What to See and Do
Canada’s National Capital offers a wide array of indoor and outdoor attractions, as well as countless restaurants, pubs, cafés, and venues for live entertainment.
Relax in one of the many parks, take a tour of the Haunted Ottawa Jail, visit the Parliament Buildings, or the National Gallery. It’s all waiting for you in Ottawa!
Outdoor and indoor options are listed below. We encourage you to check websites for the most up-to-date information.
- Hop-on Hop-Off Sightseeing Bus Tour: Discover the city aboard an open-top double decker bus. A guided tour full of fun, education and history. A pass is good for 24 hours.
- Prefer a walking tour? Try any of these free walking tours (tips are encouraged at the end of the tour). Ottawa Free Tours, Free Walking Tours Ottawa, FREE Walking Tour
- View the Rideau Canal from the Plaza Bridge, where Wellington, Rideau, and Elgin Streets meet by the Château Laurier. You might see a boat going through the locks. Visit Rideau Canal National Historic Site for more info.
- Visit Sparks Street, the downtown pedestrian mall filled with a variety of businesses, restaurants and often buskers.
- In the ByWard Market you can shop, taste and play! A 10-minute walk from the Shaw Centre, you’ll find fashion, food and fun at this lively market with vendors both inside and out. Open 9 to 5, seven days a week.
- Major’s Hill Park: A calm spot in the centre of downtown, and only a 10-minute walk from the Shaw Centre, it features great look-outs, picnic areas and washrooms. Other downtown parks are Confederation Park and Minto Park.
- Dow’s Lake is part of the canal system and easily accessed by public transit. It features restaurants with scenic lake views as well as canoes, kayaks, paddle boards, and paddle-boats for rent.
- Feeling fit and adventurous? Try a Self Guided Bicycle Tour! There are many routes from which to choose. (The path along the Ottawa River from downtown is a good choice!) You can rent a bike below the Plaza Bridge at RentABike Ottawa, or at Escape Bicycle Tours and Cyco’s – Ottawa.
- Want to go farther? Try Westboro Village, a unique shopping district only a bus ride away. Nearby is the popular Westboro Beach along the Ottawa River. Visit The Parkdale Market or the stunning Dominion Arboretum by the Experimental Farm. Other interesting neighbourhoods include Chinatown, The Glebe, and Little Italy.
- Visit Canada’s Parliament! You can reserve a guided tour (although just walking around Parliament Hill is interesting, too).
- The National Gallery of Canada really shouldn’t be missed. With one of the finest collections of Indigenous and Canadian art in the world, it never fails to wow even the toughest art critic. Free on Thursday evenings! Closed Mondays.
- The Canadian Museum of Nature is a vast museum with modern and interactive exhibits. You won’t be disappointed! About a half hour walk from the Shaw Centre or 15 minutes by public transit. Free Thursday evenings. Closed Mondays.
- Relax with some popcorn at the Bytowne Cinema. The Bytowne is one of Ottawa’s main venues for independent and foreign films. This 650-seat, single screen cinema is located on Rideau Street at Nelson.
- Like art, but not admission fees? Try the Ottawa Art Gallery. Ottawa’s municipal art gallery with interesting exhibits and free admission. (Donations are welcome.) Closed Mondays.
- The Canadian War Museum is Canada’s national museum of military history and one of the world’s most respected museums for the study and understanding of armed conflict. About a 30-minute walk from the Shaw Centre, or 20 minutes on public transit. Closed Mondays.
- Looking for something a bit different? Try a Ghost Tour! Explore Ottawa’s famous haunted jail and real-life murder mystery. Or go on a haunted walk of Ottawa – some activities are inside, some outside.
Flash your Badge Program
Show your conference badge to get discounts and special offers at several museums, tours and restaurants!
Check out Ottawa Tourism’s info sheet for a full list of participating attractions. It’s recommended to contact places in advance to make a reservation or confirm availability.
All indoor venues have accessibility information on their websites. Call first to confirm. (The Haunted Jail Tour is not accessible due to the age of the building.) Click here for more information about accessibility in Ottawa.