Ottawa is one of the best places in Canada to see the fall colours. Exploring Ottawa in autumn is a special time to visit the nation’s capital as there are plenty of places to visit in Ottawa that are specific to the changing of the season.
Ottawa is our favourite city in Ontario (yes, even before our home town of Toronto, and we have had the pleasure of exploring it during every season.
But there is something very special about taking a road trip to Ottawa in the fall.
These are the top things to do and places to visit in Ottawa (and around the area) before the snow sets in.
Best Places to Visit in Ottawa in the Fall
Note: Some activities may be affected by covid-19. Check with each attraction for opening hours and activities. Things are constantly changing as Ontario moves into different stages of Covid so be sure to check before you go.
1. Sleep with Wolves
Parc Omega is one of the best places in Canada to see Canadian wildlife and the best thing you can do in the park is book a wolf lodge.
We spent the night in a log cabin in the middle of the wolf sanctuary where a pack of wolves spent the night howling, running around, sleeping and playing in front of our private glass observation room.
Pack a bottle of wine, snacks and dinner if you like as there is a complete kitchen in this luxurious cabin.
We had a private platform where we could walk outside to view the wolves and bears in their huge natural reserve.
2. Take a Helicopter Tour – Fall Colours from Above
Ottawa is surrounded by Canadian forests and beauty and the best way to see the fall colours in Ottawa is to get up in the air.
We took a doors-off helicopter tour to photograph the nation’s capital during its most beautiful season.
Meeting our helicopter pilot at the Canadian Aviation and Space Museum where we flew over the colourful forests of Gatineau and the Ottawa River.
It is also an amazing way to see the Parliament Buildings and downtown Ottawa.
3. Visit Mackenzie King’s Estate
I cannot tell you how many times we have visited Ottawa, and never made it to Mackenzie King’s Estate. William Lyon Mackenzie was the Prime Minister of Canada for a whopping 21 1/2 years!
His estate is incredibly beautiful in the autumn with the fall colours of Gatineau Park surrounding his country cottage and incredible Abbey Ruins.
It felt like we were on a royal estate in Europe as opposed to a place in Ontario. Go early in the morning to beat the crowds.
In autumn, the tour busses are in full swing in Gatineau Park and people flock to the trails and this estate to see the extraordinary fall colours.
4. Hide in a Bunker
One of the coolest attractions in Ottawa is the Diefenbunker. Named after Canada’s 13th Prime Minister, John Diefenbaker, the Diefenbunker was designed during the Cold War.
It was a place where high ranking officials would lead from should a nuclear attack occur in the 1950s.
It sounds like a sweet deal to have access to shelter in case of nuclear fallout, but after touring this creepy underground bunker, I’d rather take my chances outside.
You had to have a certain temperament to be able to spend months underground. They even had a medical room to lock people up should they lose it while underground. Crazy!
It’s a fascinating tour and one of the most unique things to do in Ottawa.
Get more information on Canada’s Cold War Museum – The Deifenbunker
5. Take a Beer Tour
Ottawa has a thriving microbrew culture and a fun thing to do is to book a beer tour to check out the breweries around town.
We booked the Brew Donkey Y-East End Express Tour who picked us up at the Bier Market downtown and whisked us off to four separate breweries.
The tours are fantastic, funny and informative and you get to taste a lot of beer during the trip. Don’t worry, they supply eco-friendly water bottles and pretzels to keep you hydrated as you hop from brewpub to brewpub.
All while getting the chance to experience Ottawa’s local scene.
It’s Canada’s premier Halloween event. Pumpkinferno has takes place at Upper Canada Village each season.
Located 30 minutes outside of Ottawa, Pumkinferno is an amazing light show of scenes created entirely from pumpkins.
Young talented artists spend the entire summer carving intricate scenes from the moon landing to rock legends offering visitors a beautiful path to walk through.
I was blown away with Pumkinferno thinking it would only be interesting to kids, but adults will love this too.
You can book dinner at Willards Hotel prior to opening giving you access to the historic grounds 2 hours before the doors open.
7. Haunted Walks
Ottawa is famous for its haunted walks and you can go on one year round. We went to the Haunting at Laurier House and our entire group left the grounds screaming.
It was the best haunted walk I have ever been on.
Laurier House was home to two of Canada’s Prime Ministers, Sir Wilfred Laurier and William Lyon Mackenzie King.
Laurier died in the house in 1919 and King had a particular interest in the spirit world. He held seances there on a regular basis.
We had no idea what to expect, but once we entered the mansion, no cameras or video was allowed, and let me just say, it made a believer out of me!
Book your haunting at Laurier House Now
8. Visit Canada’s Busiest Museum
The Canadian Museum of History is a fantastic museum in Ottawa to learn about the history of Canada. It’s not just boring facts though, there are plenty of interactive and beautiful displays.
