Pumpkinferno, Upper Canada Village

Outdoor family fall activities in the Ottawa region

Autumn in Canada’s capital provides plenty of opportunities to spend quality time with the kids while enjoying colourful outdoor spaces. Whether it’s taking a stroll among the vibrant leaves, bonding over wilderness adventures, or enjoying some tasty treats, you’ll love getting the family together for these fun activities this fall in the Ottawa region.

Fresh walks and hikes

Autumn is the perfect time to explore outdoor sites in the city and in the countryside—especially during Fall Rhapsody when fall colours are at their best. Check out some walking and hiking highlights in the Ottawa area, including the multi-use pathways that line picturesque waterways, main attractions and green spaces within the city, or protected sites like beaches, forests and bogs in the nearby countryside. And when visiting the region’s most popular fall destination—the 361 kilometres (almost 90,000 acres) Gatineau Park—avoid the crowds by choosing lesser-known areas, such as the Luskville Falls Trail and Meech Creek Valley.

Pedals and paddles

Cycling in Ottawa is an ideal way to get around thanks to the many flat, multi-use pathways and businesses that offer bike rentals and tours. Consider planning your route to visit some of these top places to photograph this fall. You can also enjoy the fall colours from water level by renting a canoe, kayak or other boat from the Dows Lake Marina on the Rideau Canal, or paddle your way through unique water mazes at Éco-Odyssée, just 30 minutes from downtown Ottawa.

Ziplines, flights and safaris

Ottawa’s awesome autumn adventures are a great way to bond as a family. You can conquer your fears together by ziplining, caving and hiking at Arbraska Laflèche, an activity centre located in the wilderness a half hour from downtown Ottawa. For a view of the fall colours from even higher up, fly over the city in a 3-passenger Cessa airplane with Ottawa Biplane Adventures. Or stay low and view wildlife in their natural habitats while on a self-drive Canadian safari at Park Omega (or visit on Friday and Saturday evenings until October 10, 2020 to explore their illuminated walking trail).

Beyond a-maze-ing

A half-hour drive west of downtown Ottawa, Saunders Farm has much more than just the largest collection of full-sized hedge mazes in North America. Each fall, the site hosts family-friendly and Halloween-themed fun for all ages, plus farm fresh food and beverages. Young kids love the outdoor daytime activities like giant jumping pillows, puppet shows and a pumpkin patch hayride. The older and braver folks visit at night, when the site turns into a creepy place populated by ghosts, goblins and monsters of all kinds (nighttime not recommended for guests under 10 years old). Campfire packages are also available on Friday and Saturday evening this fall.

Haunted sites

Discover Ottawa’s darker past on a fun and spooky evening tour with The Haunted Walk. Follow one of their expert guides—appropriately outfitted in a long black cloak and glowing lantern—as they lead you from one haunted site to the next. Stops along the way may include the Rideau Canal (a UNESCO World Heritage Site), the historic Bytown Museum (Ottawa’s oldest stone building), and the HI-Ottawa Jail Hostel (said to be one of Canada’s most haunted buildings). The Haunted Walk’s Halloween season offers exciting twists on existing tours and showcases special events. Some tours are available in both English and French. 

Pumpkin overload

Visit stroller-friendly Upper Canada Village after sunset during Pumpkinferno to marvel at 7,000 carved, glowing pumpkins gathered in stunning displays of animals, story book heroes, mythical characters and many more. The impressive creations are scattered along a one-kilometre path at this quaint 1860’s living history site located about an hour drive south of downtown Ottawa. Special accessibility nights allow those with physical limitations to drive through the site.

Fall flavours

In the fall, families love visiting the region’s many farms to pick their own fruit in the pretty pumpkin patches and apple orchards. For the flavour without the labour, try some of Ottawa’s best fall treats—many of which are found in the historic ByWard Market neighbourhood. Check out colourful goods at the outdoor market’s stalls; cute shortbread cookies decorated like pumpkins, maple leaves and ghosts at Moulin de Provence bakery; special PumpkinTail pastry at the BeaverTails kiosk; and warm drinks like Bridgehead’s local apple cider and Mantovani 1946’s rich hot chocolate.

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