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Family fun in Ottawa

Canada’s capital city offers up great choices for family adventures!


The capital of Canada, Ottawa, derives its name from the Algonquin word adawe, meaning “to trade.” Ottawa and the surrounding valleys were home to the Algonquin people prior to the arrival of Europeans during the fur and lumber trading eras. Now, this sophisticated city is a multicultural and bilingual home to a metropolitan population exceeding 1 million.

Museums galore

Ottawa families have a vast menu of activities to choose from all year: museums and performing arts, historical and heritage sites and sports and numerous recreational venues. The city is home to the Canadian Agricultural Museum, the Canada Aviation and Space Museum, the Canada Science and Technology Museum, Canadian Ski Museum, Currency Museum and the Portrait Gallery of Canada… to name just a few!

Ottawa is also home to the NHL’s Ottawa Senators and several non-professional teams, including the Ottawa ’67 Junior Hockey Team. Sports-minded families can enjoy taking in these teams’ games, as well as participating in casual recreational activities — skating, cycling, hiking, sailing, curling, golfing, skiing, and fishing and ice fishing.

Walking Ottawa

Stroll along Parliament Hill from mid-May until September on a self-guided tour and discover the historical events and figures of this unique area. There are free booklets to guide you and site-interpreters to assist as you meander at your own pace. More history? Pinhey’s Point Historic Site on the shores of the Ottawa River is 88 acres of designated Heritage Site, with exhibitions, artifacts, period room recreations (1820–1848) and children’s activities.

Papanack Park Zoo is a great day of fun with the usual cast: lions, tigers, wolves, bears, cougars, snow leopards and monkeys. Children can take part in the Look and Learn Program, where they join the keepers throughout the day as they feed the animals in their care. Share a journey through Canadian history with interactive programs celebrating First Nation culture at Aboriginal Experience at Turtle Island. Native music, dance, crafts and legends include an interpreted tour of the Native village. Just a block east of Parliment Hill is Byward Market, Canada’s oldest continuous farmer’s market, with 100-plus vendors year-round offering plants and flowers, fresh fruits and vegetables, baked goods and arts and crafts that appeal to every age.

Little Ray’s Reptile Zoo houses 250 animals and over 80 displays where children are encouraged to get up close and personal with the animals. It’s hands-on education for a unique zoo experience. Get a taste of Canada’s railway heritage aboard an old-time steam train at Hulls Wakefield Steam Train. The trip lasts five hours inclusive of a two-hour stop at historic Wakefield Village.

At the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Stable your family can watch outdoor Musical Ride practice when in session; guided tours are available for free all year.

Rideau Hall is the historic residence and workplace of Canada’s Governor General and is the place to discover A Butterfly’s World, the Tell-a-Tale Treasure Hunt Challenge, and, at the visitor’s centre, to participate in Time Out for Art and Build an Inuksuk. Grounds open at 8 a.m. and close an hour before sunset.

Saunders Farm has summer and fall family activities. In summer, it’s Maze Season: Explore 10 hedge mazes, or let the little ones enjoy wagon rides, tree forts and play areas on this 100-acre farm. In fall, they offer spooky haunted hayrides, the Barn of Terror, and ghost stories told around the bonfire.

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