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The Most Unique Things to Do in Ottawa

The Most Unique Things to Do in Ottawa

Winters are fantastic in Ottawa, but it’s worth visiting in spring, summer, and fall too!

There’s the Canadian Tulip Festival in the spring, the bustling ByWard Market in the summer, pumpkin patches and apple picking in the fall, and of course, ice skating down the world’s largest natural ice skating rink in winter.

There are a few unique (or uniquely Ottawan) things to do in Ottawa that we don’t want you to miss out on your visit. Add our top picks below to your travel itinerary!

Zipline to Quebec from Ottawa (or vice versa)

Address: 40 Rue Jos-Montferrand, Gatineau, QC J8X 0C2, Canada (starting point)

Contact Details: +16136955803

Operating Hours: Varies from week to week during June to September


If you’re in Canada during the summer, consider a uniquely Ottawan or Quebecois experience: ziplining across borders. Interzip Rogers is the world’s first interprovincial zipline attraction, exclusively available in the summer (June to September)!

The main starting point is at Jos-Montferrand Street, Gatineau, and the zipline takes you across the Ottawa River at 40 km/h, which is quite fast but not so much that it’s unsafe. In fact, it’s a completely safe activity for people of all ages. 

The landing point is west of Downtown Ottawa, or at Gatineau if you’re starting from Ottawa. Either way, the activity is a bucket list item you should definitely try when you’re in Canada’s capital (no visas or vaccination reports required when passing borders!).

While InterZip Rogers allows visitors of all ages, riders must be at least 70 lbs to get on the harness. A maximum weight of 250 lbs is enforced to ensure the safety of everyone riding the zipline. 

Since the attraction is highly anticipated every summer, slots easily fill up, so advanced bookings are highly recommended. You can call them via phone or register online once the booking site opens in the summer! 

Sleep in jail at the SaintLo Ottawa Jail hostel

Address: 75 Nicholas St, Ottawa, ON K1N 7B9, Canada

Contact Details: +16132352595

Check-In: 3:00 pm

Check-Out: 11:00 am


Going to jail in a foreign country sounds terrifying, but tourists in Ottawa don’t mind spending a night in prison as a gimmick. The Saintlo Ottawa Jail Hostel sets the stage for anyone brave enough to experience jail time (not officially) for a night or two. 

Each room in this hostel is designed like a cell block, complete with stone walls and iron doors that date back more than 150 years. You can choose from a single cell room or bigger cells with bunk beds good for 4, 6, and 8 people (prison mates). 

Moreover, food is served to you in the morning (just like how most prisons feed their inmates) free of charge. The whole experience is absurdly funny, and we highly recommend trying it out (plus, we heard the food here is actually pretty good)! 

The Saint Lo Ottawa Jail Hostel can arrange tours around Ottawa for you and your cellmates. The hotel sits just a few minutes away from popular attractions like Parliament Hill, the ByWard Market, and the Rideau Canal.

A day tour with the hostel staff is a must to save time! 

Tour Ottawa on a 1930s airplane

Address: 11 Aviation Pkwy, Ottawa, ON K1K 4Y5, Canada

Contact Details: +16133167229

Operating Hours: Monday to Sunday, 9:00 am to 5:00 pm


Exploring Ottawa on foot is great, but have you considered taking to the skies? Ottawa Aviation Adventure offers a unique way to experience the city, especially for tourists who love heights and have a thrill-seeking bone in their bodies!

You can embark on exhilarating airplane tours featuring vintage 1930s biplanes and cozy four-seat aircraft, all under the expert guidance of pilot Greg Reynolds. Choose from four distinct tour options: River, Parliament, Gatineau, and Eco.

River tours provide scenic views over the Ottawa River, Parliament tours soar above Parliament Hill, Gatineau tours offer sights of Gatineau Park and the river, and the Eco tour encompasses all these areas. 

Family tours accommodate either two or three passengers with rates increasing per person for smaller groups. Flight tours necessitate a minimum of two passengers.

Biplane flights featuring 1930s aircraft are solely offered between May and October, while family tours are available year-round exclusively on weekends.

