Keeping the kids active and entertained during Family Day long weekend can seem like a challenge, but not in the Ottawa area! Family-friendly experiences are endless, including free outdoor activities, sports, dining, museums and even animal attractions.
Many local attractions also offer special programming during this weekend (February 18-20, 2023), which is also a great time to experience the Winterlude festival. Be inspired by the itinerary below to start planning the perfect family getaway or staycation in Canada’s capital region!
Discover why CNN Travel named Ottawa as one of the top 10 destinations of 2023 – the only Canadian city to make the list!
DAY 1 – Museums and historical treasures
Many Ottawa hotels have kid-friendly amenities like indoor pools, game rooms and more activities that your kids will love!
Why not start Family Day weekend with some live creatures and fascinating history?
Head to the castle-esque Canadian Museum of Nature and witness birds of prey like owls and an eagle in a specially-designed habitat. Enjoy artwork from Nunavick artists in the Our Land, Our Art exhibition. And explore the rest of the museum to learn about Canadian fossils, minerals and even dinosaurs!
Visit Canada’s most popular museum, the Canadian Museum of History, located just across from downtown Ottawa in Gatineau, Quebec. Admire the breathtaking collection of totem poles in the Grand Hall and walk through history in the Canadian History Hall and enjoy special Spring Break activities. Younger kids love the cultural treasure hunt at the Canadian Children’s Museum, located inside. And no visit is complete without catching an entertaining film in the Ciné+ theatre!
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!
DAY 2 – Science, art and animals, oh my!
Science or art, who can choose?
The Canada Science and Technology Museum is known for interactive learning and fun. Enjoy classic favourites like the real locomotives and the Crazy Kitchen, as well as newer hits like the ZOOOM – Children’s Innovation Zone and the Exploratek maker studio. The museum is full of hands-on opportunities for all ages!
Creative kids have lots of options in Ottawa, too!
The National Gallery of Canada’s Artissimo programming offers a range of art activities and games, including the chance to hang your creations in the actual museum. Hands-on artsy fun also awaits at the beautiful Ottawa Art Gallery – where admission is always free!
For lunch, shopping or browsing, visit the historic ByWard Market area. There are treats to discover around every corner, cute courtyards and urban art. This is just one of many vibrant neighbourhoods worth exploring in Ottawa.
What kid isn’t crazy about animals?
Spend half a day at Parc Omega where you can take a Canadian safari through the natural habitat of animals like deer, elk, bison, caribou and wolves. You can also walk or snowshoe the First Nations trail. This impressive wildlife park feels a world away, but it’s only a 45-minute drive from downtown Ottawa to Montebello, Quebec!
If you prefer to stay in the city, visit the Canada Agriculture and Food Museum. Kids go crazy for the special daily programming, including encounters with farm animals, kitchen demonstrations, maple taffy on snow, children’s story time and creative crafts. It’s all free with the price of museum admission!
For some mental stimulation and family bonding, why not get locked up in a room and work together to escape? Ottawa company Escape Manor has various experiences to choose from at locations throughout the city.
DAY 3 – Slopes and skates
Explore the great outdoors! The Ottawa region is full of cross-country skiing as well as downhill skiing and snowboarding options. Ski within the city or head just 15-minutes to Gatineau Park or the surrounding Greenbelt in the nearby countryside to hit the slopes (or the flats).
Experience the last weekend of the annual Winterlude festival. With ice sculptures, interactive art installations, a Chinook slide, and more, it’s never a dull moment. Then, strap on a pair of skates and skate along the Rideau Canal Skateway, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Don’t forget to grab a BeaverTail at one of the locations located along the skateway!
And last but not least, consider one of Ottawa’s must-sees: iconic Parliament Hill. While the Centre Block undergoes a decade-long rehabilitation, you can enjoy two new (free!) guided tours of other historic interior spaces: The House of Commons in Parliament Hill’s West Block, and the Senate in the Senate of Canada Building (Ottawa’s original train station). You can now conveniently reserve tickets online!