9. Hike Pink Lake
The Pink Lake Hike in Gatineau is a beautiful hike on a boardwalk all around the lake offering beautiful views of the fall colours and reflecitons of the lake.
It is a popular hike, so be sure to arrive early to beat the crowds.
10. Sunrise at Meech Lake
Meech Lake is one of the few places you can actually get to for sunrise in Gatineau Park.
The gates are closed to the park until 8 am to help with overtourism, but Meech Lake doesn’t need gate access.
It is a beautiful scene as mist comes off the water while the sun rises over the colourful scene.
11. Tour of the House of Commons West Block
The House of Commons is closed for renovations for a few years, but that doesn’t mean you still can’t tour it.
Parliament has opened up a temporary outdoor square that has been glassed in.
I had been on a tour of the original house of commons and I found this to be a far more pleasant setting. They have moved everything meticulously over to its temporary home, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they stayed here!
- Be sure to arrive early for security checks. No large bags allowed
12. Tour the Senate
The old Ottawa train station has been closed for a decade and finally reopened to the Senate last year.
It was our first time touring the senate and it is worth the visit just to see the historic train station from inside.
By the time you tour parliament and the senate you’ll have a full understanding of the Canadian government while getting a glimpse at some of the country’s most historic architecture.
13. Explore the ByWard Market
No trip to Ottawa would be complete without visiting the ByWard Market. This historic market is Ottawa’s number one tourist attraction and is one of Canada’s oldest markets.
Established in 1826 by Lt-Col. John By the ByWard Market is a great place to pick up seasonal vegetables, grab a bite and pick up a Canadian souvenir like Maple Syrup.
14. C’est Bon Food tour
The Byward Market is also the meeting point for the C’est Bon Food tour that takes you around Ottawa’s downtown and market area to sample the best food and drinks in Ottawa.
It’s an excellent way to have a more intimate tour of the ByWard Market and to explore more hidden gems in downtown Ottawa.
You’ll sample everything Canadian from maple butter, to maple tea, maple cupcakes, maple bacon donuts, and maple ribs!
You’ll also get to sample locally run businesses like The Tea Store and Fatboys Southern SmokeHouse.
15. Explore Ottawa’s History at the ByTown Museum
The ByTown Museum is a little known museum in Ottawa located on the Rideau Canal across from the Fairmont Chateau Laurier.
It only costs $2 to go in, and it traces the history of Ottawa known then as Bytown. Take a journey through time and be sure to walk to the back to check out the vault.
It’s three-foot thick stone walls were used to keep the worker’s pay and gun powder secure!
16. Watch the Sun Set from the Andaz
I think we have this place on every article we write about Ottawa, but having a pre-dinner cocktail on the rooftop of the Adnaz Hotel is awesome.
It has the best view of Ottawa for sunset and the menu is filled with signature cocktails.
Be sure to order the Charcuterie Board for your appetizer, it’s delicious.
17. Cycle Along the Rideau Canal
The Rideau Canal is Ottawa’s premiere attractions cutting through the city. In the winter it is open for ice skating and in the summer it is perfect for SUP or taking a canal cruise.
In the fall, we suggest hiring a city bike and cycling along the canal. YOu can rent a bike and then take it from downtown to the Dows Lake Pavilion on this 6.5 kilometre leisurely route. (one-way)
18. Relax at Nordik Spa Nature
After all these adventures in Ottawa, a great places to unwind and relax is at the Nordick Spa Nature. Located 20 minutes outside of the city, this is an amazing spa with plunge pools, saunas, steam rooms and massage.
You can spend the day relaxing in its infinity pool looking at the fall colours surrounding you in this forest escape. Be sure to pay extra for the Kalla Treatment, it’s worth every penny. Read more about Nordik Spa Nature here.
And these are our recommendations for the best places to visit in Ottawa in Autumn.
Watch our video of the very best things to do in Ottawa
Read more about Ottawa Places to Visit at
Where to Stay in Ottawa
Lord Elgin – Beautiful historic hotel located downtown. Walking distance to everything including Rideau Canal, Confederation Park, and Parliament Hill.
Andaz – Good location for Byward Market It’s walking distance to many restaurants and bars. Rooftop lounge overlooking the city. Gym, two restaurants
FAirmont Chateau Laurier – Good for activities near the canal and Parliament buildings. Located next to the locks and near Parliament. Our number one pick – Pool, gym, three restaurants.
The Westin Ottawa has a fantastic view of the city. It is located on the Rideau Canal and is connected to the Rideau Centre.
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Our trip to Ottawa is in partnership with Tourism Ottawa. All opinions are our own. Visit their website for more information on travel to Ottawa.