Make your way out of the world’s largest underground escape room

Address: 3929 Carp Rd, Ottawa, ON K0A 1L0, Canada

Contact Details: +16138390007

Operating Hours: Wednesday to Friday, 10:00 am to 4:00 pm, Saturday and Sunday, 10:00 am to 3:00 pm


If you’re a history buff, then you’ll probably love Diefenbunker: Canada’s Cold War Museum. It’s a massive, four-story, underground World War II bunker built between 1959 and 1961. 

On its own, the Diefenbunker is a unique and impressive museum to visit and learn about Canada’s role in the Cold War. However, every Thursday to Sunday evening, one floor (spanning 25,000 square feet) turns into the world’s largest escape room. 

You and your friends can try solving clues and puzzles or find your way out as fast as you can through this massive underground bunker. You’re 75 feet below ground, by the way, so there’s really only one way out (and that’s for you to figure out how!). 

The escape room is available at specific times every Thursday, Friday, and Sunday evenings with tickets starting at $37 per person. A maximum of 12 participants are allowed within the bunker at a time with a time limit of 60 minutes. 

There are two types of escape experience available at the Diefenbunker: Covert Ops or Radioactive. Both have the same time and maximum participant limit but offer different experiences. 

You can read more about them here

Skate down the world’s largest natural ice rink

Address: 1 Elgin St, Ottawa, ON K1P 5W1, Canada

Contact Details: +16132395000

Operating Hours: Open 24/7 (every January to September)


The Rideau Canal is one of Ottawa’s most popular tourist attractions, as it’s the city’s UNESCO World Heritage Site. Every winter, the famed canal turns into the world’s largest natural ice rink and is open for people to skate on all day! 

The rink is managed and operated by the Rideau Canal Skateway and opens only during the winter season when the canal freezes up completely (usually between January and March). 

Visitors can rent skates, sleighs, ice tricycles, and other skating equipment along the canal borders from stalls. The rink is open 24/7 during the skating season but may close down if the weather becomes gloomy. 

The Rideau Canal Skateway management does its best to maintain the ice surface of the frozen canal. 

Despite their efforts, the natural surface of the canal may not be completely smooth, thus skaters may encounter rough spots or uneven surfaces and cracks when skating. 

These could be dangerous, especially for children when not supervised. If the management deems the ice to be unsafe, it’s best to avoid the areas that may have cracks under the snow cover. 

Face your arachnophobia at Maman

From historica

Address: 380 Sussex Dr, Ottawa, ON K1A 0G8, Canada

Operating Hours: Open 24/7


“Maman” translates to “mom” in French. In Ottawa, “Maman” is a large spider sculpture crafted from bronze, marble, and stainless steel and serves as a touching tribute to artist Louise Bourgeois’s mother who was a weaver before she passed away.

Its long, towering legs measure 30 feet high and stand tall in front of the National Gallery of Canada. Maman is one of the most well-known urban artworks in Ottawa with many tourists stopping by to take pictures before visiting the gallery. 

For some people, the giant spider sculpture may be terrifying, but by knowing its backstory, you might find a sweet yet painful reminder that even the things that scare us the most can become things we love in the end. 

The Maman sculpture sits right by the entrance of the National Gallery and is close to Major’s Hill Park and the Royal Canadian Mint. It can serve as a meeting place for tour groups if you’re visiting multiple attractions separately within a day! 

Raft at the Ottawa River 

Address: 102 Greenview Ave, Ottawa, ON K2B 5Z6, Canada

Contact Details: +18446887238

Operating Hours: Monday to Saturday, 9”00 am to 6:00 pm


In Canada’s capital, thrill-seekers find plenty to satisfy their craving for excitement. For a unique adventure without leaving the city, consider whitewater rafting with Ottawa City Rafting.

Ottawa City Rafting offers thrilling excursions along the Ottawa River. Whitewater rafting involves navigating inflatable rafts through turbulent sections of the river, providing an adrenaline-pumping experience right in the heart of the city.

