Canada’s capital city, Ottawa, Ontario sits on the Ottawa River and has, at its center, Parliament Hill. Must see attractions include museums such as the National Gallery of Canada, the Canada Science and Technology Museum, and the Canadian Museum of Nature, Parliament Hill, ByWard Market, and the Rideau Canal. So you don’t miss any of the best attractions Ottawa has to offer in the winter, we’ve put together an Ottawa winter bucket list. The Ottawa winter bucket list options are endless, but you could fit all of this into one long weekend stay. Ottawa is a destination alive with celebration; let’s celebrate the nation’s capital together.
Ottawa Winter Bucket List
Where to Learn
The Canada Science and Technology Museum
Newly renovated and celebrating its 50th anniversary, The Canada Science and Technology Museum reopened after $80.5 million in building repairs and upgrades, featuring over 80,000 sq. ft. of redesigned exhibition space. The museum offers an entirely new, immersive visitor experience, including 11 completely redesigned exhibitions, a demo stage, and more artifacts on view than ever before. Be sure to explore the cherished locomotives and walk into the Crazy Kitchen for fun illusions.
The National Gallery of Canada
The National Gallery of Canada is one of the country’s finest art museums. The Gallery sits in one of the most spectacular sites in Ottawa, and its award-winning architecture featuring the luminous Great Hall, spacious galleries, and interior gardens and courtyards. You’ll also find several outdoor artistic icons including Louise Bourgeois’ Maman, a mammoth 9.25-metre bronze spider located in the plaza.
You can explore the creative possibilities of art with free activities and special workshops for the whole family. The Artissimo Studio features a new project to create and take home. Art projects are thematically linked to artworks on view at the National Gallery of Canada.
Canadian Museum of Nature
In 2010, the Canadian Museum of Nature celebrated the 100th anniversary of its castle-like building with a grand renovation project. In the Water Gallery, see a 65-foot skeleton of a blue whale. In the Earth Gallery, see over 800 dazzling minerals from the museum’s world-class collection, most of which have never before been exhibited. In the special Butterflies in Flight exhibit, enter a lush, tropical greenhouse and interact with hundreds of live butterflies. In the Canada Goose Arctic Gallery, discover the Arctic through artifacts, first-hand perspectives, and learning activities.
Where to Play
Rideau Canal Skateway
In winter, the Rideau Canal, Ontario’s first UNESCO World Heritage Site, turns into the Rideau Canal Skateway—the world’s largest naturally frozen ice skating rink. The Rideau Canal Skateway stretches 7.8 km through downtown Ottawa and has a surface area equal to 90 Olympic sized ice rinks. Each year, there are over one million visits to the Skateway and it’s free for guests to enjoy.
This indoor fun and games centre is fun for the whole family. At Funhaven, enjoy classic midway games, laser tag, a jungle gym and climbing wall, bumper cars, mini-bowling, video games, and Ottawa’s only roller coaster. There’s a restaurant with a frozen yogurt section and plenty of seating. Regardless of age, we’re all big kids at Funhaven.
Where to Stay
The Fairmont Château Laurier
In 2012, the Fairmont Château Laurier celebrated 100 years of history, tradition, and grandeur. Ottawa’s famed castle offers elegance and sophistication in the ideal location. This legendary château has hosted heads of state, celebrities, dignitaries, and guests from around the world.
The Prince and Princess Tea at the Fairmont Chateau Laurier is a special fairytale treat for the whole family. Do you dream of afternoon tea in a castle like a princess? You can experience it at Zoe’s Lounge in the Fairmont Chateau Laurier.
Where to Eat
The Grand Pizzeria
The Grand Pizzeria is located in and named after the historic building in which the Grand Hotel opened in 1882. Combining old world traditional recipes with a modern decor, The Grand is an authentic southern Italian restaurant with the centerpiece being traditional Napoletana pizza, cooked in a specially constructed wood burning oven.
Be sure to check out The Grand’s Ice Bar after dinner where you can warm up by the fire pit with a seasonal cocktail, a craft beer, or delicious hot chocolate.
Big Rig Kitchen and Brewery
Ottawa Senators Alumni, Chris Phillips founded Big Rig Kitchen and Brewery in 2012, which began on a modest 10-barrel system. Today, they are the largest craft brewery in Canada’s capital. Big Rig Kitchen and Brewery takes great pride in reinventing classic styles and crafting emerging ones. The taproom is open for lunch and samples throughout the week. Tours of the brewery happen every Saturday. They also offer a fun kids’ menu including kiddie versions of adult favorites, like fish n’ chips, pizza, grilled chicken, and a junior hamburger.
Classic diner fare and the best milkshakes in town, Zak’s Diner is always busy. You’ll feel right at home the moment you walk through our doors. Rediscover that classic diner experience—the fun, the great food, the amazing service—just the way you remember it.
A BeaverTails pastry is an Ottawa delicacy. These whole-wheat pastries are enjoyed year-round in the ByWard Market neighborhood, but there is nothing more Canadian than enjoying one on skates on the frozen Rideau Canal in winter.
Special Additions to Your Ottawa Winter Bucket List
Canada 150 Rink on Parliament Hill
The Canada 150 Rink provides a uniquely Canadian experience to close out the Canada 150 celebration year. Free public skating is offered with the backdrop of the Canadian Parliament buildings. Even though it’s free, you do have to book the Canada 150 Rink skating activity in advance.
Celebrate Canadian winter fun during Winterlude in Canada’s Capital Region. Most Winterlude festival activities are free and take place during the first three weekends of February each year.
2018 highlights include:
Crystal Garden in Confederation Park
Crystal Garden is where you can admire dazzling ice sculptures created by professional carvers from around the world. Watch the carvers at work during competition times and return to see the finished masterpieces.
Snowflake Kingdom at Jacques Cartier Park
Snowflake Kingdom is a giant winter playground located at the North end of Jacques Cartier Park in downtown Gatineau. This winter wonderland features snow slides, skiing and snowboarding lessons, dog sledding, an Indigenous Village, an obstacle course, and extreme aerial acrobatic and trampoline shows.
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