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Updated by Colleen Lanin on Dec 01, 2016
Headline for Top 6 Things to Do in Ottawa with Kids
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Top 6 Things to Do in Ottawa with Kids

Canada’s capital city of Ottawa, located on the border of Québec, combines cultural attractions with outdoorsy fun for family travelers. Ottawa is easy to explore on foot and visitors eager to put their high school French to use can brush up on their language skills in this bilingual city. After one visit, you will want to come back to explore more, but start with these top five things to do in Ottawa with kids.
1. Explore Parliament Hill
If each city has a focal point, then Parliament Hill is the star in Ot


Explore Parliament Hill

If each city has a focal point, then Parliament Hill is the star in Ottawa. The three neo-gothic parliamentary buildings sit prominently on a limestone bluff alongside the Ottawa River and are home to the national government of Canada. The House of Commons, the Senate, and the Library of Parliament are located in Centre Block.You could just stroll the lovely grounds of Parliament Hill to pass some time. But anyone who would like to learn more about the Canadian legislative process and the history of the buildings, there are also free guided tours available in both English and French. Ambitious visitors will enjoy the self-guided trek to the observation deck of the Peace Tower and will be rewarded with a beautiful view over the city of Ottawa. During summer, kids love the colorful Changing of the Guard ceremony, which takes place each morning. In the evening the unique Sound and Light show tells the story of Canada via images projected onto Parliament buildings and music. If you’re lucky, you may even find a friendly Canadian Mountie on Parliament Hill who will pose for a photo in front of the Peace Tower.Changing the Guard ceremony takes place each morning during summer months (Photo Credit: Ottawa Tourism)

Visit a Family-Friendly Museum

As the nation’s capital, Ottawa is home to a number of world-class museums. The National Gallery of Canada showcases Canadian art and hosts a family program of hands-on activities. It might be the sculpture of a giant spider outside, however, that kids remember the most.At the Canadian Museum of History (known as the Canadian Museum of Civilization until 2013) visitors stroll through a thousand years of Canadian history in Canada Hall. You can also get a close up look at the world’s largest indoor collection of totem poles in the Grand Hall, and experience an exceptional Children’s Museum which takes youngsters on an interactive tour of the world.Other museums that are popular with families include the Canadian Museum of Nature, the Canada Science and Technology Museum, the Canada Aviation and Space Museum, the Canadian War Museum and the Canada Agriculture and Food Museum (a working farm that young children particularly enjoy). Kids also love the guided tours of the Royal Canadian Mint, where they can learn more about how coins are made and have the opportunity to hold a gold bar that’s worth over $750,000.

Shop and eat at Historic ByWard Market

Established in 1826 when Ottawa was known as ByTown, ByWard Market is one of the country’s oldest and largest public markets. Today there is still a farmer’s market on-site as well as many restaurants, cafés, shops and galleries. The original location of the famous Canadian BeaverTail pastries, even U.S. President Barack Obama made a point of sampling one of these sweet treats during his visit to Ottawa. There are many flavors available now but you can’t go wrong with my personal favorite—the original cinnamon sugar.

Enjoy the Rideau Canal

The Rideau Canal’s system of lakes, rivers, and canals connects Ottawa to the city of Kingston on Lake Ontario. The canal is a National Historic Site of Canada and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Budding engineers can learn about the construction of the canal at the ByTown Museum, located on the canal between Parliament Hill and the Château Laurier hotel.In summer, the canal is popular for canoeing and kayaking. Visitors who don’t wish to take to the water can stroll the walking trails alongside the canal instead. Sightseeing cruises on the Rideau Canal and Ottawa River provide another vantage point of the city as well as spectacular photos.During winter, the canal is transformed into the Rideau Canal Skateway; the world’s longest naturally-frozen outdoor rink at more than 7 kilometers long. Rent skates to participate in this quintessential Ottawa past-time and join the crowds of skaters on the canal. Take a break at one of the many rest areas along the route to warm up by a toasty fire and sip hot chocolate.

Play in the Great Outdoors

Ottawa residents love to spend time outdoors, as evidenced by the many parks and green spaces in the city. Active families can walk, run, cycle or rollerblad along more than 300 kilometers of pathways. Located just a few minutes from downtown, the Gatineau Park conservation area offers all sorts of outdoor activities including hiking, camping, swimming, geocaching, cycling, snowshoeing and skiing.

Ottawa hosts many festivals over the course of the year. Attending a festival will make your visit to Ottawa all the more memorable. The best known of these are Winterlude, a three-week celebration of winter held each February; the Canadian Tulip Festival held each May with millions of tulips blooming across the city; and the patriotic July 1st Canada Day party on Parliament Hill, celebrating the anniversary of Canadian Confederation.With so much to see and do, Ottawa makes wonderful choice for a family holiday any time of the year.What time of year would you most like to visit Ottawa? Let us know in the comments below!A Note from The Spunky Travel Mama: No media rates, complimentary services or compensations were received related to this post. All opinions are mine, as always.All photos by Lisa Goodmurphy unless otherwise noted.