As you and your companions navigate the Ottawa River, you’ll have stunning views of the Parliament buildings and the cityscape. It’s a distinctive way to experience Ottawa, offering a thrill unlike any other in the city!

Ottawa City Rafting mandates a minimum of 6 individuals and a maximum of 11 individuals aboard the raft. Participants must weigh at least 50 pounds and be 5 years old or older.

While children are permitted to participate, it is strongly advised that young riders undergo introductory rafting lessons provided by Ottawa City Rafting beforehand.

Go on a “Dune”-like adventure at the Pinhey Sand Dunes 

From facesottawa 

Address: Ottawa, ON K2G 1W2, Canada

Contact Details: +16132395000

Operating Hours: Open 24/7


Pinhey Forest is located southwest of Ottawa’s city centre, and it’s not just the hiking trails and the tall trees that draw tourists to the forest. The park is known for its inland sand dunes, the only one of its kind in Ottawa! 

If you think about it, finding sand dunes in one of the coldest cities in the world is quite strange, but the oddness is what actually makes visiting the Pinhey Sand Dunes all the more worthwhile. The sand was deposited there over 1,000 years ago, by the way. 

The sand dunes offer a “Dune”-like experience, especially when you visit in the summer. There’s little vegetation and wildlife in the area, so you pretty much have the place to yourself to explore (unless other tourists drop by to check the place out too). 

The Pinhey Sand Dunes can be very hot in the summer, so make sure to wear covered footwear to protect your feet from the scorching heat of the sand. 

The park is open year-round, so if you want to visit the sand dunes with a much cooler atmosphere, drop by just during fall or winter. 

Unleash your inner Little Mermaid at AquaMermaid 

Address: YMCA Taggart, 180 Argyle Ave, Ottawa, ON K2P 1B7, Canada

Contact Details: +18662792767

Operating Hours: Hours are based on booked appointments 


Your childhood dream of becoming a mermaid can now come true at AquaMermaid Ottawa! Obviously, you can’t suddenly grow fins and breathe underwater, but this mermaid school in the city brings you as close as possible to the experience. 

Plus, it’s a workout you can squeeze into your travel itinerary around Canada’s capital. The school offers 1-hour lessons where you learn how to swim using a prosthetic mermaid tail. 

You’ll be taught by professional mermaids who perform mermaid shows for events, birthdays, and parties. Visitors can choose to have lessons in their hotel pools or at Ottawa University’s swimming pool, whichever is more convenient! 

AquaMermaid doesn’t accept walk-ins for lessons, so you’ll have to book your slot in advance via the website. Cash payments are also not accepted. 

Mermaid tails will be provided by the school, but you’re free to bring your own tail if you own one! 

Stroll the gardens around Major’s Hill Park

From ottawatourism 

Address: Mackenzie Ave, Ottawa, ON K1N 1G8, Canada

Contact Details: +18004651867

Operating Hours: Open 24/7 


Major’s Hill Park is Ottawa’s first city park, which opened in 1826. The park was used extensively over the centuries, especially during the late 1800s when locals would put up bonfires and fireworks to celebrate Canada Day. 

Notable features within this park are the remainder of Colonel By’s house when he lived by the Rideau Canal, the Header House, and the Major’s Hill Park greenhouse. The gardens are lush and filled with flowers, plants, and trees, especially during the summer. 

People come here for picnics, leisurely strolls, and to see tulips bloom each spring, coinciding with Ottawa’s Canadian Tulip Festival. Open year-round, the park offers changing garden colors through the seasons.

Tip: Although limited, there is free parking available in the ByWard Market. If slots are full, you can purchase parking tickets within the market complex or find slots in the National Gallery’s underground parking lot. 

Pick up tulips during the Canadian Tulip Festival

Address: Queen Elizabeth Driveway, Ottawa, ON K1S 5K7, Canada

Contact Details: +18006688547

Operating Hours: Monday to Sunday, 10:00 am to 10:00 pm


Following World War II, Canada was gifted tulips from the Netherlands as a symbol of friendship. In commemoration of this bond, Canada holds an annual Canadian Tulip Festival (it’s also held in honour of Canadian-born Dutch Princess Margriet). 

