Free Things to Do and Cheap Ways to Explore Ottawa
The bilingual Capital city of Canada, situated at the confluence of three rivers (the Ottawa, the Gatineau and the Rideau) is replete with world class museums and beautiful parks making it a great vacation destination or a weekend getaway. So if you are searching for free stuff to do in Ottawa and cheap ways to explore Canada’s Capital City without putting a strain on your travel budget, we have listed few ways to enjoy the best of Ottawa for free or on low budget that includes free admission to Ottawa’s museums.
AND if you need free fun family activities to do in Ottawa – a list of great family activities that can be done free of charge are listed too.
- Free Admissions and Free Activities in Ottawa
- Coupons & Passes – Cheap Ways to Explore Ottawa
1. Free Admissions and Free Activities in Ottawa
Free Admissions & Pay What You Can Admissions – 2016
1. No visit to Ottawa is complete without a visit to Canada’s seat of power – the Parliament building. Take a free guided tour of the Central block of the Parliament (tickets required) and climb up the Peace Tower to enjoy great views of Ottawa skyline.
2. Explore Parliament Hill – go for self-guided walking tour around the grounds of Parliament Hill. Free booklets are available at the visitors’ centre.
3. Enjoy free admission and guided tour at Supreme Court of Canada.
4. Explore Rideau Hall , official residence and workplace of every governor general since 1867
5. Pay your respects at the National War Memorial.
6. Enjoy the hustle and bustle of Byward Market.
7. Visit Notre Dame Basilica built in Neo-Gothic architecture.
8. Visit Central Experimental Farm and stroll the Arboretum and Ornamental Gardens.
9. Appreciate the art at Ottawa Art Gallery. Admission is Pay-What-You-Can.
10. In a mood for a bit of research? Visit Library and Archives Canada.
11. Learn about Canada’s best skiers at Canadian Ski Hall of Fame & Museum.
Free Museum Admission in the evenings: Ottawa’s museums are home to exciting and educational collections that intrigues and educates the visitor at the same time. Almost all of the the best museums can be explored free of charge on select days.
1. Canada Aviation and Space Museum offers free admission daily from 04:00 PM – 05:00 PM.
2. Canadian War Museumoffers free admission on Thursdays from 04:00 PM – 08:00 PM.
3. Free admission to Canadian Museum of History on Thursdays from 04:00 PM – 08:00 PM.
4. Enjoy free admission to National Gallery of Canada on Thursdays from 05:00 PM – 08:00 PM.
5. Bytown Museum – Admission on Thursdays is free after 05:00 PM.
Free Museum Admissions in and around Ottawa
1. Visit Nepean Museum that showcases Nepean’s rich history and enjoy free guided tours of Fairfields Heritage House. Nepean was a a city in its own right until it was amalgamated with Ottawa in 2001.
2. Explore Pinhey’s Point Historic Site, an Ontario Heritage Trust site that is home to 200-year-old manor house and stone ruins. Located approximately 40 minutes west of downtown.
3. See one of very few operating industrial grist mills in North America at Watson’s Mill, Manotick.
4. Learn the story of Ottawa’s oldest military settlement at Goulbourn Museum. Admission by donation.
5. Visit Rapides-Farmer Generating Station –Gatineau, a magnificent, historic power generating station., ~ 11 km from Canadian Museum of History.
Free Walking Tour and DIY Walking Tour
The best way to explore Ottawa and understand its rich heritage is to go on a walking tour of the grounds of Parliament Hill, sites along Confederation Boulevard (the Capital’s Ceremonial and Discovery Route), historic Sparks Street and Gatineau. Download the app on your phone and get exploring!
Go on a FREE walking tour of Byward Market with Tour Guys.
Ottawa Free Tours offers walking tour of Confederation Blvd and Byward Market.
