32 Fun and Unique Things to Do in Ottawa | 2024 (with Photos)

Katarina P.

Katarina P. - Travel Writer

Published: June 30, 2023

Hey there! I'm Katarina, an enthusiastic traveler and writer. Join me as I share my top recommendations for exploring the vibrant city of Ottawa in 2024, accompanied by captivating photos to inspire your next adventure.

Fun and Unique Things to Do in Ottawa, Canada

Ottawa, Canada's capital city and home to the seat of the Canadian government, is a hidden gem that should be on everyone's travel list.

From exploring the iconic Parliament Hill to strolling through the charming ByWard Market, there's something for everyone in this vibrant city.

Whether you're a history buff, a foodie, or a nature lover, Ottawa offers a welcoming atmosphere and friendly locals and is thus truly a must-visit destination.

In this article, we'll take you through our list of fun and unique things to do in Ottawa.

Most Recommended Thing to Do

Parliament Hill

Top Choice Hotel

The Westin Ottawa

Our Top Choice Restaurant

Beckta Dining & Wine

Our Top Choice Bar for Nightlife


Best Time to Visit

Best time for visiting Ottawa, Canada is in summer.

Average Temperature

Cold winters and mild summers describe Ottawa's climate.

Transportation Options

Buses, trains, taxis, bikes, walking, carpooling, ride-hailing, scooters.

Average Cost ($, $$, $$$)


My Top Recommendation

One of my top recommendations for spending time in Ottawa, Canada is to explore the picturesque Rideau Canal, a UNESCO World Heritage site, by renting a quaint paddleboat and leisurely cruising along the tranquil waterway, taking in the breathtaking views of the city's historic architecture and lush greenery.

Another must-do experience in Ottawa is visiting the charming ByWard Market, where locals and visitors alike can immerse themselves in the vibrant atmosphere, indulging in deliciously fresh local produce, browsing unique boutiques and art galleries, and savoring a variety of international cuisines at the market's diverse range of restaurants and food stalls.

What You'll Need to Bring

  1. Valid passport
  2. Comfortable walking shoes
  3. Warm clothing for cold weather (especially in winter)
  4. Adaptor for electronics (Canada uses Type A and Type B plugs)
  5. Raincoat or umbrella
  6. Camera or smartphone for capturing memories
  7. Guidebook or map of Ottawa
  8. Money or credit cards for expenses
  9. Travel insurance
  10. Sense of adventure and curiosity

What Not to Miss

  1. Parliament Hill
  2. Rideau Canal
  3. ByWard Market
  4. National Gallery of Canada
  5. Canadian Museum of History
  6. Notre-Dame Cathedral Basilica
  7. Gatineau Park
  8. Canadian War Museum
  9. Royal Canadian Mint
  10. Ottawa River

What to Avoid

  1. Heavy traffic during rush hours
  2. High parking fees in downtown
  3. Overpriced tourist traps
  4. Crowded tourist attractions during peak seasons
  5. Taxis and transportation services with high fares
  6. Unreliable public transportation during off-peak hours
  7. Paying exorbitant prices for souvenir shops in popular areas
  8. Poorly maintained sidewalks and pathways
  9. Long lines and wait times at popular restaurants
  10. Using outdated or inaccurate tourist maps.

1. Visit Parliament Hill

Parliament Hill

Parliament Hill is the heart of Ottawa and home to the iconic buildings of Canada's federal government, including the Centre Block, which houses the House of Commons and the Senate.

If you want to get a sighting of Canada's Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, it's worth a shot.

The Gothic Revival-style architecture of these buildings is breathtaking, especially when lit up at night.

You can find daily free guided tours of Parliament Hill, available on a first-come-first-serve basis.

2. Tour the Parliament Buildings

House of Commons Tours

The Parliament Buildings in Ottawa are the center of Canada's democratic institutions, serving as the seat of the federal government and home to the Senate and House of Commons.

The Parliament Buildings also house important institutions, such as the Library of Parliament and the Memorial Chamber

House of Commons Tours is offered at West Block (111 Wellington St.) on Parliament Hill. Guided tours of the Parliament Buildings are free of charge.

Visitors are encouraged to reserve tickets in advance.

3. Explore the iconic Peace Tower

Peace Tower

The Peace Tower is one of the most recognizable landmarks in Ottawa, standing tall at 92 meters above the city.

