Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Top Things to Do with Kids in Ottawa


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“Do you think I can order the wagyu beef?” our 10-year old grandson asked as he browsed the menus of the restaurants on our itinerary for a family vacation in Ottawa.

We were in the planning stages of a skip-gen getaway, a type of travel where grandparents take grandchildren on a trip without their parents (skipping the middle generation).

This growing trend allows grandchildren and grandparents to bond and create special memories while exploring new destinations together.

The trips are opportunities to tailor a trip to match a child’s interests, learn more about each other and the world.

On vacations with A’s older siblings, we’d cooked with a French chef, gone zip-lining through a rainforest in Costa Rica and scouted for amethysts while rock-hounding in northern Ontario.

Family in Ottawa in front of Rideau Canal.
Ottawa makes the perfect backdrop for a skip-gen adventure. (Credit: Francisco Sanchez)

This 3 night family trip to Ottawa would be filled with upscale Canadian cuisine, family heritage and a bounty of outdoor adventure.

This being Canada’s capital city — the Ottawa Capital Region actually includes Ottawa, Gatineau, and surrounding municipalities in Ontario and Quebec — the itinerary would also include historic sites, landmark museums and attractions, spectacular landscapes and public spaces.

Who Will This Ottawa Family Vacation Itinerary Suit?

  • luxury travellers or those planning a skip-gen or other special occasion splurge.
  • young “foodies” aka kids who are culinary adventurers and excited about trying new dishes and ingredients.
  • active, outdoor enthusiasts keen on zip-lining, cycling, walking and swimming.
  • it’s aimed at children ages 8-12 given the minimum weight requirement of 32 kg (70 pounds) for some activities.

🌟 Pro Tip: It’s savvy to carry a notarized consent letter granting permission to travel if you’re vacationing with a child without both of their parents. The Government of Canada has a Sample Consent Letter that can be used or modified.

Day 1: Hotel Check-in, ByWard Market

Our skip-gen family weekend in Ottawa began with an indulgent stay on the Gold Floor of the iconic Fairmont Château Laurier.

It was our top choice for a place to stay in Ottawa due to its spectacular natural setting, luxurious amenities and architectural heritage.

The Chateau Laurier, designed by architects Ross and MacFarlane,  in Ottawa
The Chateau Laurier, designed by architects Ross and MacFarlane, opened its doors in 1912 in Ottawa. (Credit: Francisco Sanchez)

A Landmark Canadian Hotel

To begin, the Fairmont Château Laurier was one of several chateau-style Canadian hotels — along with Chateau Frontenac in Quebec City, the Royal York (Toronto) and Hotel Vancouver — commissioned by railway companies in the late 19th and early 20th centuries to attract affluent travellers to its rail network.

The hotels’ opulent architecture featuring turrets, steep roofs and other architectural elements mirrors European castles.

Glossy lobby at the Fairmont Château Laurier.
Glossy lobby at the Fairmont Château Laurier. (Credit: Francisco Sanchez)

Also adding to its pedigree, Fairmont Château Laurier has hosted numerous VIPs and dignitaries over the years.

Some famous guests include Winston Churchill, Queen Elizabeth II, Nelson Mandela as well as celebrities such as Mick Jagger, Justin Bieber, Tom Hanks and Taylor Swift.

The hotel’s luxurious accommodations and historic pedigree make it a popular choice for high-profile guests. (Credit: Francisco Sanchez)

This elegant ambiance set a tone of grandeur for our own getaway, offering a glimpse into history as well as luxurious amenities.

Its prime downtown location within walking distance to major attractions also helps make it the top hotel in Ottawa for a family vacation.

Young child walking in the hallway at the Fairmont Chateau Laurier.
Walking in Justin Bieber’s footsteps? (Credit: Francisco Sanchez)

For us, a family tie also provided a bit of a personal connection.