Each May, Commissioners Park becomes the venue for this globally attended event. Visitors can participate in various activities such as candle making, metalworking, painting, and flower arranging. 

The festival also features live music concerts, movie screenings, and a month-long Tulip Market. Experiencing the Canadian Tulip Festival is highly recommended for anyone visiting Ottawa in May!

If the primary Tulip Market is crowded, you have the option to explore their auxiliary market situated at ByWard Market. This booth offers Tulip Festival memorabilia, flower arrangements, and various keepsakes perfect for souvenirs!

During the festival period, a shuttle service named the Cobblestone Tulip Shuttles operates from 22 York Street to the main festival venue. It’s essential to pre-book shuttle tickets to guarantee your seats for the journey!

Shop and eat until you drop at the ByWard Market

Address: 55 Byward Market Square, Ottawa, ON K1N 9C3, Canada

Contact Details: +16132444410

Operating Hours: Monday to Sunday, 10:00 am to 6:00 pm


Don’t overlook the bustling stalls of ByWard Market, a must-visit for food lovers and artisans alike. This popular destination in Ottawa attracts over 50,000 visitors every weekend and is especially popular during the summer. 

Dating back to 1827, ByWard Market stands as one of Canada’s oldest public markets, boasting over 600 vendors. Explore iconic offerings such as poutine (fries with gravy and cheese), Montreal-style smoked meat, and Beavertails (sweet flat donuts).

Additionally, discover locally sourced produce, flowers, souvenirs, handmade jewelry, books, spices, baked goods, and of course, maple products—making it an ideal spot for gift shopping!

From May to October, ByWard Market thrives with its seasonal outdoor market, featuring vendors showcasing seasonal goods and produce along the streets. 

Throughout the year, the market operates indoors daily. Due to limited dining seating, it’s advisable to arrive promptly when they open at 10:00 am during the regular market season and 9:00 am during the outdoor season.

Tour the grounds of Parliament Hill

Address: Wellington St, Ottawa, ON K1A 0A9, Canada

Contact Details: +16139924793

Operating Hours: Monday to Friday, 8:30 am to 6:00 pm


Parliament Hill stands as Canada’s central federal government location where Parliament members convene to make significant decisions. While not all building halls may be accessible, numerous points of interest are open for tourists to explore.

Erected between 1859 and 1927, Parliament Hill’s structures showcase neo-Gothic architecture reminiscent of England’s Parliament buildings. Prominent buildings include the East and West Blocks, the Centre Block, and the iconic Peace Tower.

Daily guided tours, offered free of charge, lead visitors through notable sites like the Victorian-style library, the House of Commons, and the Senate. A typical exploration of Parliament Hill takes one to two hours, so it’s advisable to plan your visit accordingly!

While the main building of Parliament Hill is undergoing renovation, visitors can still explore the West Block, East Block, House of Commons, and the Senate. Tickets can be reserved in advance at this link.

Please be aware that separate tickets are required for each site, so ensure you reserve tickets for all the sites you plan to visit during your visit.

Pick your own apples at Pinewood Orchards

– From move100ottawa

Address: 101 Herzberg Road, Kanata, ON K2K 2Y3, Canada

Contact Details: +16139924793

Operating Hours: Monday to Friday, 10:00 am to 5:00 pm, Saturday to Sunday, 9:00 am to 5:00 pm


Located 20 minutes west of Ottawa is Pinewood Orchards, a vast 15-acre orchard and farm filled with over 800 apple trees nearly 75 years old. The orchard sells all sorts of produce like vegetables and fruits, but it’s most famous for its apples. 

You can buy your fresh produce from Pinewood Orchards’ stands within the farm or along Carling Avenue, but you also have the option to pick apples yourself. Picking hours vary depending on the weather and season, as well as the apple variety.

Apple picking season starts from August to October, but other fresh produce is available from spring to fall with special varieties available during specific seasons. Your kids can join in on the fun as many trees there have low branches they can reach! 

