Whether indoors or out, whether exploring the heart of the city or out on a nature trail, the National Capital Region offers magnificent options for family fun this season. Here are just a few great places to bring your family — and things to do — in the Ottawa area.
Rideau Canal Skateway
It’s mentioned often, with good reason. The 7.8-km Rideau Canal Skateway is the largest outdoor skating rink in the world, and one of the best ways to get out as a family and enjoy winter and gorgeous views of Ottawa – for free!
The skateway is ideal for a playful winter day with the kids. You’ll find many services, including change rooms, skate rentals and food kiosks, along the way.
Discover your family’s passion for cross-country skiing at two popular spots: Gatineau Park and Greenbelt Park, both of which offer hundreds of kilometres of scenic trails. You can use the trails for free, and all are excellent for beginner and family outings.
The City of Ottawa offers groomed and well-lit trails, too. Visit www.ottawa.ca for more details.
Downhill skiing & snow tubing
From speeding downhill to enjoying the majestic views from the top, there are plenty of slopes in the area to delight the thrill seekers in your family, including Calabogie Peaks Ski Resort, Mont Cascades, Mont Saint-Marie, Ski Vorlage, Sommet Edelweiss, and Mount Pakenham.
Snack on a mouth-watering Beavertail
It’s just not a real outdoor Ottawa checklist without this classic Canadian treat. No day of fun is complete without taking a break to enjoy a Beavertail, a fried dough pastry with a variety of topping options.
Even former U.S. President Barack Obama couldn’t resist sampling a Beavertail during his visit to our capital city in 2009! Look for kiosks along the Rideau Canal Skateway and in the ByWard Market.
Explore the ByWard Market area (Founded in 1826)
While the area may have made headlines for a 2015 New York Times travel article that recommended its Wine Rack as one of its top attractions, the ByWard Market neighbourhood is one of the oldest in Ottawa, and offers plenty of family fun.
Within an area roughly four blocks square, you’ll find museums, cafés, specialty food shops, boutiques, galleries, restaurants and more.
Also accessible on foot, by transit or by car, the ByWard Market offers a uniquely Ottawa family experience.
Your family could spend the day visiting the market building itself, browse artists’ work, enjoy a variety of foods and special treats, then browse the many neighbourhood stores. There’s much to discover. Visit www.byward-market.com for more information.
Celebrate spring with maple syrup treats and a festival
Three maple syrup experiences celebrate this sweet Canadian treat in the Ottawa area.
A harbinger of spring, the maple syrup season usually starts around late February. Ideal day and nighttime temperatures start the sap running through the trees.
It takes 40 litres of sap to reduce (by boiling) to one litre of maple syrup, but as most would agree, it’s worth the wait!
Family-run businesses such as Fulton’s Pancake House and Sugar Bush have expanded their offerings beyond serving up maple breakfasts and horse-drawn sleigh rides through the woods – though that remains a lovely way to spend a spring day.
Discover some maple-themed spa products (including scrubs and lotions) as well as gourmet maple products that include traditional sweet candies as well as mustards, salsas, spices and rubs. The season runs from Feb. 17 – April 15, 2018.
Stanley’s Olde Maple Lane Farm also offers a delightful maple experience on the eastern edge of the city, on weekends between Feb. 24 – April 8, 2018.
The annual Maple Sugar Fest, North America’s only urban sugar bush, wedged into 5.6 hectares (14 acres) of land in Ottawa’s Vanier neighbourhood, just 10 minutes from Parliament Hill, takes place in March.
Explore the natural beauty of a local conservation area
Hiking is an invigorating way for your family to explore nature. Outdoor fun adventures are ready for you at five South Nation Conservation Areas, which offer kilometres of trails and spectacular vistas.
Trek from boardwalks through wetlands to forested, interpretive trails. Glimpses of wildlife and the splendour of the late winter/early spring are sure to excite family members of all ages.
Bring the kids for some bowling action at one of the centres across the city. Shake things up with glow-in-the-dark bowling, or a Rock ‘n Bowl night!
Take in a movie
Yes, you could go to one of the many large multiplex cinemas, but there are a few other options, too, such as the Ottawa Family Cinema, which is a non-profit registered charity – so, all proceeds beyond operating costs are given back to the community.
Along with the movie, there are door prizes, previews, and a cartoon with free gifts for children at selected shows. The cinema also hosts three movie parties per season, and other special events. www.familycinema.ca
Imagine Cinemas, located at St. Laurent Shopping Centre, offers a selection of films, with lower ticket fees – $6 general, $5 children ($4.00 on Tuesdays). Imagine also does birthday parties, and “Movies & a Meal.”
Visit the library
The Ottawa Public Library offers a variety of family-friendly activities, such as family storytime, where you and your little ones can drop in, and many other family programs. Or just grab a good book, and snuggle in for some quiet reading time.
The city pools offer plenty of affordable choices for some refreshing, relaxing water play. The family-friendly pool at Dovercourt Recreation Centre is very popular, as is the pool at the Walter Baker Sports Centre in Barrhaven. But there are many others around the city. Visit
www.ottawa.ca for a comprehensive list of city pools, prices and schedules.
For a mini-getaway without leaving the city limits, you could book a night or two at the Travelodge Ottawa West Hotel on Carling Avenue and splash around at the indoor water park and wave pool.
Visit a museum or gallery
The National Capital Region boasts many national and local museums and galleries where your family can take in some fantastic art and culture – and enjoy the warmth! – and most offer many engaging child and youth-oriented activities.