Ottawa‘s Parks, Beaches and Conservation Areas
Ottawa is home to many parks and beaches. Experience the beauty of nature, see a million tulips (during spring) and enjoy outdoors while exploring Ottawa’s parks. Gatineau Park caters to all outdoor enthusiasts. Enjoy a picnic at the Major’s Hill Park. City of Ottawa beaches are open from mid-June to the end of August.
There is more to Ottawa than just Parliament Hill: explore Ottawa’s Conservation Areas, and revel in nature’s wonders.
Enjoy these free fun family friendly festivals- Winterlude (February), Tulip Festival (May), Rideau Canal Festival (August). The Sound and Light show at the Parliament Hills during July – September and Changing of the Guard ceremony (June – August) are must see events in the Capital City.
Every Friday and Saturday beginning in mid-July through the month of August, Centretown Movies shows popular, family friendly movies in open-air, walk-in theatre in Dundonald Park, 512 Somerset St. W. between Bay and Lyon (<1.5 kms from Parliament Hill). Admission is pay-what-you-can.
Enjoy the day biking along the many scenic pathways across Ottawa. During Summers enjoy Nokia Sunday Bike days, when over 50 kilometres of parkways in Ottawa and Gatineau Park are open for cyclists, in-line skaters, runners and walkers.
Tobogganing and Ice Skating
Enjoy the pleasures of winter on the world’s largest skating rink at Rideau Canal Skateway.
Go for a thrilling ride down the hill, the enjoy the joyful screams of your little ones at- Conroy Pit, Bruce Pit, and Green’s Creek in the city’s Greenbelt recreational space.
Doors Open & Culture Days
Explore Ottawa during Doors Open weekend ( June 3 and 4, 2017): Enjoy visiting attractions free of charge. Website.
During Culture days weekend (~September last weekend / October 1st weekend), select attractions are offer free admission across Canada.
Free activities in the local library
Ottawa Public library offers plenty of free activities to choose from for all ages. Plan ahead to attend some of the free activities in the following weekends : Details and link for registration.
Check your local library for fun activities!
Free Weekend Parking
Wondering where to park while you enjoy Ottawa’s wonders? Free weekend parking is available on weekends at City lots and on-street parking meters located within the downtown core (bounded in the east by the Rideau Canal and in the west by Bronson Avenue, to the north by Wellington Street, and in the south by Catherine Street).
1. Coupons & Passes for Cheaper Ottawa Travel
Capital Museums Passport
For a cost of $45 (individual) or $99 (including taxes) for a family of up to two adults and three children aged 17 and under, visit up to seven uniquely Canadian museums in Canada’s Capital region using the Capital Museums Passport. Your Museums Passport is valid for seven days from the first museum visit.
Participating Museums: Canada Agriculture and Food Museum, Canada Aviation and Space Museum, Canadian Museum of History, Canadian Museum of Nature, Canadian War Museum, National Gallery of Canada, Royal Canadian Mint.
Access Pass & The Cultural Access Pass
If you have a City of Ottawa Library Card, get the Access Pass from your library get free admission to partnered museums, galleries and other sites of interest in the Ottawa area.
The access passes available from OPL are: Museum Privilege Card (Canadian Museum of Civilization, Canadian War Museum, Canadian Postal Museum, Canadian Children’s Museum), Nature Card (Canadian Museum of Nature), Artpass (National Gallery of Canada), Family Pass (Canada Agriculture Museum/ Canadian Aviation And Space Museum, Canada Science And Technology Museum-museum is currently closed – pass not available), Museum Pass (The Ottawa Museum Network includes 10 local museums).
New Canadian Citizens with The Cultural Access Pass can visit many Ottawa attractions for free.
Canada Science and Technology Museum Membership
Members enjoy unlimited admission to the Canada Agriculture and Food Museum, the Canada Aviation and Space Museum, and the Canada Science and Technology Museum (Currently Closed for repairs and upgrades) in Ottawa and Unlimited free admission to more than 330 museums and science centres across Canada. One Year $90 for a household (up to two adults and four children, under the age of 18, living at the same address).