Who needs to go away on a family vacation when you can be a tourist in your own beautiful city? This summer, many attractions and businesses in Canada’s capital—including tours, wildlife parks and museums—have unlocked their doors and are offering special programming with physical distancing in mind. Use the itinerary ideas below to plan your own fun family staycation in Ottawa!
Note: The suggestions below are based on information available on the publishing date. Please contact businesses directly to confirm.
TIP: Access exclusive discounts
Sign up for the free #MyOttawa Pass to access deals from over 75 businesses in the region, including accommodations, tours, dining and more! The pass is available until September 7, 2020, and some of the offers can be booked now and redeemed after that date. (Due to popular demand, this is an extension of the pass, which was originally valid until July 31 and featured 60 businesses.)
DAY 1—Outdoors, wildlife and tours
A change of scenery can give you that getaway feeling—even in your own city! Treat yourselves to a stay at a hotel, B&B and or even a jail-turned-hostel throughout the Ottawa area. Many are open and offering special deals.
Paddleboat your way through a water maze at Éco-Odyssée, just North of Ottawa. While navigating the twists and turns, kids can point out different species of flora and fauna.
Then go on a self-driven Canadian safari at Omega Park—a giant wildlife and culture park located just 45 minutes away in Montebello, Quebec. Keep an eye out for moose, elk, bison, wolves and bears, and learn about Canada’s First Nations on the walking trail.
When it’s time to eat, patios are your best bet and there are plenty to choose from throughout the city. We’ve gathered some highlights—many of which are kid-friendly—on our list of Ottawa patios open for business.
DAY 2—Trails, water and movies
Use your own bikes or rent some to explore on two wheels. Create your own route by riding picturesque pathways like those that line the Rideau Canal and the Ottawa River, as well as cycling-friendly rural communities. Or book a fun cycling tour with RentABike or Escape Bicycle Tours & Rentals.
Go walking or hiking through Ottawa’s many natural spaces. Whether it’s a new-to-you trail in Gatineau Park, or sand dunes and boreal forests in Ottawa’s Greenbelt, you’ll likely find outdoor jewels you haven’t explored before!
Chill out at one of Ottawa’s sandy beaches, or get splashed on an epic rafting trip. You can choose from a gentle whitewater rafting excursion within the city, or head just one hour west of Ottawa for some of the world’s best whitewater action!
For an interactive and theatrical water adventure, set sail on Pirate Life Theatre’s ship on the Rideau River to search for sunken treasure.
Enjoy a retro drive-in movie experience at pop-up drive-ins within the city and in the countryside, including at Place des festivals-Zibi Gatineau near downtown Ottawa, and at Wesley Clover Parks west of the city.
DAY 3—Museums, picnics and ice cream
Visit indoor sites that are open to the public, such as the Ottawa Art Gallery (always free!), the Diefenbunker Museum and the Vanier Museoparc, or immerse the family into living history at Upper Canada Village. Several more attractions, including some of Canada’s seven national museums, are reopening this summer. Contact attractions directly to confirm schedule and whether reservations or guided tours are required.
Plan your own family picnic outdoors. Local farms are offering unique new options (including pre-made lunches), or get takeout from your favourite restaurant and enjoy it in one of the city’s greenspaces.
Finish off your family staycation with refreshing sweets, like Ottawa’s best ice cream and other frozen treats!
Note: For information on open restrooms and toilets throughout the Ottawa region during COVID-19, please visit the article Open washrooms in Ottawa, Eastern Ontario and the Outaouais on our friend’s website Ottawa Road Trips.