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Fun Things to Do in Ottawa in Fall with Kids

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Canada’s capital city, Ottawa, is arguably one of the country’s most family-friendly. Here you’ll find historic attractions, the impressive Rideau Canal and, of course, our Parliament where the Prime Minister and elected officials get down to business. Ottawa will be the epicenter of Canada’s 150th Birthday celebrations in 2017, but this city is worthy of a visit any year. Here’s a look at fun things to do in Ottawa in fall with kids.

Parliament Hill in Ottawa in Fall

Parliament Hill in Ottawa in Fall (Photo credit: Ottawa Tourism)

Go leaf peeping at Gatineau Park.

Being in Eastern Canada means Ottawa bursts with color in fall. Three weekends of special activities take place in early October in Gatineau Park. Located less than a 20-minute drive from downtown, this park's nearly 90,000 acres are laced with picturesque hiking trails. The Sugar Bush Trail makes an easy, 45-minute stroller-friendly jaunt. Besides hiking you can taste farm-fresh products, watch animal demonstrations, or enjoy a picnic in the great outdoors. If your kids have ever wondered why leaves change in the fall, they can learn from on-site nature interpreters.

Gatineau Park ~ Why Visit Ottawa in Fall with Kids

With kids or on your own, Gatineau Park is a respite for the senses (Photo credit: Ottawa Tourism)

Warm up with afternoon tea.

When the weather turns chilly in fall, there’s nothing quite as cozy as a warm cuppa. For a memorable experience, book afternoon tea at Zoe’s Lounge at Fairmont Chateau Laurier. As the tea trolley rolls over to your table, you’ll realize this is no ordinary service. Guests pick their favorite blend and soon after it’s poured, your family will be showered with scones, petit fours and those delightful tiny sandwiches. Kids are treated like royalty when tucking into the Little Prince and Princess Tea, filling themselves with hot chocolate, cupcakes and kid sandwiches and sweets.

After your tea experience, soak up the grand ambiance of this legendary property. Famed portrait photographer Yousuf Karsh once lived at the hotel. You can view many of his famous portraits in the Reading Lounge.

afternoon tea

Kids love the tea service at Fairmont Chateau Laurier. (Photo credit: Jody Robbins)

Taste the bounty of fall harvest at ByWard Market.

There can be no better place to experience the bounty of harvest than at one of Canada’s largest farmer’s markets. Street performers are in abundance at ByWard Market on weekends. There’s much to sample at the stalls, too, like maple syrup tapped from trees just outside the city.

Kid-friendly restaurants such as The Grand Pizzeria and Zak’s Diner lie within this district, but it’s as much fun to grab a snack from one of the 250 market vendors. If you’ve got little foodies on your hands, take a tour of this historic neighborhood with C’est Bon. Then again, their chocolate lover’s tour might be even sweeter.

dusk Byward Market

ByWard Market is the city's number one tourist attraction. (Photo credit: Ottawa Tourism)

Experience the Haunting Season at Saunders Farm.

Get this, there are over 1,100 farms within Ottawa’s city limits! Saunders Farm is an amusement farm that delivers on all counts, especially in fall. From late September through October's end, special attractions range from hedge mazes and live shows to carnival-style games. Too much stimulation? Chill out in the pumpkin patch or the fairy gardens. For mild frights, choose the Haunted Hayride. If traveling with tweens or teens who like a scare, brave the Barn of Terror together (kids must be age 6+ for this attraction). 

View of the "haunted" Fairmont Chateau Laurier from the Rideau Canal ~ Fun Things to Do in Ottawa in Fall with Kids

View of the “haunted” Fairmont Chateau Laurier from the Rideau Canal (Photo credit: Fairmont Hotels)

Spend the night Ottawa in spooky style.

Fairmont Chateau Laurier is rumored to have some ghostly visitors from time to time. Most notably, this grand castle of a hotel is rumored to be haunted by its founder, Charles Melville Hays, who died aboard the Titanic days before the hotel's completion. Book the Charles Melville Hays Suite, if you dare.

For families seeking a scarily affordable stay, the HI Jail Hostel (formerly the Carleton County Gaol) is the site of the last working gallows in Canada. You can spend the night and get a complimentary tour of the jail the next morning.

Find an affordable stay and ghost stories at HI Jail Hostel ~ Fun Things to Do in Ottawa in Fall with Kids

Find an affordable stay and ghost stories at HI Jail Hostel (Photo credit: Hostelling International)

Take a haunted tour of Ottawa in fall.

Fall is a frightfully fun time of year and Ottawa is reputed to be one of Canada’s most haunted cities. For a sampling of all things spooky in Ottawa, book the Haunted Walk of Ottawa Tour. Your tour guide will share Ottawa ghost stories and lead you by lantern light to some supposedly haunted spots, including the Bytown Museum, the Fairmont Château Laurier and Ottawa’s haunted high school. Brave young ghost busters will enjoy the “We Ain't Afraid of No Ghosts: A Haunted Walk Kid's Adventure!” tour, recommended for children aged 8 to 12.

