1, 2, 3, 4 or 5 Day Getaway to Ottawa
Looking to get away to Ottawa for a few days? This year marks a special time as Canada celebrates 150 years and the city will come to life with many fun, interactive and educational events and celebrations. With it’s modern flavor and range of trendy hotels, shops and restaurants, Ottawa has something to offer every visitor. To help you plan how to best spend your time in Ottawa, here are some suggestions of the must see sights and events no matter how long your stay.
You may like: Free Things to Do in Ottawa
1 Day Option
Update for 2019 & beyond: Parliament Building – Centre Block & Peace Tower is closed for 10+ Years for renovation. East & West Block Tours are available and can be booked days in advance, online.
Insider tip: Daily at 10:00am in the summer you can see the changing of the guard on the front lawns.
Cross over the canal along Wellington St. and make a stop at Confederation square and the National War Memorial, a tribute to all the Canadian Armed Forces who have served Canada.Then make your way to the Byward market square, the anchor of the market district for lunch. Here you can find an array of fresh produce and cheese from local farmers as well as a large selection of vendors selling all sorts of international dishes such as sushi, curries, tacos, pastries and much more. You are sure to not leave hungry. With your hunger satisfied spend the afternoon browsing the many outdoor vendors of the Byward market. With more than 260 stalls and over 600 businesses, it’s no surprise this is Ottawa’s top tourist attraction and offers something for everyone.
Insider tip: To satisfy your sweet tooth, look for the stands selling beavertails, Ottawa’s signature flat dough dish!
If the allotted time for the tour is towards the evening, do the self guided tour of Parliament Hill, take a stroll along the Rideau Canal, explore Byward Market and comeback to in time for the tour.
Dinner suggestion: If you would like to experience some of Ottawa’s fine dining consider eating tonight at the four star Beckta Dining and Wine Bar for dinner. An upmarket dining experience with a twist on local cuisine. For dinner they offer a three or five course prix-fixe menu with optional wine pairing. Reservations are recommended. 150 Elgin St. (613) 238 – 7063
How about a little mystery and adventure tonight?
Visit Canada’s Cold War Museum –Diefenbunker. Built between 1959 and 1961, the 100,000 square foot underground bunker,was intended to house 535 Canadian government officials and military officers in the event of a nuclear war. During evenings, this museum transforms into #1 rated escape room in Ottawa. Imagine being locked inside a themed room with only 45 minutes to find clues and solves puzzles in an attempt to find the key before the clock hits zero. Will you make it out this creepy bunker? Be sure to book early to secure your spot.
Instead of visiting Diefenbunker Cold War Museum, you may rent a bike and explore Ottawa – Gatineau region.
If you were not able to get tickets for Parliament building tour, go on a self guided tour of Parliament hill. Take a stroll along Trans Canada Trail (behind Parliament) to Supreme Court of Canada, and get acquainted with Canada’s highest court.
If want to see more places on Day 1, add Day 2 places to Day 1.
Day 2 Itinerary:
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Yes, those are #solar panels on the roof of that sightseeing cruise #boat on the #RideauCanal in downtown #Ottawa. #CSR #cleanenergy #YOW #613 #NCC #centretownottawa 🇨🇦🛥 #rideaucanalcruise #unescoworldheritagesite #unescoheritagesite #igersOttawa #instaottawa #myOttawa #LoveOttawa
After the cruise take a walk over to the Ottawa Locks. This feat of engineering consists of 8 locks connecting the Rideau Canal to the Ottawa River. Dating back to 1831 the locks have still maintained a period charm even with all the modern development around and fancy yachts passing through.
Lunch suggestion: Fun with food at Play Food & Wine. Well priced sharing plates prepared from scratch in an open concept kitchen. Wine pairings are offered on the menu under each item. 1 York St. (613) 667 – 9207
Ottawa is home to a number of museums, so after lunch enjoy a visit to one of the most popular the National Gallery. It holds the largest collection of Inuit and indigenous art and this year in celebration of Canada’s birthday will hold the largest display of Canadian art in the world. Interpretive panels help guide you through the country’s history and cultural development.
