There are so many wonderful things to do in Ottawa, Canada. Come December, Canada’s capital is lit up with Christmas lights, hot chocolate tastes inexplicably better, and everyone is waiting for the Rideau Canal to freeze. I’ve lived in Ottawa most of my life, and love wintering in the capital. The wide variety of things to do in Ottawa makes it perfect for a weekend getaway or an addition to any trip to Ottawa, Canada.
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Here are my favorite things to do in Ottawa! like to live in Check out this post on Ottawa experiences you can have at home.
Rideau Canal Skateway
Ottawa’s biggest claim to fame is the Rideau Canal. It is the longest skating rink in the world and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. If you meet someone from Winnipeg who tells you differently, you can share this link with them on the Guinness World Records website.
Lac de Lupes. Skate through the woods in
There is a beautiful skating trail in Gatineau Park that I am so excited to visit this winter. The trail opens in December during this winter season, and remains open until March, as weather and snow conditions permit. This 3 km route passes through trees. Skate around, or snowshoe a trail with snow. You will find this road open daily from 10 am to 4 p.m., and there are evening skating events scheduled for January and February.
Governor General’s Skating Rink
The grounds of Rideau Hall are beautiful in winter, and if you visit during the afternoon on the weekend, the skating rink is open too! Along the edge of Rideau Hall and slightly hidden from the trees is a lovely little skating rink. It is open every Saturday and Sunday from 1-5 PM, with some additional opening hours during the holidays.
Sens Rink of Dreams at City Hall
The Senses Rink of Dreams in front of City Hall is free and is open daily from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. so you can even watch the sunset over the ice. Skate rental and sharpening are available. City Hall is right across from Confederation Park, where the trees are covered in beautiful lights throughout the holiday season.
Skating Court at Lansdowne Pavilion
Skating is free at the Lansdowne Pavilion and is open daily from 6 am to 11 pm. Lansdowne is home to a wonderful Christmas market throughout December, a movie theater, great restaurants, and a market on Sunday mornings throughout the year.
The Rideau Canal Skateway, the Governor General’s Skating Rink, the Senses Rink of Dreams, and the skating courts in Lansdowne are all accessible by public transport.
One of my favorite places for a winter walk is Mere Bleu. The 1.2km interpretive trail meanders through a swamp (so stay on the boardwalk). Mer Bleu is a swamp, a very unique ecosystem for the area and it looks incredible with snow-covered swamps. Parking and admission are free, and it is best used with a vehicle. You can even bring your own snow boots!
Jack Pine Trail
Make your way to the Jack Pine Trail and help keep the chicks well fed! The Jack Pine Trail is a beautiful place for a winter walk, and the birds will eat off your hands. My family and I recently learned that woodpeckers love ground peanuts! There are 3 loops on the Jack Pine Trail – I recommend the medium loop (1.7km) for feeding birds. Free parking, free admission, best reached by car but possible by bus and walking.
The Dominion Arboretum is fully accessible by bus, with a snowscape within the city that is free and easy to access. Walk a 3 km loop starting from the main parking lot and enjoy the view of the Rideau Canal along the way.I like to take the 2nd line train to Carleton Station and cross the Rideau Canal 9 and 10 locks, go through the winding nursery to the main car park, and then get on the train again at Carlington Station. It takes about 30 minutes (2.4 km) to walk.
Enjoy the Lights at Night
Every winter through December and into early January, Ottawa is covered in beautiful Christmas lights. I absolutely love this time of year! Unfortunately, light shows in and around Ottawa only run until early January, so make sure you step outside before you go to enjoy the lights.
Wesley Clover Park
Experience a dazzling, drive-thru holiday light show from November 13, 2020 – to January 9, 2021. You’ll drive through light-adorned tunnels and past holiday scenes and familiar holiday characters. Prices are per car and are very easily found on the Wesley Clover Parks website.
Christmas Lights Across Canada
This magical winter lightscape multimedia shows the project every night from 5:30-11 PM over the Parliament Buildings and until midnight on New Year’s Eve. Even at that time, the capital region is covered in Christmas lights. Major Hill Park and Confederation Park are one of my favorite places to take an evening stroll and see the lights! The lights go on every evening from 4:30, until 2 in the afternoon.
Enchanted Ottawa Holiday Drive-Thru
This new Christmas season, this drive-in experience captures the old go-kart track and takes you through a spectacular light display. Explore 8 festive scenes, and see Santa, the Lights, and other holiday characters.
Night landing in Upper Canada Village
One of the biggest outdoor lighting festivals in Ontario is in Upper Canada Village until January 5. The heritage buildings, trees, and enclosures are decorated with hundreds of thousands of Christmas lights.
Saunders Farm Drive Thru
Saunders Farms is hosting both day and night holidays this year! Join Mazzy, a young plant, as he explores the farm in search of his Christmas star. Stop by after nightfall at the Courtyard and Farm Shop for mulled wine, craft beer, hot drinks, and beavertails.
Lights in Lansdowne
Ottawa’s biggest Christmas tree is back! Take a walk around the Casino Lac Lamy Plas in Lansdowne and immerse yourself in the lights. I’ve already visited this year and it’s the perfect place for holiday Instagram photos! Pose in a giant lit ornament or have a picture of yourself with a Christmas or Noel sign. This event is free, come anytime. Bring your skates to the rink!