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The Best Things To Do In Ottawa With Kids (By A Local)

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If you have never been to Ottawa, I am telling you right now that you are missing out! Ottawa is home to so many awesome things; even better, it’s home to plenty of things you can do with your little ones.

In fact, did you know that Ottawa is known as one of the best cities to live in Canada for families and work?

If you are traveling to Canada with your babies and toddlers, you have absolutely nothing to worry about, as there are numerous fun things to do in Ottawa with kids!

Things to do in Ottawa with kids

Ottawa in morning light

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Why you should plan a family trip to Ottawa

As the capital city of Canada, Ottawa has invested a lot of time and thought into having great facilities available for young kids. Ottawa has many great things you can take advantage of with your children.

From amazing museums to the splendid festivals that Ottawa hosts year-round, to simply taking a walk around downtown Ottawa, you won’t run out of things to do.

With this in mind, we are going to share the best family activities Ottawa has to offer!

10 amazing Ottawa kids activities

1. Parliament Hill

View of Parliament Hill in Ottawa Canada

No family trip to Ottawa, or any Ottawa itinerary for that matter, is complete without a visit to Parliament Hill. Here your kids can see where the national government of Canada resides.

When visiting Ottawa with a toddler, your best course of action is probably to go for a stroll around the grounds and admire the beautiful buildings from the outside.

However, if your kids are a bit older consider joining a tour around Parliament to learn more about Canadian legislation and the history of the imposing buildings.

Time your visit well to see the Changing of the Guards, which starts at 10 am and takes place every morning from late June through late August. Be sure to arrive a bit early (15 minutes before) to secure a good spot to watch the event.

2. Visit the Children’s Museums

Canadian Children Museum Ottawa

Did you know that Ottawa had a kid’s museum? I took my daughter to enjoy a day at this wonderful museum and can say from my personal experience: the Canadian Children’s Museum is a must-visit for any parent traveling with children!

Note: the Children’s Museum is located inside the Canadian Museum of History. You can buy your ticket online.

The Children’s Museum is designed in such a way that it teaches young kids all about the different countries around the world. It’s a highly educational museum, with many interactive games and instructors who do their best to expand these little kids’ minds.

Each kid is given a passport when entering the museum, enticing them to go around the different galleries to collect as many stamps as possible from all the countries they visit at the museum.

The Canadian Children’s Museum is an amazing place to visit with your kids on an Ottawa trip!

Insider advice: here is a little bonus tip for you and your family: most museums are free to visit between 5:00pm – 8:00 pm (daily)!

3. Visit the Experimental Farm

Another fun activity for kids to do in Ottawa is spending (half) a day at the Experimental Farm. My little girl had blast at the farm, as she was able to play with all the animals and they had amazing demonstrations going on.

For kids that love animals, but are looking for something different than a zoo, the experimental farm is a must!

Expect to spend at least 3-4 hours at the experimental farm and dress appropriately for the occasion. There is also a play structure onsite, for kids who may be less interested in the animals but just want to have fun outdoor in a playground.

Insider advice: you are welcome to bring your own lunch and have a picnic, making this a budget friendly option as well.

4. Have fun at the beach

Petrie Island Beach

Which kid doesn’t enjoy spending time at the beach? With a few amazing beaches in Ottawa and the surrounding areas, you are guaranteed to find a nice place to cool down with your kids.

Some of the most popular beaches in Ottawa include Mooney’s Bay, Britannia beach, Westboro beach and Petrie Island!

If you are lucky, depending on when you are visiting Ottawa, they are some amazing activities like the Ottawa Dragon Boat Festival or the Hope Volleyball Summerfest that take place in summer.

For kids, I absolutely recommend Petrie Island beach or Mooney’s Bay. Be sure to visit at least one of them (but visiting both is better!) and spend some time with the locals.

5. Cruise the Rideau Canal (summer) or go ice skating (winter)

Rideau Canal Ice Rink Ottawa Canada

One of the best activities in Ottawa for kids in summer is cruising the Rideau Canal. Your kids will enjoy being out on the water and learn a thing or two about the historical landmarks you’ll come across.

In winter, one of the Ottawa activities kids will enjoy most is ice skating on the Rideau Canal, the world’s largest naturally frozen ice rink that spans over 7.8km!

From January until early March, the Rideau Canal Skateway is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Access is free meaning you can spend your cash on hot chocolate and a beavertail after your kids are all tired out from ice skating.

6. Visit the Calypso Water Park

You’ll definitely want to take your kids to the Calypso Water Park! Located approximately a 35-minute drive away from downtown Ottawa, the Calypso Water Park is one of the best water parks in Ontario.

In fact, Calypso is one of the largest water parks in Canada with over 35 water-slides and one of the largest wave pools in Canada!

For very small children, there is the jungle-themed Kongo expedition lazy river, which they will surely enjoy. Though really, there is something for each age group at the Calypso Water Park, you are guaranteed to have a full day of fun here for the whole family! 

