Unleash Your Inner Explorer: Things to Do in Ottawa
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Unleash Your Inner Explorer: Things to Do in Ottawa

Getaway Staff

Ottawa, the capital city of Canada, is a treasure trove of experiences waiting to be discovered. With its rich history, vibrant culture, and stunning landscapes, Ottawa offers a unique blend of old-world charm and modern sophistication. Whether you're a history buff, a nature lover, or an art enthusiast, Ottawa has something for everyone. From the grandeur of Parliament Hill to the bustling ByWard Market, the tranquil Rideau Canal to the inspiring National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa is a city that invites exploration and leaves visitors with unforgettable memories. So, pack your bags, put on your explorer's hat, and get ready to discover the top things to do in Ottawa, ON. This city is a canvas of beautiful experiences painted with the brushstrokes of history, culture, and natural beauty. It's a city that's alive with energy and filled with friendly faces, ready to welcome you to its heart.


01 Visit Parliament Hill

Parliament Hill in Ottawa Pgiam / Getty Images

Parliament Hill isn't just a cluster of impressive buildings; it's the beating heart of Canada's political life. Here, you can witness the Changing of the Guard ceremony, a spectacle that rivals its London counterpart. If you're lucky, you might even spot Prime Minister Justin Trudeau joining a yoga session on the lawn! The free tours of the Parliament buildings are a must-do, offering a fascinating insight into Canada's political history and governance. The Gothic Revival-style architecture is a sight to behold, and the panoramic view of the city from the Peace Tower is simply breathtaking. Whether you're a political enthusiast or just a curious traveler, visiting Parliament Hill will give you a deeper understanding of Canada's political landscape.


02 Explore ByWard Market

byward market interior Walter Bibikow / Getty Images

The ByWard Market is one of Canada's oldest public markets, dating back to 1826. This bustling marketplace is a foodie's paradise, offering a smorgasbord of fresh produce, artisan cheeses, and mouth-watering pastries. But it's not just about food; the market is also home to a plethora of boutiques, galleries, and restaurants. Don't forget to check out the vibrant Laval Street in Gatineau, a trendy spot filled with patios and a unique art installation of colorful umbrellas. The market's lively atmosphere is infectious, and the array of goods on offer is a testament to Ottawa's multicultural fabric. From locally made crafts to international delicacies, ByWard Market is a microcosm of Ottawa's diverse and vibrant culture.


03 Visit the Rideau Canal and Bytown Museum

Rideau Canal at Sunset ChristopheLedent / Getty Images

The Rideau Canal, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is a marvel of 19th-century engineering. In the summer, you can explore the canal on a leisurely boat cruise, while winter transforms it into the world's largest skating rink. Adjacent to the canal, the Bytown Museum offers a deep dive into Ottawa's history, from its early days as Bytown to its evolution into Canada's capital. The museum's exhibits are a journey through time, showcasing the city's transformation from a humble lumber town to a bustling metropolis. Whether you're cruising down the canal or exploring the museum, a visit to the Rideau Canal and Bytown Museum is a journey into the heart of Ottawa's past.


04 Take a tour of the Ottawa River

Ottawa River and the Supreme Court from Nepean Point ChristopheLedent / Getty Images

The Ottawa River is more than just a body of water; it's a gateway to adventure. From whitewater rafting for adrenaline junkies to serene boat cruises for those seeking relaxation, the river offers a variety of experiences. Don't miss the chance to see the city from a different perspective as you glide along its waters. The river's natural beauty is a sight to behold, with lush greenery lining its banks and a variety of wildlife calling it home. A boat cruise on the Ottawa River is not just a fun activity; it's a chance to connect with nature and experience the city's scenic beauty.


05 Check out the National Gallery of Canada

National Gallery of Canada aimintang / Getty Images

The National Gallery of Canada is a haven for art lovers. Its extensive collection of Canadian art is housed in a striking structure that's a work of art in itself. Outside, the giant spider sculpture, Maman, is a popular attraction and a great photo opportunity. The gallery's collection spans centuries, featuring works from renowned Canadian artists like Tom Thomson and Emily Carr. Whether you're an art aficionado or a casual observer, the National Gallery of Canada offers a visual feast that's sure to inspire and captivate.