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Come and see our new hang of French 17th-century paintings in Room 29! The room now features paintings by artists including Claude, Nicolas Poussin, and Philippe de Champaigne. In the 17th century, political ambitions to make of Paris a new Rome resulted in more French-born painters making their careers in the French capital. This trend was encouraged by the founding in 1648 of a royal academy of the arts, and by many wealthy individuals refurbishing their homes. Paintings such as Philippe de Champaigne’s full-length portrait of Cardinal de Richelieu (which you can just see here on the left) make manifest the increasing power and self-confidence that was felt in France in this period. Photo by #nationalgallery photographer Maria Conroy. #art #arthistory #painting #oilpainting #frenchart #frenchpainting #17thcentury #artgallery #artmuseum #museum #architecture #building #lookup #london #thingstodoinlondon #trafalgarsquare #building
Insider tip: Thursdays from 5-8pm admission is free! Arrive early though as the lines are often long.
Optional: Across the street from the National Gallery is the Notre-Dame Cathedral Basilica. This Roman Catholic church dating back to the 19th century was declared a National Historic Site in 1990 .
If you are interested in learning how the Canadian coins are made, you may enjoy a visit to the nearby Royal Canadian Mint. This castle-like building with a slight resemblance to the Tower of London houses some of the world’s biggest coin and gold bar displays. Weekday tours are recommended when you can catch a glimpse of workers transforming sheets of metal into coins. Advance reservations are required as visits are timed. Call 1-800-276-7714 to make a reservation.
Dinner suggestion: Town is a family owned and operated, artisanal restaurant serving seasonally inspired smart upgrades of Italian classics. 296 Elgin St. (613) 695 – 8696
If you are visiting in summer, get back to Parliament Hill to enjoy Light and Sound Show.
Day 3 Itinerary
Today, take a discovery into the events that shaped the nation’s history at the Canadian Museum of History. Be awed by the world’s largest indoor collection of totem poles and learn about the traditions and achievements of Canada’s First Peoples. You will want to allow plenty of time to experience this high-tec, architectural gem. Beginning July 1st a new 40, 000 square foot exhibit will open titled “Canadian History Hall” tracing Canada’s history. Admission to the children’s museum is included with your ticket where there are over 30 exhibition spaces to whisk kids off to the theme “The Great Adventure”.
Lunch suggestion: You don’t need to go far as the museum offers on site the Bistro Boreal and Voyageurs Cafe for a quick bite or a relaxed meal.
After you’ve learned all you can about Canada’s history spend your afternoon at Canada’s national museum of military history the Canadian War Museum. Learn about the profound effect the war had on Canada’s development. A world class museum that preserves our national heritage and honors the sacrifices of those who served. The museum covers all areas of Canada’s military past with tanks, artillery, combat gear, art and many other artifacts on display. A must visit museum for every Canadian or visitor wishing to have a better understanding of Canada.
Dinner suggestion: Union Local 163, a Canadian take on Southern hospitality. Offering mostly communal seating with a charming old-time hangout feel. Walk down the stairs and open the bookcase to find the entrance to Ottawa’s only Speakeasy. 315 Somerset St. W (613) 231 – 1010
Day 4 Itinerary
Visit Rideau Hall and the Canada Aviation and Space Museum located across the river in the New Edinburgh area.
Rideau Hall is and has been the official residence and workplace of the Governor General of Canada since 1867. Enjoy some time to explore this beautiful mansion with its heritage gardens of 10,000 trees, rose arcs and totem poles. In the summer many activities take place such as garden tours, art tours and concerts. In the winter bring your skates to enjoy the on-site outdoor skating rink open on Saturdays and Sundays. All activities are free of charge. Rideau Hall is located across the street from the Prime Minister’s home at 24 Sussex Dr.
