Ottawa, Canada’s capital city, is in the province of Ontario at the Québec border, only a short flight from other major metropolitan areas like Toronto, New York City, or Montreal. Impressive, yet intimate, the city is home to 1.3 million English- and French-speaking residents, growing multicultural communities, national and historic sites, cultural attractions, and year-round recreation and adventure. In Ottawa, travelers feel a relaxed urban rhythm throughout the walkable downtown and each distinctive neighborhood.
“As a four-season destination, Canada’s capital is a wonderful place to visit any time of year. Countless sites, events, and activities welcome groups and fully independent travelers to Ottawa all year long,” says Veronique Juneau, the manager of B2B marketing for Ottawa Tourism.
Summer: River Recreation
Exciting water experiences can be found within the city of Ottawa and in the nearby countryside. Right downtown on the Ottawa River, Ottawa City Rafting’s half-day rafting trips are within view of Parliament Hill. Groups can also enjoy the river with the help of Capital Cruises, World Famous Paul’s Boat Line, or by taking Water Taxi Eh. Explore farther upriver with OWL Rafting’s more adventurous single or multiday trips.
Ottawa’s most famous urban waterway is the Rideau Canal, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Hop on board Rideau Canal Cruises and learn more about the only remaining operational canal dating from the early 19th century.
Fall: Brews & BOO!
Sit back and relax with some craft beer with Brew Donkey Tours. During these group outings, a guide takes your group to some of the many craft breweries in Canada’s capital region. Groups get to meet the innovative, local brewmasters who have the city and region positively hopping, learn about the brewing process, and enjoy several delicious beer samples. Cheers!
Known as a safe and beautiful city, Ottawa also has a fun, spooky past. Join Haunted Walks during its favorite time of the year as the company’s staff lead brave groups through creepy elements of the capital’s history, including the halls and cell blocks of an internationally recognized haunted hot spot: the old Carleton County Jail.
Winter: Let It Snow!
Canada’s winter festival, Winterlude, celebrates the best of the cold season in the Ottawa-Gatineau region. The event features free access to sites like Snowflake Kingdom—a giant playground with slides, snow sculptures, mazes, and more. And in downtown Ottawa, groups can marvel at beautiful ice sculptures created by competing international carvers.
Winterlude is also celebrated on the Rideau Canal Skateway, the world’s largest outdoor skating rink. Glide along 7.8 kilometers (nearly 5 miles) between downtown and Dow’s Lake Pavilion, which has several restaurants as well as skate and sleigh rentals. And during one weekend, groups can watch international participants power colorful dragon boats down the Skateway during the BeaverTails Ottawa Ice Dragon Boat Festival.
Throughout winter, groups can also go twirl at refrigerated ice surfaces such as the Rink of Dreams at City Hall, the Lansdowne Skating Court, or Rideau Hall’s iconic rink (which has hosted 19th-century skating parties organized by Canada’s governor general). To catch some hockey action, check out a home game of the NHL’s Ottawa Senators at the Canadian Tire Centre, or the OHL’s Ottawa 67s, who play at TD Place at Lansdowne.
Spring: Biking in Bloom
Ottawa’s festivals really begin to bloom in May with the Canadian Tulip Festival, where tulips are just the beginning! This celebration goes back to the second World War when Ottawa provided refuge for Princess Juliana of the Netherlands, and to thank the city, she sent 100,000 bulbs in gratitude! From these roots has grown a huge festival, including live music performances, children’s activities, and more. Take in the tulips on foot in Commissioners Park, or rent a bike and enjoy the pathways along the Rideau Canal—just don’t forget to stop and smell the flowers!
The Capital Pathway Network doesn’t stop there. Rent a bike from RentABike and explore more of this 800-kilometer network. Take a tour with Escape Bicycle Tours & Rentals. Hop off the bike entirely and jump on Gray Line Ottawa’s “Hop-on, Hop-off” city tours aboard a double-decker bus. These tours allow you and your group to discover the city at your own pace over up to two days—basically a tour guide and chauffeur when you want them!
Year-Round: Fun for the Whole Family
Multigenerational group tours can enjoy outdoor activities at Camp Fortune, a year-round recreational resort just 15 minutes north of downtown Ottawa in Gatineau Park. As a four-season outdoor adventure destination, Camp Fortune offers everything needed for skiing, snowboarding, and snowshoeing in winter. The full-service downhill ski center has 24 trails, varied terrain, two terrain parks, night skiing, lessons, rental equipment, a cafeteria, and a bar on the slopes.
From May through October, travelers can speed down the hill through a forest, tunnels, and ski runs by riding the mountain pipe coaster. Or, fly down and across the Camp Fortune Valley with beautiful views of Gatineau Park while on the three Peak to Peak ziplines, plus a 15-meter (50 feet!) freefall jump. The aerial park also features suspended walkways, monkey bridges, and more that are suitable for both children and adults. Other activities include mountain biking and chairlift rides.
Cycling in the Capital
Photo courtesy of Ottawa Tourism