1. Marvel at Winter Wildlife
Located 45 minutes outside Ottawa in picturesque Montebello, Parc Oméga is a safari park devoted to wildlife species native to Canada like beaver, elk, deer, bison and caribou. The clincher? Most of the animals can be seen along the scenic 15-kilometre nature drive, so your crew can stay cozy inside the car—and you won’t have to hear even one complaint of being cold. Pro tip: Bring some carrots (or buy them at the Park House) to feed the animals from your window.
2. Explore Frozen’s Arendelle
It’s officially named the Snowflake Kingdom, but decked out in snow, ice and lights, Jacques-Cartier Park has definite Arendelle vibes during Winterlude, an annual Ottawa celebration of winter. While festival attractions range from ice-carving competitions, ice dragon boat races and a winter jazz festival, Snowflake Kingdom is the epic winter playground kids will go crazy for: tube slides, ski and snowboard lessons, a zip line, live entertainment, a toddler-friendly zone, and more. “The cold never bothered us anyway” – right?
3. Take a Trip Around the World
Visit Italy via a pizza parlour, Thailand in a rickshaw, Pakistan via an embellished bus… and that’s just the beginning. Geared toward younger kids but admittedly fun for all, the Canadian Children’s Museum at the Canadian Museum of History is an Ottawa institution beloved for its hands-on, play-based approach to exploring the world. If Mother Nature is doling out less-than-magical weather, this is the place to be.
4. Sip Enchanted High Tea
If you’re travelling with fairy-tale enthusiasts, you’ll want to pack your prettiest princess dresses and treat them to high tea at Zoe’s, a posh restaurant in a real-life castle (read: the historical Fairmont Château Laurier). There, even the smallest patrons are treated like royalty, with a special kids’ menu—think hot chocolate instead of tea—plus the requisite mini sandwiches and fancy treats. Delightful!
5. Dress Up at the Museum
Do you know that at the National Gallery of Canada, kids can play dress up with reproductions of clothing from famous paintings? Or partake in a scavenger hunt to find figures showcased in artwork? Oh, and the 30-foot spider sculpture outside the building never fails to impress children of all ages. Cue the Spider-Man theme song!
6. Skate the World’s Largest Rink
If your kids are into Guinness World Records, they’ll be thrilled to learn that the Rideau Canal Skateway holds the record for the largest naturally frozen skating rink in the world. (It’s also a UNESCO World Heritage Site, but now we’re just bragging.) A skate outing with the fam is (almost) effortless thanks to on-site rentals (skates and sleighs), plus amenities like ramps, heated changing rooms, bathrooms and, in case of a meltdown, the all-Canadian bribe, er, treat: BeaverTail pastries.
7. Stroll With the Butterflies
Escape the cold for a few hours and experience the lush ambiance of the Butterflies in Flight exhibit at the Canadian Museum of Nature, where hundreds of tropical butterflies fly freely among flowering plants. If your offspring would choose gross over gorgeous any day, take them to Me and My Microbes: The Zoo Inside You to discover the organisms that live inside all of us. And if none of that flies, maybe real dinosaurs at the Fossil Gallery will.
8. Hit the Slopes
Within the Ottawa-Gatineau region lie utterly charming ski destinations. Indeed, setting off for small, family-friendly resorts like Camp Fortune in Gatineau Park or Sommet Edelweiss in the town of Wakefield—both less than 30 minutes from the city—is the perfect way to immerse yourself in nature without committing to a long drive. Why not splurge on lessons for the kids so you can enjoy an afternoon of adults-only skiing? If that’s not magic, we don’t know what is!
Ready to start planning your Ottawa getaway? Visit Ottawa Tourism for even more inspiration.