Free Things To Do In Ottawa This Summer

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you all know Canada turns 150 this year. And there’s lots of things to do and see to mark this once in a lifetime celebration. From concerts to picnics, art installations to sporting events, grand openings to high altitude foodie dining, the choices are diverse to suit everyone’s tastes and pocketbook.

Explore History

Walk the historic halls of Canadian democracy with a tour of our Victorian, gothic-style Parliament Buildings. Guided or self-guided tours are free. Down the street from Parliament, take in a free tour of the Supreme Court of Canada, with law students as your guides. You can even sit in on appeal hearings when court is in session. Finally, make your way to Rideau Hall, the official residence of the Governor General. Guided tours are free year-round. Stroll the grounds to see where official visitors like John F. Kennedy and Princess Diana planted trees.

Ottawa’s Rideau Canal, a UNESCO World Heritage site, provides great city views as you bike, walk, run, blade or laze in the grass alongside. Don’t forget to check out the Rideau locks by the Fairmont Chateau Laurier Hotel. Built in 1832, hand cranks are still used to open and shut the wooden lock gates.

Rideau Canal

Our National Museums are places everyone should visit at least once. Save the entrance fee and go on a Thursday afternoon when admission is free. The Canadian Museum of History, The Canadian Museum of Nature and The National Gallery of Canada are all free Thursdays, 5-8 p.m., while The Canadian Agriculture Museum and The Canada Aviation and Space Museum are free seven days a week from 4-5 p.m.

Visit the exhibition rooms of Library and Archives Canada. Explore a treasure trove of published works, photos, artwork, archival records and electronic publications.

Experience Culture

Outdoor movies under the stars are a summer fave in Ottawa. Centretown’s Outdoor film festival takes place July–August at Dundonald Park. Bell Media’s “Movies in the Park” screen at sunset at various parks and beaches around the city.

Outdoor Movie screening

Starlight Cinema at North Sydney Oval 15/02/2007

Enjoy Shakespeare how it was meant to be; outdoors and under the stars with A Company of Fools’ “Shakespeare in the Park”. Productions take place July and August in Sandy Hill’s Strathcona Park. Shows are free but pay-what-you-can donations are suggested to help with the production costs.

Be Active

The Byward Market is a great place to stroll and stock up on fresh fruit and veggies from various farmer stalls, without blowing your wallet. The newly renovated Market George Street Plaza is where you can rest your feet, unwind and people watch.

Speaking of unwinding, become Zen with Yoga on Parliament Hill. It takes place every Wednesday at noon (weather permitted) under the shadow of the Peace Tower. Just bring your yoga mat, but arrive early because space on the lawn fills up quickly in the hundreds.

Yoga on the Hill

Image via

If cycling is your thing, Nokia Sunday Bike Days take place every Sunday, May-September on the car-free, scenic roads of the Sir John A. Macdonald Parkway, Colonel By Drive and the Sir George Étienne Parkway.

Show your Latin side with Salsa at City Hall, Wednesday evenings from 6-11p.m. in July and August. Join hundreds of dancers on a steamy, summer’s night to enjoy free Salsa lessons out front of Ottawa City Hall.

Every July 1st, Canada celebrates its birthday on Parliament Hill with free shows all day, topped off by a huge fireworks display at night. Though it’s all free, go early to stake out your place as the Hill fills up early with thousands of spectators. The Canada 150 celebrations are sure to be bigger, better and more bustling that ever.

Finally, every June 16th and 17th, pedestrians take over the streets for Glowfair, the city’s coolest block party. Experience neon, interactive stations like Silent Disco (where everyone dances to the same beat pumped through special headphones); Yoga in the streets; street chalk art masterpieces and music from two main stages.

Glowfair concert

Image via

This year Acart is teaming up with TIRF (Traffic Injury Research Foundation) at Glowfair. Look out for us as we hand out free bike safety snap reflectors to promote bike safety awareness.

Go To Top