Seven Ways to Enjoy Ottawa Canada in the Outdoors

07 Jan Seven Ways to Enjoy Ottawa Canada in the Outdoors

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things to do in ottawa

When people think of Ottawa, outdoors activities may not be the first thing that comes to mind. As the capitol of Canada, this is a government city centered on the gargantuan Gothic Parliament’s Building and notable museums like the National Gallery of Canada, and the Canadian Museum of Civilization. But, spend a few days here and you will find a host of ways to experience the city from an active perspective al Fresco

Here are seven of my favorite ways to enjoy Ottawa al fresco.

1. See & Paddle the Rideau Canal

The Rideau Canal, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, built by the Royal British Engineers between 1826 and 1832, was once used as a trade route between Montreal and Kingston, but today connects the Ottawa River to Lake Ontario and is used by both commercial and private boats. The canal entrance is in downtown Ottawa, and because it’s still manually operated, you can see lockmasters operate it the same way they did more than a century ago.

To get out on the water, check out a Voyageur Canoe Tour to learn more of the history of the world’s oldest continually operated waterway.

“ This is a great way to actually participate in the canal, as opposed to just viewing it idly. You are out there on the water, taking part in that story,” said Liam Griffin from Parks Canada.

ottawa biking along rideau canal

2. Bike Along the Rideau Canal

Ottawa is a cycle friendly city- there are close to 400 miles of bike trails- some of which stretch along the Rideau Canal and others that lead to some of the cities other big attractions. Escape Bicycle Tours offers both half and full day options as well as customizable trips.

“Wherever you want to go on a bicycle, we will take you. Along the way you can take pictures, eat and hear the history and background of some of Ottawa’s attractions,” said Maria Rasouli, Founder of Escape Bicycle Tours.

Check out our Q&A with the founder of Escape Bicycle Tours. She talks about her escape from Iran and the success and challenges of starting a business in Canada.

ottawa balancing rock sculptures

3. See Balancing Rock Sculptures

Another bike path in the city follows the Ottawa River to Remic Rapids Park where balancing rock sculptures are sure to catch your eye. There is no telling when artist, John Felice Ceprano, will be working, but if you are lucky, you may catch him balancing rocks on the shore for passerby’s to enjoy.  There are numerous stone balancers all over the world and each of us have our own unique style. Mine is to use small, delicate rocks in between the surfaces of the other rocks, which stabilizes the bounce,” says Ceprano.

Ottawa Biplane Rides

4. Take the Skies in An Open-Cockpit biplane ride.

When riding in an open cock-pit biplane, you should look the part, which is why Ottawa Biplane Rides, gears up guests with goggles and a helmet to match the era of the planes. Rides, which last about 15 minutes, take off from the Aviation and Space Museum in a 1939 Weigel aircraft. Fly over downtown Ottawa to see spectacular views of the Parliament building, the Rideau Canal and the entire downtown core.

5. Sound and Light Show: Parliament Hill

On any given night past dusk, the lawn of the Parliament Building is filled with an audience sitting on blankets and with picnics to watch the Sound and Light Show. The 30-minute bilingual show, Northern Lights, tells the story of Canada by projecting colorful, high def images accompanied with surround sound on the Parliament building.

“You really get a sense of what it’s like to be Canadian. For visitors it’s a great introduction to the country,” said Jantine VanKregten, Director of Communications Ottawa Tourism

Ottawa Jail Hostel

6. Get Spooked at the Ottawa Jail Hostel

Fore more than 100 years, the Ottawa Jail Hostel was the Carleton County Jail. Now a youth hostel, the building has kept many of the same architectural features including original cells and cell doors. On a walking tour, guests can see Death Row, the Gallows and single person cells where male prisoners stayed. Tour guide, Caroline Bowden, said there is no shortage of eerie experiences. “We have had windows slam shut in the three person cell corridor and the hangman’s door rattle quite violently. Basically it’s a character all by itself because you walk into the building and you’re immediately made aware of its history, of the miserable past it had and whether you believe in ghosts or not, you might find yourself looking over your shoulder, just in case.”

7. See the City By Boat

Hop on a tour with Paul’s Boat Line for a quick way to see a lot of the city. Top sights include the Parliament Building, Rideau Falls, and the Residence of the Prime Minister. Along the way, guides point out lesser known and interesting facts as the boat passes spots like the Royal Canadian Mint, which is there the medals for the Vancouver 2010 Olympics were made. Ninety-minute tours leave from the Ottawa Locks and Hull Dock.

rideau canal ottawa

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