a peek inside the fishbowl

25 Apr, 2012

The Ultimate Ottawa bucket list

Posted by andrea tomkins in: Easy ways to make kids happy|Ottawa

Peace Tower, Parliament Hill Ottawa

This post had been rolling around in my head for awhile but then when I saw this Globe and Mail article about a bucket list for kids I knew I had to finally finish it. I always thought it’d be kind of cool to create a collection of “must see must do” things in the Ottawa area – not just for adults, but for families and kids too! When as I started writing this life list I quickly realized that there was a lot to be said for Gatineau, the Ottawa Valley, and a bit beyond so it does extend past Ottawa proper. I’m sure there are things I’m missing, so please let me know in the comments and I will add them.

I think if someone has done everything on this list they will have experienced Ottawa to the fullest.

The Big Ottawa Bucket List

Note: links go to past posts or to resources elsewhere on the web.

What’s missing from the ultimate Ottawa bucket list? Let me know and I’ll add it. :)

NEWSFLASH! Want to keep this list with you? Make it into a faux-app! On your iPhone, navigate to this post with your browser. Tap the icon of the box with the arrow in it, and select “Add to Home Screen.” Change the text to something memorable like “Ottawa bucket list.” This will create an easy link right to this post.

Also worth noting, if you use Evernote you can add clip this page and create an editable note, that way you can cross things off and add to it!

58 Responses to "The Ultimate Ottawa bucket list"

1 | Nadine

April 25th, 2012 at 7:32 am


Summerfest: Check out The Ottawa Fringe Festival!

2 | Giulia

April 25th, 2012 at 7:42 am


Love the list. I’ve been here only 8 years and have done most of the things on your list – not bad!
Do a boat tour on the canal and/or river.
Experience Canada day on a boat – amazing to see the fireworks.
I would have added – take the Wakefield train (not possible anymore?)
Have dim sum in China town and pasta in Little Italy
Take a double decker bus tour.
BTW – I got married at Billings Estate – amazing!

3 | OttMomGo

April 25th, 2012 at 7:51 am


Great list! Ottawa offers so much and so I’d add the Bytown Museum, the Terry Fox statue (bonus points if you’ve just done the Terry Fox run), NAC – Nutcracker, Family Adventures Orchestra series, Kinderconcerts, theatre, GCTC theatre, Performances at the Shenkman, especially Rag and an Bone or Orleans Young Players, performance at Centrepointe, Buskers Festival, Chicken and Ribs Festival, riding the O-train (just because), taking an amphibus or double-decker tour.

But if I could add just one: see the Books of Remembrance – especially when a family member’s name is shown or when your family name is up. (info on website)

4 | Catherine

April 25th, 2012 at 8:00 am


Roll out to Arnprior and enjoy some Wes’ chips while picnicking by the river. :) Add a Frisbee and you’ve acquired perfection.

5 | Pamela

April 25th, 2012 at 8:02 am


Herbfest at the Herb Garden near Almonte in July.
An amazing day filled with a little bit of everything,hers,great food, gardening tips, unusual vendors…we never miss it

6 | Pamela

April 25th, 2012 at 8:03 am


That would be herbs…oops

7 | Megan

April 25th, 2012 at 10:05 am


What about the Haunted Walk? You get to hear all the gossip about Ottawa in the old days.

8 | Cath

April 25th, 2012 at 10:44 am


Or looking at your ancestor’s original WW1 military records at Library and Archives Canada. Or starting your genealogy in the genealogy room at Library and Archives Canada on Wellington st.

9 | krista

April 25th, 2012 at 11:33 am


What a FABULOUS list! thanks so much :) If I could suggest an addition or three…

Attend the National Peace and Police Officers Memorial service on Parliament Hill, the fourth Sunday in September, every year. http://www.cacp.ca/memorial

Follow a boat up or down the Locks by the Chateau Laurier

Shakespeare in the Park! I wish we were going to be in Ottawa for it this year. http://www.ottawafestivals.ca/festival/literary-thought/torchlight-shakespeare-antony-and-cleopatra/

I may think of more :)

