Six Cool Things to do in Ottawa

Ottawa, the capital city of Canada, is a charming place with historical architecture and a modern way of life. Although the metropolitan area is not as huge as in Toronto and Montreal, Ottawa is still a bustling city that is easy to navigate.  There are many cool things to do in Ottawa and they all offer visitors quintessential experience that represents the culture, history and political climate of Canada.

Cool things to do in Ottawa, Canada

If you have the opportunity to visit Ottawa, make sure you check out the top six things here. Some experiences will be once-in-a-lifetime, and will make you say, “I want to come back again next year.”

Canadian Museum of History

The exhibition in the Canadian Museum of History concentrates on the first people and several special features (for instance, Napoleon and Paris until January 8, 2017). The theme of the museum is not as diverse as other galleries I have been to; I am absolutely piqued by how the Napoleon era shaped the history of France and the scale of the exhibitions. The museum features 3D documentaries to show you the evolvement of the world; the visual and sound effects are unbeatable. Not to mention, you can have an incredible view of Ottawa-Gatineau, Quebec.

Cool things to do in Ottawa, Canada

Picture: View of Gatineau, Quebec from Ottawa 

Rideau Canal

Rideau Canal is a popular place for picnicking, people watching, paddling, and fishing.

On a scorching summer day in July, I found myself standing on the grassy lawns of the canal and enjoying a soft pre-dawn breeze.  Looking down the river, I spotted boats traveling uphill and downhill on the river.

Cool things to do in Ottawa, Canada

When winter descends on Ottawa, residents strap on their skates and turn the frozen canal into the Guinness Record of the world’s largest naturally frozen rink, as known as Rideau Canal Skateway. Here, you can skate while taking in all of the beautiful sites of the nation’s capital.

Cool things to do in Ottawa, Canada
Picture: Street Performance on Canada Day (July 1st, 2016)

Ottawa on Canada Day

One of my favorite things to do in Ottawa is to celebrate Canada Day. It is a unique experience, as travelers and Canadians come together in the capital to show their national pride. You can walk around in red and white (the color of the Canadian flag), and explore the Parliament Hill and its vicinity for ceremonial events, street performance, the Snow Birds Demonstration, and the air show of the military craft.

Cool things to do in Ottawa, Canada

My favorite part of the celebration is the outdoor concert at Parliament Hill with a stellar line up of Canadian music talent like Alex Cuba, Metric, Indian City, and Celion Dion. The celebration ends with giant fireworks highly visible from any vintage point of the capital region.

Byward Market

Byward Market is Canada’s largest and oldest public market, lining with museums, cafes, food stores, street vendors, restaurants, pubs, and all-day street performances. It is an easy place to explore, walk, shop, and eat out.

Cool things to do in Ottawa, Canada
Byward Market, Ottawa, Canada

I had eggs florentine at Cacao 70 for brunch, and my friend ordered sweet crepes. Pair that with a cup of hot chocolate in the winter and you will restore your energy for a half-day outdoor adventure. For budget meals, visit Pub 101 with food and alcoholic beverage for $5.01 each. I paid around $20 in total for a glass of red wine, Cajun wings, a grilled chicken and avocado burger (with a salad), and a basket of fries (shared with my travel partner).

Parliament Hill

Parliament Hill is the nation’s political and cultural hub, and it has become a focal point of the nation’s biggest events, including the Canada Day celebration, the Changing of Guards ceremony, Christmas Lights Across Canada, the Sound and Light show, and the 2016 North America Leaders Summit.

Cool things to do in Ottawa, Canada
Parliament Hill, Ottawa, Canada

If you are interested in the history and the art of this iconic building, you can take part in the Centre Block Guided Tours and East Block Guided Tours. Visitors are also permitted to watch the proceedings of the Senate and the House of Commons when they are in session. The Peace Tower, as a part of Parliament Hill, offers an incredible view of the capital region. A visit to Memorial Chamber is included in the guided tour. E and the House of Commons whenever they are in session

Winterlude Festival

Ottawa’s inclement weather can be a bane of winter travels. Regardless, dress yourself from head to toe and take part in the annual Winterlude Festival. From ice carving competitions at Crystal Garden, skating performances at the Rink of Dreams, a kick-off party at the Confederation Park, and a snowflake garden at Jacques-Cartier Park, there is always something for everyone. You will also find several stalls in the city selling BeaverTails, a flat pastry resembling flaky pancake. After entertaining yourself outdoors under negative 30 degrees Celsius, warm yourself up by having some stew at the Byward Market.

If you are unsure where to go, just walk around the downtown area and you will find some interesting things to do. You will get the most out of Canadian politics, history, and culture through a trip to the capital city of Canada.

Tips for visiting Ottawa:

  • Ottawa is almost five hours away from Toronto by public transportation. VIA Rail Canada and Greyhound buses have regular service among Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal, and other cities in North America.
  • In the event of Canada Day and Winterlude Festival, I strongly recommend booking your travels at least two months in advance. Train tickets sell out quickly and so does accommodation. There will be a huge inflation on the train fare (traveling with Greyhound is not recommended because of a collection of bad reviews and incidents) a few weeks before the festivities until there are no tickets left.

Cool things to do in Ottawa, Canada

  • Ottawa is a city bordering Quebec. Day trips to Gatineau and Wakefield are easy and recommended for arts and nature lovers.
  • If you are flexible with time, take a tour around the Ottawa Jail Hostel, where all rooms are refurbished from the old jail cells. The Haunted Walk of Ottawa offers nightly tours to this notorious prison once known as the Carleton County Gaol. Guests have an opportunity to take a look at the unrestored parts of this notorious prison and appreciate the benefits of freedom.

Pin this post “Six Cool Things To Do in Ottawa” to Pinterest!

Ottawa, the capital city of Canada, offers visitors quintessential experience that represents the culture, history and political climate of Canada.



Julie Cao

Julie Cao is a travel blogger, travel writer, and global citizen currently living in Toronto Ontario.

8 thoughts on “Six Cool Things to do in Ottawa

  • January 16, 2017 at 6:28 pm

    Thanks for the tips! I’ve been thinking of visiting Canada. Don’t know where exactly yet, but I’ll keep this in mind. If I’m near Ottawa I’ll make sure to do these 6 things! 😀

    • May 11, 2017 at 7:13 am

      East part of Canada from Toronto -Ottawa- Montreal is a great road trip and you can also take a train trip from Montreal to Halifax along the coast. I highly recommend you to visit Ottawa – It is a very nice city and you will get to know a lot of Canada history and politics upon visit.

  • January 16, 2017 at 7:07 pm

    Nice article! We don’t talk enough about Ottawa, I was there and really enjoyed my time. Also met with some very very nice local people. Cheers!

    • May 10, 2017 at 7:06 am

      Nice you like Ottawa. It is very different compare to other cities in Canada and I enjoyed my time there too.

  • January 20, 2017 at 5:43 am

    That street performance made me a little nervous – risky!

    • May 10, 2017 at 7:02 am

      I was nervous when watching them too, and their stunt performance makes me in awe.

  • January 22, 2017 at 11:34 pm

    Some great suggestions here! I’d love to go to Canada for Canada Day! Or America for Independence Day. I find the patriotism “over the pond” to be so much stronger than here in the UK!
    The Ottawa Jail Hostel sounds pretty cool too!

    • May 10, 2017 at 7:04 am

      Canada Day is the best day to be in Ottawa and everyone looks very patriotic. Even as a non-Canadian like me was totally embrace the celebrations the capital city has in stored for us.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Show Buttons
Hide Buttons