Edward Peterson playing trombone on the rooftop at the Morrison Hotel in 1929. (Credit: Peterson Family archives)
Edward Peterson playing trombone on the rooftop at the Morrison Hotel in 1929. (Credit: Peterson Family archives)

My grandfather Edward Peterson played trombone in several big band orchestras in the 1920s and 1930s in landmark luxury hotels across North America and Europe.

We know his orchestra performed at the Royal York so it’s also possible he played in one of the ballrooms in this grand hotel!

An upgrade to the Gold Floor included evening hors d’oeuvres, hot breakfast and refreshments, honour bar and dessert bar. There was even a fun candy station to round out the offerings.

Check rates and availability of the Gold Floor Experience at Fairmont Château Laurier on Booking.com.

🌟 Related: While not strictly chateau-style, Digby Pines in Digby Nova Scotia, built in the early 20th century, also features architectural elements reminiscent of grand European country estates.

Public Art and ByWard Market

Our first stop after check-in was at the National Gallery of Canada (Google Map). There we marvelled at the one of the most famous pieces of public art in Ottawa.

The colossal spider sculpture “Maman” created by renowned artist Louise Bourgeois is one of six in the world.

Boy striking a pose under the Maman statue in Ottawa.
Striking a “War of the Worlds” pose under the Maman spider statue in Ottawa. (Credit: Francisco Sanchez)

With its graceful form, the Maman spider is said to symbolize motherhood.

But like all great art work it provokes conversation and interpretation.

Our grandson saw it as a giant alien as in a “War of the Worlds” or “Stranger Things” movie.

The Ottawa sign features an ever-evolving rainbow of colours.
The Ottawa sign features an ever-evolving rainbow of colours. (Credit: Francisco Sanchez)

Inspired for our next adventure, we headed across the street to the ByWard Market, a historic public space in the heart of the city accessible by foot, bicycle, transit and car.

Ottawa Sign Photo-Op

Nightfall was the ideal time to capture a photo at the illuminated Ottawa sign (Google Map), a fun symbol of the city’s welcoming atmosphere.

This district spanning four square blocks is filled with restaurants, pubs, cafes, specialty food shops and more.

Baja-style fish tacos at Blue Cactus Bar & Grill in ByWard Market.
Baja-style fish tacos at Blue Cactus Bar & Grill in ByWard Market. (Credit: Francisco Sanchez)

We opted for dinner at the Blue Cactus Bar & Grill in the heart of the action. Its contemporary menu, with a southwestern spin and variety, is perfect for an intergenerational group.

Our mains of fish tacos, steamed salmon and ribs were expertly-prepared and savoured on the patio surrounded by the city’s energy.

Parliament Hill at Night

As the stars rose in the sky, we made our way to Parliament Hill.

Our grandson joined an impromptu soccer game with new-found friends on the grassy lawn until the Sound & Light Show began.

Then we shared a blanket watching the captivating mix of original music and images depicting a journey though Canada’s history projected onto the iconic buildings.

Visuals of the Sound & Light Show are projected on the Centre Block's Peace Tower.
Visuals depicting the history of Canada were projected on the Centre Block’s Peace Tower. (Credit: Francisco Sanchez)

It was impossible not to be moved by the storytelling.

The inspiring images sparked conversations about our own family’s immigration experiences as newcomers from Ukraine, Poland and Guatemala.

As we took a walk through Confederation Square, we talked about my grandfather who worked a trapline near Hudson Bay as well as a great great grandfather who was killed in action at Vimy Ridge in WWI.

The National War Memorial, at the southern end of Confederation Square, adjacent to Confederation Park at night.
The National War Memorial, at the southern end of Confederation Square, adjacent to Confederation Park.

Our evening wrapped up at the Fairmont Château Laurier, even more spectacular when illuminated at night, where we stopped by the Gold Floor lounge for nightcaps of tea, milk and cookies.

🌟Note: There will be no Sound and Light Show on Parliament Hill in 2024. As an alternative, a fun evening activity with kids would be Oh Canada Eh? It’s Canada’s longest running dinner musical and features lots of Canadian music and themes.


