Stay active as a family while exploring Canada’s capital by cycling the many pathways! One of the easiest and flattest routes is full of kid-friendly sights, including a UNESCO World Heritage waterway, Parliament Hill and a castle-like hotel, and it provides easy access to parks, neighbourhoods, restaurants and attractions. Here’s our guide to cycling along the family-friendly Rideau Canal bike trail in downtown Ottawa.
The Rideau Canal Route:
Along the Rideau Canal pathway to the Dows Lake Pavilion — 6.5 kilometres (one-way) according to Google Maps cycling route
- Very gentle terrain heading south from RentABike (see next section) along the Rideau Canal in downtown Ottawa, to the Dows Lake Pavilion and Marina where restaurants are located and boats can be rented.
- Numerous short detours include options to visit the Canada Agriculture and Food Museum and the Canadian Museum of Nature.
- Pathways on both sides of the Rideau Canal are lined with grassy parkland where people can stop for a rest, take photos and enjoy the scenery.
- Depart from RentABike, a bicycle rental company located along the east side of the Rideau Canal, under the Plaza Bridge (across the street from the Fairmont Château Laurier and the Westin Ottawa hotel).
- Take the Rideau Canal Eastern Pathway south.
- The most direct bike route to Dows Lake is via the west side of the Rideau Canal. At Somerset Street near the University of Ottawa (less than a kilometre from downtown), cross over the Corktown Footbridge. You’ll notice the bridge’s railings are peppered with “love locks” that couples hang as a symbol of their love. Looking north over the love locks is a great photo opportunity of the Rideau Canal and downtown Ottawa.
- After crossing the bridge, turn left and take the Rideau Canal Western Pathway south.
- Along the route (approximately 4 kilometres from RentABike), you will pass Lansdowne, 40 acres of land adjacent to the Rideau Canal that features:
- TD Place at Lansdowne, an urban sports and entertainment destination where you can watch football (Ottawa REDBLACKS), soccer, hockey (Ottawa 67’s) and basketball (Blackjacks). Why not bike to a game?
- Historic structures where recurring and special events are held. For example, the family-friendly Ottawa Farmers’ Market is held outside the Aberdeen Pavilion on Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays from May through October (and on Sundays inside the Aberdeen Pavilion in winter).
- Outdoor performance space, parkland, basketball courts, skateboard park and seasonal refrigerated ice surface.
- Retailers (including Ottawa’s first Whole Foods and Sporting Life stores), restaurants (including Local Public Eatery and South St. Burger Company), an upscale cinema (with some screens serving alcohol), and more.
- Continue south on the Rideau Canal Western pathway. You’ll pass by Commissioners Park (where hundreds of thousands of tulips bloom each spring during the Canadian Tulip Festival and where colourful annuals bloom through the rest of the summer).
- You’ll then arrive at your destination, the Dows Lake Pavilion, a facility that includes restaurants and a marina:
- Onsite restaurants overlook the Rideau Canal; Mexicali Rosa's is particularly family-friendly.
- The marina and recreational equipment rentals facility features paddleboats, canoes, kayaks and standup paddle boards that can be rented to explore the Rideau Canal on the water during the warmer weather months. In the winter, when the Rideau Canal in downtown Ottawa becomes the world’s largest skating rink, Dows Lake Pavilion is one of the locations where ice skates can be rented.
- More active families can continue on the pathways to the Central Experimental Farm, including the Canada Agriculture and Food Museum (just over one kilometre beyond Dows Lake), or through the beautiful Dominion Arboretum that takes you further along Dows Lake and the Rideau Canal, until it merges with the Rideau River (some hills). Earlier in the trip, a short detour just after the Corktown Footbridge, will take families to the Canadian Museum of Nature.
Paid parking garages are available throughout downtown Ottawa and near the departure point, including at the CF Rideau Centre shopping mall, the Fairmont Château Laurier hotel, the National Arts Centre and other major sites. Dows Lake Pavilion and the Canada Agriculture and Food Museum also have paid parking areas.
There are washroom facilities at Patterson Creek, at Lansdowne Park and also at Dows Lake Pavilion.
This is only one option to get the family started! To learn more about cycling in Ottawa, browse the Cycling section of Ottawa Tourism’s website.