We can promise family holidays in Ottawa are more exciting this year than ever. It might be Canada’s first city but Ottawa is awesomely adventurous for kids. And unlike a lot of capitals, this one isn’t just a dull administrative hub. And listen to the new Family Traveller Podcast episode to hear our first hand Ottawa experience. We slept with wolves!
Find sun, beaches and family fun on family holidays in Ottawa
Ottawa is often described as Canada in One City. Think that sounds like a grand claim? Put it to the test this summer.
Average temperatures of 25° as well as sun and beautiful beaches, tick all the right July and August holiday boxes. And if summer isn’t summer without plenty of activity, Ottawa is limitlessly active. Plus it continues the Canada-in-Miniature theme with forests, mountains, lakes, rivers, wildlife and true wilderness, all close to the city centre.
Need a little more persuasion to put unforgettable on your summer wish list? Take a look at the handpicked adventures chosen by Ottawa Tourism to tempt you to try Canada’s capital for summer 2022.
1/5 Go river rafting minutes from downtown Ottawa
If the thought of rafting rapids minutes from downtown sounds implausible, think again. This is Ottawa and challenging preconceptions comes naturally. The mighty Ottawa River is where the action takes place and Ottawa City Rafting have been taming the Class I and II rapids here for over 25 years. So when they say rafting is suitable for kids as young as five, trust them to know what they’re talking about.
Sessions last three hours and, in between wild water fun, flatwater floating is packed with city views. And if rafting isn’t enough excitement for one day, kids also have the option of trying cliff-jumping and body surfing.
2/5 Take to Canada’s immense skies on family holidays in Ottawa
For the ultimate city view hop aboard a WWII biplane and let yourself be expertly piloted over Ottawa. The age and heritage of the Waco UPF-7 plane might not mean much to kids. But even the most history averse will love its retro looks and funky propellers. What’s more, they even get to wear vintage helmets and goggles.
Each plane carries two passengers and gives you the exhilarating experience of open-cockpit flying. First Flight Tours take between six and eight minutes, which is good for kids. You can also book Ottawa River Tours and Parliament Hill Tours, lasting up to 15 minutes. And a stunning half hour Eco-Tour over Gatineau Park, Québec and Ontario is the one to try with older kids or teens.
3/5 There’s ziplining for everyone on family holidays in Ottawa
You barely have to leave Ottawa to discover true Canadian wilderness. Gatineau Park covers an area of more than 360km² just 15 minutes from the city centre. It’s a skiing legend in winter as well as a year-round magnet for rock climbers. The camping here is iconic and it’s also where to find Explorer Park.
Home of most exciting and extensive ziplining in Canada, Explorer Park is phenomenal. It’s by far the longest aerial adventure course in Gatineau, takes between two to three hours to complete and includes treetop challenges, obstacle courses, ladders, bridges and long, long ziplines. The course is exciting for older kids and teens, but just as demanding on adults. So it’s a great way to fire up some family competition. Because if you think you’ve nerves of steel, Explorer will test them to the limit.
A thrilling Peak-to-Peak Zipline is new for 2022 and takes about 90 minutes to complete. And Children’s Park is a small-scale Explorer designed to give under eights a taste of aerial adventure in just under an hour.
4/5 Safari this summer at Parc Omega in Québec
Québec is home to some extraordinary wildlife and you don’t have to stray too far off the beaten track for close encounters. Parc Omega is less than an hour’s drive east of Ottawa and a natural habitat for the wildest of indigenous animals from bison and moose to Arctic wolves, reindeer and Musk Ox. Come by car and safari through 12km of Québec’s diverse eco-systems, meeting curious creatures along the way.
Once you’re safari-ed out, it’s time to get active. Kids can watch Grey Wolves from the observation bridge. There are extensive hiking trails to tackle and even an aerial tree walkway. Younger children will love visiting the Old Farm. And everything from self-drive safari to freestyle exploring is included in the ticket price. So you definitely should plan a full day to do it all justice.
5/5 Bike the family-friendly Ottawa River Cycle Trail
Ottawa has an astonishing 800km of dedicated cycle paths networked in and around the city. Hundreds of kilometres are more than doable with older kids and teens, but the lovely five kilometre stretch along the Ottawa River is perfect for even the tiniest, still-in-training-wheels cyclists. And it’s another fantastic family adventure that’s easy, inexpensive and gets you an eyeful of Canada’s capital from the grandeur of Parliament Hill to the Rideau Canal.
It’s not a long cycle in terms of distance, though you want to leave plenty of time for pausing along the way. There’s parkland for pit-stops and playing. The Canadian War Museum and the Canadian Museum of History are both on-route. Family-friendly riverside restaurants are too good to resist, even just for a quick drink. And if you’re up for a longer ride, just keep going west and you’ll come to beautiful beaches like Westboro and Britannia.
Local Ottawa bike rental companies are conveniently located across the city centre and all hire age-appropriate kids’ bikes, as well as toddler-trailers, bike seats and safety equipment.