Day 2: Sightseeing, Heritage, Ziplining and Canadian Cuisine

The following morning began with breakfast at the Gold Floor Lounge, a quiet haven ideal for planning our day.

Sun streamed into the lobby boding well for a day where we planned to spend much of the time outdoors.

Canadian  Parliament Buildings  on a sunny day.
The Parliament Buildings are the heart of Canadian democracy. (Credit: Francisco Sanchez)

We stepped out the door to the sight of the Rideau Canal National Historic Site and the Parliament Buildings.

Famous for its Gothic Revival architecture of detailed stonework, greening copper rooftops and tall spires, the Parliament Buildings were even more impressive by day than they’d been by night.

🌟 Pro Tip: Book a Free Guided Tour of the Parliament of Canada building online before you go.

Hop On, Hop Off Bus Tour of City Landmarks

Next up on Day 2 of our Ottawa itinerary was a Hop On Hop Off Sightseeing Tour on a Gray Line Double Decker bus.

The ticket kiosk is strategically located at 44 Sparks St. (Google Map) facing Confederation Square and the National War Memorial across from Châateau Laurier.

A ceremonial guard at the National War Memorial.
The presence of a ceremonial guard at the National War Memorial honours the memory of those who have served and sacrificed for Canada in times of war. (Credit: Francisco Sanchez)

We’re big fans of Hop On, Hop Off tours. We’ve taken open-top, double-decker buses everywhere from Barcelona to London.

They’re a relaxing way to see multiple attractions at your own pace.

In Ottawa, the Hop On Hop Off Sightseeing Bus includes 75 sites at more than a dozen stops.

With a one-day ticket in hand, we were soon on our way exploring Ottawa’s key landmarks with the wind in our hair.

Tourists enjoying the views on the  Double Decker Bus in Ottawa.
Ride up top for the best views on the Double Decker Bus. (Credit: Francisco Sanchez)

First, we passed by the National Gallery and then cruised along the Sir George-Étienne Cartier Parkway to see Rideau Hall, RCMP Stables, the NCC River House, the Ottawa River and more.

National Gallery of Canada.
Lots of modern and heritage architecture to see in Ottawa and the Capital Region. (Credit: Francisco Sanchez)

Canadian War Museum

We disembarked at the Canadian War Museum (Google Map), where we delved into our family history and learned about our great-great-grandfather’s sacrifice during World War One.

Framed photo of Peter Biely WW1
Framed photo of our great great grandfather Peter Biely who was killed in action in 1917 WW1. (Credit: Francisco Sanchez)

While I have shared the story behind why his name is inscribed on the Vimy Ridge War Memorial in France every Remembrance Day, the experience of walking inside a recreated WW1 trench was especially poignant.

Child walking in the WW1 exhibit at the Canadian War Museum.
Immersive exhibit at the Canadian War Museum. (Credit: Michele Peterson)

Is the Canadian War Museum disturbing for children?

The messaging at the Canadian War Museum is multi-faceted. It educates visitors about Canada’s military history while honouring the courage and bravery of Canadian service persons.

It also fosters reflection on the human cost of war and emphasizes the importance of the pursuit of peace.

However, the battlefield diorama featuring sounds of explosions and gunfire was especially powerful. It could be disturbing to very young children.

Young boy walking at the World War 1 exhibit of the battlefield of Ypres 1915 at the Canadian War Museum.
Inside the World War 1 exhibit of the battlefield of Ypres 1915 at the Canadian War Museum. (Credit: Francisco Sanchez)

As a place of commemoration and education, it connected us to our heritage in a profound way.

Lunch & an Iconic Dessert at ByWard Market

This skip-gen family vacation in Ottawa was also an opportunity to discover our grandson had very distinct interests from those of this siblings.

While his brothers were mostly interested in eating chicken fingers and fries, A’s wish list included wagyu beef, cedar plank salmon and Asian noodle houses.

