Free and affordable things to see and do in Ottawa this winter


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Welcome to Ottawa, your favorite winter wonderland! If you’ve recently relocated to Canadian capital with Professional Movers Ottawa, rest assured that there are plenty of free and affordable things to see and do in Ottawa this winter. For example, you can head to the Rideau Canal, transformed into the world’s largest skating rink, offering a picturesque and cost-free experience. Or, you could enjoy winter festivals like Winterlude, featuring ice sculptures, snow slides, and outdoor activities. Meanwhile, art lovers can visit the National Gallery of Canada for free on Thursdays after 5 p.m. and get the chance to explore its diverse art collection. However, there’s much more you do in Ottawa this winter while saving money! To get some inspiration, check out this guide and make a plan for a fun time outside!

Try outdoor ice skating or attend Winterlude festival

If you like winter sports, you need to experience ice skating on the Rideau Canal Skateway, the world’s largest naturally frozen skating rink. Opened on January 20th after a 2-year break, this iconic attraction offers a picturesque glide through the heart of the city. So, lace up your skates and enjoy the 7.8-kilometer stretch of ice, surrounded by stunning views of Parliament Hill and historic landmarks. Once you’re done skating, make sure to pay a visit to the famous Winterlude Festival! This year’s event lasts from February 2 to 19, and colorful Winterlude’s program made sure that there’s something for everyone! So, immerse yourself in the festivities and enjoy spectacular ice sculptures, lively performances, and a range of family-friendly activities.

A couple enjoying ice skating on the river as one of the free and affordable things to see and do in Ottawa
Outdoor sports enthusiasts will love ice skating on the Rideau Canal!

Exploring Gatineau Park is also one of the free and affordable things to see and do in Ottawa

Located just a short drive from downtown Ottawa, Gatineau Park is a place to be if you love outdoor sports activities. With an extensive network of trails and breathtaking scenery, Gatineau Park is an ideal destination for those seeking a winter escape through snowshoeing and cross-country skiing. After small movers Ottawa help you settle down in your new home, grab your snowshoes or cross-country skis and explore the park’s well-maintained trails. They vary in difficulty to suit all skill levels, and as you traverse through snow-covered forests, you’ll be able to enjoy truly scenic viewpoints. Luckily, the park provides rental facilities for equipment if you don’t have your own, and the rental prices are quite decent.

Other popular winter hiking trails in and around Ottawa

Besides Gatineau Park, there are other hiking trails around Ottawa that are particularly beautiful in the winter. So, put on your winter boots and discover the scenic beauty of trails like the Stony Swamp, Mer Bleue Bog, and Pine Grove. These trails are well-maintained during the winter months, and whether you’re a seasoned hiker or a beginner, Ottawa’s winter hiking trails offer a range of options suitable for everyone. However, don’t forget to check trail conditions and dress accordingly for a safe and enjoyable winter hike! Meanwhile, for those planning a move to Ottawa, Rockland moving companies can assist with relocating your belongings, allowing you to fully enjoy the winter hiking trails.

Discover popular Christmas lights and bonfires across the city

During the holiday season, Ottawa comes alive with festive Christmas light displays across the city. One of the must-visit locations is Taffy Lane, known for its extravagant residential light displays that attract visitors from near and far. Additionally, Upper Canada Village hosts Alight at Night, a magical outdoor light festival that lights up various historical buildings around the city. Parliament Hill’s Christmas Lights Across Canada is another highlight, offering a dazzling display of lights, multimedia shows, and festive decorations.  Additionally, embrace the winter spirit in Ottawa’s city parks. Here outdoor bonfires offer a perfect setting for marshmallow roasting and enjoying the crisp winter air. Parks like Jacques Cartier and Vincent Massey host these popular outdoor gatherings.

Ottawa's Christmas lights
Fascinating lights and decorations are everywhere this winter in Ottawa.

Ottawa’s Public Libraries, art galleries and museums offer some of the free and affordable things to see and do in Ottawa

Ottawa’s public libraries offer cozy reading spots and engaging winter programs for residents and newcomers alike. The Ottawa Public Library system, which has numerous branches across the city, provides welcoming spaces to curl up with a book or study during the winter months. Movers Perth can help you with the relocation so you can explore a variety of winter programs, including book clubs, workshops, and family-friendly events. From the sleek design of the Ottawa Public Library’s Main Branch to the community feel at smaller locations like the Sunnyside branch, these spaces are ideal for finding a quiet corner to enjoy a good book on a winter day.

a woman sitting and reading on a laptop about free and affordable things to see and do in Ottawa
If you like curling up with a cozy book, Ottawa Public Library is the place to be

Meanwhile, several art galleries and museums in Ottawa offer free or discounted admission days, providing accessible opportunities for visitors to explore the city’s cultural attractions. The National Gallery of Canada offers free admission every Thursday evening from 5 pm to 8 pm, while the Canadian Museum of History provides free admission on Thursday evenings from 4 pm to 8 pm. In addition, the Canadian Museum of Nature offers discounted admission on Thursday evenings after 5 pm. So, as soon as you move here with movers Merrickville you can explore its natural history exhibitions!

