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Things to do in Ottawa with Kids – Family Fun Guide to Canada’s Capital

By Neha Kulshrestha  
Things to do in Ottawa with Kids

Ottawa loves kids! I guess that sums up everything. Rain or Shine, there’s no shortage of things to do in Ottawa with kids.

The capital of Canada, Ottawa is as charming as its Victorian architecture. From historic or cultural attractions to outdoorsy fun and everything that lures family travelers, Ottawa has heaps of awesome things to do and see with the family. In short, Canada’s crown, Ottawa cuts out to be a best family travel destination.

THINGS TO DO IN OTTAWA WITH KIDS

Our guide to Ottawa will give you suggestions for what to see and do, where to eat, where to stay and how to get around the attractive capital when traveling with kids.

1. EXPLORE PARLIAMENT HILL

The most prominent structure or should I say the heart of Ottawa city is Parliament Hill. The political hub of the city is a gorgeous structure sitting on the top of a hill on banks of river Ottawa. Three magnificent structures adorned around the sides of a huge lawn. The heart of the parliament is the Center block while the arms on two sides are the East and West block.

There are free bilingual tours in English and French available for the Center and the East block. Since we visited in summer which is the peak tourist season, we had to go in an hour early of opening to get tickets for desired time slots.

If you are awed by the magnificence of the outdoor then wait to see the grandeur of indoor.

We began our tour from the East block, office of the parliamentarians. After a strenuous screening, we entered the building into a grand staircase. Climbing up our way we were eagerly waiting to explore the 150-year-old history. It was impressive to see that rooms of famous personalities from the 19th century like first Prime minister, Governor-general, have been restored with some original furniture to give a glimpse into their opulence.

It was fascinating to hear the stories of these icons and their offices. The more powerful the personality, bigger would be his office space and luxurious the upholstery. While, not only the space and furniture would show the prominence, but the design and detailed work on the ceiling or the placement of the fireplace as well. Isn’t that amazing???

Things to do in Ottawa with Kids Parliament Hill

Parliament Hill, East Block

Continuing our quest, we made our way to the Center block – the heart of the Parliament. A two-level security check is required to go in. The center block houses the Senate, the House of Commons (Members of parliament) and the beautiful library.

Beginning the tour, we entered a big hall with marble interiors, intricate carvings on the pillars and beautiful stained-glass window. The hall leads to the House of Commons, whose members are democratically elected and called Members of Parliament. The chamber is decorated in green color. The governing party sits on one side of the speaker with Prime Minister in the front row while the opposition on other. The interiors are decorated with stained-glass windows on both sides depicting flora and fauna of the states.

The interiors of the Senate are red in color to represent the British monarchy. There are many symbols in the Senate chamber and at its entrance representing the monarchy. In fact, there are chairs for the monarch and their consort behind the speaker’s chair. Interestingly, the ceiling at the entrance has stained glass depicting many royal symbols.

Things to do in Ottawa with Kids Senate Parliament Hill

Senate

There are paintings of monarchs in the foyer and the guide told us that the painting of Queen Victoria was partially burned in a fire and the burnt portion was cut and framed back.

The most exquisite room in the Center block is the Library which welcomes you with a huge white marble statue of Queen Victoria. The most striking feature of the library is the extensive use of wood with ornate carvings. The circular room with huge dome-shaped ceiling and intricate woodwork is an architectural marvel. We were awed by its beauty and wondered if we could sit and read there.

Walking in the arched hallways, admiring the detailed carvings and artwork, reminiscing the told and untold stories, we felt lucky to have witnessed the 150-year-old historical marvel up and close.

P.S. The Center block will get closed in 2018 for about 10 years as a part of the rehabilitation project.

2. PANORAMIC VIEW OF THE CITY FROM THE HIGHEST POINT IN OTTAWA

Climb the observation deck of Peace Tower to enjoy the mesmerizing view of the Ottawa city.

Things to do in Ottawa with kids

3. WITNESS THE CHANGING OF THE GUARD CEREMONY

Kids are sure to love the vibrant spectacle of changing of the guard ceremony which takes place at Parliament Hill every morning during summer (June-August).