Lunch suggestion: Come see for yourself why Fraser Cafe is one of Ottawa’s top rated restaurants. A casual neighbourhood restaurant serving eclectic seasonal dishes at a reasonable price. 7 Springfield Rd. (613) 749 – 1444
End your day in Ottawa with a visit to Canada’s national aviation history museum, Canada Aviation and Space museum. There are many interactive exhibits to enjoy and flight simulators that depicts the history of aviation with a special focus on Canada’s own contributions and innovations. You can choose to explore at your own leisure or take a guided tour free with your admission. If you’re really up for a thrill, consider gliding through the sky in vintage biplane ride. A once-in-a-lifetime experience! Available May through October with reservation.
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The stunning “Kichi Sibi” from a different perspective! The ancestors of the Anishinabeg Peoples have inhabited and hunted this area since time immemorial; controlling access to the “Great River,” the main travel and trade linkage between the St. Lawrence River and the Great Lakes, for countless generations. #613History #Ottawa #MyOttawa #LoveOttawa #OttawaRiver #RideauRiver #ExploreOntario #Aerial #AerialPhotography #GreatRiver #Algonquin #VintageBiplane #CanadaAviationMuseum #AviationMuseum #photo #photography #photooftheday #history #heritage #bytownmuseum100 #bytownmuseum
Dinner suggestion: Atelier, the brainchild of celebrated chef Marc Lepine. A laboratory style restaurant with no ovens or stoves. Only bunsen burners, liquid nitrogen and hot plates to create unique dishes that will tickle your taste buds. 540 Rochester St. (613) 321 – 3537
Day 5 Itinerary
Why not have an adventure today? For your final day in Ottawa, make sure to save time to go whitewater rafting down an untouched wild section of Ottawa river with OWL Rafting. The tour lasts approximately 6 hours which consists of 4 – 5 hours of rafting followed by a 1-hour return trip aboard OWL’s Pontoon Boat Cruise. OWL Rafting is located approximately 90 minutes from Ottawa.
If you want to do rafting on an afternoon on any of the previous days, go rafting with Wilderness Tours. They have afternoon options for family and for those who want more action on the river. A great trip if you only have 4 hrs to spare from arrival to departure. This is a great option for those who want to checkout Ottawa in the morning and do something else in the evening!
If you are driving from Toronto, by car it will take approximately 4.5 hours depending on traffic. Simply take Hwy 401 east to Hwy 416 North and follow the signs to Ottawa. Please take special caution in the downtown core as many streets are one way.
Trains operate several times per day from Toronto Union station to Ottawa and also take about 4.5 hours. For more information and to book tickets visit the Via Rail website.
Greyhound offers daily buses from the Toronto bus terminal to Ottawa and takes about 5 hours on the express bus.
Hop-on-Hop-off: If you are limited on time or wish to see as many of the sites as possible this is a great option. Guided commentary is provided onboard and stops are located at all the main tourist sites. Choose from London style open top double decker buses or turn-of-the century trolleys. Tickets can be purchased directly on the bus.
Bike: Just across the street from the Fairmont Chateau Laurier you can find the RentABike kiosk. Ottawa is a very bike friendly city with more than 600 km of bike paths linking parks, gardens and historical sites. You may also want to consider taking a bike tour to enjoy the sights and stories with an experienced guide.
Parking: Most sites can easily be visited on foot but if you decide to take your car there are many paid parking lots throughout the city near to the major attractions. Parking on the street is limited to three hours unless otherwise marked. During rush hour many downtown streets prohibit parking so pay close attention to the signs.
Where to stay:
Ottawa offers a variety of different accommodation options to suit all tastes and budget. Here are a few centrally located suggestions.
Fairmount Chateau Laurier: One of the more upscale hotels in Ottawa. An iconic building dating back to 1912 centrally located downtown close to all the main attractions and landmarks.
Albert at Bay Suite Hotel: Large suites with fully equipped kitchens this is a great option for families, groups or longer stays.
Byward Blue Inn: A more budget friendly option located in the Byward market area on a quaint residential street. Newly renovated rooms with private balconies and kitchenettes.