Winter wildlife watching: birding and animal tracking

Ottawa’s diverse natural areas, including Mud Lake and Stony Swamp, provide excellent opportunities to observe local bird species and track winter-active animals. As soon as you relocate with Smiths Falls movers grab your binoculars and explore the trails to spot winter birds like chickadees, cardinals, and hawks. Also, you can look for tracks of mammals such as foxes and deer in the snow-covered landscapes. Additionally, animal tracking workshops and guided tours are available in certain parks, which are useful if you wish to gain valuable insights into the behaviors and habitats of local wildlife.

On top of that, you can enhance your Ottawa winter experience by setting up bird feeders in your yard. Consider placing feeders strategically to attract a variety of local bird species. Popular choices include sunflower seeds, suet, and nyjer seeds. You can find bird feeders at local stores like Wild Birds Unlimited or Canadian Tire. However, ensure they are easily accessible and protected from predators. Winter is a critical time for birds to find food. Therefore, providing feeders not only supports their survival, but offers an enjoyable opportunity for bird watching from the comfort of your home. Furthermore, keep feeders well-stocked, and clean. Of course, consider adding a heated bird bath to attract even more feathered visitors during the colder months in Ottawa.

Sleigh rides and winter picnicking

Did you know that you can experience the magic of winter in Ottawa with sleigh rides and horse-drawn carriage tours? These are certainly among the most popular free and affordable things to see and do in Ottawa. Local companies like Stanley’s Olde Maple Lane Farm offer enchanting rides through snow-covered landscapes, providing a picturesque winter wonderland experience. If you prefer a more relaxed outdoor activity though, consider winter picnicking in Ottawa’s parks. While furniture movers Ottawa are delivering your boxes to your new home, bundle up and head to spots like Major’s Hill Park or Andrew Haydon Park for a cozy outdoor experience. Just bring along hot cocoa and snacks to enjoy in the crisp winter air, turning a simple picnic into a delightful winter tradition!

two white horses pulling sleigh
Sleigh riding is among the free and affordable things to see and do in Ottawa

Winter stargazing: one of the free and affordable things to see and do in Ottawa

Winter stargazing in Ottawa offers the opportunity to observe clear nights and prominent constellations in the night sky. With the cold air providing crisp visibility, stargazers can easily spot well-known constellations such as Orion, Taurus, and Gemini. Away from the city lights, locations like the Carp Hills and the Carp Ridge are ideal for unobstructed views of the stars. Additionally, the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada’s Ottawa Centre often hosts stargazing events and provides resources for enthusiasts to learn about the winter sky.

Film nights and diy winter crafts at home

You don’t even need to leave the comfort of your own home to enjoy free and affordable entertainment in Ottawa! Just make use of streaming services like Netflix, Amazon Prime, or Disney+ to access a wide range of movies. Then, create a comfortable space with blankets and snacks for a cozy movie night with friends and family. You could explore themed movie marathons or discover new releases without leaving the comfort of your home. This cost-effective and enjoyable activity allows you to unwind and share quality time with loved ones without spending a lot. Simply pick a movie, gather your loved ones, and transform your living room into a cozy cinema for a relaxed and budget-friendly evening in Ottawa!

a man and a woman sitting and watching Netflix on TV
Watching film at home is a nice and cozy activity

On the other hand, if you’re feeling creative, get into the winter spirit with DIY winter crafts, creating homemade decorations and gifts. After moving to a new home in Ottawa, explore various craft stores in Ottawa, like Michaels or DeSerres, for supplies to make personalized ornaments, wreaths, or handmade gifts for loved ones. Then, embrace your creative side and add a personal touch to the holiday season. Additionally, consider winter photography walks to capture the frosty beauty of Ottawa.  Just head to scenic spots like Dow’s Lake or the Rideau Canal Skateway, equipped with your camera or smartphone, to capture the city’s winter charm!

Local coffee shops and cafes in Ottawa to enjoy this winter

In Ottawa, there are several local coffee shops and cafes with cozy atmospheres that offer free or affordable experiences for residents and visitors. Bridgehead, a popular local chain, provides a welcoming ambiance and a variety of coffee blends. In addition, here you can find pastries and light bites. Additionally, Happy Goat Coffee Company offers a laid-back atmosphere and affordable coffee options. After all, it is an ideal spot to relax and enjoy a warm beverage. Furthermore, the Ministry of Coffee features a cozy setting and reasonably priced menu items, welcoming patrons to unwind and savor their coffee selections. These local coffee shops and cafes often find themselves on the list of Ottawa must-visit holiday attractions, and provide accessible and inviting spaces to socialize, work, or simply enjoy a comforting cup of coffee.

a man and a woman reading on a laptop about free and affordable things to see and do in Ottawa
Discover plenty of local shops around Ottawa to enjoy some cozy moments

As you can see, Ottawa offers a variety of free and affordable activities for everyone to enjoy. Discover exploring local coffee shops, and setting up bird feeders in your yard.  These options cater to different interests and budgets. Whether you’re a new resident or a long-time local, these straightforward and cost-effective suggestions provide enjoyable ways to experience the city without breaking the bank. So, take advantage of these opportunities and make the most of the free and affordable things to see and do in Ottawa.

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