Things to do in Ottawa with Kids Change of Guard Ceremony Parliament Hill

Change of Guard Ceremony at Parliament Hill Photo: wpoeschl (CC)

4. CATCH THE NORTHERN LIGHTS SOUND AND LIGHT SHOW

Evenings at Parliament Hill are filled with music, words, and grandeur. Summer evenings pull guests to the Parliament Hill to witness the Light and Sound Show that depicts the history of Canada. We visited when Canada was celebrating 150 years and witnessed a spectacular Casino du Lac-Leamy Sound of Light Show depicting the journey of Canada. The spectacular visuals with bold narration and impressive background music leave you spellbound.  The fireworks light up Ottawa’s sky above the Ottawa River. The timing of the show varies from every month from July to September. I would highly recommend it but do take blankets and chairs to sit and enjoy the adventure.

Things to do in Ottawa with Kids Parliament Hill Northern Lights Light and Sound Show

Northern Lights Light and Sound Show at Parliament Hill

5. VISIT NATIONAL GALLERY OF CANADA

The National Gallery of Canada displays world-class art which attracts the art-lovers across the world. It certainly is a great place for kids to learn more about the art and culture of Canada. The Giant bronze sculpture of Spider just outside the gallery captivates kids more than anything 🙂

Check the free admission days here to save some money.

Things to do in Ottawa with Kids National Gallery of Canada

A giant bronze sculpture of Spider at National Gallery of Canada

6. CHILDREN’S MUSEUM AT CANADIAN MUSEUM OF HISTORY

The Children’s Museum makes the kids explore the world in their own way. Kids learn while having fun. They through varied exhibitions, props, costumes, a collection of toys and games and artifacts learn about art, culture, and history.

The museum features objects from different countries like auto-rickshaw from Thailand, a local bus from Pakistan and many more. A must visit when traveling with kids!

Things to do in Ottawa with kids Canadian Museum of History

Canadian Museum of History Photo: Aurusdorus (CC)

7. ROYAL CANADIAN MINT

The guided tour of Royal Canadian Mint in French or English is a great way to learn how coins are made. Interestingly, you get to touch and hold the world’s first million dollar coin here. The tickets cost around USD 8 per person and tour timings are from 10 in the morning to 4 in the evening. We’d recommend booking the tour in advance.

8. RIDEAU CANAL

The UNESCO World Heritage Site and a National Historic Site of Canada, the Rideau Canal connects Kingston, Ontario, to Ottawa with its many lakes, and rivers. You can leisurely walk along its beautiful green banks.

Cycle lovers can rent a bike to explore the canal by riding a bicycle along the dedicated pathways running on both sides of the canal.

If you happen to visit in May, you’d be lucky to see the tulips bloom along the canal. That’s when the Canadian Tulip Festival is celebrated.

To get the different perspective of the capital of Canada, take a Rideau Canal Cruise that takes you from downtown to Dows Lake. They use the eco-friendly electric boats, to tell you if you too believe in responsible tourism like us.

Canoeing and Kayaking are popular ways to explore the canal from spring through fall.

Located in the oldest stone building of Ottawa on the canal, Bytown Museum showcases the history of the creation of the canal. See the way Ottawa Locks (gates to make the water navigable) are operated the way they were 200 years back, manually.

Things to do in Ottawa with Kids Ottawa Locks Rideau Canal

Rideau Canal

A set of eight locks can be walked over when closed. Enjoy a stroll past the Ottawa Locks along the popular Château Laurier Hotel towards the Sussex drive or look down on the Ottawa Locks from the Plaza Bridge.

The canal is metamorphosed into a Rideau Canal Skateway in the winter when the canal is frozen. It’s known to be the world’s largest skating rink and guess what, it’s absolutely free!

Rideau Hall, the official residence of the governor general of Canada is open to the public and can be explored by taking free guided tours. You must explore the phenomenal and royal heritage gardens.

9. NOTRE DAME CATHEDRAL BASILICA

The largest and oldest in Ottawa, Notre Dame Cathedral is not to be missed. The silver twin spires, bell towers, and mesh windows add charm to Ottawa’s skyline. Not to mention the lavishly adorned interior of the basilica with intricate carvings and vibrant textures is one of the finest in the country.

Things to do in Ottawa with Kids Notre-Dame Cathedral Basilica Ottawa Canada

Notre-Dame Cathedral Basilica

From May through October, guided tours are available on prior reservations. It’s open to visitors daily unless closed for the funerals or weddings. Hours vary according to the seasons and days of the week.

10. MAJOR’S HILL PARK

Ottawa’s first park, Major’s Hill Park is a perfect place to relax in between the exploration. It, being Ottawa’s main venue, hosts several important and big events like Canada Day. But for us, it was the oasis of peace amidst all the hustle and bustle of the capital city.

things to do in Ottawa with Kids

11. EAT AND SHOP AT BYWARD MARKET

One of the oldest and largest public markets in Canada, Byward market houses the historic farmer’s market, cafes, restaurants, and shops. With over 600 shops, you are sure to have an ultimate shopping experience.

