The Canadian capital of Ottawa is packed full of exciting things to do for kids and adults alike. When you're embarking on a vacation with your family, you'll need a variety of things to do that your little ones will also enjoy. That's easy to find in Ottawa with its mixture of indoor and outdoor activities lets you find fun no matter what the weather is. Whether you're interested in history, parks, museums, or more modern activities, you'll have no shortage of things to do in Canada's capital. Take a look at all the best things to do in Ottawa with kids.
Discover indoor kid activities in Ottawa
1. Cultivate learning at the Canadian Children's Museum
At the Canadian Children's Museum, you'll find a variety of exhibits that show off the diversity of Ottawa and Canada as a whole giving credit to the immigrants who built this country. Several different countries have their own sections, and children who visit can take a trip to each section, collecting stamps for their passport. Some of the included sections are Pakistan and Japan, which tend to be local favourites.
2. Explore flight at the Canada Aviation and Space Museum
Take your family to the Canada Aviation and Space Museum to explore the fascinating history of flight. You can see the aviation heritage through several interactive exhibits, including intact vintage aircraft. As if that wasn't enough, this museum also stages flights and demonstrations that are sure to delight everyone in your family regardless of how old they are. The length of history covered is quite expansive, starting at the infancy of human aviation, stretching to the modern age of high-speed jets.
3. See master artworks at the National Gallery of Canada
The National Gallery of Canada is a prestigious art gallery packed full of impressive pieces for art lovers to enjoy, but that's just the beginning. You'll also find an array of children's programming here, including interactive exhibits and workshops that your little ones can participate in. Additionally, this art gallery hosts a range of works by artists often overlooked in the mostly Euro-centric art world. Inuit and Indigenous art has a massive presence here, being one of the largest collections of its kind in the entire world.
4. Step into the past at the Canadian Museum of History
When you visit the Canadian Museum of History, you'll find a wide array of historical artifacts and exhibits you and your family can peruse. It focuses on Canada's history and what the land was before colonists from Europe arrived. First Nations history has a prominent role in the museum here with an imposing collection of towering totem poles, one of the largest indoor collections of its kind in the entire world. Of course, you can still find artifacts from historical civilizations in other parts of the world here as well, especially among typical temporary exhibitions.
5. Explore the science of farming at the Canada Agriculture and Food Museum
Whether your kids are interested in farming or just like to see animals and food, the Canada Agriculture and Food Museum offers fascinating experiences for the whole family. You'll learn all about how the agricultural processes work in Canada, showcasing the source of the food you eat. This includes the various bits of technology that have made farming and agriculture, in general, easier and far more efficient. Additionally, you'll find animal barns here, a favourite of visiting children, that are open all year long, making it easy to see common farm creatures.
6. Explore the capital with a Parliament Tour
While you're looking for kids activities in Ottawa, be sure to consider what just might be the most obvious. Since it's the capital city for the entire country, many important decisions are made right within the city. You can take your family on a tour of that process as well as the magnificent buildings they take place in by booking a Parliament Tour. You and your little ones can be taken through the various buildings and shown just how the government works, which is especially beneficial for kids who will grow up politically active.
7. Explore coin making at the Royal Canadian Mint
A trip to the Royal Canadian Mint can be downright fascinating for both adults and children. When taking the tour, you can see exactly how Canadian collector coins are made in a largely automated process involving advanced technology and techniques. As part of the tour, you also get to hold a solid gold bar used during the mint process of gold coins and see the million-dollar coin, a massive 100 kg coin with a 99.999% purity gold composition.
8. Explore wildlife at the Canadian Museum of Nature
When you visit the Canadian Museum of Nature, you can explore a wide variety of wildlife both contemporary and prehistoric. The mammal gallery is especially impressive, thanks to its collection of native Canadian mammals. You'll find all sorts of information available about bison, caribou, and moose. Additionally, you can visit the Fossil Gallery, a favourite for children. There, you'll find an extensive collection of dinosaur fossils showcasing the sheer size and fascinating biological makeup of these prehistoric reptiles.
Outdoor kids activities in Ottawa
9. Skate along the Rideau Canal Skateway
If you're looking for outdoor fun during the winter, there's nothing quite like the Rideau Canal Skateway. Open from January to March, depending on the weather, you can skate a massive naturally-frozen ice skating rink with more than 8 kilometres of surface to skate on. Skating itself is completely free, so visiting this rink won't cost you a thing if you have your own skates. If you don't, you can rent skates on-site, and the rentals are affordable.
10. See the outdoors at Parliament Hill
When you're visiting Parliament Hill, it's important to take in the scenic outdoor areas. While the green hills and stunning views are worthwhile alone, you can also see the changing of the guard every morning during the summer, complete with a band and pipers. Additionally, you can participate in yoga on the lawn every Wednesday during the summer, in which virtually countless people take part, and everyone is invited.
11. Trek through the Capital Pathway
If your family is looking for more active kids activities in Ottawa, try out the Capital Pathway. This extensive pathway network stretches more than 200 kilometres in total, but you don't have to traverse it all to enjoy it. You'll find the path stretches through several areas in and around Ottawa, perfect for a walk, jog, or bike ride. Most of the path is paved, so the trail itself is easy to traverse, though you'll find some off-road sections. Those sections, however, can be easily avoided if you prefer.
12. Shop around ByWard Market
ByWard Market is one of the most iconic marketplaces in Ottawa and even Canada at large. It's open every day except for 2 holidays, and you can find virtually anything imaginable on offer among its up to 175 stalls. You'll find a lot of produce, as the market is largely a farmers' market, but you can also find an array of homemade crafts from local artists that you won't be able to find anywhere else. Of course, plenty of items for kids are available as well, like clothes and toys.
Family events in Ottawa
13. Embrace winter with Winterlude in February
Winterlude is a popular annual festival held every February packed full of exciting attractions and events that the whole family can enjoy. Many snow-oriented activities are available, including ice skating, ice sliding, and perusing snow sculptures. There's even an ice sculpture competition held here. Keep in mind that while the festival itself lasts for several weeks, it's only actively happening during the weekend, so plan your trip with that in mind.
14. See the blooms at the Canadian Tulip Festival
If you're looking to attend the Canadian Tulip Festival, your family will need to be in Ottawa around the end of May. When you visit, you'll be able to see a massive array of vibrant and colourful tulips making this one of the largest tulip festivals in the entire world. 300,000 of the flowers are planted along the shores of Dow's lake alone. Keep in mind that this festival exists to honour Canada's efforts in liberating the Netherlands in World War II, a country known for its tulips. A large number of the tulips at the festival are Dutch in origin.
Places to eat in Ottawa for kids
15. Sate your sweet tooth at Holland's Cake and Shake
If you're looking for something sweet to eat, Holland's Cake and Shake has got you covered. You'll find a variety of specialty cakes available here, along with a variety of other baked goods. The chef is Michael Holland, a 20 year veteran of the industry with a passion for fresh ingredients and an inventive approach to desserts. While sweet treats are available in excess here, you'll also find an array of savoury options as well to try. Many of the ingredients used are certainly unusual, but classic favourites are always available for your little ones.
16. Grab a bagel at Ottawa Bagelshop
While the name at Ottawa Bagelshop is certainly simple, the flavor they offer is anything but. Here, you'll find delicious, top-quality bagels just like you would in Montreal, along with deli sandwiches and other items that the whole family can enjoy. The bagels here are all freshly baked every day. It begins by hand-rolling the dough, which is then followed by boiling it in honey water. Afterwards, the bagels are finished off in a rustic wood-burning oven.