Located on Parliament Hill, the tower has an observation deck, which offers stunning panoramic views of Ottawa and the surrounding areas.

After a trip to the Peace Tower, visitors can walk through the Memorial Chamber - a national monument, serving as a tribute to those who died in military service in Canada.

4. Explore the Canadian Museum of History

 Canadian Museum of History

The Canadian Museum of History, located across the Ottawa River in Gatineau, Quebec, has a collection of over 4 million artifacts showcasing the history and achievements of Canada's Indigenous peoples and diverse communities.

You can explore the stunning Grand Hall and the Canadian History Hall. The museum also hosts special exhibitions and educational programs, making it a great destination for visitors of all ages.

Hot tip: There are also some specialty museums in Ottawa, including the Canada Science and Technology Museum, the Portrait Gallery of Canada, and the Canadian Children's Museum.

Ottawa Art Gallery

Ottawa Art Gallery opened in 1980 after local artists advocated for their work. The gallery focuses on contemporary art and artists from the Ottawa-Gatineau region and beyond.

It is housed in a newly expanded building in downtown Ottawa and features a range of exhibitions, events, and programs, as well as an impressive collection of Canadian and Indigenous art.

Like so many capital cities in the world, some of the best things to do in Ottawa revolve around art and culture. This art gallery is a must-see when visiting Ottawa.

6. Visit Rideau Hall

Rideau Hall

Rideau Hall is a designated national historic site and has served as the official residence of Canada's Governor General since 1867.

The property spans 88 acres and includes many historical buildings, gardens, and a beautiful greenhouse. It serves as the home and office of the Governor General, who represents the Queen of Canada and carries out ceremonial and constitutional duties on her behalf.

With its expansive grounds, historic buildings, and stunning gardens, the estate offers a glimpse into Canada's past and present.

7. Explore Bytown Museum

Bytown Museum

If you're a total history buff you'll enjoy the Bytown Museum, too. Housed in Ottawa's oldest stone building, it tells the story of Ottawa's history from its early years when it was still called Bytown to its present-day status as Canada's capital.

Visitors can explore artifacts and photographs from the city's past, including interactive exhibits that bring the history to life.

With its engaging exhibits and unique location, the Bytown Museum is a perfect destination for anyone looking to gain a deeper understanding of Ottawa's fascinating past.

8. Take a Tour of the Rideau Canal

 Rideau Canal

Canada's Rideau Canal is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Built-in the 19th century as a military route, the Rideau Canal is now a scenic waterway that connects Ottawa to Kingston.

What's more, the Rideau Canal also turns into the world's largest ice skating rink in winter. If you are in Canada for the winter season, this is one of the most thrilling things to do in Ottawa.

Visitors can take a boat tour or rent a kayak to explore the Rideau Canal and its surrounding natural beauty. The canal is also home to the Ottawa Locks.

National Gallery of Canada

The National Gallery of Canada is a premier art museum and houses the world's largest collection of Canadian art

You can see an extensive collection of Canadian and international art, including works by renowned artists such as Tom Thomson, Emily Carr, and the Group of Seven.

With its impressive building and location overlooking the Ottawa River, the National Gallery of Canada offers a truly inspiring cultural experience.

10. Visit the Royal Canadian Mint

Million Dollar Coin

The Royal Canadian Mint, located in a historic building near the National Gallery, produces medals, commemorative coins, and other similar objects.

You can learn how the gold and silver get refined and reshaped, and see some iconic pieces, such as the Million Dollar Coin - the largest coin ever made.

There is also a gift shop where visitors can purchase collectible coins and souvenirs. The Royal Canadian Mint is one of the best things to do in Ottawa for coin collectors and anyone interested in the technology of money.

11. See the Changing of the Guard Ceremony

Changing of the Guard Ceremony

The Changing of the Guard ceremony is a popular attraction in Ottawa which takes place daily during the summer months on Parliament Hill, with members of the Canadian Armed Forces performing the tradition of the changing of the guard.

Visitors can witness the spectacle, with a marching band, bagpipes, and a precision drill team. The ceremony is a symbol of Canadian heritage and tradition and is free to attend, making it an accessible attraction for all.

12. Take a Boat Cruise on the Ottawa River

Boat Cruise on the Ottawa River

The Ottawa River is a scenic waterway that runs through the heart of Ottawa. It features numerous parks and trails along its shores, including the Ottawa River Pathway, with stunning views of the Ottawa skyline.

