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Things to do in
Ottawa

Our most recommended things to do in Ottawa

Ottawa: Sightseeing River Cruise

1. Ottawa: Sightseeing River Cruise

Discover the natural beauty of the region that captured the imagination of the first European explorer Samuel de Champlain. Climb aboard the 'Paula D' for a 1.5-hour sightseeing cruise on the Ottawa River. This must-do experience offers an entertaining glimpse of the region's rich history and leaves you with plenty of time to enjoy the rest of your stay. For your convenience, there are two departure docks, one located in Gatineau and another in Ottawa. Once boarded, sit back and relax as you cruise down the river. Enjoy spectacular views of the city and learn about the river's past life as a watery highway for transporting resources with your guide's engaging and informative commentary in both English and French. During your cruise, you'll have the opportunity to see the Parliament Buildings, the Rideau Canal Locks, and the cities of Ottawa and Gatineau from the river. You'll also be able to spot some sights that are only visible from the water or from Gatineau. While you're taking in the sights, savor a nice cold beverage (at your own expense) on the large open-air upper deck. Alternatively, escape the elements and visit the closed-in lower deck to take advantage of the on-board canteen with a bar.

Ottawa: Bilingual Guided City Tour by Amphibious Bus

2. Ottawa: Bilingual Guided City Tour by Amphibious Bus

Climb aboard a unique vehicle that can travel on land and water and discover the historical attractions of Ottawa and the Ottawa River from different perspectives. Spend 40 minutes on land and 20 minutes on the water. Admire landmark monuments and attractions such as Lake Dow, Landsdowne Park, and Byward Market. Get a magnificent view of the city as you cruise along the river aboard the amphibious vehicle. See all the important sights of Ottawa and the city of Gatineau, located just across the water. Avail of an activity that is both fun and educational for the entire family, and ideal for those who are short of time but want to see it all.

Ottawa: Rideau Canal Cruise

3. Ottawa: Rideau Canal Cruise

Discover the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Rideau Canal aboard a brand-new electric vessel. Admire top attractions like the Canadian Museum of Nature, Château Laurier, Dow’s Lake, and the National Arts Centre from this iconic waterway. The cruise departs from the heart of downtown Ottawa. Step aboard North America’s largest 100% electric passenger vessel, the only one of its kind. Your experienced and friendly crew will answer your questions and ensure your safety. Sit back, relax, and enjoy the view as your live guide shares entertaining insights into the region, its history, and rich cultural heritage. Discover the Rideau Canal from the Chateau Laurier to Dow's Lake. Learn about 30 different sites that have marked the history of Ottawa including the Trans-Canada Highway, Canadian Museum of Nature, Canal Ritz, Lansdowne Park, Bank Street Bridge, Dow’s Lake, Commissioners Park, Dominion Arboretum, and many more.

Ottawa: Hop-On Hop-Off Guided City Tour Pass

4. Ottawa: Hop-On Hop-Off Guided City Tour Pass

All aboard for this popular hop-on hop-off city bus tour of Ottawa that’s filled with fun, facts, and history! Stay on the bus for the complete 1.5-hour round-trip tour or hop off and back on throughout the validity of your ticket. Explore Ottawa's main sights like the Canadian Parliament buildings, Byward Market, and more en route. See the sights of Ottawa from a classic open-top, double-decker bus. Sit on the lower deck and enjoy the inside comfort or ride on the top deck and enjoy the fantastic views as your knowledgeable, bilingual guide points out landmarks and shares the city's history with you. Hop off at sites you want to explore and hop back on to resume your city tour. Do this at your own pace, and visit as many of Ottawa’s top sites as you like. See museums, parks, galleries, the Byward Market, the Canadian Parliament buildings, and lots more. Explore, dine, and shop throughout the capital city!

