Looking for fun things to do in Ottawa this summer? Look no further! I love Ottawa – but the beautiful, warm weather only lasts a few months out of the year so you absolutely have to take advantage.
I’ve been on the lookout for things to do in Ottawa this summer, and now I’m passing on my list to you! This bucket list includes the classics, the new and temporary, and lots of delicious summer treats! Honestly – I think there are now more than 57 things on this list. There’s just a lot going on in Ottawa this summer. It’s going to be a blast!
Things to do in Ottawa This Summer: The 2019 Bucketlist
Enjoy the Ottawa Classics
There are some traditional Ottawa summer activities that come around every year, and always as much as the year before. Yoga on the Hill is an Ottawa classic. Class runs every Wednesday 12-1 PM and is attended by thousands, rain or shine. Yoga on the Hill requires one-time registration.
This year, Meditation Monday is a new, free guided meditation offered by the Peace Room from 12:10 PM – 12:50 PM.
City Hall Salsa takes place on Wednesday night’s as well, July – August. The free class starts at 6 PM – no experience necessary!
Sunday mornings are Sunday Bike Day. May 19 – September 1 of this summer, several roads are bikes only on Sunday mornings: Sir John A. Macdonald Parkway 7-1, Sir George-Étienne Cartier Parkway 7-1, and Colonel By Drive 9-1.Get the route details and head out!
Have a Delicious Brunch with Friends
Ottawa is building up quite the brunch scene. Grab some friends and enjoy a fun-filled and delicious morning at one these amazing spots! Have whatever your heart (stomach?) desires at Chesterfield’s Gastro Diner (1433 Wellington St West #111) by choosing from a long list of side dishes. Or, check out the Scone Witch (150 Elgin), one of my personal favourites, for a $15 breakfast platter featuring a fresh scone, eggs, jam and fruit.
Out the way of Kanata or Stittsville? Order “The Board” at NeXt (6400 Hazeldean Road), a brunch for 2 that includes 18 unique items and drinks for $34/ person. The Grounds Café (5703 Hazeldean Road) also has some stellar breakfast options, with low prices and big servings.
Westboro friends, get to Baker Street Café (385 Richmond Road) early to enjoy their brunch. They’ve gotten a (well-deserved) reputation for amazing food. If you’re looking for something a little different, Evoo Greek Kitchen (438 Preston Street) in Little Italy serves brunch with a Greek twist, offering options like spicy feta baked eggs.
Explore Ottawa’s Gardens
One of the best things about Ottawa is how you can escape the city while actually being right in the middle of it. Visit one of the beautiful parks, gardens, or green spaces in Ottawa this summer. Enjoy time outside, bring a picnic, and appreciate the flower beds that are so meticulously maintained.
Go to the Ornamental Gardens by the Experimental Farm for flowers and photography, or the Dominion Arboretum right across the street and get your steps in with a 3km+ walk around the park. Hog’s Back is another favourite, where you can see the impressive falls that are right in the middle of our city, and walk down the trail either towards Vincent Massey Park or along the Rideau Canal. Have a busy day planned downtown? Major’s Hill Park is a breath of fresh air, with amazing views of the Parliament Buildings, the Chateau Laurier, and the National Art Gallery.
Catch a Museum Exhibit
Rainy summer days will definitely come around, and that’s the perfect time to visit one of Ottawa’s museums to enjoy a special exhibit. Whether you’ve been before or not, there’s lots to see at the museums in Ottawa this summer.
The first ever exhibit to devoted to Paul Gauguin’s portraiture is on display at the National Art Gallery this summer, up until September 8. On your visit, make sure to check out the permanent collections of Canadian and European art as well.
Canada Science and Technology Museum is hosting an exhibit the celebrates the life and work of Leonardo da Vinci until September 2nd. At the Museum of Nature, visit special exhibits about flight in the age of the dinosaurs, and our amazing solar system. UNCEDED- Voices of the Land is at the Canadian Museum of History now through til spring 2020, and shares the stories, contributions, and work of Indigenous architects and designers in North America.