Visitors can also explore the river's cultural significance, from Indigenous history and heritage to the role of the river in Canadian history and commerce.

13. Check out the Canadian War Museum

Canadian War Museum

The Canadian War Museum is dedicated to showcasing Canada's military history and heritage. Its collection and interactive exhibits document Canada's involvement in conflicts and peacekeeping missions throughout history.

The museum's permanent galleries showcase the bravery and sacrifice of Canadian soldiers, sailors, and airmen. If you want to learn a bit about the Canadian military, this is one of the most informative things to do in Ottawa.

Whether you're interested in military history and Canadian heritage, or simply looking for a unique cultural experience, a visit to the Canadian War Museum is a must.

14. Visit the Notre Dame Cathedral Basilica

Notre Dame Cathedral Basilica

The Notre Dame Cathedral Basilica is an iconic landmark in Ottawa, Canada. Begun in 1841, it is the largest and oldest church in Ottawa and a National Historic Site.

The cathedral is a stunning example of Gothic Revival architecture, featuring intricate stonework, stained-glass windows, and soaring ceilings.

The basilica also boasts a rich history, having played an important role in the development of Catholicism in the Ottawa region. This is one of the most historic things to do in Ottawa.

15. Spend an Afternoon in the Vibrant ByWard Market

ByWard Market

ByWard Market is one of Ottawa's most vibrant neighborhoods and home to over 600 local businesses, including farmers' markets, artisan shops, boutiques, and cafes, making it the perfect destination for foodies and shoppers alike.

Visitors can sample local delicacies, such as Beaver Tails and poutine, and browse the market's eclectic mix of handmade crafts and souvenirs. If you're looking to immerse yourself in local culture, ByWard Market is a top attraction in Ottawa.

If it is a nice day while you are in town, then this neighborhood is one of the most enjoyable things to do in Ottawa, Canada.

16. Take a Trip to Gatineau Park

Gatineau Park

Gatineau Park is a vast natural oasis located just minutes from downtown Ottawa. It covers over 360 square kilometers of forests, lakes, and hills, and makes an ideal destination for hiking, biking, swimming, and camping.

Gatineau Park is also home to a range of wildlife, from black bears and moose to over 200 species of birds. It is also a mecca for cross-country skiing enthusiasts, so make sure it's on your list if you are visiting Ottawa in winter.

17. Visit the Canadian Museum of Nature

Canadian Museum of Nature

The Canadian Museum of Nature in Ottawa is a world-class museum that boasts an extensive collection of specimens and exhibits showcasing the diversity of life on Earth, from prehistoric fossils to present-day ecosystems.

You can explore the Birds of Canada Gallery, the Earth Gallery, and the Fossil Gallery, and learn about everything, from dinosaurs to Arctic wildlife. The Canadian Museum of Nature also features a state-of-the-art 3D cinema, showing the natural world in stunning detail.

18. Visit the Diefenbunker Museum

Diefenbunker Museum

The Diefenbunker Museum in Ottawa is located in a four-story underground bunker that was built in the late 1950s to serve as a secure government facility in the event of a nuclear attack. Visitors can explore the medical room, a kitchen, and a decontamination chamber.

Named after the Prime Minister of the time, John Diefenbaker, the building was meant to house the Canadian Government if nuclear war were to break out. The museum features interactive displays that provide insight into the politics and tensions of the Cold War era.

19. Visit the Central Experimental Farm and the Dominion Arboretum

Central Experimental Farm

The Central Experimental Farm and the Dominion Arboretum are two of Ottawa's most beautiful green spaces.

The Central Experimental Farm has been at the forefront of agricultural research since its establishment in 1886. Visitors can tour the farm and learn about the latest agricultural research.

The Dominion Arboretum, located within the Central Experimental Farm, is a 64-hectare collection of over 10,000 trees and shrubs from around the world. A visit to this natural paradise is one of the more tranquil things to do in Ottawa.

20. Enjoy Events at the TD Place Stadium and Lansdowne Park

TD Place Stadium

TD Place Stadium and Lansdowne Park are two of Ottawa's premier destinations for sports and entertainment. TD Place Stadium is home to the Ottawa Redblacks of the Canadian Football League, as well as the Ottawa Fury FC soccer team.

Lansdowne Park, located adjacent to the stadium, is a 40-acre urban park offering a mix of green space and cultural attractions. This is one of the best things to do in Ottowa for sports fans.