Ottawa: Canadian Museum of Nature Admission

5. Ottawa: Canadian Museum of Nature Admission

Discover Canada’s diverse nature under one roof when you visit the Canadian Museum of Nature. Located a 20-minute walk from Parliament Hill and easily accessible by public transportation or car, the museum offers world-class galleries housed in a striking historic “castle” that once served as Canada’s Parliament. Explore 4 floors full of galleries showcasing the geology, ecology, and paleontology of Canada as live exhibits. Your admission includes access to all permanent galleries as well as the special exhibition, “Owls Rendez-vous”. Encounter giant dinosaurs, iconic Canadian mammals, a complete blue whale skeleton, dazzling gems and minerals, Canadian birds, live insects, Pacific tide pool creatures, and more. Discover the mysteries of water and Earth, as well as the creatures that inhabit our planet now and in the past. Touch real ice and immerse yourself in Canada’s Arctic in the spectacular "Canada Goose Arctic Gallery", an Ontario Signature Experience. Explore Canada's mysterious, vulnerable and unique Arctic through immersive hands-on and interactive displays. Additional Option: Special Exhibit: Bug Adventure It’s amazing what bugs can do—and you can too—in this larger-than-life exhibition. Let the design team behind The Lord of the Rings and Avatar take you on a bug adventure. Venture through fantastical decor that lets you experience the world as bugs do. There are interactive surprises around every corner. Come face-to-face with bug characteristics of camouflage, venom, swarming, and flight. Test yourself against bugs with interactive games—how many flying bugs can you catch in 30 seconds? Discover how bugs inspired experts to make flying robots, nanotechnology, 3D-printed silk and more!

Ottawa: Canadian War Museum Admission

6. Ottawa: Canadian War Museum Admission

The Canadian War Museum is Canada’s national museum of military history. Designed by Japanese–Canadian architect Raymond Moriyama, the Museum’s structure and surrounding grounds reflect the concept of regeneration. From windows spelling out “Lest We Forget / N’oublions jamais” in Morse code, to uneven floors and rough concrete walls, the building acknowledges the price of conflict, while also showing hope for a more peaceful future. The Museum brings Canada’s military history to life for visitors of all ages through thousands of personal stories, objects, works of art, photographs, interactive presentations, and immersive environments. In addition to a series of galleries exploring Canadian military history from early wars in Canada to contemporary conflicts, the Museum features an impressive collection of large artillery and military vehicles in the LeBreton Gallery, as well as thought-provoking temporary exhibitions on everything from the First and Second World Wars to art produced by women in conflict zones. Memorial Hall and several additional spaces in the Museum encourage quiet reflection on the cost of war. To stand in the presence of the headstone of Canada’s Unknown Soldier in Memorial Hall is a powerful and moving experience, as is experiencing the Moriyama Regeneration Hall and visiting the Royal Canadian Legion Hall of Honour. The Canadian War Museum’s collections are among the finest military holdings in the world, comprising rare vehicles, artillery, uniforms, medals, small arms, and rare books and archives, as well as the outstanding Beaverbrook Collection of War Art. In addition to showcasing exhibitions from around the world, the Museum hosts vehicle demonstrations, scholarly lectures, engaging family programming, and a wide range of special events.

Gatineau: Canadian Museum of History Admission

7. Gatineau: Canadian Museum of History Admission

The Canadian Museum of History is Canada’s national museum of human history. Located in Gatineau, Quebec, along the scenic riverfront across from Parliament Hill, the Museum is housed in an iconic building designed by Indigenous architect Douglas Cardinal. The Museum is one of Canada’s most popular cultural institutions, with a collection of more than 4 million items — including archaeological material, cultural objects, works of art, documents, and audiovisual material. In collaboration with Indigenous Peoples, the Museum shares the stories of the resilience and diversity of Indigenous cultures and histories across Canada. The Museum has the world’s largest indoor display of monumental poles, six traditional Native house fronts arranged in the shape of a 19th-century Northwest Coast village, contemporary works of Indigenous art, and a gallery dedicated to the achievements and traditions of Indigenous Peoples. The Museum is also home to the popular Canadian History Hall — a stunning showcase that provides access to 15,000 years of social history through personal stories and 1,500 authentic artifacts, many of which are national treasures. The Museum’s exhibitions examine the events, personalities and cultures that have shaped Canada. Sharing stories through multiple perspectives and voices, the Museum celebrates Canadian achievements while also exploring some of the country’s darker chapters. The Museum is also a destination of choice for major international exhibitions, which are often produced in partnership with the world’s most renowned institutions. In addition, you can explore the world through play with your children at the Canadian Children’s Museum and watch an inspiring, larger-than-life documentary films at Ciné+.