10 | alison

April 25th, 2012 at 11:38 am


– Eat a Beavertail on the Canal while skating.
– Revisit the Cold War at the Diefenbunker Museum in Carp.
– Eat bacon-on-a-bun and Mali’s Thai springrolls at the Carp Farmers’ Market. (http://www.carpfarmersmarket.com/vendors/vendors.htm)
– Bingo! Play drive-in bingo at the Fairgrounds in Carp (Wednesday evenings in July). It’s been going on for nearly 60 years! http://www.canada.com/ottawacitizen/features/favouriteplaces/story.html?id=7eabba0a-b254-4f95-aac7-86e0d8ee45f5
– Go to the fair! Many towns have fairs in the summer and fall. See the horses and cows, see the prize-winning pies and jam. Ride the ferris wheel. Richmond, Carp, Navan and many other towns a short drive from Ottawa have fairs.

OK, this list is a bit Carp-centric, but it’s where we live and these are the things we like to do.

11 | alison p-h

April 25th, 2012 at 11:50 am


This is awesome! I have just added this to Evernote, titled “Ottawa bucket list”. I will enjoy reviewing it to see what I have done. Thanks!

12 | Ginger

April 25th, 2012 at 11:53 am


Great list! I’m going to have a whole slew of new ideas for this summer’s entertainment.

A few I thought of: Check out Mosaika on Parliament Hill, catch one of the noontime concerts under the bridge downtown, and check out an outdoor flick at Centretown movies at Dundonald Park. Play in the fountains on Sparks Street and visit the hidden courtyards (one behind City Hall and a few in the Market area). Take in an IMAX movie. Look for the swans over the Vanier bridge. Check out Watson’s Mill in Manotick.

14 | Amy

April 25th, 2012 at 11:54 am


I love the Sir Galahad statue!

15 | Ginger

April 25th, 2012 at 11:55 am


Oh yeah! And check out CHEO’s annual Teddy Bear Picnic!

16 | Misty Pratt

April 25th, 2012 at 12:17 pm


This is an awesome list. I was surprised to see how many I’ve done! But still LOTS more on there to try :)

17 | Bonnie

April 25th, 2012 at 12:24 pm


Am reading this on my phone, so I may just have missed it, but what about the Gatineau Hot Air Balloon Fest? Also Geocaching is a huge sport.

18 | Tricia

April 25th, 2012 at 12:36 pm


You have to check out Fortissimo on Parliament Hill in August. It is a musical spectacular featuring military bands from around the world. This links to last years event, but it gives you an idea.


Also on Parliament Hill, check out the “whispering wall” – the curved wall with statues of Baldwin and Lafontaine towering over you. If you and a friend stand or sit at either end you can hear what the other person whispers.

19 | Sean

April 25th, 2012 at 1:31 pm


Sugarbush (Stanley’s, perhaps)?

20 | binki

April 25th, 2012 at 3:23 pm


Excellent List! Thanks.

You forgot a superb place for exploring, walking in shallow Ottawa River, picnicking, fishing and watching those who dare to ride “the wall”.

Bate Island (Champlain Bridge)

21 | binki

April 25th, 2012 at 3:49 pm


Oops. Bate Island was there after all. Sorry.

22 | Nick B

April 25th, 2012 at 4:13 pm


Explore: go hiking in the woods near Nepean Point/National Art Gallery – some fence climbing may be required…

23 | Taryn

April 25th, 2012 at 9:16 pm


What a great list, I’ve never even heard of some of these things! This is a great resource to have in hand when people comment that Ottawa is boring!

24 | Erin

April 25th, 2012 at 9:23 pm


Participate or be a Spectator at: Ottawa Race Weekend!

25 | Jen Hughes

April 25th, 2012 at 10:09 pm


Seconding the suggestion for a sugar bush in the spring.

Also: Capital City Speedway (off Hwy. 7 just west of Stittsville) for some good ol’ stock car racing or even a demolition derby. Great fun with young boys! ;) (Tip: wear earplugs.) http://www.capitalcityspeedway.ca

26 | Martina

April 26th, 2012 at 7:02 am


What a great list!! Your site has so much information for local activities … love it. Definitely want to check out the caves. Come out to Kemptville for the Dandelion Festival http://www.thedandelionfestival.ca

27 | Carcar

April 26th, 2012 at 9:29 am


Check out http://www.eco-odyssee.ca Educational clues guide you through the huge maze that you navigate on a paddle boat. The area’s best kept secret!

