Canada’s capital city is a cornucopia of outdoor activities just waiting to be discovered. We’re setting your Ottawa vacation up for success by covering the bases and making sure you don’t miss a beat (or a trail). Get ready to take Ottawa by storm, whether you want to adventure on foot, out on the open waters, or on a speedy ride on two wheels. There are so many hidden nooks that can be enjoyed by explorers in any season. Bookmark this article to use as a reference when planning your next Ottawa getaway!
5 Land-Based Activities:
For those of us who like our city adventures with a side of nature repose.
1. Gatineau Park
No matter the season, Gatineau Park gives us something to swoon over. Hike the two-and-a-half kilometres around Pink Lake and take in the pristine sparkling waters. When you’re ready for a little break, perch yourself on top of one of the many rock cliffs throughout the park and snap a shot! You’ll want to look back and remember this one. Between autumn’s breathtaking colours and winter’s frosty skiable hillsides, you can frequent these trails and still find something new with each visit.
2. Ottawa’s Greenbelt
Wrapped around the city, there are over 150 kilometres of hiking trails to keep you moving. Filled with boreal landscape and inland sand dune complexes, this is one of the most ecologically diverse areas in eastern Ontario. Imagine having this much green space surrounding an urban area? Talk about the best of both worlds.
3. Omega Park
Though their animals don’t talk, the atmosphere at Omega Park is just as magical as a Disney scene. Plus, it’s less than an hour from Parliament Hill. It doesn’t get any more ‘True North’ than driving through this wildlife park and immersing yourself in the landscapes and history of Ottawa, all while seeing a deer or two.
4. Walking Tours Around Ottawa
Horror lovers, curious history buffs, foodies, feminists and scientists can all find something on the many walking tours around Ottawa. If you only have a short visit in the capital and want to make the most of your time, let someone else do the planning and guide you.
5. Yoga on Parliament Hill
Get your circulation flowing during the free yoga classes hosted by Lululemon Athletica every Wednesday at noon, May through August. Peek through your downward dog at Parliament. Make sure to bring a mat, water bottle and sunscreen for those hot days. You may even be one of the lucky groups who gets greeted by yogi Justin Trudeau.
5 Water-Based Activities:
Swap out the city noise for some roaring waters.
Grab the gang or take off on a solo canoe trip to totally unplug. There are a ton of options, from the Rideau River, Ottawa River, Rideau Canal or even Gatineau Park. Don't forget a waterproof bag for your camera, because you'll want to snap photos.
2. Stand-up Paddle Boarding
Stand-up paddle boarding has become a popular summer watersport. Glide on still waters with a SUP tour of Rideau Falls or catch special events like moonlit paddles, paddle boarding with your dog, or fitness style and SUP Yoga for that extra burn.
The largest kayak school in Canada is located right in the capital, where you have the privilege of learning from enthusiastic locals that can’t wait to take you out on the water. They have introductory course options for beginners, ultimate immersion classes and week-long programs for you water-loving Pisces at heart.
Did you know that Ottawa has some of the best whitewater rafting in the world? You can take off on an day trip that ends in BBQ fun on a pontoon boat, dive into a two- to three-day excursion for the whole family or raft through the wild.
Do you love discovering and identifying marsh species? With this paddle boat ride you can explore at your own pace while weaving through an enchanting six-kilometre marsh maze. The slower you go, the more likely you are to spot some beavers and turtle families!
5 High-Adrenaline Activities
Want to get your heart pumping? We understand; Ottawa delivers.
1. Camp Fortune Explorer Park
Why rest satisfied with viewing Ottawa’s gorgeous greenery when you could be climbing around it? Camp Fortune’s Aerial Park will challenge your agility with a three hour adventure course that features ladders, moving bridges and zip-lines.
2. Great Canadian Bungee
Home to the only 200-foot drop with a head or body dip in North America, this jump may just push the edge of your limits. But we dare you to trust that carnal need for danger and take the plunge!
3. GO Skydiving
If your adrenaline craving still isn’t satisfied, look to the skies—and consider jumping out of a plane at over 13,000 feet. Free falling for one exhilarating minute at 200 kilometres an hour is an experience you’ll never forget… until you come back to do it again! GO Skydiving offers tandem jumps for complete beginners and well-versed jumpers.
4. Biplane Adventure
Take in Ottawa’s angles from the sky—without falling through them. With the Ottawa Biplane Adventures, you can cruise the clouds in style in an authentic World War II aircraft ride. Strap on your helmet and goggles and get ready to see the city from a whole new level (and era).
5. Arbraska Lafleche Cave
Get low—real low. If the trees and skies aren’t your playground, go underground to discover incredible formations and explore the depths of the earth in one of the largest caves in the Canadian Shield. No need to explore alone—there are tours available.
5 Cycling Adventures:
Because who wouldn’t want to explore over 800 kilometres of pathways the wind through parks, gardens and historic sites?
1. Gatineau Park
Looking for an untamed adventure that feels like you are escaping in the wilderness? Gatineau Park delivers an off-the-beaten-path experience, and you wouldn’t believe it was only 17 kilometres from the heart of Ottawa. Take your time to look up at the full trees or opt for a mountain bike to make the most of the hilly terrain.
2. NOKIA Sunday Bikedays
Ever get tired of sharing the road with motor vehicles? Say hello to summer Sundays around Ottawa and Gatineau, where 50 kilometres of parkways are closed to motorists from 9 am to 1 pm. One of the best ways to explore the capital is by bike, and you deserve to have a safe and fun ride around the Capital Pathway Network.
3. Camp Fortune X-country Trails
A popular winter ski destination doubles as a challenging mountain biking location for the summer. If you’re feeling the need for a cross-county challenge or downhill adrenaline kick, this is any experienced cyclist’s dream path.
4. Geo-Explora Scootrek
Enjoy some brain and body fun on one of these self-guided scenic e-scooter tours. The iPad helps you to navigate, so your only mission is to find checkpoints and solve quirky quizzes. Find all of the hidden gems in the least conventional way possible.
5. Family-Friendly Bike Trail
Enjoy some side-by-side bonding time with the family on this six-and-a-half kilometre (one-way) all-ages route. The path will take you along the downtown canal to the Dows Lake Pavilion and Marina. It’s as easy as grabbing your wheels and taking off to see the sights. There are plenty of opportunities to stop along the way, whether you want to shop, grab some ice cream or refuel at one of the local eateries.
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