40 Ottawa Date Ideas for Your Summer Bucket List
Get out of the house and explore the beautiful capital region! Feeling stuck since lockdown? Use this list as a guide to find new adventures and live your best summer life. Lush forests, epic lookouts, boat excursions, small towns, unique tours and endless outdoor activities await. Grab your bestie or significant other and start re-discovering the capital region.
Check off all 40 adventures and follow along with this checklist template.
Here are 40 fun date ideas to experience in the Capital Region.
Go Chasing Waterfalls
The Ottawa Region has some beautiful waterfalls, for a fun outdoor adventure that won’t cost you a cent! Visit waterfalls across the Capital Region, from the Grand Falls in Almonte, to Princess Louise Falls in Orléans. Some other notable waterfalls to visit are Hogs Back Falls, Rideau Falls, and Chaudière Falls in Ottawa, the Fourth Chute Falls in the Valley and Luskville Falls in Gatineau Park.
Turn your waterfall visit into an afternoon adventure with these suggested itineraries.
- Take a Ride on Ottawa’s Only Party Bike
Pedal around the city with your bubble, and explore some local restaurant patios! Join Thursty Pedaler for an experience that will make you feel like you’re a tourist in another city. This outdoor party bike experience offers both a pub crawl option with stops at 3 bars including drink specials, OR the alcohol-free tour combining caffeine and carbs!
During Covid-19 restrictions, a maximum of ten riders is permitted, once open.
Walk an Alpaca or Llama
There are three different places near Ottawa where you can walk an alpaca or a llama!
Maple Hill Urban Farm is located in Ottawa’s Greenbelt, producing food and raising animals with an emphasis on sustainability. You can tour the farm while walking an alpaca on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. Tours are 45 minutes in length, with the first starting at 9:00am.
Jock River Alpaca and Llama Farm is located in the village of Richmond. They raise llamas and alpacas as well as chickens and grow a variety of vegetables. You’ll enjoy forest and water views as you take your stroll. Visits by appointment only.
Serendipity Farm and Sanctuary is located in Lanark County, about an hour from the city of Ottawa. Their mission is to breed and care for healthy, happy animals, serving as a rescue sanctuary for llamas and alpacas. The basic walk is $20 per person and lasts about an hour.
Have a Cocktail Night at Home
Missing nights out that included fun cocktails, but not ready to dine on a patio just yet? Create speakeasy style cocktails in the comfort of your home with Bar From Afar or Top Shelf Distillers. Both local companies create cocktail kits including everything you’ll need to create them at home; liquor, mixes and garnish.
With Bar From Afar you can select your specific kit by alcohol type, or choose a mixer kit and pick a range of cocktails to be delivered right to your door. Top Shelf Distillers features their own spirits, paired with local bitters, mixes and additions for a completely themed box.
For more food and drink kits available in Ottawa CLICK HERE.
Forest Hike to Sand Dunes
Historic sand dunes in the centre of the city – who knew! The Pinhey sand dunes were formed after the retreat of the ice sheet over 10,000 years ago, creating a unique ecosystem for select plant and animal species, as well as a unique sight in Ottawa. Find the dunes along trail 32, by parking at the ‘NCC Greenbelt P15’ lot. You can also park at P14, following trail 31, for a longer hike through Pinhey Forest.
Rent a Watercraft at Dow’s Lake
Dow’s Lake Pavilion and Marina offers small boat rentals to enjoy along the Rideau Canal, 7 days a week. Summer rentals includes kayaks, canoes, stand up paddle boards and paddle boats. Rental lengths are a minimum of one hour, with rates varying slightly depending on the boat rented. Enjoy the sunshine and cruise through the water, with options to grab a patio meal afterwards or walk through Commissioners Park.
Find a list of other spots to rent kayaks and paddle boards in Ottawa HERE.
Relax on the Beach
Grab that sunscreen, bathing suit and towel for a relaxing day at one of Ottawa’s beaches. We have a number of beaches in the city, with fine sand and views of the Ottawa River. Grab an ice cream at Beachconers and hangout at Britannia Beach, bike along the Ottawa River Pathway to Westboro Beach, walk the trails or rent a kayak at Petrie Island Beach, or take the kids to a fun park next to Mooney’s Bay Beach.
If you’d prefer to venture out of the city centre, find Robert Simpson Park in Arnprior, O’Brien Beach in Chelsea, Québec and Burnstown Beach in Calabogie, for a few more options.
