Ooooooh Beaver Tails! This is the very first time I’ve ever seen anyone else mention them! My husband and I had them in Montreal YEARS ago and I’ll never forget them! I’m so bummed though because now we’re all gluten-free so we can’t ever share them with our sons!
The 11 Best Things To Do In Ottawa with kids
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Things to do in Ottawa
When we planned a trip to Ottawa over Columbus Day the question we got over and over was “Why Ottawa?” to which we replied “why not?” We have explored Canada extensively, why not visit its capitol city?
I’ll be honest, once we decided to visit, I was a little underwhelmed with the information I could find on Ottawa. Apparently lots of people think Ottawa is not a vacation spot. But I had a few ideas in mind and was confident we could spend two days there with enough entertainment.
Well, I am here to tell you that Ottawa is charming and the rest of the world is missing out! There is plenty to do with your whole family and should be a bigger destination.
Ottawa is very walkable. If you book a hotel in town, odds are you won’t need a car. We only took our car out once the entire long weekend!
Favorite Things To Do in Ottawa
Rideau canal and locks
Rideau canal (pronounce Rid-oh) runs through the center of town. It is a UNESCO world heritage site. In the summer boats tours run up and down the length of the canal. In the winter, it becomes the largest ice skating rink in the world!
We missed both boats and skating as we visited in October. But we enjoyed the autumn leaves as we walked along the canal.
The system of locks that are still in used today are fun to walk across to explore the other side of the canal.
Plan on 30 min to an hour to walk along the canal. Longer to skate or boat ride.
This colorful market has farmers stalls, handicrafts, and food. Bright colored produce, music from street performers fills the air and the smells of food from around the world will delight your senses. If you know our family at all, you know that food market are our thing!
My kids love a market and we bought a big bunch of radishes and lots of strawberries. My oldest son declared them the sweetest and best strawberries he had ever had.
Stalls are inside and outside the market, and don’t forget to go upstairs! There is a really neat paper mache sculpture.
Plan on an hour.
This is the seat of government for Canada! The buildings on Parliament hill are gothic revival in design. They were built in the mid 1800s when Ottawa was chosen by Queen Victoria of England to be the capitol of Canada. The design was chosen to remind Canadians of parliamentary democracy in England and to be in contrast to the neoclassic design of the United States. These are some seriously ornate buildings!
There are daily tours of the interior of the center building (called the center block), but you need to wake up much earlier than we did to get a free ticket. By 10 am the ticket line was insane!
Don’t fret if you can’t get tickets! The exterior is spectacular and you will enjoy the intricacies if design as you get up close.
Plan on 30 minutes or more if you tour.
Hog’s Back Park and Falls
This park in the center of town, features lots of room for kids to run, picnic areas and a waterfall. The waterfall was created by the building of the Rideau Canal. It was a beautiful place to enjoy the fall weather and see some foliage. The kids loved having some room to run around, and I enjoyed the paved trails.
Plan on 30 or more minutes.
Lansdowne Farmers Market and Playground
Sometimes the highlights of a trip are the unexpected finds. We went to the Landsdowne farmers market and found the coolest playground right next to it!
The farmers market is very different from Byward market. It catered to the organic and gluten free customer. Luckily that meant that my oldest could get some goodies!
If I had to pick between Byward Market and Lansdowne. Byward would win by a large margin, but if you are there on a Sunday this market is worth a look.
The play ground was a hit with everyone! My husband climbed with the boys on the rope structure. I spun around and around on a padded metal disc. The kids wished they had brought their scooters and skateboards because there was a nice skate park next door.
Plan on at least an hour.
This one requires a drive or a bus ride but is well worth the hassle. Especially in the fall! Gatineau Park is in the town of Chelsea, Quebec which is a 10-15 minute ride from downtown Ottawa.
The park is famous for its fall foliage and it didn’t disappoint. As soon as we walked into the forest on a trail we were surrounded with shades of gold and soft green. It was magnificent. We ambled away about an hour, while my boys sword fought with sticks.
- There is a 2 km loop to walk right off the parking lot. It’s a fairly flat walk with hard packed soil. It would be great for strollers or for those who aren’t great hikers.
Plan on 1-3 hours depending on the trail you take.
Mosaiculture in Jacques Cartier Park Gatineau
This was another unexpected find. We drove over the wrong bridge and found this magical park.
Mosaiculture is an art form similar to topiary. But instead of cutting into a growing tree or bush, mosaiculture uses steel frames. These frames are covered with annual plants that fill in and make a living sculpture.
These works of art are unlike anything I have ever seen! We oohed and aaahed over each individual sculpture. We admired the plantings that tie them all together. This is a must see!
Due to the nature of this exhibit, it is seasonal. Check hours and prices before you go!
What to eat in Ottawa
These delicious pastries are about as Canadian as you can get. They are a wheat dough that is stretched and deep fried to resembled a beavers tail.
They are topped with an assortment of toppings. My favorite is Nutella and banana.
I have eaten these delicious treats in Prince Edward Island and Quebec. I have tried to recreate them at home and I have had no luck! But I will try again with a fresh taste in my mind and on my tastebuds.
Joey has a number of locations across Canada. The one at Rideau center is fabulous! Literally everything we put in our mouth was above the norm. The kids were fans on the sushi and I really recommend their tuna salad.
What to wear in Ottawa in October?
We were shocked with how cold it was in Ottawa during the 2nd weekend of October. We were coming from New England and thought it would be about the same temperature (maybe a little cooler) but it was much cooler.
We did find Ottawa to be a fairly casual city. Most people were dressed in jeans and sweaters or other casual clothing. We did find that most people dressed up for dinner more than we did, so make sure to bring a nice change of clothes.
If you visit in October make sure to pack:
- A mid-weight jacket
- A warm scarf
- The womans one I recommend again and again! Plus it has such a great fall look.
- The kid’s scarf is one of my favorites for my younger one. It is super warm with a fleecy lining and it doesn’t end up dragging on the ground.
- Booties or closed shoes
Where to stay in Ottawa?
We found Ottawa to be a very affordable city and a very walkable city. For that reason I highly recommend staying downtown. Most hotels offer free or reasonably cheap parking on the premises. Plus you will love being able to walk to farmer’s markets for breakfast, or being able get in line early for the Parliament tour. (don’t be like us!)
Ottawa Marriott Hotel
Our Budget Pick
The Ottawa Marriott Hotel is a high rise right downtown and it offers large family rooms, an indoor pool and free wifi. Everything my boys could want!
It is right downtown and in walking distance to everything. We never pulled our car out of the carpark even once! It is a four minute walk to Parliament hill and a 10 minute walk to Byward market. Plus you have the beautiful Rideau Canal right outside your door.
For booking information click here.
Fairmont Chateau Laurier
Our Mid-range Pick
The cool thing about this hotel is that it would be a luxury pick in another bigger city. It is run by the same company the runs the Chateau Frontenac in Quebec City. But unlike the Chateau Frontenac this hotel won’t cost you an arm and a leg to be in luxurious surroundings.
The hotel overlooks the locks of the Rideau Canal and is very close to Parliament hill. Their restaurants are renowned and the lobby is worth sitting and reading a book in.
You will feel like you won the lottery!
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