06 Explore the city on a bike tour

biking through ottawa reesolsky / Getty Images

Ottawa is a bike-friendly city with plenty of cycling trails and dedicated lanes. Rent a bike and explore the city at your own pace, taking in the sights and sounds of the capital. Whether you're cycling along the Rideau Canal or through Gatineau Park, you're sure to enjoy this healthy and eco-friendly way to sightsee. Ottawa's bike paths wind through some of the city's most scenic areas, offering stunning views and a unique perspective on the city. So, strap on your helmet, hop on a bike, and get ready to discover Ottawa on two wheels!


07 Have a drink at Tavern on the Hill

Tavern on the Hill offers more than just gourmet hot dogs and refreshing drinks. This popular spot boasts a stunning view of Rideau Falls, where the Rideau River empties into the Ottawa River. It's the perfect place to unwind after a day of exploration. The tavern's relaxed atmosphere and friendly service make it a favorite among locals and tourists alike. Whether you're sipping on a craft beer or enjoying a delicious hot dog, the Tavern on the Hill is a great place to soak in the city's vibe and enjoy some of the best views in town.


08 Visit the Canadian Museum of History

canadian museum of history Walter Bibikow / Getty Images

The Canadian Museum of History is a must-visit for history buffs. From the First People's Hall celebrating the history of the First Nations to The Canadian History Hall showcasing important moments in Canadian history and famous Canadian personalities, the museum offers a comprehensive look at the country's past. The museum's architecture is a masterpiece in itself, with its curving lines and towering totem poles reflecting Canada's rich cultural heritage. A visit to the Canadian Museum of History is not just a trip down memory lane; it's a journey into the heart of Canada's identity.


09 Visit the Canadian War Museum

Exploring Ottawa's Historic Charm George Rose / Getty Images

The Canadian War Museum is a poignant tribute to Canada's military history. The museum's exhibits cover everything from the First World War to recent conflicts, offering a sobering look at the realities of war. The museum's architecture, with its concrete and copper exterior, is designed to reflect the themes of regeneration and hope. Inside, the Regeneration Hall offers a stunning view of the Parliament buildings, serving as a reminder of the peace and freedom that the country's military personnel fought to protect.


10 See the National War Memorial

Canadian Remembrance Day Ceremony Held At War Memorial In Ottawa Mike Carroccetto / Stringer / Getty Images

The National War Memorial is a powerful symbol of the sacrifices made by Canada's military personnel. The monument, which features a granite arch and bronze figures, is a place of reflection and remembrance. The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, located at the base of the memorial, serves as a poignant reminder of the soldiers who gave their lives for their country. Whether you're attending the Remembrance Day ceremony or visiting on a quiet afternoon, the National War Memorial is a place of solemn respect and gratitude.


11 Relax in Confederation Park

Fountain in park MikeyGen73 / Getty Images

Confederation Park is a green oasis in the heart of the city. It's the perfect place to relax, enjoy a picnic, or simply watch the world go by. The park is also home to several monuments and hosts various festivals throughout the year. The park's tranquil setting, with its beautiful fountains and well-manicured gardens, offers a peaceful retreat from the city's hustle and bustle. Whether you're enjoying a leisurely stroll, reading a book under a shady tree, or taking part in a festival, Confederation Park is a breath of fresh air in the heart of the city.


12 Discover the Fairmont Château Laurier

Ottawa, World War I Memorial Cenotaph peterspiro / Getty Images

The Fairmont Château Laurier is more than just a hotel; it's a piece of Canada's history. This grand edifice has welcomed royalty, celebrities, and world leaders since 1912. Even if you're not staying here, it's worth visiting for its historic display and stunning views of the Rideau Canal. The hotel's elegant interiors, with their ornate woodwork and grand chandeliers, transport you back to a bygone era of luxury and refinement. Whether you're enjoying afternoon tea in the grand lounge or admiring the view from the terrace, a visit to the Fairmont Château Laurier is a step back in time.