- Hop on Board a Rideau Canal Cruise
Discover the Rideau Canal while learning Ottawa history with Rideau Canal Cruises. The full boat cruise lasts approximately 1 hour 30 minutes, as you explore the Canal from Dow’s Lake to the Ottawa River. Individual rates start around $30.00, and the first tour of the day leaves at 10:00am. This is a great way to get reacquainted with Ottawa, spotting new landmarks and learning more about our local culture.
Ottawa Boat Cruise also offers an Ottawa River Cruise and combination packages, where you can add other activities to either boat cruise, such as a Gray Line bus tour.
Check Out the New Lookout Behind Parliament
There is a newly renovated lookout deck behind Parliament Hill, featuring beautiful views over the Ottawa River. It is located behind the West block of Parliament and can be accessed by going up the outdoor staircase behind the West block or by walking around the East block, past the Victoria Tower Bell.
The lookout is right beside the top of the ‘hidden’ staircase – a great leg workout and fun activity to get your blood pumping. Add this to your ‘best Ottawa sunsets’ list and enjoy golden hour over the water.
Shop Local at a Farmer’s Market
It’s officially market season! Grab your tote bag and your face mask and shop from a variety of local vendors. Find fresh fruits and veggies, wine, preserves, frozen meals and much more at these markets across the city:
The Ottawa Farmers’ Market has multiple locations and dates. The Lansdowne and Barrhaven markets are open on Sundays, the Westboro farmers’ market runs every Saturday, and you can shop Thursdays in Orléans.
Shop the Ottawa Markets in the Byward Market and Parkdale. Both the Byward Public Market and Parkdale Public Market are open 7 days a week until 5:00pm. You can also shop the York Street Farmers’ Market on Saturday mornings and the Parkdale Night Market on Wednesdays from 4:00pm – 8:00pm.
The Carp Farmer’s Market takes place every Saturday until 1:00pm. The Kemptville Farmer’s Market also takes place on Saturdays, from noon until 4:00pm.
Spot the Fire Hydrant Sculptures in Hintonburg
Officially named the Wellington Marbles, you’ll notice marble sculptures of quirky fire hydrants while walking down Wellington Street West. Each fire hydrant is hand carved, featuring a fire hydrant fused with an everyday object. Objects include a fiddle head, bee hive, camera, and peas in a pod. They were created to pay tribute to the local history and culture of the area while the community is renewed, with a playful twist.
Find them on both sides of Wellington Street West between Spadina Avenue and Hampton Avenue. You’ll pass various local shops and restaurants as you do. Can you spot all 18?
Experience a Drive-in Movie or Event
The Drive-in Experience is back to Wesley Clover Parks. Last summer the park was converted into an outdoor event space hosting movies, music concerts and other staged events. Enjoy a show safely from the comfort of your own car. They have a second location, in the East-end, this year at the RCGT Parking Lot.
Show up early to get a prime spot, and make sure to bring cozy blankets and extra snacks! It’s best to purchase tickets ahead of time and double check if concessions are open.
Enjoy an Outdoor Picnic
Picnics are a fun way to mix up all the meals at home, and accessible while outdoor patios are not yet open. By simply bringing a fun blanket or chair, eating a new meal and choosing a picturesque spot, it can feel like you’ve had a ‘real’ night out. Some beautiful picnic locations include Major Hill Park, Commissioners Park, Rockcliffe Park and Andrew Haydon Park. For more picnic locations check out this blog post.
Looking for a luxury picnic? Runaway Picnic is a new local business, creating designer-curated picnics for any occasion. Simply book online, choose your details and show up! They can set up in your own backyard, or a location of your choice. It includes a basic charcuterie snack and a sparkling beverage, with meal add-ons available.
Pair a Craft Beer with a Nearby Hike
Adventure on a forest trail and finish off with a pint from your favourite craft brewery. There are over 20 craft breweries within the city of Ottawa, each matched up with a nearby hiking trail on the Brews and Views blog post. You can also check out the full list of nearby breweries and hikes to explore outside of the city as well.
Try a New Coffee Shop
Trying a new local café is an adventure all in itself. A cute vibe, freshly roasted coffee beans, savoury eats and a different neighbourhood to wander – sign me up!
Carlington Coffee House is located in a converted war-time house on Merivale Road. If the wooden sign out front and homey vibe is not enough to entice you inside, go for their specialty coffee of rotating brewers, a fresh baked good or small meal. The coffee house has some seriously refreshing looking iced teas that I can’t wait to try! They also offer some local pantry items and bottled drinks.
CLICK HERE for some more cozy café options in Ottawa.