Ottawa: Scenic Helicopter Flight

8. Ottawa: Scenic Helicopter Flight

Soar over Ottawa city, the capital of Canada, snap breathtaking photos, and enjoy the view on this picturesque helicopter flight. Gaze out of the panoramic and curved windows and spot the serene Meech Lake and the Champlain. Start at the Rockcliffe airport at the Canadian Space and Aviation Museum. Have a quick safety briefing before boarding your helicopter. See Parliament Hill, the home of the Parliament of Canada, and Rideau Hall, the official residence of the Canadian monarch from above. Take-off in a Robinson R44 aircraft and fly at a cruising speed of 180 km/h. Choose between a 10-minute flight covering 30 KM, a 20-minute flight covering 60 KM, or a 30-minute flight covering 90 KM.

Ottawa: Haunted Night Walking Tour

9. Ottawa: Haunted Night Walking Tour

Experience Ottawa like never before on a 75-minute Original Haunted Walk. Spend an evening with fascinating tour guides who are chosen from the best local storytellers and have a passion for sharing the unexpected side of Canada's capital city.  On the Original Haunted Walk, your expert cloaked guide will reveal to you their favorite ghost stories from the Downtown Ottawa area and lead you by lantern light to some of the city's most well-known haunted spots. Visit locations such as the Fairmont Château Laurier, Grant House, and Ottawa’s haunted high school. A favorite stop is the haunted Bytown Museum where many of the guides have had their own experiences to share. You’ll never look at the city and these buildings the same again.  After being led through the streets of Downtown Ottawa, your guide can walk you back to the start location or leave you to enjoy a (sleepless) night in the city.

Ottawa: Floating Tiki Bar Cruise on the Ottawa River

10. Ottawa: Floating Tiki Bar Cruise on the Ottawa River

Take a relaxing tour up and down the Ottawa River on a floating tiki bar. Just head to one of the embarkment sites, climb aboard and get the party started. The activity provider's captains are all small vessel certified and licensed. Enjoy fancy drinks and snacks as the floating palapa boat takes you along the river, offering stunning views of the shoreline. Whether it’s just hanging out with friends for a fun time, spending some relaxing time with your family, taking a romantic cruise, or a group excursion, this tour is one of the most unique ways to get out on the water. Cruise the time away sipping drinks, and listening to or singing karaoke to your favorite tropical tunes.

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What people are saying about Ottawa

Overall rating

4.4 / 5

based on 2,600 reviews

It was a great experience. My two young kids had a blast as well. It was nice to see the two cities from above as well as check out some of the more iconic destinations. Our pilot and ground crew were so professional and accommodating (not always easy when doing things with kids under 8) and did everything with a smile! The online booking was also very easy. All together an A+ experience. Thank you/ Marci!

This helicopter tour was pretty much excellent in my opinion and the pilot gave us a great introductory to the helicopter and what we would be doing and as far as the flying, it was an excellent experience and very comfortable and safe. All around it was a great experience.

Amazing, one of the best War Musuems in the world. I have been to WWII ones in France, england and New Orleans --just an amazing collection --one of the best Armored vehicle / Tank collections

Good. I realized 1/2 way through that I had been on this tour previously. Nevertheless it was the first time for my granddaughter. The guide was excellent. Thank you.

Amazing! Tour guide was very enthusiastic about the ghost stories. Not too scary so children can definitely join.