Canadian Museum of History

Culture fun in Ottawa: a March itinerary

As Canada’s capital, the Ottawa region has a rich variety of culture, art and history, and there are many different ways to experience them. Whether you want to see seven of the country’s nine national museums, take fascinating tours or enjoy live performances, you’ll find just what your eyes, hearts and minds are looking for in a cultural destination this March Break and throughout the entire month. 

Day 1—Art, history, and entertainment

Book a private walking tour with Tours By Locals and discover the highlights and hidden gems of Canada's capital city, with a friendly local guide.

Once you have the lay of the city’s land, make your way to the National Gallery of Canada, a beautiful glass and granite building designed by Moshe Safdie. Inside, you can admire the largest collection of Canadian and Indigenous art in the world, including modern Inuit sculptures and Group of Seven paintings. The gallery also presents international masterpieces, a photography museum and important special exhibitions. (Currently open Wednesday through Sunday, as well as Monday, March 14 and Tuesday, March 15 for March Break.)

Just a few short blocks from the Gallery is the historic and vibrant ByWard Market neighbourhood, which gets its name from the on-site farmers’ market—one of the oldest in Canada. This commercial area was established in 1826 by Lieutenant-Colonel John By who was responsible for building the Rideau Canal (now a UNESCO World Heritage Site). Step inside the ByWard Market Building to explore a variety of food, fashion and art vendors. Then browse the exterior farmers’ stalls which sell seasonal products year-round, including maple syrup.

Get a feel for the Ottawa region’s artistic past and present at the always-free Ottawa Art Gallery located just steps from the ByWard Market. The modern space showcases works of art in different mediums created by artists from the area and beyond. (Currently open Wednesday through Sunday)

Enjoy the many wonderful things to see and do at the Canadian Museum of Nature. Get up close to some amazing, live tidepool creatures in their new Pacific Discover Tank; be awed by their Snowy Owls, Bald Eagle and all their fowl friends awaiting you in their special outdoor habitats; or embark on a fun scavenger hunt, inspired by the mesmerizing art exhibition, Shadowland. (Currently open Wednesday through Sunday)

When hunger sets in, choose from the many Family-friendly restaurants and places to eat which are within strolling distance of most Ottawa hotels. Between pizza, burritos, burgers and milkshakes, everyone will be happy and full!

A day of eye-catching beauty deserves an entertaining end. The National Arts Centre—the only bilingual, multidisciplinary performing arts centre in Canada—presents a wide variety of orchestra, dance, variety, and English, French and Indigenous theatre performances.

After a day of culture, the Rideau Carleton Casino – Future Home Of Hard Rock Ottawa is a great option for adult fun. Located less than a half hour south of Parliament Hill and less than 15 minutes from the Ottawa airport, Enjoy gaming and entertainment with over 1,200 slot machines, live table games, a poker room, plus live horse harness racing.

Want more excitement? The Casino Lac-Leamy, just 10 minutes’ drive across the Ottawa River in Gatineau, Quebec, is a exciting place to try your luck! This entertainment destination has with several restaurants, bars, and a wide selection of slot machines and gaming tables.

Day 2—Fun, food, and Canada

A family adventure awaits at the Canada Agriculture and Food Museum! Meet featured farm animals of the day, discover the science behind maple syrup…and join in welcoming the newest members of the farm family as lambing season begins. (Currently open Wednesday through Sunday)

Awaken your curiosity at the Canada Science and Technology Museum! Ponder the invention of everyday technologies while watching entertaining animations from the National Film Board, then take in one of the daily demonstrations. (Currently open Wednesday through Sunday)

Visit the Royal Canadian Mint boutique just outside the ByWard Market area, to add to your coin collection, find exciting gift ideas and take home some Mint memorabilia. (Currently open Wednesday through Sunday)

Take a scenic 5-minute drive along Sussex Drive from the Mint to Rideau Hall, the home of the Governor General of Canada (the Crown's representative in Canada). Everyone is welcome to visit Rideau Hall’s beautiful grounds, where trees planted by visiting dignitaries and famous people are labeled, and traditionally manicured gardens are a feast for the eyes.

Taste your way through Ottawa’s most intriguing culinary neighbourhoods on a C’est Bon Gourmet Food Tour. Their expert guides lead you on epicurean excursions through Ottawa’s foodie neighborhoods. Meet the merchants, discover outstanding ethnic and fine food shops, and sample award-winning dishes. (Advanced booking required)

Round out your Canadian experience with a visit to the Canadian Museum of History, the country’s most-visited museum located directly across the Ottawa River from Parliament Hill in Gatineau, Quebec. This architectural gem designed by Douglas Cardinal is home to the world's largest indoor collection of totem poles, a hall dedicated to the traditions and achievements of Indigenous Peoples, as well as the largest and most comprehensive exhibition about Canadian history ever created. Visitors can download a Museum Guide mobile application for content in seven languages. (Currently open Wednesday through Sunday)

Located just minutes west of downtown Ottawa, Funhaven offers a world-class laser tag arena, the latest high-tech mini-bowling lanes, an indoor roller coaster, bumper cars, an arcade and prize games, simulators and a huge jungle gym. The little ones are sure to be entertained!

Bond as a family by getting locked up and working together to escape! Escape attractions throughout the city like Escape ManorEscape Manor Junior and Jigsaw Escape Rooms have options for all ages. Consider attempting the world’s largest escape room—Escape the Diefenbunker (normally after museums hours on weekends; advanced booking required).

In the evening, join a cloaked guide for the Original Haunted Walk of Ottawa tour to hear spooky stories and fascinating history about downtown Ottawa.

Stay up to date

Stay up to date on upcoming events and ideas to plan your next trip to Ottawa with friends, family or on your own by signing up for the Ottawa Tourism Newsletter.