That’s why lunchtime found us slurping ramen noodles at Lo Mien Craft Noodle Shop in ByWard Market, a short Uber ride from the Canadian War Museum.

Noodle soup at Lo Mien Craft Noodle Shop.(Credit: Francisco Sanchez)

While best known for its authentic hand-pulled noodles and traditional Chinese dishes, it’s also culinary theatre at its finest.

Steaming vats of bubbling broth, the strands of noodles being stretched to impossible lengths and bustling tables laden with pots of tea and clattering chopsticks transported us to the heart of Asia while highlighting Ottawa’s diverse culinary scene.

At ByWard Market you can nosh on Italian, Mexican, French and Moroccan cuisines, to name a few. The bustling market is the perfect place for culinary adventurers.

🌟 Insider Tip: Can’t decide where to begin? Sign up for a guided walking food tour of ByWard Market with C’est Bon Ottawa. This tasty 2.5 hour tour features 3 savoury dishes, 1 refreshment and 2 sweet dishes including a shared BeaverTail.

And dessert was just steps away. No trip to Ottawa with kids (or anyone) is complete without eating a BeaverTail or two.

In front of a BearTails stand in ByWard market.
A mandatory stop for a BeaverTail pastry, the iconic Canadian sweet treat. (Credit: Francisco Sanchez)

BeaverTails are a beloved Canadian dessert consisting of fried dough topped with sweet (or savoury) toppings.

Served hot, they’re a quintessential treat in Canadian culinary culture.

Handmade hats and winter gear for sale in ByWard Market.
Handmade hats and winter gear for sale in ByWard Market. (Credit: Francisco Sanchez)

Afterward, we indulged in some souvenir shopping. We stocked up on maple products such as syrup, cookies and tea as well as some red and white toques.

Along with ice-wine, they’re some of the most popular souvenirs to buy in Canada.

Zip-lining Between Quebec and Ontario

Intrepid grandson and grandfather glide across the world’s only interprovincial zipline. (Credit: InterZip)

Next up, we embraced our adventurous spirit with a thrilling zipline across the Ottawa River with InterZip.

This seasonal attraction (operating May to October) features parallel ziplines that soar 425 metres (1,400 feet) between elevated platforms on both sides of the river west of downtown Ottawa and Gatineau.

The breathtaking views made for an exhilarating bonding experience, leaving us (the two participants and observer) with a shared sense of accomplishment and excitement.

Book in advance online. Check weight and other restrictions.

🌟 Insider Tip: We opted to zipline across the Ottawa River but a more leisurely option would be to take a Walking Tour with Ottawa River Cruise.

Pool time and hors d’oeuvres 

We arrived back at the Fairmont Château Laurier just in time for evening hors d’oeuvres in the Gold Floor Lounge.

Food in the Gold Floor Lounge at the Fairmont Chateau Laurier.
Just a few of the complimentary evening appetizers in the Gold Floor Lounge. (Credit: Francisco Sanchez)

It was followed by a quick dip in the saltwater swimming pool, a gem due to its Art Deco design.

Swimming pool at Fairmont Château Laurier.
Hotel guests enjoy complimentary use of the Fairmont Château Laurier’s Health Club and indoor pool during their stay. (Credit: Francisco Sanchez)

Check rates and availability at the Fairmont Château Laurier on Booking.com.

Fine-dining at Aiana Restaurant

Interior of Aiana Restaurant in Ottawa.
Elegant atmosphere at Aiana Restaurant Collective.

The lights were low and the vibe upscale at our evening dinner destination, the Aiana Restaurant Collective.

This fine-dining restaurant located in the heart of downtown Ottawa (Google Map), a 5-minute walk from Parliament Hill, features seasonal ingredients with a multicultural spin.

Salmon at Aiana Restaurant Collective.
Salmon with sea buckthorn gel at Aiana Restaurant Collective. (Credit: Francisco Sanchez)

It was exciting to see wild grown regional products such as sea buckthorn, a scrubby plant grown in northern Manitoba, paired with global spices such as saffron.

