Ottawa is a place to behold, and one that’s certainly worthy of its title as Canada’s capital city. This bustling metropolis is home to an abundance of conveniently located attractions, most of which are within 15 square miles. Unfortunately, many people wind up visiting more widely known Toronto or Vancouver before they have the chance to see Ottawa. Ottawa offers a humble, small-town feel within the comfortable contemporary confines of the big city. In this list, we’ll go over the top ten family attractions in Ottawa that every family would enjoy.
1. Rideau Canal
The Rideau Canal is easily the city’s most popular historic attraction. It offers exceptional sightseeing and recreational experiences for anyone who wants to enjoy nature without leaving the city. The waterway stretches for an impressive 125 miles. Constructed from 1826-1832, the canal served as central communication and supply route for Montreal, Kingston, Quebec, and beyond. During the winter, the canal freezes and becomes the world’s largest ice-skating rink.
This is also the only official UNESCO World Heritage site within city limits, making it more than deserving of a top spot on this list. The canal is only 10 minutes from Ottawa International Airport via route 79 North, which is great news for the majority of tourists who arrive by booking flights to Ottawa. FlyPorter.com is one platform that helps you find great value tickets for flights to Ottawa. You can look here for flight details and use their search feature to find cost-effective flights to the world’s most commonly visited cities. Porter Airlines are known for priding themselves on providing first class service at reasonable rates.
2. Gatineau Park
Once you’re done seeing the scenery along the city’s famous canal, why not venture 15 minutes outside of the downtown area to one of the county’s largest parks and nature reserves? Gatineau Park has more than 90,000 acres of beautiful land that provide access to numerous outdoor activities like cycling, hiking, camping, and skiing. One of the park’s highlights is the Mackenzie King Estate, an elaborate collection of houses and restored cottages surrounded by winding wooden paths and nestled in one of the region’s most scenic landscapes.
3. Canadian Museum of Nature
The Canadian Museum of Nature is easily the nation’s most impressive museum, containing more than 10 million individual artefacts and thousands of exhibits that tell a story of more than 4 billion years of the Earth’s history. If you like to check out dinosaur and fossil exhibits, this has to be the leading place in Canada for that, so this is a mandatory stop for nature, history, archaeology enthusiasts.
The Bird Gallery is one awe-inspiring section where you’ll find exhibits that show off Canada’s largest and most interesting bird species, both extinct and existent. As a bonus tip: the museum offers free admission from 5pm to 8pm on Thursdays year-round, and during the summer this deal is also available on Fridays.
4. Parliament Hill
You can’t visit the heart of Ottawa without noticing the three massive structures that make up Parliament Hill. Decisions are made here which govern the country’s political, economic, and social policies.
You might not care about what’s actually going on in these buildings, but they’re still worth seeing for their architecture and grandeur alone. The Parliament Hill complex has been well-maintained and restored over the years to keep its original aesthetic theme, causing many visitors to say that visiting this attraction feels like taking a journey back in time. It’s easy to understand why Parliament Hill would be rated one of the top ten family attractions in Ottawa.
5. Notre-Dame Cathedral
Whether or not you are religious in any way, the architecture and art found in Ottawa’s Notre-Dame Cathedral Basilica will be sure to inspire anyone who can appreciate human ingenuity. This is the city’s oldest church and is one of Canada’s top national historic sites. Located in close proximity to the next attraction on our list – the National Gallery of Canada – this is a stop that is included on most first-time itineraries in the city.
6. National Gallery of Canada
The National Gallery of Canada is one of the country’s most prestigious art galleries, containing work from globally known artists like Picasso, Michelangelo, and da Vinci. Of course, it’s only right that the gallery also showcase works from prominent Canadian artists like Plamondon and Légaré. The building itself is an incredible work of architecture – a glass structure that is both sleek and powerful in its appearance. In fact, many visitors say that the surrounding architecture is just as impressive as the interior of the gallery.
7. ByWard Market
ByWard Market is the city’s most unique and interesting shopping experience, providing access to hundreds of shops and stalls where you’ll encounter local Canadian cuisine and crafts that can’t be found anywhere else. For example, you must try a local favorite called poutine – French fries topped with gravy and cheese. This market is a wonderland of restaurants and boutiques, making it the most convenient attraction for experiencing all of Ottawa’s flavours and aromas in one place.
8. Canadian War Museum
Situated along the Ottawa River, the Canadian War Museum provides an in-depth look at the country’s involvement in The Indian War, French War, and both World Wars. This museum houses more than 3 million interesting artifacts that have been used in combat and by the Canadian military. The exhibits contain a wide variety of items, including weapons, medals, and uniforms. You can also see videos and audio recordings, rare military vehicles, and official documents like treaties and declarations of war.
9. Andrew Haydon Park
Visitors often overlook this beautiful park, so it is a hidden gem that is serene and peaceful. Andrew Haydon Park is situated along the banks of the Ottawa River and provides amazing scenery during the colourful days of autumn. With many bike trails and walking paths, it’s great place to enjoy relaxation and meditation, exercise, or a picnic. It’s very family-friendly, too.
10. Take a Guided City Tour
If you’d rather take a hands-off approach to developing your itinerary, sign up for a guided city tour instead. Each tour will take you through a specific area of the city. You can get a glimpse of everything Ottawa has to offer by booking two or three guided tours. Self-guided walking tours of Ottawa are also a great way to see the city. Choose tours that are of greatest interest to your family. After an introduction to the city’s main sights, you can then decide which attractions you want to re-visit.
Ottawa is an Underrated and Worthwhile Destination
As you can see by the top ten family attractions in Ottawa, there are plenty of interesting things to do. In fact, Ontario, as a whole, is worth an extended exploration. Try to plan a trip that will give you enough time to venture out of the city. Ultimately, Ottawa is one of the top three Canadian travel destinations, so it’s a place that every tourist should visit.
BY GUEST AUTHOR ROSANA BEECHUM
A passionate writer, Rosana enjoys travelling and sharing her experiences with the world. Her love of exploring and finding exciting new experiences to sample translates into her work, and her articles reflect an adventurous heart and a free spirit.
Loved Ottawa but I missed some things on your list. I’ll just have to return!