13 Shop along Sparks Street

Old fashioned shop frontage and street Design Pics / Getty Images

Sparks Street is Ottawa's pedestrian street, offering a variety of shops, restaurants, and boutiques. It's also home to the Riviera Restaurant, voted one of the best restaurants in Canada by enRoute Magazine. The street's lively atmosphere, with its street performers and outdoor patios, makes it a popular spot for locals and tourists alike. Whether you're shopping for unique souvenirs, enjoying a meal at one of the many restaurants, or simply people-watching, Sparks Street is a vibrant and dynamic part of Ottawa's downtown core.


14 Go on the Haunted Walk of Ottawa

For something a little different, join the Haunted Walk of Ottawa. This guided tour takes you through the city's most haunted spots, sharing chilling tales of ghost sightings and unexplained phenomena. The tour's knowledgeable guides, dressed in cloaks and carrying lanterns, add to the eerie atmosphere. Whether you're a believer in the supernatural or just enjoy a good ghost story, the Haunted Walk of Ottawa offers a unique and thrilling way to explore the city's darker side.


15 Cross the Corktown Footbridge

footbridge NicolasMcComber / Getty Images

The Corktown Footbridge is a pedestrian bridge that offers stunning views of the city. It's a popular spot for locals and tourists alike, and it's especially beautiful at sunset. The bridge, with its unique design and panoramic views, is a favorite spot for photographers. Whether you're crossing the bridge on your way to another destination or simply enjoying the view, the Corktown Footbridge is a testament to Ottawa's commitment to pedestrian-friendly urban design.


16 Explore the Canadian Science and Technology Museum

The Canadian Science and Technology Museum is a fun and educational experience for all ages. The museum's interactive exhibits cover a wide range of topics, from space exploration to the history of technology. The museum's hands-on approach to learning makes it a hit with kids and adults alike. Whether you're exploring the universe in the planetarium, learning about the history of computers, or discovering the science behind everyday objects, the Canadian Science and Technology Museum offers a world of discovery.


17 Check out the Library and Archives of Canada

library Mike Steinhauer / Getty Images

The Library and Archives of Canada is a treasure trove of information. Whether you're researching your family history or simply interested in Canada's past, this is a must-visit. The library's vast collection, which includes books, maps, photographs, and more, is a testament to Canada's rich and diverse history. Whether you're delving into your genealogy, researching a historical event, or simply browsing the collection, the Library and Archives of Canada offers a wealth of knowledge at your fingertips.


18 Watch a game at the Canadian Tire Centre

Montreal Canadiens v Ottawa Senators Mike Steinhauer / Getty Images

If you're a sports fan, don't miss the chance to watch a game at the Canadian Tire Centre, home of the Ottawa Senators. The atmosphere is electric, and it's a great way to experience Canadian culture. The arena's state-of-the-art facilities and passionate fans make it a premier destination for hockey. Whether you're cheering on the Senators or enjoying a concert, a visit to the Canadian Tire Centre is a high-energy, unforgettable experience.


19 Visit Notre Dame Cathedral Basilica

Ottawa Notre Dame Basilica rabbit75_ist / Getty Images

The Notre Dame Cathedral Basilica is a stunning example of Gothic Revival architecture. Its intricate stained glass windows and ornate interior are sure to leave you in awe. The cathedral's grandeur, with its soaring spires and intricate carvings, is a testament to the skill and craftsmanship of its builders. Whether you're attending a service, exploring the cathedral's rich history, or simply admiring its beauty, a visit to the Notre Dame Cathedral Basilica is a spiritual and aesthetic journey.


20 Check Out the Canadian Museum of Nature

The Canadian Museum of Nature is a must-visit for nature lovers. Its exhibits cover everything from dinosaurs to minerals, offering a fascinating look at the natural world. The museum's interactive exhibits, live animal displays, and stunning dioramas bring nature to life, offering a fun and educational experience for all ages. Whether you're exploring the dinosaur exhibit, marveling at the butterfly collection, or learning about Canada's diverse ecosystems, the Canadian Museum of Nature offers a world of discovery.


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