales Tohorā

by Amy My sister suggested we take the kid to see the Whales Tohorā exhibit and when I mentioned it to her she did her excited exclamation.

We went early on Saturday, arriving just after the Museum of Nature opened and we had the exhibit practically to ourselves.

They had models and skeletons, videos and games. The kid had a great time matching the whales heads to their body's and tails, and climbing through the life-sized model of a Blue Whale's heart.

I was most fascinated seeing the whale's vertebrae that was bigger than the kid.

Across the hall in the Discovery Zone they had activities set up for kids to try - testing their memory of which whales are which, letting them fish for the different things that different whales eat, there were arts and crafts.

While the kid was catching sea lions and salmon with a magnetic fishing pole, the woman was showing me an example of a blue whales tooth and the tiny little krill that they eat.

Another great part about going to see the Whales Tohorā exhibit was that our admission got us into the rest of the museum.

Amy is mom to two year old Maggie and a 6 year old schnauzer named Henry. You can read her blog at amyboughner.ca where she writes about motherhood and anything else that’s on her mind. She also shares a blog with her husband at boughner.ca where they talk together about parenting a daughter.

The Castle of Nature

by Mike

What we’ve realized since the birth of our second child is that family outings are made just as much for us parents as they are for our children. In fact, when one child is only a few months old and has no chance of remembering anything of our visit in her later years, it’s possible that outings at this point are almost exclusively for our benefit.

So, needless to say, we were pretty excited when on my birthday, we decided a family outing was in order and that said family outing would take place at the Museum of Nature’s new Whales Tohora exhibit.

Now, the Museum of Nature, in my opinion, is the best museum in the city (although the Museum of Science and Technology, if for the Crazy Kitchen alone, is pretty close). And, neither me nor my wife had been since the not-so-recent-anymore renovations were completed.

So, like any parent who has a favourite, be it a hockey team, fast food joint, anything, I wanted my kids to like the museum so we'd be able to go back as often as I wanted.

As soon as we got out of the car Leah started calling the museum “the castle” and I knew the day would be won. Still, I wanted to spend the morning actually looking inside the castle as opposed to standing in the unseasonably cool outside the castle temperatures and used the massive whale hanging inside the massive glass showcase window as a temptress.

“Look at how huge that whale is Leah, we have to go inside to see it.”

“Inside the castle daddy?”

“Yes, to see all the whales.”

“Can I ride one like a horse?”

“You can ride one like a pretend horse,” I answered with my fingers crossed behind my back like I used to do when I was five (and 25).

“Let’s go.”

So, we did get into the castle and I swear forevermore that I will visit the museum on school-year, weekday mornings for the rest of my life. The lines were non-existent, the elevators easy to call and the staff were eager to cater to the needs of anyone who even had the appearance of having a question.

In no time, we were on the fourth floor, one child resting neatly in a carrier with mommy and the other running on the spot like the Road Runner, ready to explore the whales.

When you have the run of the exhibit and all the time in the world to play with the interactive features, Whales Tohora is outstanding. The half of the fourth floor of the castle is filled with whales big and small, baleen and toothed and skeletal and skinned.

The first thing we spotted was a massive whale replica used in the movie Whale Rider, which Leah has never seen. No matter though, her observations on the whale had nothing to do with the movie.

“The whale is soft daddy?”

“How do you know? You haven't touched it.” And I swear museum staff that she didn’t.

“The whale has no bum.”

She was right, the replica only covered the front portion of the whale. Still, that in no way explained why the whale was soft.And judging by the way she had moved onto the next stop in the exhibit, she had no intentions of explaining any further.

Next we played a little game that allowed us to, through use of a 1980s style joystick, navigate a whale, or dolphin, through the ocean without killing it. In five tries, we managed to get the dolphin eight feet from its launching spot, killing it twice on plastic bags, twice in a tuna net and once on a bottom of the ocean floor with no water for hours excursion.

Sadly, Leah didn’t seem too put off by the dolphin murders and moved on to pictures of non-dead looking whales and continued to do so until we found another interactive game---a design your own dolphin and see if they’d live game.

Not too worried that this trip was turning into a “create your own dolphin and whale demise adventure” we let Leah pick the size of the dolphin, the size of the whale’s tale and the positioning of the dorsal fin.

“Do you think it’s going to be able to swim to the top of the water Leah?” I asked, quite certain it would not seeing how the fin and the tail were placed almost side by side and the dolphin was the size of a cruiseliner in the middle.

“I think he'll swim to the bottom and eat there.”

And so she pressed the green button to loose the dolphin and watched as it, as predicted, fell quickly to the bottom of the ocean floor “to eat.”

“See daddy, it’s eating on the bottom. And it’s upside down.”

Next, my wife took a turn, making modifications to every setting. Her dolphin at least reached the surface before attempting to, and failing, jump out a la Free Willy. It bobbed on the surface for a moment before making its way down to eat with Leah’s dolphin.

Saving the day, I stepped up to the drawing board and used my ample marine intelligence to put everything exactly where it should be. My dolphin almost jumped out of the screen to kiss me it was so happy to have survived where his friends had not.

With a still good humoured family in tow, we moved to the next portion of the display---a massive model of a whale’s heart that was just big enough for a child to climb into and just small enough for an adult to not be able to climb into.

Leah spent minutes in there, crawling from one side to the next, always just out of reach. So, we took a peek at the rest of the exhibit while she educated herself on the inner workings of a whale heart.

Without a shred of doubt, my favourite part was the baleen display which looked like waves upon waves of wigs that had been left outside for too long. While she didn’t buy the idea, I suggested to my wife that I might try eating that way for a while. Kind of just taking the hair from one of my daughter’s dolls and gluing it to the roof of my mouth to filter my food. I was genuinely that impressed with it.

But, like all good things, our time at the castle had to come to an end, our knell sounding an awful lot like a hungry two-month old. But our time there was well spent and we’re likely to be back some other weekday morning.

Upon leaving, I asked Leah what her favourite part was.

“Just getting to spend time with you daddy,” was exactly what she didn’t say.

What she did say was:

“I liked feeding my dolphin at the bottom of the ocean.”

So at least she knows that dolphins live in the ocean.

Mike Reynolds (blog/Twitter) is an Ottawa born-and-raised husband and father to two beautiful girls. He’s obsessed with making sure his daughter says ‘daddy and mommy’ and not ‘mommy and daddy’ and with finding junk he thinks will one day be considered an antique. He also blogs about his admitted cluelessness when it comes to raising children.