Visitors can shop for souvenirs at the Ottawa Farmers' Market, catch a movie at the Cineplex Cinemas Lansdowne, or explore the many art galleries and boutiques that dot the area.

21. Attend the Canadian Tulip Festival in May

Canadian Tulip Festival

The Canadian Tulip Festival, held each May, commemorates the gift of 100,000 tulip bulbs sent from the Netherlands to Canada during World War II as a symbol of gratitude for the role Canada played in the liberation of the Netherlands.

The festival features over a million tulips in bloom across the city, creating a stunning backdrop for visitors. Overall, the Canadian Tulip Festival is an excellent opportunity to experience the beauty of spring in Ottawa while learning about the city's history and culture.

22. Enjoy the Ottawa International Jazz Festival

Ottawa International Jazz Festival

The Ottawa International Jazz Festival, one of the city's most popular annual events, features an impressive lineup of local and international jazz musicians who perform across multiple stages in the city's core.

Visitors can enjoy a wide range of jazz styles, including classic, modern, Latin, and fusion, as well as other genres such as blues and world music. The festival also offers food vendors, arts and crafts booths, and a licensed area for patrons to relax and socialize.

This is one of the most fun things to do in Ottawa if you are in town over the summer.

23. Go on a Hot Air Balloon Ride Over Ottawa

Hot Air Balloon Ride Over Ottawa

Going on a hot air balloon ride over Ottawa provides a bird's-eye view of Ottawa's stunning architecture and lush green spaces. From above, visitors can appreciate the city's landmarks, such as Parliament Hill, the Government buildings, the Rideau Canal, and the Canadian Museum of History.

The hot air balloon ride also offers a serene and peaceful experience that is perfect for a romantic outing or a family adventure. The ride typically lasts for an hour and is an excellent way to experience the city's beauty.

24. Go on a Brewery Tour

Lowertown Brewery

Visiting one of Ottawa's local breweries is a must for beer enthusiasts and anyone looking to have an unforgettable experience. Ottawa's breweries offer a wide variety of unique local craft beers that showcase the city's vibrant and diverse culture.

Lowertown Brewery, located in the historic Byward Market, offers a range of traditional and seasonal beers, as well as a menu of pub-style food. Waller St. Brewing in downtown Ottawa is known for its creative and experimental beers, often featuring local and seasonal ingredients.

25. Go on a Haunted Walking Tour of Ottawa

Fairmont Chateau Laurier

Going on a haunted walking tour in Ottawa is a thrilling experience that takes visitors through the city's dark and spooky history, showcasing some of the most haunted sites in downtown Ottawa.

Visitors can explore haunted sites such as the Bytown Museum, the Fairmont Chateau Laurier, and the Mackenzie King Estate while learning about the legends associated with each location.

The ghost walking tour is one of the most entertaining things to do in Ottawa and is sure to be an unforgettable and spine-tingling experience to add to your list when you visit Ottawa.

26. See the Hog's Back Falls

Hog's Back Falls

Hog's Back Falls is a series of waterfalls along the Rideau River outside of downtown Ottawa. They offer a stunning view of the cascading water, as well as a picturesque park area that is perfect for picnics, hiking, and fishing.

The falls are particularly spectacular in the spring when the rushing water creates an impressive display. Overall, Hog's Back Falls is a must-visit destination for nature lovers visiting Ottawa and anyone looking to enjoy the beauty of Ottawa's natural landscapes.

27. Visit Major's Hill Park

Major's Hill Park

Just above the Rideau Canal is Major's Hill Park - one of the city's oldest green spaces. Numerous events are held here, including Canada Day celebrations and the Winterlude festival, which features ice sculptures, outdoor skating, and other winter activities.

Visitors can also explore the park's many historic monuments, which pay tribute to some of Canada's most famous figures. This is one of the best things to do in Ottawa for history buffs.

Overall, Major's Hill Park is a great destination for anyone looking to experience the natural beauty and rich history of Ottawa.

28. Canada Aviation and Space Museum

Canada Aviation and Space Museum

Canada Aviation and Space Museum, located near the Ottawa International Airport, has over 130 aircraft on display, including vintage biplanes and military planes that flew during both World Wars and the Cold War.

The most popular attractions here are the Avro Arrow interceptor's remaining pieces, which date to the 1950s, and Space Shuttle Endeavor's Canadarm, the Canadian-built robotic arm that was once installed on the International Space Station.