28 | binki

April 26th, 2012 at 12:30 pm


From the Globe list.
9. Eat an apple straight from a tree

One of my favourite fall activities is to go pick and eat an apple off a local apple tree. And there are plenty in Ottawa area.

29 | TatianaDokuchic

April 26th, 2012 at 1:32 pm


Wow – what a great list!

I’ve been in Ottawa almost 30 years now & have done quite a few things listed here but you’ve given me inspriation for many more.

I’ll add something that I get to enjoy on a regular basis.

Take a hike through the South March Highlands. Just 20 minutes from Parliment Hill, this old-growth forest was just recognized as one of the “Great Places in Canada” http://www.cip-icu.ca/greatplaces/en/place.asp?id=6025

30 | BeachMama

April 27th, 2012 at 9:39 am


Great list Andrea!! Can I add the Mint? (I didn’t see it, but maybe I missed it) and taking a boat ride on the Canal, is a fabulous trip or better yet, rent a canoe and do it yourself!

31 | AMD @ A Mom's Dime

April 27th, 2012 at 7:19 pm


I love your list – I’ve grown up in Westboro and never knew there were hidden ruins at the beach! I also had no idea that Westgate was Ottawa’s oldest shopping center.

a couple of my favourites (forgive me if I missed them on the list already, it sure is extensive!)

-walk, shop & eat in Westboro/Wellington Village
-take your dog swimming at Lemieux Island
-do a night cross-country ski into one of the lodges in Gatineau…don’t forget your dinner that you can heat over the fire and a bottle of wine!

32 | Tara

April 29th, 2012 at 9:27 am


Okay, I’m with you. Just picked up your commit to comment on twitter. Just having moved to Ottawa from Vancouver this past summer, you’re Ottawa bucket list will come in handy. Thank you!

33 | Ginger

April 30th, 2012 at 2:32 pm


Love this list so much, I just perused it again! Came up with a few more things: Juliana Park for the Victoria Day Festival, visit Les Chutes de Coulonge for aerial park adventures, go tubing at Pakenham or Ange Gardien in Quebec, visit the only sugarbush within the city at Vanier’s Museoparc, take in the Highland Games at Maxville, Strathcona Park, visit the Oscar Peterson statue at the NAC for a photo op, check out the Governor General’s free Summertime Concerts and the NAC’s Orchestras in the Park. Be sure to see the City’s Christmas parade. Take in an Eddie May’s Murder Mystery Dinner at Scarlett’s or enjoy the cabaret show at Ferme Rouge. Hmmm…I think that’s it for now!

34 | Ginger

April 30th, 2012 at 2:33 pm


Oh, and do an Urban Quest around the city!

35 | andrea

June 4th, 2012 at 10:02 am


These are all fantastic suggestions everyone! Thank you!

36 | A Canada Day bike ride down the river >> a peek inside the fishbowl

July 1st, 2012 at 4:09 pm


[…] Looking for other fun activities and events in Ottawa? You might want to check out the ultimate Ottawa Bucket List! […]

37 | A summer day at Saunders Farm >> a peek inside the fishbowl

July 4th, 2012 at 8:57 am


[…] Looking for other fun activities and events in Ottawa? You might want to check out the ultimate Ottawa Bucket List! […]

38 | A walkabout at Andrew Haydon Park >> a peek inside the fishbowl

July 6th, 2012 at 8:04 am


[…] Looking for other fun activities and events in Ottawa? You might want to check out the ultimate Ottawa Bucket List! […]

39 | Gaby

January 28th, 2013 at 10:06 pm


Thanks for this great list! I’m travelling to Ottawa soon and will take a look at quite a few of these things.

Just wanted to let you know that the Cats on Parliament Hill sanctuary has been shut down (January 2013), and all animals have been adopted out. The decision to shut it down was made by the volunteers who gave their time to the sanctuary. As much as I would have loved to have seen the animals it’s much better for them to be safe inside in loving homes!

