Ottawa is a children’s playground with many outdoor activities and, in the case of summer showers, some of the best museums in the country. Here are the top attractions for children in Canada’s capital.
Travel the world at the Children’s Museum
Located in the equally child-friendly Canadian Museum of History, the Canadian Children’s Museum is one of the most popular museums in Canada and rightfully so. There are rotating exhibits, but the majority of the museum is made up of the permanent exhibition entitled ‘The Great Adventure’. Children are given passports at the entrance and make their way around the world, from riding in a tuk-tuk in Thailand and a colourful bus in Pakistan to loading foam freight onto a cargo ship. The variety of exhibits gives children the opportunity to experience a wide range of cultures and environments. All exhibits feature numerous interactive games as well as information relating to the different countries. Entry to the Museum of History includes entrance to the Children’s Museum.
Get lost in the country at Saunders Farm
There are few places better to get out into the fresh air in Ottawa than Saunders Farm. Located about 25 minutes from the city centre, the working farm has the largest collection of hedge mazes in the world, as well as treehouses, puppet shows, and jumping pillows (like a super-sized jumping castle). In addition to being a family favourite during Halloween, the farm also hosts week-long children’s camps, but it’s also a great place to go for a day out in the country.
Hit the waves at Calypso Water Park
About 30 minutes east of Ottawa, water babies will love Calypso Water Park, the biggest theme waterpark in Canada. The park is open over summer from June to September and features rides and activities for all ages, from toddlers to teenagers. The water is heated so it is comfortable even on colder days. There are a wide variety of restaurants and snack bars, but you are also welcome to bring your own lunch, as there are picnic tables throughout the park.
Learn to farm at the Canada Agriculture and Food Museum
Full of educational exhibits on Canadian farm-life from the past and present, the Canada Agricultural and Food Museum is a true living museum. The animals are part of a working farm and children have the chance to not only pet the animals, but also learn about how the farm is run. It’s an insightful, fun way to teach children where their food comes from and there are daily demonstrations on the different animals, as well as on making different types of food with ingredients found on the farm.
Eat a BeaverTail and do some shopping at ByWard Market
While a shopping trip might not be every child’s favourite activity, the ByWard Market can at least offer the lure of a sweet treat with the promise of a BeaverTail, a fried pastry hand-stretched to look like the tail of a beaver, Canada’s national animal. Kids can top the pastry with a variety of sweets and there are also savoury ones, including poutine (a mix of French fries, gravy and cheese – a quintessentially Canadian dish). There are a large variety of clothing stores and souvenir shops around the Market, or if the browsing gets boring, there are usually a variety of buskers and performers, especially on weekends.
Put your head in the clouds at the Canada Aviation and Space Museum
If your child is interested in planes or space, then the Canada Aviation and Space Museum is the place to visit. There are hundreds of planes to view and some with stairs so children can sit in the cockpit. Children also have the chance to fly overtop the capital in an airplane – either a vintage biplane with an open cockpit for children over seven or a closed small plane for younger children. If you (or your young one) is not up for an actual flight, you can try the Redbird FMX simulator, where you can take the controls in a variety of virtual settings.
Get some exercise and see Ottawa’s beauty along the Rideau Canal
The Rideau Canal, starting at the Ottawa Locks up by the Ottawa River and extending for 202km down to Lake Ontario, is a great place for a short hike along the Canal’s edge. The pathway starts in Ottawa near the Fairmont Chateau Laurier and you can walk the 6km down the path to Dows Lake, or you can rent a bike for $10 an hour from Rent-A-Bike at the north end of the Canal. Locks, helmet and a map are included and they offer tours if you wanted to venture to see more of the city. They even offer trailers for small children.
Learn without even realising it at the Canada Science and Technology Museum
The recently refurbished Canada Science and Technology Museum is a favourite for children to visit. It’s a popular spot during the summer months due to all the school groups, and the train ride outside is a particular favourite. The Crazy Kitchen is another favourite, and is one of the original experiences from when the museum first opened in 1967. It’s now renovated with more features children will love, such as additional interactive experiences focused on perceptions and illusions.
Lonely Planet has produced this article for Ottawa Tourism. All editorial views are those of Lonely Planet alone and reflect our policy of editorial independence and impartiality.