Go on a Mural Hunt
Certain neighbourhoods of Ottawa are packed with beautiful wall murals and outdoor artwork. Walk down familiar roads such as Richmond Road in Westboro, Preston Street in Little Italy, Somerset Street West through Chinatown or Bank Street in Centretown, keeping your eye out for colourful murals both new and cherished.
There are likely more murals than you realize, and many talented Ottawa artists to celebrate. House of Paint has an online map of murals and graffiti across the city. It is a living map and frequently updated, so you can find all the murals nearby!
Try New Ice Cream
Ottawa has many local ice cream and gelato shops; you can find some of my favourites HERE. It’s fun to discover new places or even try a new flavour, while enjoying the sunshine and adding in a walk.
If you visit the Carp Farmer’s Market, walk down the street to Carp Custom Creamery. There will likely be a line outside the quaint yellow building, but it’s definitely worth the wait! Not only is their ice cream seriously delicious, it’s some of the least expensive in the city, with a 1L tub of ice cream costing only $12. They also have pup cones so your furry friend can join in on the treat.
Dine on a Scenic Patio
Ottawa has many outdoor patios with delicious food, creative cocktails and quirky vibes. There’s something special about a patio with a view! The Ottawa patio best known for their picturesque location is Tavern on the Hill. With two beautiful lookouts, Tavern on the Hill is located downtown Ottawa at the edge of Major’s Hill Park, and Tavern on the Falls is just East, overlooking Rideau Falls. They have a simple food menu and are known for their gourmet hotdogs. Cocktails, wine, beer and non-alcoholic options are available to drink.
Discover the most scenic patios in Ottawa.
Get a Treat in the Byward Market
Remind yourself what it is to act like a tourist in the capital. Take a walk downtown and around the Byward Market, exploring shops, restaurants and nearby views. Grab some tasty gelato at Mantovani 1946 or Piccolo Grande, a pizza at Il Vicolo or the Grand Pizzeria, dessert from Oh So Good Desserts or a Canadian classic – a Beavertail. Take your treat to enjoy picnic-style in Major’s Hill park and make sure to take your photo in front of the ‘Ottawa’ sign!
Take a Haunted Bubble Tour
Feeling spooky?! Take an evening stroll and learn some haunted history of Ottawa with The Haunted Walk. They introduced ‘Bubble Tours’ as a way to safely get out of the house with your own group to hear ghost stories. The next available date to book is June 18, 2021; tours begin at 8:00pm and last about 75 minutes. You’ll never look at some of these buildings in the city the same way again!
Enjoy the Rock Sculptures at Remic Rapids
Sit in a red Adirondack chair overlooking the Ottawa River, while bikers and runners pass by along the Ottawa River Pathway. Admire the balanced rock sculptures built in harmony with nature, near the Remic Rapids. The artist John Felice Ceprano creates this annual art installation each spring, and has been contracted by the National Capital Commission to continue his project. It is one of those unique spots to visit in Ottawa that every local needs to check off their list!
Laugh at a Rooftop Comedy Show
The Canadian comedy club Yuk Yuk’s will be taking over the Trattoria Caffé Italia rooftop patio this summer. You can enjoy a delicious Italian dinner along with a live comedy show on Preston Street, Wednesdays through Sundays. Tickets can be purchased online, for a table of four, and shows begin at 7:30pm. The first show is on Friday June 18!
Pick Your Own Berries
Visit a local farm and spend time picking your own berries to take home. Strawberry season typically begins mid-June, overlapping with raspberry season that starts in July. The timing may change due to weather and other circumstances, so check online before you visit!
Avonmore Berry Farm is about 45 minutes Southeast of downtown Ottawa. In addition to their produce stand and berry picking, they have a play area for kids and a ‘pantry’ shop with snacks, fresh baking, drinks, jams and ice cream. You can pick both strawberries and raspberries in the summer and find other vegetables including apples and pumpkins in the fall.
Shouldice Berry Farm and Market has three locations where you can pick your own strawberries in the city. There are farm shops with berries, vegetables and preserves at all locations; Nepean, Barrhaven and Bells Corners. Raspberries can be picked at the Barrhaven location.
Proulx Farm in Cumberland has strawberries, raspberries and blueberries to be picked. Blueberry season normally starts near the end of July. They offer fresh vegetables, sweets, preserves, maple products and other local goodies at their farm store.
Discover Sculptures at the Experimental Farm
It is pretty mind-blowing that Ottawa has a 400+ hectare farm in the middle of the city. It has been deemed a National Historic Site due to its agricultural importance, featuring beautiful open farm land and diverse plant species. You can visit the Ornamental Gardens, Dominion Arboretum, Tropical Greenhouse and the Canadian Agriculture and Food Museum here.