Go trick-or-treating at the Canadian Prime Minister's official residence on Halloween ~ Fun Things to Do in Ottawa in Fall with Kids

Go trick-or-treating at the Canadian Prime Minister's official residence on Halloween (Photo credit: National Capital Commission, Flickr)

Go trick-or-treating at the Prime Minister's house.

If you’re visiting on Halloween, take your kids trick-or-treating at 24 Sussex Drive. What’s that? It’s only the Prime Minister’s official residence! The Prime Minister, his staff and family hand out candy to visitors. Betcha can’t do that at the White House!

Note: 24 Sussex Drive is currently vacant (Prime Minister Trudeau is living on the grounds of Rideau Hall with his family as the National Capital Commission tries to finalize plans to upgrade failing infrastructure at the Prime Minister's Residence.) This year, hit up Rideau Hall (across the street from 24 Sussex). The official residence of the Governor General is spectacularly decorated and the GG and his wife hand out treats to all who visit between 5:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m. on October 31.

With so many attractions and museums in Ottawa, this city makes a pleasant destination anytime of year. Fall, though, is probably my favorite. There are less crowds, the weather is pleasantly cool but not too cold, and the fall foliage is so pretty. American visitors are sure to be impressed with how far their dollar stretches, too.

Would you like to visit Ottawa in fall with kids? Let us know in the comments below!

A Note from the Saucy Travel Mama: Thank you Ottawa Tourism for hosting my visit to Ottawa in fall. As always, my opinions are my own.

About Jody Robbins, The Saucy Travel Mama

After a career in international marketing and a few years spent living the high life as an expat, Jody now resides with her family in Calgary, Canada. Figuring travel writing was a good way to combine her wanderlust and parental duties, she’s spent the past few years working with both print and online media, contributing to the Calgary Herald Travel and Real Life sections and blogging about her adventures at Travels with Baggage (JodyRobbins.com). When not circling the globe with her precocious children (one daughter, one husband, one dog), she can usually be found snowboarding or pretending to enjoy hiking. Find Jody on Twitter at @Jody_Robbins.

Comments

  1. Stacie @ Divine Lifestyle says:

    Oh my. I had no idea that Ottawa was so beautiful. It looks like something straight out of Europe.

  2. Ottawa looks so beautiful in fall. I would to try one of those tea services.

  3. Chrystal | Nevermore Lane says:

    So gorgeous! Fall is my favorite time of year. I love watching all the leaves change colors. Sadly, here in MI it doesnt last too long and winter will be here as soon as we blink.

    • Jody Robbins, The Saucy Travel Mama says:

      I live in Alberta, just north of Montana and I know EXACTLY what you mean. I feel like winter will arrive any day now.

  4. Jocelyn Cañasa Brown says:

    Oh what a gorgeous place. I know the kids would love to visit there in any season! Looks like a fun place.

  5. Melisasource says:

    I’ve never been out to Ottawa before but it looks like a beautiful place! I’ll have to add it to my destination list.

  6. I never knew it there ws such cool place. Im going to have to check it out.

  7. Wendy @ ABCs and Garden Peas says:

    I am so excited for all things FALL. I absolutely cannot wait for the leaves to start changing colors and cooler temps! Ottawa looks like a great place to visit in the Fall.

  8. Oh my gosh, how fun! Ottawa sounds great. I’d love to check out the special events at Saunders Farm!

  9. Ann Bacciaglia says:

    We live in Ottawa and love the ByWard Market. Ottawa has so many fun things for family’s to do.

    • Jody Robbins, The Saucy Travel Mama says:

      So glad to know even a local loves going to the ByWard Market. Do you have any favourite family activities that didn’t make the list? You’re the expert! 🙂

  10. There are so many different options! I would love to go on a haunted tour it sounds like fun.

  11. Toni | BoulderLocavore.com says:

    Oh wow! I’m falling in love with Ottawa! Sounds like a great place to spend fall!

  12. What a way to enjoy the season with the kids! I love that there’s a lot of activities that each member of the family will love. That’s what it’s all about anyway, doing things together as a family. I think Ottawa is a great place to go to!

    • Jody Robbins, The Saucy Travel Mama says:

      You’re right. So long as you’re doing things together as a family the vacations tend to go so much smoother.

  13. Love Ottawa! Been there quite a few times but can’t say I’ve ever been there around Fall. Usually Summer or Winter, so this great to see there are things we can do!

  14. Your trip looked like so much fun. I adore your beautiful photos!

  15. Most years I’m all about summer, but it’s been so unreasonable this year. I could not wait for fall. Looks like there’s a lot of fun this season in Ottawa.

  16. Rach Ferrucci says:

    Wow Ottawa is beautiful, I would love to visit minus the spooky stuff. I’m amazed that the kids can go trick or treating at the PM’s house- that’s pretty amazing!

  17. Nicole Escat says:

    Oh, such an incredible place! I would love to go there next fall, I hope to bring my whole family.

  18. Mellissa Williams says:

    I would love to have the chance to visit Ottawa. It looks so beautiful and like there is so much to do and see.

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