When you’re ready to let loose this summer, Ottawa has plenty of new and exciting experiences for you to try! Whether you’re seeking outdoor thrills, fresh entertainment, fun ways to get around, tasty foodie options, or impressive exhibitions (including live animals!), you’ll find what you’ve been missing in Canada’s capital.
Note: As of the publication date, indoor attractions as well as some outdoor experiences in Ottawa, are temporarily closed. Attractions in Quebec reopened on June 2, 2021. Please confirm details with direct sources and stay informed on the current COVID-19 situation in Ottawa.
What’s cooler than a zipline? The world’s first interprovincial zipline! Interzip Rogers, new this summer, connects Ottawa, Ontario to Gatineau, Quebec via a pair of ziplines 1,400 feet (425 metres) long and 120 feet (37 metres) high. As you zoom across the river at speeds of up to 40 km/h (25 mph), you’ll get a stunning view of both cities and a thrill worth savouring. Afterwards, you can purchase a multi-angle video of your memorable crossing. Interzip Rogers operates seasonally and may occasionally close in bad weather for safety reasons. Reservations are strongly recommended.
You can also fly high or stay closer to the ground by trying two brand-new activities at Camp Fortune, a four-season recreational resort in Gatineau Park, just a 15-minute drive north of downtown Ottawa in Gatineau, Quebec. The new mountain pipe coaster experience has a vertical drop of about 130 metres (400 feet) and takes you through a forest, tunnels, and several ski runs. Riders can control the speed of their descent with a handbrake. Push it to the max and fly downhill at 40 km/h (25 mph), or slow things down to revel in the gorgeous views. And the new Peak to Peak Ziplines—three ziplines totalling 1365 metres (4,478 feet)—take you from the top of the hill and across the Camp Fortune Valley with spectacular views of Gatineau Park. True thrill seekers can choose to end your adventure with a 15 metre (50 feet) free fall jump!
In addition to their original rafting option, Ottawa City Rafting is now offering a tubing experience for ages 12 and up. Float down the Ottawa River in a single-person inner tube (with paddles for steering) from midtown to the Canadian War Museum during a two-hour guided trip. On a hot summer day, it’s a cool way to see the city’s attractions from a fresh perspective!
After a popular pilot project in summer 2020, shared e-scooters have returned to Ottawa’s streets. These battery-powered scooters are a zero-emission way to get around quickly. A total of 1,200 e-scooters hosted by three companies (Bird Canada, Lime, and Neuron) are parked around the city between April and November, weather permitting. The scooters can be rented via a smartphone app from 6:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. Riding on sidewalks and National Capital Commission pathways is not allowed, and riders must be at least 16 years old and wear a helmet if they’re under 18. You can also rent a scooter from select local outfitters such as Escape Bicycle Tours & Rentals (helmet included).
Every Saturday, Sunday, and holiday until October 11, 2021, the National Capital Commission’s Weekend Bikedays program (an extension of annual Sunday Bikedays) closes the scenic Sir John A. Macdonald and Sir George-Étienne Cartier Parkways to motor vehicles, reserving them for cyclists, runners, and inline skaters from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. The Queen Elizabeth Driveway along the Rideau Canal is also closed to cars every day between 8:00 a.m. and 8:00 p.m. until June 30, 2021. From July 1 to September 6, Colonel By Drive (on the opposite side of the canal) will be closed to cars and available for active use 24/7.
Travel between even more destinations on either side of the Ottawa River in an eco-friendly way! Au Feel de l’eau’s Aqua-Taxi service now offers two convenient and relaxing routes on their quiet electric boats. Their shorter route includes three stops: the Canadian Museum of History, in Gatineau, Quebec; the Ottawa Locks of the Rideau Canal near the Fairmont Château Laurier hotel on Wellington Street; and Richmond Landing between the Canadian War Museum and Parliament Hill. This year, they’ve added a longer route with two new stops: the Rockcliffe Boat House in Ottawa and Rest’O’Bord le Pirate (a pirate-themed restaurant) in Gatineau. The shuttles operate seasonally into October.
Food and drink
Saunders Farm in Munster, Ontario (40 minutes’ drive west of Parliament Hill)—a local attraction known for its hedge mazes and spooky Halloween activities—recently launched Saunders Cider. The farm purchased Flying Canoe, the Ottawa region’s first hard cider maker, and rebranded it under the Saunders Cider label. They are also planting orchards to grow fruit with which to make future cider varieties. You can purchase Flying Canoe at the farm now, and they’ve got big plans for a cider house, taproom, and store.
Stop in for a lovely patio experience at the National Capital Commission’s latest pop-up restaurant near Patterson Creek in the Glebe neighbourhood starting this summer. It joins two other NCC bistros located at Remic Rapids along the Ottawa River west of downtown (close to John Felice Ceprano’s rock sculptures), and in Confederation Park across from Ottawa City Hall at Laurier and Elgin Streets in the city centre. All three bistros are licensed and offer a selection of lunch and dinner items.
Ottawa Markets recently added an additional producer-only event to their daily ByWard Market offerings. The new York Street Farmers’ Market is open every Saturday from 8:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. until October 2021, featuring farm products, craft beer and spirits, locally roasted coffee, prepared foods and much more. If you’re less of a morning person and more of a night owl, check out the new Night Market at Parkdale Market in the Wellington West area on Wednesdays from 4:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. for fresh bread and produce, spices, crafts, local beverages and street food.
Museums and special exhibitions
Have you ever loved a piece of art so much you wanted to step inside it? This summer, you can do the next best thing at Beyond Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience between August 9 and September 16, 2021! This multimedia exhibition coming the Aberdeen Pavilion at Lansdowne in the Glebe neighbourhood offers an intimate way to experience the Dutch painter’s works using state-of-the-art visual projection and symphonic sound.
Can’t get enough of Dutch painters? Visit the Rembrandt in Amsterdam: Creativity and Competition at the National Gallery of Canada until September 6, 2021. This exhibition intermingles Rembrandt’s paintings, prints and drawings with works by the artist’s contemporaries, including his friends, admirers, and competitors.
Return to Ancient Egypt, when women were in charge: Take in the Queens of Egypt exhibition at the Canadian Museum of History until August 22, 2021. Learn about legendary queens such as Nefertari, Nefertiti, and Hatshepsut and explore women’s role within Egyptian royalty while feasting your eyes on jewels, sarcophagi, statues, and other historic artifacts.
A new installation by American artist Rashid Johnson will grace the main entrance lobby at the National Gallery of Canada this summer. “Untitled,” a large pyramidal metal sculpture (the biggest such piece made by the artist to date) will be filled with living plants, smaller sculptures made of fibreglass and shea butter, and books selected by the artist to explore racial and class tensions. Explore the installation via a winding path within its confines, leading to a central performance space that will potentially host live music events.
Starting this summer, you’ll be able to see live owls and a Bald Eagle at the Canadian Museum of Nature’s outdoor plaza. In partnership with Little Ray’s Nature Centres, Owls Rendez-vous will feature a Barn owl, Great-horned owl, Snowy owl, and Eurasian eagle owl housed in purpose-built aviaries. Visiting the owls will be free with museum admission.
Plan a visit to the Ottawa Art Gallery to enjoy two new exhibitions this summer. (Re)Collecting the Group of Seven: Celebrating 100 Years is on until November 7, 2021 and features key works by these iconic Canadian artists. Plus, visit Sheltered in Place: Portraits of Self, Family and Community until August 15, 2021, a collection of self-portraits and works by artists who created portrayals of their close communities, offering a chance to reflect on the current time and the recent challenges we have faced. Admission to the gallery is always free, though donations are welcome.