40 | Colleen

March 6th, 2013 at 7:09 pm


Head out to Almonte for Puppets Up! Usually the second weekend in August with buskers, puppets from near and far, and a parade. http://www.puppetsup.ca (I think)

41 | Trevor

April 7th, 2013 at 11:21 am


Lafleche Arial Park is no longer in Operation, as well as the Wakefield Train. Hopefully these 2 options get back up and running in the future.

42 | Do you have a summer bucket list? >> a peek inside the fishbowl

June 8th, 2013 at 11:40 am


[…] for Ottawa-specific things to see and do? I got ya covered right with my Ottawa Bucket List. I’d really like to hear what’s your YOUR list this summer! Rain or shine, what are […]

43 | Summer of Awesome 2013 | TurtleHead

June 10th, 2013 at 1:42 pm


[…] Last year I posted a comprehensive list of everything I had ever once remotely considered booking for the Summer of Awesome, but this year I am going to cheat and say that if you are looking for ideas, you can check out last year’s post, and also Andrea’s all-encompassing Ottawa Bucket List. […]

44 | Sandy

June 10th, 2013 at 9:37 pm


Thank you! Great list!! I’m going to bookmark this and go through it again later. My eyes are tired so I may have missed it but, you could add Sky Zone. I just took our little guy there the other day and he loved it..and so did I, lol. Jumped on trampolines for a whole hour. We were BOTH exhausted after. A great place to take the kids!

45 | Nikki

August 22nd, 2013 at 7:44 am


Hi Andrea,
Just came to peruse your list as I’m at loose ends with the kids today. I think we may head to the Diefenbunker! I just caught a couple things you may want to change on the list.
1) The flame on Parliament Hill is the Centennial Flame, not the Eternal Flame. (I was once a Parliamentary tour guide, my head is full of Parliamentary trivia!)
2) The Currency Museum is temporarily closed as the Bank of Canada building is undergoing renovations for the next few years. There is, however, a travelling exhibit from the Bank of Canada that is currently on display at the Science and Tech Museum.
Thanks again for this great list – always my first stop when I’m trying to figure out what to do for a day!

46 | Cally

December 1st, 2013 at 2:38 pm


What an absolutely fabulous list of activities! For an update, Storyland, up past Renfrew, has closed. They sold all the fairytale characters this year.

47 | Joy

July 12th, 2014 at 12:45 am


Yoga at parliament hill every Wednesday. Lebanese Festival. Great list :).

48 | Chris Hayes

October 31st, 2014 at 6:03 pm


Very nice list! I just went to Lime Kiln Trail today with my dog.. needless to say she loved it.

Thanks for the awesome suggestions, should keep me busy for a while ;)

49 | Mister E

December 10th, 2014 at 7:29 pm


I noticed something else was missing, and I am kinda embarrassed about having to bring it up …. April 20th on Parliament hill ….. just sayin

50 | Suzie K

January 11th, 2016 at 8:22 pm


Great list! – A lot of these I’ve crossed off my own list but there are some really great things listed here that I have yet to do. Here are several more you could add to list that I pulled from my very own list. Some are in neighbouring regions outside of Ottawa, but still close. I added links to all the events/activities for additional information!

Coming Up This Month:

January 23rd, 2016: Noodlefest – http://www.itsprive.ca/ and http://ottawacitizen.com/life/food/epiphany-on-the-rideau-slip-n-slurp-noodle-fest-a-stunning-hit-with-ottawa-foodies

January 30th, 2016: Polar Hero Race – http://www.polarherorace.com/#!home-en/ps983

Sporty & Active Things To Do:

Swimming at the Kanata Wave Pool – http://ottawa.ca/en/residents/parks-and-recreation/recreation-facilities/recreation-centre-locations/kanata-leisure

Bowling on Wellington Street – http://www.westparklanes.ca/
Mini Golf Gardens in Ottawa – http://minigolfgardens.com/

Glow-in-the-dark Mini-Putt – http://www.puttingedge.com/location/nepean-ottawa

Archery Tag in Ottawa (New) – http://ottawa.ctvnews.ca/archery-tag-1.2520913

Bubble Soccer in Ottawa (New & Hilarious!) – http://bubblesoccerottawa.com/

Food Festivals and Food & Drink Events:

Ottawa Wine and Food Festival – http://ottawawineandfoodfestival.com

Noodlefest – http://www.itsprive.ca/ and http://ottawacitizen.com/life/food/epiphany-on-the-rideau-slip-n-slurp-noodle-fest-a-stunning-hit-with-ottawa-foodies

Ribfest, Tacofest, Poutinefest, etc.