Aiana is an indigenous word that means “always blossoming” and that captures the philosophy in play here.

Under the creative spirit of Chef Raghav Chaudhary, ingredients such as bannock, lavender and chamomile appear in dishes from around the globe.

Budding foodie taking photos of his amuse bouche and main of wagyu beef.
Budding foodie taking photos of his amuse bouche and main of North American wagyu beef. (Credit: Francisco Sanchez)

The entire dining experience was memorable — from the celestial chandelier to the attentive service.

It’s good to know too that Aiana is a Living Wage employer. Staff are paid an hourly wage that reflects what people need to earn to cover the actual costs of living in their community. This means there is no tipping.

Reservations are necessary. Book online at Aiana.

Day 3: Cycling, Afternoon Tea and Haunted History

The next day, our outdoor adventure continued with a guided bike tour of Ottawa’s landmarks with RentABike.

In operation since 1976, RentABike has several small group tours and cycling routes.

We opted for the 2 hour, 12 km (7.5 mile) Ottawa Landmarks Tour, cycling along the scenic Rideau Canal, past Little Italy to picturesque Dow’s Lake.

Family looking at a cycling map in Ottawa.
Checking out the cycling route at RentaBike. (Credit: Francisco Sanchez)

Even though it poured rain during our bike tour — prompting chants “when the going gets tough, the tough get going” — we did experience Ottawa’s natural beauty in a unique and eco-friendly way.

rain on waterfalls in Ottawa.
Spectacular views — even in the rain. (Credit: Francisco Sanchez)

A highlight was a stop at Chaudière Falls, where the Ottawa River cascades over a series of rocky ledges, creating a powerful display of rushing water.

Historically, the Falls held great significance for Indigenous peoples, who revered the site as a sacred gathering place.

Ottawa boasts over 800 kilometres of bicycle paths and recreational trails, which makes it one of the most bike-friendly cities in Canada.

Check prices and availability of a Small Group Bike Tour of Ottawa on Viator.com.

Afternoon Tea at Zoe’s

Zoe's restaurant at Fairmont Chateau Laurier.
Zoe’s offers Afternoon Tea from 11:00 am to 3:30 pm daily. (Credit: Francisco Sanchez)

Later that afternoon, after changing into smart attire, we indulged in a posh afternoon tea at Zoe’s Restaurant located on the main floor of Fairmont Château Laurier.

Afternoon tea at Zoe's in Ottawa with pastries and scones.
Afternoon Tea at Zoe’s is a fancy affair with a menu that varies seasonally. (Credit: Michele Peterson)

The elegant setting, combined with a mix of sweet and savoury pastries, tea sandwiches and scones, added a touch of sophistication and tranquility to our day.

Additionally, our grandson enjoyed a hot chocolate and special treats from the Princess and Prince Menu, tailored for kids ages 12 and under.

Be sure to book Afternoon Tea in advance especially during holidays and summer.

Canadian Museum of History

The Canadian Museum of History, designed by renowned architect Douglas Cardinal,  features a striking design of sweeping curves.
The Canadian Museum of History, designed by renowned architect Douglas Cardinal, features a striking design of sweeping curves. (Credit: Francisco Sanchez)

Next up was the impressive Canadian Museum of History located across the Ottawa River in Gatineau, Quebec (Google Map).

There, we explored the country’s past through interactive exhibits, galleries and displays including the world’s largest collection of totem poles.

The galleries provide valuable insights into Canada’s rich history, sparking meaningful conversations about First Nations culture and pioneer life on the prairies (such as our own ancestors might have experienced).

Lots of space and opportunities for free play at the Children's Museum located within the Canadian Museum of History.
Lots of space and opportunities for free play at the Children’s Museum located within the Canadian Museum of History. (Credit: Francisco Sanchez)

The vast space is also home to the popular Canadian Children’s Museum with its International Village with emblematic experiences from around the world including a Pakistani bus, a pyramid, rickshaw, cargo ship and more.

