I will be the first to admit, Ottawa wouldn’t have been top of my list for places to visit as a family, but I can’t believe how wrong I was! We were bowled over by the number of things there were to do in Ottawa with kids, and how many amazing places there were to visit as a family. I also, shamefully, never knew that Ottawa was Canada’s capital! (Anyone else?!) It is located on the borders of both Ontario and Quebec, its name comes from the word “Trade” and is just 20 minutes from the International airport.
I now fondly refer to Ottawa as the holiday of 2 halves, because you could visit twice in one year and have a totally different holiday experience each time. Winter holds some incredible experiences for visitors, all of which are hugely different to that of a summer visit. The spectacular Winterlude Festival celebration would have to be one of the highlights, with the world-famous Rideau Canal skateway (the world’s largest skating rink!) and many attractions to enjoy, as well as cross-country skiing, dog sledging and much more. But these are the things that may come to mind when you think of Canada, so I wanted to share some amazing things to do in Ottawa with kids in the Spring and Summer months, and why I think it could be the perfect short break for families.
Things To Do In Ottawa With Kids.
We were staying in this area at Les Suites, which were brilliant condominium-sized suites, and it was a great location to have as a base to explore around. Byward is really the heart of Ottawa and is a lively home some fantastic art, historic landmarks and meeting places, as well as a fantastic farmers market selling fresh and artisan produce. It comes alive even more so in the evening, buzzing with tonnes of eateries and both stylish and rustic bars which keep the place vibrant, serving up local brews and iconic Pho. Don’t forget while you’re here to pick up a BeaverTail to enjoy with a delicious coffee!
Canadian Museum Of Nature
This would have to be our favourite indoor activity during our trip, the Museum was brilliantly interactive, hands on for children and was filled with dinosaurs, wildlife, and nature, and a jaw dropping blue whale skeleton on display! There’s an amazing Pterosaur exhibition if you’re visiting from June onwards this summer as well as a dazzling display of minerals in the Earth Gallery.
Parliament Hill is home to the federal government, a very similar building to our own House Of Commons and Big Ben. The architecture is fantastic, and it sits proudly atop the hill. You can actually go on a guided tour of the brand-new House of Commons too, which has been relocated to the West Block whilst huge renovations are completed. Free yoga also runs Wednesdays at noon on the front lawn with the stunning backdrop of Parliament Hill and at sundown every Monday in August 8-9 pm. Try and catch the changing of the guard while you’re here, and the Northern Lights Sound and Light show, projected onto Parliament Hill, great fun for children and adults to watch.
Bike ride the city
This was one of our favourite activities because we got to see so much of the city and neighbouring districts; there are 800km of pathways across Ottawa! We picked up our bikes at Escape Bicycle Tours and got a trailer for the children. We cycled along the Rideau Canal, a World Heritage site, all the way to Dow’s lake Marina. Stopping off at Landsdowne Park for the children to have some free play, before stopping again at the Glebe for lunch.
Once you have worked up a bit of an appetite, head to the Glebe to have a wander around. I knew I would love this area, relaxed, friendly and home to many murals and graffit artwork. It’s great for a stroll, a shop and of course a delicious Kettleman’s Bagel Co.
An absolute highlight of our visit, the Canadian Tulip Festival runs May 10-20th and is an incredible thing to witness if you are visiting around this time. The Tulip Festival 2020 will mark the 75th anniversary of the first gift of tulips given by the Royal Dutch Family, who were given shelter during WWII as well as for the troops’ work in liberating the Netherlands during the war. You will find over a million tulips in beds all over the city, with the main action centred around Commissioner’s Park and Dow’s Lake. They are a sight to behold and a very special memory you’ll take away with you.
Ottawa Race Weekend
More than 33,000 runners participate in the largest multi-distance race event in Canada! Distances run from a half marathon to a kid’s run so it’s a great event to take part in as a family.
Canadian Museum Of History
Just 5 minutes from Parliament Hill, this iconic museum is an architectural gem filled with astonishing exhibits, such as the Neanderthal display and the world’s largest collection of totem poles. Within this stunning building lies the fantastic Children’s Museum. A huge journey though the countries of the world, providing extensive, interactive activities for children to enjoy. This really is an amazing place to visit in Ottawa with kids – we went twice!
A great place for family outdoor activities which include kayaking, paddle boating and of course come the winter ice skating and sleds.
Take a tour
I’ve said it before over here, but I think the best way of seeing a city when you’re short on time is to take a bus tour. Get the “hop on, hop off” bus tour and enjoy seeing the city from a height and seeing all the sights in one morning to get your bearings before going back to explore more in-depth another time. The city tour runs in a continuous circle daily from 10:00am with the last departure leaving at 4:00pm (It also goes down to Dow’s Lake if you’re looking to go there)
Head to Britannia Beach with Ottawa City Rafting to take part in this exhilarating adventure! Make sure you wear clothes you can get wet and take a change of clothes in a dry bag. The Ottawa river boasts some of the world’s best white-water rafting. Pick ups from your hotel are available and it’s just 15 minutes from downtown to Britannia Park.
Ottawa is a great, social town, with plenty of family friendly places to eat and drink. Grab an authentic Italian pizza to share at the trendy Grand, with great views out onto Byward Market and delicious food for families and couples alike. Or enjoy a brilliantly themed restaurant with a fun atmosphere at Zak’s Diner – don’t forget to try the best ‘shakes in town! Or simply enjoy a coffee and macaron from Quelque Chose. You wont run out of delicious places to eat in Ottawa with kids!
Ottawa is a fantastic mix of cultural excitement and outdoor fun which is easy to explore on foot. There are so many things to do in Ottawa with kids, and with the flight from the UK being less than 7 hours it makes a brilliant choice for a family holiday and one of the best places to visit in Canada – at any time of the year!
Have you ever been to Ottawa?
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