We recommend buying a local craft and tasting a Canadian Maple Syrup.

12. GATINEAU PARK

Head to Gatineau Park for all the outdoorsy fun with kids. The park offers outdoor adventure activities like swimming, geocaching, camping, hiking, and cycling. You can get your nature fix while the kids engage in activities.

Things to do in Ottawa with Kids Gatineau Park

Gatineau Park Photo: John Arano (CC)

Do not miss the amazing umbrella display at Laval Street in Gatineau.

13. ECO-ODYSSEE

Kids need to experience Canadian nature when in Canada! Isn’t it? Take them to Eco-Odyssee! It’s a great place for kids to learn and experience the marshland/wetland habitat in a fun way. It’s located on the other side of the Ottawa river so technically a part of western Quebec, Canada.

GETTING AROUND OTTAWA

Ottawa is one of the effortless cities to get around. Public Transportation is smooth and their dedicated paved pathways make it easy to walk or cycle around the city without the concern and hassle of navigating through the power-driven traffic.

You can easily explore the city on foot and/or rent a bike.

Things to do in Ottawa with Kids Explore on Bike

Explore Ottawa on Bike Photo: Alesia Kazantceva (CC)

There are numerous car rental options to choose from but the reservations should be made in advance. Taxis and Limousine Services are expensive enough to blow your travel budget so wouldn’t recommend. Uber can be an affordable way to get around Ottawa.

OC Transpo and STO are the bus systems in Ottawa that operate buses in Ottawa-Carleton and Outaouais region respectively.

Water Shuttle Services or Aqua-Taxi is another way to navigate Ottawa. They have short and long trips and run between major attractions or sites.

WHAT AND WHERE TO EAT IN OTTAWA

Food so fresh that you could feel the flavors of each and every ingredient. It’s Freshii. A perfect place for travelers who prefer healthy and vegan food options.

East India Company Restaurant offers an elaborate Indian Dinner Buffet with a variety of pickles, chutneys, and desserts. Highly recommended, even if you aren’t a fan of Indian Food. Try it!

Things to do in Ottawa with Kids Buffet at East India Company Restaurant

Dinner Buffet at East India Company Restaurant

ByWard Market is a great place to eat. Sample the delicious Canadian staple sugary treat at BeaverTails Pastries at ByWard Market.

WHERE TO STAY IN OTTAWA

Located in downtown, The Westin Ottawa is one of the most family friendly hotels in Ottawa, Canada. The huge floor to ceiling windows offers a beautiful view of the city from the rooms. The hotel has separate kid’s menu and indoor swimming pool with outdoor seating area. It’s directly connected to the shopping mall through an indoor walkway from the third floor and the proximity to many famous tourist attractions makes exploration easy for you. Highly recommended.

Get special deals and offers on hotels in Ottawa here.

We flipped through just a page or two of a book called Ottawa because of the time constraints. It being the political hub isn’t stodgy and stern as you may think but a great fun city to visit with family.

Things to do in Ottawa with kids

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24 Comments

  • Reply
    Kristin @ Camels & Chocolate
    December 8, 2017 at 7:03 am

    It was a big year for Canada, huh (or should I say, “ay?” 😉 ) I’ve never actually been to Ottawa but wrote some advertorials for the city for the big 150 and now my interest is piqued!

    • Reply
      Neha Kulshrestha
      December 8, 2017 at 3:35 pm

      Oh yes, and it was amazing the way they celebrated it with such grandeur. The light and sound show played the history of Canada and it was amazing. What an impressive video and sounds.

  • Reply
    Hazel
    December 8, 2017 at 7:16 am

    Wow! Your photographs are incredible! It looks like you had a fabulous time. The buildings really remind me of some of the architecture here in the U.K., having not been to Canada I hadn’t realised how similar they might be! Canada definitely on my list – such a shame this will be shut by the time I get there, I would have loved to have seen it in the flesh

    • Reply
      Neha Kulshrestha
      December 8, 2017 at 3:25 pm

      Thanks a lot. Yes we had a wonderful time exploring Ottawa and other places in Canada. In fact there is a major influence from UK because of the monarchy. It was clear when we toured and the guide even told that they had taken influences from the British Parliament while construction. So many symbols of British monarchy were visible.
      Yes it would be disappointing for tourists to not able to see the grandeur up close for a few years. But there is much more to see and enjoy in Ottawa. Will have a post on that soon.