🌟 Pro Tip: Save money by visiting on Thursdays from 5 to 7 pm when admission is free. Book your timed ticket online after 5 pm on Sunday of the week you plan to visit.

Dinner at Joey Rideau

Fish at Joey Rideau on a blue plate.
Joey Rideau is one of a chain of restaurants expanding throughout North America. (Credit: Francisco Sanchez)

We had time for a quick dinner before our evening activities so popped into Joey Rideau, a bustling casual restaurant in the heart of Ottawa (Google Map).

While this Canadian-based chain of family-owned eateries can be found in other major cities, this location is one of my favourites due to its handy location, open kitchen and decor.

It also has an enticing Happy Hour with drink and food specials.

The chilled glass of their signature sangria with wild cod for us and steak frites for the growing grandson fuelled us on for full night ahead.

A Haunted Walk in Ottawa

Guide with glowing lantern on the Haunted Walk of Ottawa.
Guide with glowing lantern on the Haunted Walk of Ottawa. (Credit: Francisco Sanchez)

As the sun set, we experienced the eerie side of Ottawa with a Haunted Walk of Ottawa, delving into the city’s haunted history.

Guide and participant in haunted walk in Ottawa.
The 75 minute haunted walk will give you a new perspective of Ottawa. (Credit: Francisco Sanchez)

Each spine-chilling tale recounted by our cloaked guide offered insights into the mysterious side of Canada’s capital.

Some of it is actually quite chilling especially when told under fllckering lantern light.

Château Laurier illuminated at night.
For visitors intrigued by the supernatural, tales of mysterious spirits add to Château Laurier’s allure. (Credit: Francisco Sanchez)

The spooky stories included a haunted high school and even the ghost of Charles Melville Hays, the railway executive who died aboard the Titanic in 1912.

Legends say that his ghost continues to wander the halls of the Chateau Laurier where we were staying!

These highly rated tours are very popular and sell out quickly. So book in advance direct or reserve a Haunted Walk of Ottawa on Viator.com.

Day 3: Canadian Museum of Nature and Contemporary Canadian Cuisine

Our final day in Ottawa began with a breakfast of champions at the hotel’s buffet featuring an array of Canadian food specialties.

From buttery tourtière to artisanal cheeses of Quebec, the buffet showcased the diverse culinary heritage of Canada, fuelling us for our final cultural stop, the Canadian Museum of Nature.

It was a short Uber ride to this landmark attraction and we arrived just in time to witness a demonstration of birds of prey including owls, falcons and eagles.

Boy on a skip-gen trip in front of Canadian Museum of Nature a massive stone building in a Victorian High Gothic architecture.
The Canadian Museum of Nature is a massive stone building in a Victorian High Gothic architecture. (Credit: Francisco Sanchez)

Inside we explored the museum’s exhibits on fossils, minerals and the environment. A highlight was the Fossil Gallery, a journey back in time to the dinosaur era.

In addition to its impressive collection of real skeletons, this gallery features a forest walk through a diorama with seven battling dinosaurs.

Boy with life-sized dinosaurs in the Canadian Museum of Nature.
You’ll encounter these life-sized dinosaur replicas in the Canadian Museum of Nature. (Credit: Francisco Sanchez)

The Nature Exploration Stations provided close-up opportunities to learn about bugs, spiders and snakes.

As we explored the museum’s exhibits, we deepened our understanding of Canada’s diverse ecosystems and the fragility of the earth itself.

Earth as seen in the Science Centre of Ottawa.
Dramatic interior of the Museum of Nature. (Credit: Francisco Sanchez)

Lunch at 1 Elgin St.

Sign announcing Resident Chef Program.
The Resident Chef Program invited rising culinary stars to 1 Elgin restaurant. (Credit: Francisco Sanchez)

Then it was on to the National Arts Centre’s 1 Elgin Restaurant for lunch (Google Map).