7. Take your kids to a free playgroup

Canadian Children’s Museum

As I mentioned earlier, Ottawa has numerous of amazing resources specifically designed and intended for families and children.

One of my favorite things to do with my kid is to take her to a playgroup. These are fun, intimate, and give her a chance to see other kids which is why it’s one of the best free toddler activities Ottawa has to offer.

They are plenty of free playgroups in Ottawa that you can take advantage of, both indoors and outdoors. Regardless of which area of Ottawa you are in, you can always find a few nearby playgroups to take your kids to in Ottawa.

8. Indoor and outdoor playgrounds in Ottawa

If you are looking for other indoor activities to do with your kids, you can also visit the Flying Squirrel Trampoline Park, the Jungle Gym at Funhaven, Cosmic Adventures (Ottawa’s largest indoor playground) or Kids Kingdom Recreation Centre !

And alternatively, you can enjoy all the outdoor playgrounds around Ottawa. Trust me, we have plenty!

Outdoor playground Ottawa

9. Canadian Science and Technology Museum

There are several interesting museums for kids in Ottawa and your children will certainly enjoy a visit to the Canadian Science and Technology Museum.

This wonderful museum was thoroughly renovated (it was closed for 3 years!) and reopened its doors in 2017. It features many interactive exhibitions that invite kids to play and experiment while learning about Canada’s innovation story.

10. Visit ByWard Market

ByWard Market is one of the oldest farmer’s markets in Canada and a great place to get some snacks. Buy a beavertail (choose your toppings or go for the classic cinnamon and sugar flavor) or locally grown fruits and vegetables.

At ByWard Market you’ll find many cafes and restaurants as well, serving up great dishes. It’s a good spot to spend an hour or two and a nice place to look for some souvenirs to remember your Ottawa family vacation.

Best places to stay in Ottawa with kids

There are many family friendly accommodation options available in Ottawa, suitable to any budget.

Ottawa Marriott Hotel

A great (but admittedly expensive) option is the Ottawa Marriott Hotel. It’s very centrally located, there is a swimming pool, the rooms are spacious and there is even a game room with air hockey, mini-golf, toys, video games and much more. Your kids will love staying here!

For the adults: there is a gym, the Spin Kitchen and Bar room is excellent and there is an onsite Starbucks as well.

Check prices on Booking

The Business Inn

A more affordable and nice place to stay is the The Business Inn. While you might not expect it given the name of the hotel, this is actually one of the best places to stay in Ottawa for families with kids.

Why? Because the studio rooms are very spacious and feature a fully equipped kitchen. Also, there is a free laundromat and onsite restaurant.

The decor is a bit outdated, but on the plus side: breakfast is included in the very reasonable room rates.

Check prices on Booking

Apartments

Alternatively, there are several nice apartments you can rent in Ottawa, such as this lovely, bright 2-bedroom flat in downtown Ottawa.

Getting around Ottawa with kids

Public transport

Ottawa has two major bus systems; if you want to use public transportation you would be looking at the OC Transpo bus or the Société de Transport de l’Outaouais (STO) that operates buses in the Outaouais region on the Quebec side of the Ottawa River.

You can buy a bus day pass, for prices, and bus schedules check the OC Transpo and STO websites.

Car

Alternatively, you can rent a car. Depending on the size of your family and the age of your children this may actually be cheaper than public transport tickets for the whole family.

Insider advice: if you are traveling with a baby, there are many companies where you can rent a car seat, so you don’t have to bring one from home.

Travel times

The bus or O Train takes over 1.5hours on average to get to the different locations within Ottawa. Depending on traffic and your exact destination, a car may be faster, however, parking can be an issue (especially downtown).

With young kids, I would recommend renting a car, both for convenience as well as shorter travel times.

Another alternative is the Hop-On and Hop-Off Bus, which visits all the city’s important sites. And for even more fun with your kids, take the Lady Dive bus tour, a very popular and unique Amphibus vehicle that goes from road to boat!

How to save money on an Ottawa family trip

Canadian Children’s Museum

Vacationing in Ottawa can be costly. Because Ottawa is the capital city of Canada, it’s a popular place to visit and can be very touristic.

In order to cut the cost of your Ottawa family vacation, we have already listed a few activities you can do in Ottawa for free.

In order to save more money in Ottawa as you vacation, try to take advantage of as many free resources that Ottawa has to offer especially when it comes to kids.

For example, my daughter is 2 years old and therefore a lot of activities that we participated in were completely free for her to do.

Try to purchase tickets to any activity or festival at least a few weeks ahead of time as this will save you lots of money. The same goes for booking flights, hotel rooms, trains or car rentals. The more in advance you make the booking, the more money you will end up saving.

Use websites like Groupon to score yourself some amazing discounts on hotel, foods and activities.

Ottawa with children: in conclusion

We hope you enjoy your stay in Ottawa and that you take advantage of some of the fun activities for your kids! If you want to read more about traveling Canada, also read these posts:

This post was updated in August 2020.

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