Visit the New Parliament Locations
The House of Commons and the Senate have relocated from the Centre Block of Parliament to reside in the West Block and the former Ottawa train station, Union Station. I’ve already visited the House of Commons twice, because the newly renovated Westblock is abolsutely stunning. Go on a 45 minute tour of the House of Commons or the Senate (preferably both) for free this summer. The new tour system lets you books tickets online, too!
Head to Rideau Hall, the Governor General’s residence, for even more Canadian History. Rideau Hall tours are offered year-round, without any reservation required in the summer. If you’re going before or after the summer, reservations may be required so check the schedule!
See Sounds and Lights at Night
Enjoy Ottawa at night this summer with a sounds and light show. The Casino de Lac Leamy Sound of Lights fireworks festival returns this summer, running from August 10 to 24th at the Canadian Museum of History. The Northern Lights: Sound and Light Show on Parliament Hill returns this year, from July 9 to September 8. The show starts at 10 PM in July and 9:30 PM in August.
Ottawa is also hosting a Water Lantern Festival for the first time this year. The festival takes place on August 17, from 5 to 10 PM at Andrew Haydon Park. Tickets are $34 / adult and include your water lantern materials.
Have Gelato or Ice Cream at a Local Spot
Hot days are ahead which can only mean… GELATO & ICE CREAM. Although, apparently Canadians buy more ice cream in the winter than the summer. Let’s say we change that, shall we? Here are a few spots to get you started.
Stella Luna is always a favourite for delicious gelato, with locations in the Glebe (1103 Bank Street) and Hintonburg (1130 Wellington Street West). Get there between 9 and 10 PM on Sunday for 40% off! Also in the Glebe, Pure Gelato (834 Bank Street) has lots of delicious flavours. Multiple cookie flavours, my favourite!
When in the Byward Market, visit The Merry Dairy (102 Fairmont Avenue) for fun, colourful flavours and vegan options. Customize your frozen yogurt order at Menchies (80 George Street), where you can mix and match your flavours and toppings for the ultimate sugar rush.
Enjoy a sunset beach stroll with you ice cream by ordering from The Beachcorners Microcreamery (273 Britannia Road), a charming little spot only a 3 minute walk from Britannia Beach.
Unwind at the Spa
Treat yourself to a spa day this summer in Ottawa, with friends for a relaxing time or solo for some rest & recovery. There are a few types of spas in and around Ottawa, depending on what experience you’re looking for.
The Ottawa Medi Spa (3 locations) is where I like to go for back-to-back facial, massage, and nail treatments. There are 3 locations around Ottawa, and they offer reasonable treatment prices and tenured staff. The Spa Ottawa (2027 Robertson Road) is set in an old church building, creating a beautiful and relaxing atmosphere. Enjoy their Himalayan Salt Room for only $25 / 60 minute session, paired with massage, aesthetic, or hair services.
The Nordik Spa is a summer classic, and North America’s largest outdoor spa. Get a couple friends together and head up to this secluded haven in Chelsea, QC, for a day of relaxing in the bathes. There are a lot of unique experiences, rituals, and treatments to enjoy at the Nordik Spa.
Have an Eerie Experience
There are a few creepy ghost stories lingering about in Ottawa, and you can discover them for yourself this summer by going on one of the Haunted Walks. The Original Haunted Walk includes ghost stories from the Bytown Museum and Fairmont Château Laurier, and your host will be hooded and leading you by lantern.
Up for a real spook? The Ghosts and the Gallows Haunted Jail Tour will bring you in to the old Carleton County Jail. You’ll walk through the cellblocks and see the last functional gallows in Canada. It’s possible that an innocent man was executed here for the murder of Thomas D’Arcy McGee… If you got chills and knots in your stomach just reading that (me) then the Crime & Punishment Historical Jail Tour is probably more your scene. No ghosts, just history!
Have a friendly ghost experience on the Haunted Walk Experience at the Mackenzie King Estate. The former Canadian Prime Minister Mackenzie King held seances here to get in touch with his deceased parts and pets. This one is not scary, promise! Coming from someone that spooks very easily. Check out the Haunted Walk website to book a tour.
Relax on Ottawa’s Patios
Patio season is one of best parts of summer in Ottawa! There are so many amazing patios in the city to choose from, so I’ll give a few favourite from across the city.