The NAC offers a Resident Chef program featuring visiting chefs from across Canada.

These rising culinary stars create menus in collaboration with Executive Chef Kenton Leier to showcase the freshest flavours and seasonal ingredients of Canada.

During our visit, resident Chef Carmen Ingham from North Vancouver, British Columbia collaborated to create a menu with several exciting dishes.

Tomatillo and cucumber gazpacho topped with Caesar sorbet.
Tomatillo and cucumber gazpacho topped with Caesar sorbet. (Credit: Francisco Sanchez)

The sleek contemporary atmosphere was the perfect backdrop to showcase a range of sophisticated Canadian fine dining.

Starters such tomatillo and cucumber gazpacho topped with Caesar (the iconic Canadian cocktail) sorbet prompted curiosity about the diversity of Canadian ingredients.

Poached halibut with English pea cream fleurette and carrot at 1 Elgin.
Poached halibut with English pea cream fleurette and carrot. (Credit: Francisco Sanchez)

Dishes such as poached halibut with English pea cream fleurette and carrot showcased ingredients grown, harvested and sourced in Canada.

They were beautifully presented, topped with edible flowers and pea tendrils.

Dramatic dessert of chocolate with fresh berries.
Dramatic dessert of chocolate with fresh berries. (Credit: Francisco Sanchez)

The outdoor patio at 1 Elgin faces the Rideau Canal with a peek-a-boo view of Fairmont Château Frontenac in the distance.

Gorgeous views of the Rideau Canal with boats.
The terrace at 1 Elgin has gorgeous views of the Rideau Canal. (Credit: Francisco Sanchez)

Reservations recommended. Book online at 1 Elgin or by phone.

Final Thoughts

While it was tempting to hop on one of the canal boats and go for a cruise of the Rideau Canal, sadly our vacation time had run out.

We bid farewell to Ottawa, carrying with us, not only the flavours and adventurous spirit of the city but also the moments shared between generations.

Our multigenerational family vacation in Ottawa had not only been a romp through a fascinating Canadian destination.

It had also been a catalyst for family bonding and learning.

Make This a One-Week Family Vacation in Ottawa

Panoramic view of Ottawa.
Ottawa is one of Canada’s most beautiful ( and family-friendly) cities.

By the end of our trip, we were surprised at how much there was to do with kids in Ottawa!

Although we packed as much as we could into our 3-day Ottawa itinerary, there were several other attractions and activities that didn’t make the list due to timing, weather or the fact they were fully booked.

So if you have one week in Ottawa for a family vacation then these are another ten must-dos to add to your itinerary.

Official Ottawa Tourism: Browse attractions and get news on upcoming events, activities and deals at the Ottawa Tourism website.

Getting There

Via Rail train at Cobourg Station.
VIA Rail offers easy connections from Ottawa to Toronto, Kingston, Montreal and beyond. (Credit: Francisco Sanchez)

VIA Rail is Canada’s national passenger rail service offering scenic routes that connect major cities from Vancouver to Halifax. There is frequent service between Ottawa, Montreal and Toronto.

The travel time between Ottawa Station and Toronto’s Union Station takes 4.5 hours on average.

On all routes and all classes, kids between the ages of 2 and 12 will receive a train-themed Activity Bag upon request.

CAA members and seniors (65+) get discounted rates. Children under 24 travel free while those aged 2-12 get 50% off Economy Class fare.

When booking, request one of the special double-facing seats for four people. You’ll have room to stretch your legs as well as a table for board games, laptop or a meal.

Book Business Class and you can sip a cocktail along with your hot meal. You’ll also score access to the VIA Rail Business Class Lounge (with complimentary beverages) and priority boarding. 

🌟 Pro Tip: Book your VIA Rail ticket on a Discount Tuesday to enjoy the lowest fares and last minute deals.

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Collage of the best activities to do on a family vacation in Ottawa.

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