29. Catch an Ottawa Senators Game

Canadian Tire Centre

The Ottawa National Hockey League team the Senators, colloquially known as the Sens, plays home games at the Canadian Tire Centre, a multi-purpose indoor arena, which is also home to the Ottawa Sports Hall of Fame.

The original Ottawa Senators, founded in 1883, had a famed history, winning the Stanley Cup 11 times, and playing in the NHL from 1917 until 1934. The Canadian Tire Centre is also used regularly for music concerts.

30. Cruise from Chateau Laurier to Dow's Lake

Cruise from Chateau Laurier to Dow's Lake

This scenic cruise that takes visitors from the Fairmont Chateau Laurier to Dow's Lake and back offers a relaxing and picturesque way to explore the city's historic Rideau Canal.

Passengers will have the chance to see nearly 30 sights along the way, including City Hall, the National Arts Centre, the Canadian Museum of Nature, the TD Centre, and Lansdowne Park.

The cruise offers a unique perspective on the city and its waterways. The cruise is one of the best things to do in Ottawa for people who prefer to sit and watch the world go by, rather than walk too much.

31. Have a Meal at Whalesbone


Located on Bank Street and Elgin Street, just south of downtown Ottawa, this place is a must for seafood lovers. Whalesbone prides itself on sourcing its seafood from local and ethical sources.

The menu features a variety of fresh seafood dishes, including oysters, lobster, and fish. The restaurant has a cozy and welcoming atmosphere and also offers a selection of craft beers, wines, and cocktails.

If you are traveling with foodies, having a meal at this restaurant is one of the best things to do in Ottawa and should not be missed.

32. Canada Agriculture and Food Museum

Canada Agriculture and Food Museum

Finally, the Canada Agriculture and Food Museum is a unique and informative attraction that offers visitors a fascinating glimpse into Canada's agricultural heritage. This is one of the most fun things to do in Ottawa on a rainy day.

Visitors can learn about the importance of farming and food production in Canada's history and economy. The museum also showcases the latest advancements in agriculture and food technology, making it an excellent educational experience for visitors of all ages.

FAQs About Things to Do in Ottawa, Canada

Let's also look at some frequently asked questions about things to do in Ottawa, Canada.

What is the number one thing to do in Ottawa, Canada?

There are so many things to do in Ottawa, Canada it is hard to pick just one. Visiting Parliament Hill is sometimes considered the number one thing to do in Ottawa. Parliament Hill is the political and cultural heart of the city.

Visitors can take guided tours of the historic buildings and enjoy stunning views of the city from the hilltop location.

Is Ottawa, Canada worth visiting?

Yes, with so many great things to do in Ottawa, Ottawa is defnitely worth visiting. Check out Parliament Hill, the Peace Tower, the Rideau Canal, the National Gallery of Canada, the Canadian Museum of Nature, the Ottawa Farmers Market, and Gatineau Park.

The city also hosts cultural and music festivals, such as the International Jazz Festival, Canada Day, and the Canadian Tulip Festival. It also has a vibrant food scene and a thriving arts scene.

Is 2 days enough in downtown Ottawa?

While two days in Ottawa is enough time to see major attractions (Parliament Hill, the Peace Tower, the Canadian Museum of History, and ByWard Market), it may not be enough to explore everything the city has to offer. We recommend 3-4 days to fully experience Ottawa.

What do people do for fun in Ottawa, Canada?

There are many things to do in Ottawa for fun. Ottawa is home to the world's largest skating rink and world-class museums such as the Canadian Museum of History, the Ottawa Art Gallery, the Space Museum, and the National Arts Centre.

In addition, there are also many hiking trails, and natural areas to explore, including the Rideau Canal and Gatineau Park.

Summing Up: 32 Things to Do in Ottawa, Canada

There are so many amazing things to do in Ottawa, Canada you will not want to leave.

From hiking trails in the nearby countryside to the Rideau Canal and Ottawa's museums, the city has something for everyone.

Make sure to visit the iconic Parliament Buildings, Peace Tower, and the solemn Memorial Chamber while in town.

If you have time, try skating on the world's largest skating rink as well. There are too many things to do in Ottawa to see it all - but with this guide, you can make your way through the highlights.

So plan your trip today and visit Ottawa to experience all that this wonderful city has to offer.