Visit this site for upcoming food & drink events: https://www.eventbrite.ca/d/canada–ottawa/food-and-drink–events/

During Winter Season:

Polar Hero Race – http://www.polarherorace.com/#!home-en/ps983

Mount Pakenham Ski Hill & Snow Tubing – http://www.mountpakenham.com/services.php?page_id=120

Cross-Country Skiing in Ottawa & Gatineau – http://xcskiing.ca/

Snowshoeing in the Greenbelt – http://www.ncc-ccn.gc.ca/places-to-visit/greenbelt/things-to-do/snowshoeing-greenbelt

Showshoeing in Gatineau – http://www.ncc-ccn.gc.ca/places-to-visit/gatineau-park/things-to-do/snowshoeing-gatineau-park

Mont Tremblant Ski Resort – http://www.tremblant.ca/en/

Mont Ste Marie Ski Hill – http://montstemarie.com/

Other Ski Hills in Gatineau (so many to choose from): https://www.google.ca/webhp?sourceid=chrome-instant&ion=1&espv=2&ie=UTF-8#q=skiing+in+gatineau

During Summer Season:

Tulip Festival – http://tulipfestival.ca/
Mud Hero – http://www.mudhero.com/en/events/ottawa/
Ottawa Bluesfest – http://www.ottawabluesfest.ca/

Parks, Camping & Beaches:
Gatineau Park & Lac Philippe Beach – http://www.realontario.ca/index.php/ontario-tourism-listing?pid=8698

Meech Lake – https://www.tripadvisor.ca/Attraction_Review-g182166-d183974-Reviews-Meech_Lake-Gatineau_Outaouais_Region_Quebec.html

Pinhey’s Point Historic Site – http://ottawa.ca/en/liveculture/museums/pinheyspoint and http://www.pinheyspoint.ca/

Fitzroy Harbour National Park – https://www.ontarioparks.com/park/fitzroy

Murphey’s Point Provincial Park – https://www.tripadvisor.ca/Attraction_Review-g499284-d2344907-Reviews-Murphys_Point_Provincial_Park-Perth_Ontario.html and https://www.ontarioparks.com/park/murphyspoint

Mont Tremblant National Park – http://www.tremblant.ca/activities-and-events/summer-activities/parc-national-du-mont-tremblant.aspx


Escape Manor (New) – https://www.tripadvisor.ca/Attraction_Review-g155004-d7261645-Reviews-Escape_Manor-Ottawa_Ontario.html and http://www.escapemanor.com/

Cineplex Cinemas VIP Theatre at Lansdowne Park (New) – http://www.cineplex.com/Theatre/cineplex-cinemas-lansdowne-and-vip

Capital Fair Ottawa (New) – http://ottawacitizen.com/news/local-news/capital-fair-set-to-open-with-new-name-new-dates and http://www.capitalfair.ca/

Horseback Riding: https://www.google.ca/search?q=horseback+riding+ottawa&oq=horseback+riding+ottawa&aqs=chrome..69i57j0l5.4182j0j4&sourceid=chrome&es_sm=93&ie=UTF-8#q=horseback+riding+ottawa+winter

Horse Races at the Rideau Carleton Raceway & Casino – http://rcr.net/

Rideau Carleton Raceway Buffet – https://www.tripadvisor.ca/ShowUserReviews-g155004-d1383100-r139117147-Rideau_Carleton_Raceway_Casino-Ottawa_Ontario.html

Casino Lac Leamy – http://www.casinosduquebec.com/lacleamy/en/

Paint Nite – Drink Creatively – https://www.paintnite.com/

Ottawa Boat Cruises – http://www.ottawaboatcruise.com/

Visit Town of Merrickville – https://www.tripadvisor.ca/Attractions-g528903-Activities-Merrickville_Ontario.html