Pinewood Orchards’ apple farm doesn’t have pathways or stones for you to walk on, so it’s best to leave strollers, carts, and wagons behind and bring a sack with you instead. 

Plus, you won’t be charged by the weight of your apples but based on the size of the bag you use. Small bags cost $20 while large ones cost $35, so fill them up as much as you can! 

Marvel at Remic Rapids Park’s rock sculptures 

Address: Kichi Zībī Mīkan, Ottawa, ON K1A 0K9, Canada

Contact Details: +16132395000

Operating Hours: Monday to Sunday, 5:00 am to 11:00 pm

Remic Rapids Park diverges from typical beaches by lacking a sandy shoreline. Nonetheless, this riverside locale presents a distinctive assortment of attractions, notably the balanced rock sculptures by artist John Felice Ceprano.

John Felice Ceprano changes the sculptures every year, which is an event that most locals look forward to. Alongside the captivating rock sculptures, Remic Rapids Park serves as a vital habitat for migratory birds.

Guests can indulge in amenities like a bistro, restored wildlife habitats, hiking trails, and scenic viewpoints ideal for observing sunsets. Although not bustling with crowds, the park provides a serene haven for those seeking solitude by the river.

Near Remic Rapids Park, there’s a free parking area accessible from 7:00 am to 10:00 pm with a maximum two-hour parking limit per vehicle.

Moreover, throughout the year, many birds and geese frequent the park, so it’s important to be cautious about your movements and dispose of trash responsibly. It’s advisable not to attempt to feed them.

While you can wade in the water during low tides, swimming is not recommended due to the shallow depth of the water.

Drink and play board games at Level One Game Pub

Address: 14 Waller St, Ottawa, ON K1N 9C4, Canada

Contact Details: +16136957529

Operating Hours: Monday, 4:00 pm to 12:00 am, Tuesday to Thursday, 2:00 pm to 12:00 am, Friday, 2:00 pm to 2:00 am, Saturday, 12:00 pm to 2:00 am, Sunday, 12:00 pm to 12:00 am


Level One Game Pub is a well-known hangout spot for locals and tourists after a winding day of work or touring. The pub serves all sorts of drinks, cocktails, beer, and bar bites, but the main attraction is its large collection of board games. 

For an entry fee of $9, you can play as many board games as you want in this pub, ranging from Dungeons and Dragons to Braintopia. There’s even a section for role-playing and games for solo guests who want to have some fun alone time. 

If you want to take game night up a notch, the pub also offers video games you can play through their various consoles such as PlayStation, Nintendo Wii, Nintendo Switch, Xbox 360, and Gamecube. It’s a gamer’s drinking haven! 

Every Monday, Level One Game Pub hosts Geek Trivia Night from 6:30 pm to 8:00 pm. You and your friends can team up and answer as many questions about gaming, pop culture, movies, and random trivia. 

The themes vary per week and slots to join the fun need to be reserved in advance here. Registration starts at $3 per player. 

Each team gets a place on the scoreboard each week, so if you lose one night, you can always make up for it on the next trivia night! 

Spend a day on the beach at Petrie Island Park

Address: 727 Tweddle Rd, Orléans, ON K4A 3P4, Canada

Contact Details: +16135802400

Operating Hours: Monday to Thursday, 10:30 am to 9:00 pm


Petrie Island Park is a popular summer destination for many Ottawans looking for an escape from the city hustle. It’s located on Petrie Island, which stands on the Ottawa River between Ottawa and Gatineau. 

The park boasts lots of wildlife, walking paths, picnic areas, and ponds where you can find lots of turtles. It’s a safe space for children to get their hands and feet on the sand while you lounge on the ground as the sun sets. 

The picnic areas benefit from ample shade provided by surrounding trees, and there’s abundant calm water space available for activities like kayaking, paddleboarding, and canoeing. Remember to tidy up after your picnic if you choose to enjoy it on the sand!

Dogs aren’t allowed anywhere on the island. 

Also, before heading to the beaches of Petrie Island, it’s essential to arrive in swimming attire, as there are no changing facilities available.

However, public restrooms are accessible from opening until closing hours.