  • Reply
    Unta
    December 8, 2017 at 9:42 am

    Stunning architecture, I would like to experience light and sound show. 🙂

    • Reply
      Neha Kulshrestha
      December 8, 2017 at 3:19 pm

      Yes indeed very beautiful. The light and sound show was the highlight, but its only in summer for 3 months. So you must check the timings before you plan.

  • Reply
    Diana Chen
    December 8, 2017 at 1:56 pm

    I remember taking a tour of the Parliament building in Ottawa when I was 13 or 14 years old and being awed by the grandeur of the place. I can’t even imagine coming to work here every day. So glad to have come across your post as I’d forgotten about a lot of the history already and loved having the refresher.

    • Reply
      Neha Kulshrestha
      December 8, 2017 at 3:18 pm

      Oh yes we were even awed by the place and amazed to hear some interesting stories regarding the personalities and their rooms. I am glad it helped you refresh your wonderful memories.

  • Reply
    Nana - PatagoniaDreaming
    December 8, 2017 at 4:32 pm

    It is not easy to take photos indoors, but I think you did a very good job! Impressive to think all this was made by humans at that time when technology wasnt that developed! Just read – its going to be closed for 10 years ???

    • Reply
      Neha Kulshrestha
      December 8, 2017 at 8:45 pm

      Thanks a lot for those kind words. Ture, the architecture of old times is so impressive with such fine details.
      Yes, the buildings in Parliament precinct are getting renovated in phases, the centre block gets closed in 2018 for estimated 10 years. very sad indeed. 🙁

  • Reply
    Farah Al Zadjaly
    December 8, 2017 at 4:41 pm

    This is beautifully put together. It reminds of my England 🙂 I definitely to check it out next year. Keep up the great work.

    • Reply
      Neha Kulshrestha
      December 8, 2017 at 8:39 pm

      Thanks for the kind words. I am humbled. Sure you should visit, let me know in case you need any help.

  • Reply
    Janine Good
    December 8, 2017 at 6:17 pm

    I have been to Ottawa many times being a Torontonian! My favourite is the library. Such a gorgeous place that is so lucky to be still standing. You have captured the Capital beautifully.

    • Reply
      Neha Kulshrestha
      December 8, 2017 at 8:37 pm

      Oh wow a Torontonian, you must have explored all ins and outs. But isn’t there’s such a huge difference between the two cities- one so modern and other dipped in history.
      I second you on the library, we were just so awestruck looking at it. great it was saved during the fire. Thanks for the appreciation. 🙂

  • Reply
    Aimee Horgan
    December 8, 2017 at 8:22 pm

    Such a cool building, I love how it looks all lot up in that first photo!

    • Reply
      Neha Kulshrestha
      December 8, 2017 at 8:26 pm

      Yes very beautiful. The light and sound show was the highlight of this tour. Just spectacular and impressive.
      Thanks.

  • Reply
    Gabby
    December 8, 2017 at 11:39 pm

    I’m so impressed by Ottawa’s architecture – it looks just beautiful. Great photos to accompany this story, I usually am not interested in visiting historical buildings but this would make me change my mind!

    • Reply
      Neha Kulshrestha
      December 10, 2017 at 4:43 am

      Indeed true, the architecture in Ottawa and Montreal is very impressive.
      Great to hear that the post intrigued an interest in you. Hope you visit and admire it yourself.

  • Reply
    Mary
    December 9, 2017 at 2:36 am

    I think we have the same style, you’ve got great style 😉

    http://Www.maryandtharon.com

    • Reply
      Neha Kulshrestha
      December 10, 2017 at 4:46 am

      That’s true. 🙂 Thanks. So now we can appreciate each other’s work more often. 😉

  • Reply
    Agness of Fit Travelling
    December 11, 2017 at 12:33 pm

    This building is so outstanding and remarkable, Neha. I love both the interior and the exterior. How long did it take you to explore the building?

    • Reply
      Neha Kulshrestha
      December 16, 2017 at 3:38 am

      Yes indeed Agness. We were awestruck by the beauty. Each tour to East block and Center block lasted about an hour to 1 1/2 hour including the security check. But you will have to take different time slots for both tours. So typically we spent half a day there.

  • Reply
    Raksha
    December 11, 2017 at 6:26 pm

    The pictures look beautiful! That’s a stunning piece of architecture!

    • Reply
      Neha Kulshrestha
      December 16, 2017 at 3:41 am

      Thanks a lot, Raksha. Yes, it’s a marvel to explore.

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