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Canadian Museum of History

Museum and attraction programming this summer in Ottawa

You can once again visit many of Ottawa’s popular museums, historic sites, and other attractions! Some sites are offering regular programming (and even new experiences!), while others have had to make modifications to ensure safety and physical distancing. No matter what, you’ll have a blast! Here are some of the many ways you can experience attractions in Canada’s capital in summer 2020.

Note: The information below is valid as of July 29, 2020. Please contact each business individually before visiting as they may modify their admission guidelines, operating schedule, and access to certain areas at any time.

Canadian Museum of History

Current hours: Thursday to Sunday, 10:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Ticketing: Timed advanced reservation only

Canada’s most visited museum, the Canadian Museum of History, is offering free summer fun for everyone, plus additional paid options. Free outdoor activities include dance performances and tours by Indigenous Experiences, a Museum Quest activity, a self-guided architecture tour and beautiful views of Parliament Hill. Indoor access is limited to free guided tours of the stunning Grand Hall and its collection of totem poles.

For a fee, you can also take a guided canoe excursion on the Ottawa River, enjoy a pre-ordered picnic lunch on the grounds, and a trip on the Au Feel de l’eau Aqua-Taxi (with optional stops at the Ottawa Locks or the Canadian War Museum).

Canadian War Museum

Current hours: Thursday to Sunday, 10:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Ticketing: Timed advanced reservation only

Special free and paid summer fun for all ages is also offered at the Canadian War Museum. Among the unique and free outdoor activities, you’ll find military vehicle demonstrations, visits of the museum’s green roof (with great views), and a self-guided architecture tour. Don’t miss an indoor guided tour of the Lebreton Gallery and its impressive collection of vehicles, aircraft and other artefacts.

Add on a paid option like treats on the outdoor Café terrace, a pre-ordered picnic lunch, and the Au Feel de l’eau Aqua-Taxi.

National Gallery of Canada

Current hours: Thursday to Sunday, 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. (until 8 p.m. on Thursdays)

Ticketing: In-person admission on a first-come, first-serve basis; enter through the Group Entrance and exit through the Main Entrance.

Art lovers can once again admire Canadian and international masterpieces at the National Gallery of Canada. Thanks to the National Gallery of Canada Foundation, the first 25,000 visitors starting on July 23, 2020 get free admission!

Visitors can access most of the museum’s spaces, including the acclaimed international Indigenous art exhibition Àbadakone | Continuous Fire | Feu continuel as well as Beautiful Monsters which have been extended until the fall. Don’t forget to wander through the grounds to see the impressive outdoor art installations and beautiful views.

Canada Agriculture and Food Museum 

Current hours: Thursday to Sunday, 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Ticketing: Timed advanced reservation only

Ottawa’s working farm within the city highlights Canada’s agricultural heritage, including plants and animals. Most of the Canada Agriculture and Food Museum’s indoor and outdoor exhibits, barns and viewing areas are open, although some restrictions may apply—for instance, petting the animals is currently not allowed, and visitors are asked to follow a directional path through museum buildings. Visitors are welcome to bring their own picnic lunch, snacks and water to eat in the picturesque setting of the site if they wish.

Diefenbunker Museum

Current hours: Wednesday to Sunday, from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.

Ticketing: Online advanced ticket purchase recommended; in-person admission on a first-come, first-serve basis. Floor markers lead all visitors in one direction through the museum.

The Diefenbunker Museum, one of the region’s most unique attractions, is a Cold War-era underground bunker located in the west end of Ottawa.

You can book a guided tour or explore the museum on your own (consider downloading the museum’s free, audio guide and bring earphones). On select evenings, you can also test your skills in the world’s largest escape room—Escape the Diefenbunker (advanced booking required).

Ottawa Art Gallery

Current hours: Wednesday to Sunday, 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.; during the first hour, seniors and immunocompromised visitors get priority; the OAG is fully accessible.

Ticketing: Timed advanced reservation only (online or over the phone); use the Daly Avenue entrance to enter and exit.

The always free Ottawa Art Gallery is a large and modern space just outside of the ByWard Market area. Browse the exhibits to see works of art that represent the region’s artistic past and present, as well as Indigenous art and Group of Seven masterpieces.

Watson’s Mill

Current hours: Wednesday to Sunday, 10:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Ticketing: Admission on a first-come, first-serve basis; visitors are asked to wait at the entrance to be greeted by a staff member.

Located just south of downtown Ottawa in the historic village of Manotick, Watson’s Mill is an 1860s flour and grist mill-turned-museum that celebrates the area’s history. The mill continues to use original technology—including harnessing power from the Rideau River—to grind flour on site. The flour, homemade bread and other souvenirs can be purchased in the gift shop. A used bookstore is also on site.

Upper Canada Village

Current hours: Daily, 9:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

Ticketing: Timed advanced reservation only (online or over the phone); guided tours only (English, French or bilingual).

Living history is back at Upper Canada Village, where you’re transported back in time to the 1860s within an hour’s drive of Ottawa. During the 90-minute guided tour, costumed interpreters show you what life was like for villagers in this part of Ontario during that period. Although the gift shop is open, on-site food services are closed, so bring your water bottle and a snack.

Omega park

Current hours: Daily (hours vary)

Ticketing: Timed advanced reservation only

Physical distancing is relatively easy at Omega Park, a giant wildlife and culture park in Montebello, Quebec, 45-minutes from downtown Ottawa. Experiences include a self-driven Canadian safari to see animals (and feed some of them), First Nations walking trails, a heritage farm, and overnight accommodations such as wolf cabins. On select evenings, the trails are illuminated for the magical Omega by Night event.

Saunders Farm

Current hours: Daytime programming on Saturdays and Sundays, 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.; campfires on select evenings.

Ticketing: Timed advanced reservation only

A-maze-ing fun is back at Saunders Farm, a countryside attraction located 30 minutes west of downtown Ottawa. The two-hour daytime visits include access to the famous hedge mazes and labyrinths, jumbo jumpers, and splashpad; the Snack Shack is also open. The 1.5-hour evening campfire experiences include your own physically-distanced site, fire-making supplies and food to match your chosen package (family or date).

Vanier Museopark

Current hours: Monday to Friday

Ticketing: Timed advanced reservation only; outdoor guided tours only (French or English)

Learn about Ottawa’s French-Canadian roots at the Vanier Museopark, a unique community museum located jut east of downtown. Enjoy a guided tour of the expansive Richelieu-Vanier parkland which houses a maple forest and sugar shack. You can also cool off with a maple slush treat!

Little Ray’s Nature Centre

Current hours: Contact the centre to make arrangements.

Ticketing: Advanced reservations required; private tours and special encounters only.

Little Ray’s Nature Centre in the east end of Ottawa is currently offering special ways to learn about and meet live exotic animals and reptiles. Book a private tour of the centre for your household, or reserve an encounter with an adorable live sloth! Virtual options, live Zoo-Zoom calls, are also available.

Upcoming reopenings

Other Ottawa-area museums that are planning to reopen with modified hours and programming include:

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