Seven days of free family fun in Ottawa!

This week, CBC Ottawa has been doing a series on savvy spenders, featuring ways to save on your groceries and on your clothing budget. And today, they’ll be airing a segment on free activities for families in Ottawa — featuring me and the whole family! It’s been about three years since I wrote what was to become one of my most popular posts: 40 (mostly) free family fun ideas, the post that caught CBC’s eye. I’ve updated it a few times, but I thought it would suit the theme of the CBC segment to repackage it as the story was originally pitched: seven ideas for seven days of free family fun in Ottawa.

Day 1: Be a tourist in your own town

When’s the last time you went up the Peace Tower? Walked around the paths between the Ottawa river and Parliament Hill? Said hello to the feral cat colony near the West Block? Visited Maman the Spider? (And now there’s a brand new Haida totem pole right across the street from Maman.) Not too long now and you can bring your skates for a trip down our very own UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Rideau Canal.

298:365 Peace Tower

Day 2: Visit the RCMP Stables

We still haven’t gotten around to this one, but it’s definitely on my list! At the RCMP Stables and Musical Ride Centre, you can meet the majestic horses and be charmed by their beauty and friendly temperaments, tour the stables where the training begins, stop by the Riding School, visit the farrier station and see the stately carriages used in royal escorts of Her Majesty the Queen.

Day 3: Enjoy free City of Ottawa programs

Did you know the city of Ottawa offers 247 (!) free outdoor skating rinks — or at least they will if this absurdly warm fall ever gives way to winter. And there are dozens of free splash pads and wading pools for free family fun in the summertime.

Day 4: Find freebies galore at the Ottawa Public Library

Everybody knows you can get books for free at the library, and most people know you can now borrow music on CD and movies on DVD. But did you know you can also borrow Wii, Playstation and Xbox games? After all those video games, you might also want to borrow a pedometer! Or how about museum passes for family admission to the National Gallery, Museum of Science and Technology or the Museum of Nature or even a three-in-one pass for the War Museum, the Museum of Civilization and the Canadian Children’s Museum? And that’s not even mentioning all the cool stuff you can download for your handheld devices! Phew!

Day 5: Go for a nature walk

Ottawa is criss-crossed and surrounded by gorgeous open spaces with easy walking paths perfect for families and even easily negotiated with strollers. Stop at the Bulk Barn and invest 35 cents for a big bag of bird seed, then head out to Mer Bleu Bog in the east, Hog’s Back trail in the middle of town, the Stony Swamp in the west and spend some time feeding the chickadees. Simply put a little seed in your hand and the chickadees will land on your fingers to feed — I’ve yet to meet a kid or adult who wasn’t charmed by this one!

278:365 My little chickadee

Day 6: Take advantage of free museum days

Starting in December through the winter months, the animal barns at the Agriculture Museum (aka the Experimental Farm) are open on a pay-what-you-can basis. And the fabulous Children’s Museum at the Canadian Museum of Civilization and the National Gallery are both free on Thursdays after 5 pm.

Day 7: Visit free local attractions

Did you know that Watson’s Mill in Manotick is haunted by the bride of the first owner, killed tragically just days after the Mill opened in 1851? Or that there is a free Currency Museum in the heart of downtown Ottawa? Other free local attractions include the Nepean Museum, Pinhey’s Point (admission by donation), the Goulbourn Museum, the Osgoode Township Historical Society and Museum, and Vanier’s Museopark.

14:365 The Haunted Mill

Isn’t that amazing? So entertaining the family doesn’t have to break the bank! If you’re looking for more ideas for free or inexpensive family fun in Ottawa, try these posts for some ideas. And please do feel free to share your ideas for frugal family fun in Ottawa in the comment box!

Author: DaniGirl

Canadian. storyteller, photographer, mom to 3. Professional dilettante.

5 thoughts on “Seven days of free family fun in Ottawa!”

  1. yay, you! Does CBC pay you for your time? I caught your last show – so cool when I know you. 🙂 And you’re getting so brave/self-assured now – it’s good to see you coming into your own.

  2. These ideas even work well for tourists from out of town! We did the RCMP stables this summer and Miss R really enjoyed it. Of course she likes horses and now black horses in particular. I’m sure your family would find it very interesting.

  3. I saw your name on the news today and I sat there saying your name aloud for a whole minute before I realized it was you! I shouted out “HEY, I know her!” to the family then I had to explain that no, not really but I read your blog and you’re a photographer and you live in Manotick (my hubby’s birthplace)… hey, I kinda DO know you LOL!

  4. Science and Tech Pass is a 3-in-1 too, good for Agriculture and Aviation as well as Science and Tech. Agriculture and Aviation both have free admission after 4pm year round.

    Also, the way to get a museum pass through the library is not to make a request through the hold system (I’ve been waiting TWO years even though we have memberships to all now cuz I’m curious to know how long it takes!) Instead, go look where one is available (usually the outlying branches). Drive to that one and find it in the express passes section.

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