Wander the section of the farm South of the Fletcher Wildlife Garden and stumble upon some fun outdoor art installations. Hanging paddles, a colourful pyramid and more are found near the Canadensis Botanical Garden, between Prince of Wales Drive and Hartwell’s Locks Lane. You can continue your stroll toward the Rideau Canal for waterfront views.
Visit a Local Winery
Grab your DD and spend an afternoon sipping wine overlooking a scenic vineyard. There are a number of wineries within an hour or two of Ottawa, with the closest being Kin Vineyards, in Carp. Their 47 acres of land and vines will have you thinking you’re much farther from the city. Kin is open Thursday to Sunday for wine tastings and wine by the bottle on their patio. Visit on a Sunday for the Sunday Supper Club, and stay tuned for other events including live music outdoors.
Wanting to drink, relax and take the guesswork out of the day? Book a wine and spirits tour with La Vida Local. They offer curated bus tours across rural Eastern Ontario and Western Québec, visiting wineries, distilleries, breweries, cideries and markets.
Float on a Tiki Tour
Ottawa’s newest water experience is a floating tropical paradise. Drink cocktails with friends as you float along the Ottawa River on this 90-minute tour. Ottawa Tiki Tours offers a variety of tours on their Hawaiian style tiki hut boats. Go simply for a unique experience or celebrate something special with a sunset cruise, bachelorette party, birthday or even a wedding! Tours are BYOF - bring your own food - and don’t forget the sunscreen.
Take Out Your Frustrations in a Smash Room
A smash room (also known as a rage room) is a room where you can destroy everyday objects with different ‘weapons’ as an entertaining way to relieve some stress. The Vengeance Van in Ottawa, is a mobile smash room, and comes to you! Select from their different packages online, ranging in theme, length of time and number of participants, and book a time for the van to show up in your neighbourhood. Simply walk from your home to the van, suit up with safety gear, choose your weapons of choice and get smashing! You can also bring an item of your own if you have something specific you’d like to destroy.
Warm up at a Campfire at Saunders Farm
Back by popular demand for the 2021 season! Book ahead online to relax by a toasty campfire at Saunders Farm, complete with snacks and special treats. Each campfire site includes the fire pit, fire wood, a plastic folding table, hand sanitizer, a fire extinguisher, garbage cans and shared portable toilets.
The Classic Campfire package comes with food; s’mores, hotdogs, condiments and kettle corn, plus cutlery. Saunders will also have an online menu this year where you can add upgrades such as wine, sparklers or extra marshmallows to your campfire experience.
Explore a Nearby Small Town
The city is surrounded by quaint small towns, allowing us more space to explore! Hop in the car and head in any direction – you’ll find a new small town full of local shops, restaurants and natural landscapes. Many of these small towns do a wonderful job of preserving the history of the area, keep your eyes peeled for heritage buildings and museum plaques.
If you plan on exploring nearby areas such as Perth, Manotick, Pembroke, Merrickville and others, give the Day Trips and Small Towns blogs a read. A guide to the town of Arnprior is coming soon!
Find a New Sunset Spot
Discover a new area, bring a blanket and enjoy the sun setting over the city. Ottawa has some seriously beautiful sunset spots, particularly over the Ottawa River. Visit the new lookout behind Parliament Hill during golden hour, to enjoy the setting sun over the water. You can also catch a lovely sunset over the river from Bate Island, Britannia Beach, the Canal locks downtown or Kichesippi Lookout near Westboro Beach.
Hot tip! The sunset from the bridge in Morris Island Conservation Area is a gorgeous view, and a wonderful hike. Located near the community of Fitzroy Harbour, not far from Arnprior, is a beautiful island hike along the Ottawa River. There are two sections of the island, and two main trail loops, that are about 7KM together in length. Take ‘Old Voyageaur and Miner’s Trail’ (left from the main trailhead), to reach the bridge and this sunset spot. There is a $6 access fee for parking.
Immerse Yourself in the Van Gogh Experience
New to Ottawa summer 2021; you can immerse yourself in 3D versions of Van Gogh’s paintings including the infamous starry night piece. Better than a museum, you can walk through colourful café scenes, flower fields and night skies. The exhibit will take place in the Aberdeen Pavilion at Lansdowne Park, beginning August 5. Presale tickets available online now.
Adventure Through a Water Maze
You can paddle through a beautiful wetland making your way through the ‘labyrinth’ only 30 minutes from Ottawa. Choose your adventure at Éco-Odyssée based on water craft and level of difficulty. You’ll ride a paddle boat, paddle board or canoe through a unique water maze route, discovering marsh surroundings and possibility a beaver sighting. Day adventures commence at 9:00am, and you can opt for a night adventure on specific dates. Sunsets, moonlight and shooting stars over the water await! The adventure lasts 2 hours with rates starting at $35.00.