Kemptville (Big Sky Ranch Animal Sanctuary) – http://www.bigskyranch.ca/

Nature Nocturne (at the Canadian Museum of Nature) – https://nature.ca/en/plan-your-visit/nature-nocturne/schedule

Karaoke Bars in Ottawa – https://www.google.ca/search?q=Karaoke+bars+in+Ottawa&oq=Karaoke+bars+in+Ottawa&aqs=chrome..69i57j0l2.486j0j9&sourceid=chrome&es_sm=93&ie=UTF-8

51 | andrea tomkins

January 12th, 2016 at 4:42 pm


Wow! That’s great info Suzie! Thank you!

52 | Suzie K

March 12th, 2016 at 9:22 pm


You are very welcome Andrea! :)

53 | Mihaela

March 17th, 2016 at 9:29 pm


Try one of the escape rooms in Ottawa like tick tock escape or jigsaw escape rooms

54 | Shirlee Mcmurtry

June 10th, 2016 at 2:54 am


You’re so cool! I don’t think I have read through a single thing like that before. So great to discover another person with a few original thoughts on this topic. Seriously.. thank you for starting this up. This website is one thing that is required on the internet, someone with a bit of originality!|

55 | Himi

August 3rd, 2017 at 11:18 am


Awesome list!

Some more from me:

Balanced Rock Sculptures at Remic Rapids along MacDonald Parkway.


Views of the Parliament from:
1. the Mackenzie Bridge at Rideau Centre
2. across from the Museum of History

Take a tour of ALL the embassies and the homes of their ambassadors in Ottawa because many are in gorgeous historical buildings especially:
1. USA
2. South Korea
3. Russia
4. British

– all the ottawa festivals http://www.ottawafestivals.ca/

– EAT SHAWARMA cause we have the best in the west. Try the spicy garlic or the ‘merryjiwana’ green garlic sauce at Castle Shawarma on Rideau Street

– read books at the Chapters location on Rideau

– spend your lunchtime on the Rideau Centre rooftop garden

– Lots of conservation areas in Ottawa to see https://www.rvca.ca/conservation-areas

-Walk/bike the trails of Chapman Mills Conservation and cross Ottawa’s ‘Eiffel Tower’ as per Mayor Jim Watson (aka the Vimy Memorial Bridge on Strandherd in Barrhaven)

– take the million dollar CHEO Minto Dream Home tour every October https://dreamofalifetime.ca/en/

– enjoy one of the awesome ice cream shoppes on Elgin and Bank (Pure Gelato, Moo Shu)

– visit our University campuses for a bit of archtecture in September when the campuses are buzzing with activity (uOttawa, Carleton) or Algonquin College

– Try Kettleman’s Bagels! and watch them make bagels 24/7 for 365 days

-Play basketball, skateboard, or enjoy the playstructure (for children or adults!) at Lansdowne

– Watch a VIP movie in a comfy leather seat while eating a delicious meal at Lansdowne Cineplex

– Catch a soccer (Ottawa Fury) or football (RedBlacks) or hockey (Ottawa 67s) game at beautiful Lansdowne stadium or better yet, if you know someone who lives at the Minto Condo there, watch from their rec room or balcony!

– Take a scenic drive down MacDonald Parkway at day or night especially by the Lansdowne Stadium

-Every Canadian should celebrate at least one Canada Day in Ottawa

-Take a tour of the Shopify office

– Get lost in the Portage government building complex

56 | andrea tomkins

August 3rd, 2017 at 11:48 am


Wow! These are great additions to the Ottawa Bucket list. Thank you!

57 | a peek inside the fishbowl » Blog Archive A very Ottawa way to enjoy the last bits of summer - a peek inside the fishbowl

September 13th, 2019 at 7:29 am


[…] for other fun stuff to do in Ottawa? Take a look at my Ottawa bucket list post for ideas… […]

58 | Michaela

July 12th, 2023 at 9:37 pm


Can’t forget about Le Centre d’Activities Mont-Tremblant. They have really great all-season activities from rafting to karting and dune buggy 4×4 winter and summer tours. Check them out! https://www.tremblantactivities.com/

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