Five free family things to do in Ottawa on a cold winter day

by DaniGirl on January 18, 2010 · 19 comments

in Ottawa Family Fun

It’s January in Ottawa, and if you don’t get the kids out of the house soon, it’s going to get ugly. Here’s a quick list of five free (I love free!) things you can do to enjoy winter in Ottawa without breaking the bank.

1. Feed the birds. This is a perennial favourite suggestion of mine. Get yourself out to the Bulk Barn and buy 35 cents worth of wild birdseed. Load the family into the car and drive to Hogsback Falls. It’s a short and easy walk down the pathway toward Vincent Massey Park, and about half a kilometer from the Falls is an excellent place to feed the chickadees and nuthatches. Hold out some seed in your hand and stand still — it won’t take long for the birds to perch in your hand and filch the seeds!

Tristan & nuthatch, 2006

2. Go to the library. Another freebie! Did you know you can borrow DVDs, CDs, and even video games from the library? And most of Ottawa’s libraries have nice play areas and excellent programs for the preschool and younger set. The library is one of our favourite Saturday morning family activities.

3. Go tobogganing at the Arboretum. Once you graduate beyond the little hill in your neighbourhood, thrill the bigger kids with a fun slide at the Arboretum. Not much of a hike from the roadside parking, but you’ll get a good workout hauling your sled back up the hill each time! We’ve also had the hill at Mooney’s Bay recommended to us, but haven’t got out there yet. Best part? Completely free.

Whee! January 2009

4. Go for a skate! Okay, so it might be a while before the Rideau Canal skateway opens with all this mild weather, but did you know the city of Ottawa has 236 (!) outdoor rinks? Check out this page on the city website for details on the one nearest you. Edited to add: whoops, thanks to Melanie of the Citizen’s Adventures of a Working Mom blog for pointing out that the Canal is open after all!

5. Visit the Farm. Admission to the animal barns and the grounds of the Agriculture Museum at the Central Experimental Farm is free until February 28.

Tristan circa 2004

Winter can be long and dreary — might as well get out and enjoy it!

Got any other ideas to share for fun family winter freebies in the National Capital?

{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Josee January 18, 2010 at 3:05 pm

Great suggestions – I have to try feeding the birds at Vincent Massey Park, my kids would love that! Another great winter activity if the kids are old enough is snowshoeing. Gatineau Park has almost 20 km of trails; access is free, and there are two beginner trails accessible right from the visitor’s centre parking lot.

2 Guillermo January 18, 2010 at 3:23 pm

Look at all the places I’ll be abel to shoot with my new flip video cam! Thank you for the suggestions!

3 Marianne January 18, 2010 at 6:41 pm

Another great place to feed the birds is in the Greenbelt near Hunt Club & Richmond Road. The Jack Pine Trail is ideal — use parking lot P10 off of Richmond Road. Or, you can try what my family calls the Chickadee Trail — use parking lot P11 on Hunt Club. (You can see a map here:

4 Marianne January 18, 2010 at 6:43 pm

Sorry, here’s the link without the excess bracket at the end:

5 Rebecca January 18, 2010 at 6:54 pm

Awesome list! We go to the Farm in the fall/winter a lot too – it’s a nice place to spend some outdoor time without the hassle of some other outdoor time (at least with kids 3 and under!) plus, the barns are heated 🙂

6 Ottawa Tourism January 18, 2010 at 7:25 pm

RT @DaniGirl: Blogcasting: Five free family things to do in Ottawa on a cold winter day

7 Karen Hooper January 18, 2010 at 7:56 pm

Free is good! RT @DaniGirl: Blogcasting: Five free family things to do in Ottawa on a cold winter day

8 Jennifer Jager January 18, 2010 at 8:00 pm

4/5 ain't bad – The birds await! RT @DaniGirl Five free family things to do in Ottawa on a cold winter day

9 Vicky Smallman January 18, 2010 at 8:01 pm

Great list! RT @DaniGirl Blogcasting: Five free family things to do in Ottawa on a cold winter day

10 January 18, 2010 at 8:08 pm

RT @Ottawa_Tourism: RT @DaniGirl: Blogcasting: Five free family things to do in Ottawa on a cold winter day

11 Rebecca S January 18, 2010 at 8:21 pm

we always make winter farm visits!! RT @DaniGirl: Blogcasting: Five free family things in Ottawa cold winter day

12 Rebecca S January 18, 2010 at 8:23 pm

@AMorningOttawa ur Free Friday show – great ideas here RT @DaniGirl: Five free family things to do Ottawa winter

13 CynthiaK January 18, 2010 at 8:51 pm

I thought the canal opened last week? Guess I heard wrong.

Oh, how I miss Ottawa! Those are five fantastic things to do.

14 Josee January 18, 2010 at 10:33 pm

Just thought of another one – visiting the RCMP stables. Even when there is nothing going on there are usually horses exercising in the outdoor paddocks, and you can read their names on their bridles. They’re pretty friendly and many come right up to the fence. A great little outing when you need to keep the kids occupied but don’t have tons of time.

15 Gliding through motherhood January 18, 2010 at 10:48 pm

ooooh! I want to go feed the birds!!

16 Christy January 18, 2010 at 11:46 pm

As usual, @DaniGirl has a great post for fun things to do in Ottawa outside with the kiddies!!

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