If you love drinks with a view, visit La Terrasse (1 Rideau Street), the outdoor patio hidden behind the Château Laurier and overlooking the locks. Enjoy a skyline view at Copper Spirits & Sights (325 Dalhousie), the rooftop patio of the Andaz Hotel. Tavern on the Hill (1223 Alexandra Bridge) offers an epic view of Parliament from Major’s Hill Park, or have margaritas by the water at Mexicali Rosa’s (1001 Queen Elizabeth Drive).
There are lots of nice patios in the Byward Market, including spots like Atari (297 Dalhousie) and the Aulde Dubliner (62 William Street), one of my favourites because the building is covered in flowers come summer!
Have Fun at an Ottawa Festival
There’s always a great line up of summer festivals in Ottawa. This year is no different! Music festival, food festivals, and cultural festivals offer so many different experiences!
Go around the world without leaving Ottawa by attending South Asian Fest, the Great India Festival, Italian Week, the ChinaTown night market, or Ukrainian Fest. These festivals all feature food, music, dancing, live entertainment, vendors, and workshops.
Come out for a block party, like Glow Fair on Bank Street in June or Fuse Street Festival in Westboro in August. Music lover? Jazz Fest, Blues Fest, Folk Fest, and more are on this summer too.
Check out Ottawa Festivals for all the dates and details on festivals this summer.
One more thing: festivals are a high-risk environment for drug overdoses, and we’ve experience a few such tragedies in Ottawa recently. Pharmacies in Ottawa provide free naloxone kits, a medication that blocks the effect of opioids and can save someone’s life. It’s great idea to keep one in your bag this festival season – just in case. Stay safe, Ottawa!
Go for a Hike or Walk
Get out and enjoy the outdoors this summer by going for a walk or hike at many of the beautiful places in and around Ottawa!
Make your way around the loop at Mer Bleue in the South end of Ottawa. Mer Bleue is Ottawa’s only bog, and you expect to see beavers and lots of birds while you’re out! Go for a walk along the Ottawa River from Britannia Beach to Andrew Haydon Park for another lovely walking route. When I was there recently, we saw a couple of white cranes!
We’re so fortunate to have amazing hiking trails not far from Ottawa! Gatineau Park has trails whether you’re looking for a stroll around the lake or a long hike with scenic lookouts. Use my trail guide to find your next hike!
Add this must-do hike to your summer bucket list: Eagle’s Nest. This epic lookout in Calabogie (pictured below) is surrounded by multiple hiking trails so you can choose your own adventure. Here’s my guide to reaching Eagle’s Nest.
Take a Day Trip from Ottawa
Get out of the city with an awesome day trip from Ottawa. Check out a small town nearby for shopping and snacks, or make your way to a nearby city for the day. Within 2 hours drive of Ottawa, you can have an incredible wildlife experience at Omega Park, go underground at the Bonnechere Caves, explore Old Montreal for a day, or cruise through the Thousands Islands.
Check out my post of 14 Day Trips from Ottawa that are under 2 hours away for inspiration!
Find Ottawa’s Best Local Pastries
The food scene in Ottawa, I tell ya. It just keeps getting better. Discover one of Ottawa’s pastry scene this summer with a visit to one of these cute cafés.
Anabia (3570 Strandherd Drive) is a cupcake café in Barrhaven with the best cupcakes around. They make fun, interesting flavours like Lavender and S’mores, and also offer classics like Birthday Cake and Vanilla. Plus, there are gluten-free and vegan options.
Maverick’s or Suzy Q’s are the places to go if you want an incredible donut. Once again, choose from classic flavours or indulge in a fun creation like Oreo or Maple Bacon.
Splash around with Water Sports
Go out on the water this summer! Ottawa may not have white sand beaches, but of water sports – we’ve got plenty.
Rent a kayak on Dow’s Lake for a fun way to see the Rideau Canal from a new perspective. Take a stand up paddle board out on the Rideau River (and reward yourself with gelato afterwards, for all your hard work).
Go a more relaxing route, and venture out an Ottawa cruise! You’ll get to see Ottawa from the water, and learn lots of Ottawa history.