Go on a Surprise Road Trip
Read a brief description of an itinerary, select the road trip that suits you and start your adventure! Guess Where Trips and Unexpected Journeys take care of the planning for you. They encourage you to explore your own region and help you discover new places that you may not have before heard of. Each itinerary includes a guide with a suggested packing list and approximate driving distances, sealed envelopes with detailed surprise stops, and some exclusive discounts to local businesses. Both companies offer itineraries for $55 each in the Ottawa Region.
The Local Wonders trip with Guess Where Trips was written by yours truly! If you’re looking for a Covid-friendly adventure within the city of Ottawa, this is the trip for you.
Zip Line in the Capital
The first interprovincial zip line is opening between downtown Ottawa and Gatineau! Fly over the Ontario Québec border at 40KM/hour with Interzip. The ride begins in Gatineau with views of the Ottawa River, Parliament Hill and Chaudière Falls nearby.
Tickets are currently available for pre-sale – buy online and secure your spot in the 2021 season. Be one of the first to go zip lining over the Ottawa River!
Go Tubing Down the Ottawa River
A new urban activity in Ottawa allows you to ride down the Ottawa River in a 2-hour guided tubing adventure! Choose between an afternoon or sunset adventure with Ottawa City Rafting, floating and paddling from mid-town to the Canadian War Museum. You’ll enjoy a new view point of Ottawa along this 3KM stretch of the river that includes mild rapids, flatwater and ‘lazy river’ sections. There is also a cliff jumping spot if you’re feeling extra adventurous.
Looking for a more intense water adventure? Try Whitewater rafting over river rapids. The Ottawa City Rafting rafting trips begin at Britannia Beach.
Indulge in a Spa Day
The largest spa in North America is only 30 minutes from Ottawa in Chelsea, Québec. Nordik Spa-Nature is more than hot pools, massages and saunas. Their complete thermal experience is the ultimate relaxation and a must-try experience. Nordik Spa offers 10 outdoor baths, 9 different saunas, 4 restaurants, an exfoliation room, and more. I recommend adding the Källa saltwater float to your thermal experience (when open), and feel the rare occurrence of calm and weightlessness.
A new Scandinavian inspired spa will be officially opening in Ottawa this year for a complete thermal experience. Uppliva Sauna and Spa is a retreat experience in the Hintonburg neighbourhood, offering massages, spa treatments, a hot sauna, cedar barrel pool, rain showers, a steam room, and rest area with a tea bar.
Enjoy a Taste of Italy on Preston Street
Travel through food and experience all that Ottawa’s Little Italy has to offer. Little Italy is a vibrant neighbourhood in Ottawa, with colourful murals, classic cocktails and, of course, all the Italian food you can eat! Take a photo in front of the ‘Live Your Life’ mural, grab a drink at The Moonroom, eat some pasta at Dreamland Café, read the beer bible at Pub Italia, enjoy a meatball sandwich from The Prescott or indulge in cannoli from Di Rienzo’s.
Celebrate Italian Week around Father’s Day weekend each June. Typically the streets are closed to cars making extra space for patios, pedestrians and performers! The virtual celebrations take place June 10 - June 20 this year. You can purchase a festival box to celebrate Italian traditions at home.
Wander Place Aubry in Gatineau
Across the river from Ottawa, in the heart of Hull, Québec is a quaint pedestrian street lined with restaurants and cafes. You’ll wander past historic brick houses along Kent Street and Aubry Street. In the summer, art installations are added above the street, and have featured a number of pinwheels and colourful umbrellas in the past.
Eat Your Way Though Stittsville Food Trucks
Did you know Stittsville is basically the food truck hub of Ottawa? This neighbourhood in Ottawa’s west end features a variety of tasty food, all from classic food trucks and huts. Enjoy some colourful ice cream at Jojo’s Creameria, some Pad Thai and Crispylicious rolls from Thailicious, or a gourmet poutine from Big D’s Dog House.
You’ll find the majority of the food trucks along Stittsville Main Street, and some along Hazeldean Road.
Play Mini Putt
When was the last time you played a round of mini putt? Grab your visor and head out for an afternoon of hitting some balls in the sunshine. Mini Golf Gardens in Nepean, is a picturesque miniature course with two different courses to play. The single fee gives you access to both courses for a total of 36 holes. This location features lovely bridges, manicured gardens and water highlights. Open 7 days a week.