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How to spend 72 hours in Ottawa this summer  

It’s road trip season! So, add a visit to Canada’s capital to your summer adventure list. With adrenaline-boosting activities, historic museums and seasonal events, Ottawa has more to do than meets the eye.   

Embark on a self-guided bike tour, catch your favourite sports game, explore some national museums, relax on scenic patios and much more during your Ottawa visit. Plus, you can save money in the city with your CAA Membership.   

Prepare for a long weekend to remember this summer, but leave all the planning to us! Here is an itinerary of what to do with 72 hours in Ottawa. 

Day 1

Breakfast in the Byward Market

Set your sights and tastebuds on Ottawa’s Byward Market and stroll around the summer outdoor market. As you wander, you may find just the treat you’re looking for to start your day or some grocery items for later. If you’d instead enjoy a sit-down breakfast, there are many restaurants and cafés in the area.   

Ratatouille Bistro
Megan Johnson | CAA North & East Ontario

Highlighting local and seasonal flavours, Ratouille Bistro offers a cozy French-bistro-style brunch. Sip on a latte as you devour menu items such as Shakshuka, avocado toast with eggs, Challah French toast, Ratatouille eggs benedict, and crab cake and eggs.   

Anyone familiar with Ottawa knows Zak’s Diner is ‘locally world-famous.’ With its classic diner vibe, including all-day breakfast and tasty milkshakes, even the pickiest of your little eaters will find something they like. Meat lovers’ plates with eggs, stacked pancakes, veggie omelettes, eggs benedict, and French toast—they have all the classics.   

Canadian Museum of Nature

Nature Museum
Megan Johnson | CAA North & East Ontario

Wonder at the creatures and vegetation that sprawl across Canada, past and present, at the Canadian Museum of Nature in Ottawa. Imagine the real-life presence of dinosaurs who once roamed the earth in the Fossil Gallery, where you’ll find more than 30 completed skeletons of dinosaurs, marine creatures, and early mammals. Explore the Mammal Gallery to see detailed dioramas of mounted animals native to Canada against a backdrop of their remote habitats. Don’t miss the massive blue whale skeleton (the world’s largest animal) on display in the Water Gallery, the glacial interactive installation of real ice in the Artic Gallery or the reconstructed sedimentary cave found in the Earth Gallery. Take a post-worthy photo below the moon sculpture in the Queens’ Lantern. 

Book your museum admission using your CAA Membership and save 15% on one-time tickets and 15% off museum memberships at the Canadian Museum of Nature. 

Lunch downtown

No matter where you search for lunch downtown between the museum and Escape Bike Rentals – around Bank Street, Elgin Street or Sparks Street – you’ll stumble upon something tasty.   

Along Ottawa’s Bank Street, some great lunch spots to try include Gongfu Bao for fluffy bao buns and baked treats, Shawarma Palace for one of Ottawa’s favourite dishes—a chicken shawarma sandwich, Wolf Down for German-style street food called Berlin Döner, or head to Burgers n’ Fries Forever for smash burgers and all the fixings.   

Right beside your next activity stop for the day, you’ll find a quirky bicycle-themed café with lots of different treats. Ottawa Bike Café has a menu of fresh baked goods such as muffins, croissants, cookies, and snack options perfect for lunchtime, such as a grilled cheese sandwich and spinach feta spiral. Soak in the biking vibes as you prepare for your afternoon biking tour.  

Rent bikes or boats

Whether you want to explore downtown Ottawa by land or water, you’ll find various rental options from Escape Tours and Rentals. Find bike rentals from the location on Sparks Street to enjoy a self-guided afternoon, or book a scheduled tour to take any guesswork out of your route and hit some well-known spots mixed with hidden gems. A popular tour is the Ottawa Express Bike Tour. This two-hour journey covers 12 kilometres and is a leisurely paced cycle to multiple city landmarks such as Rideau Falls and Parliament Hill. The Ottawa Highlights Bike Tour lasts 3.5 hours and will showcase culture beyond the downtown core. 

If biking isn’t your speed, you can spend the afternoon exploring downtown Ottawa from the water. Head to the new rental location, the NCC River House, to rent paddle boards, kayaks and canoes. Paddle along the Ottawa River, admiring the city from a different vantage point.  

Put your CAA Membership to use and save 10% on bike rentals and tours, or get a 15% discount on kayak and SUP rentals from Escape Tours and Rentals.  

Dinner at Lansdowne

Surround yourself with the energy at Lansdowne Park and grab a bite before catching a game at TD Place. Across from the arena, you’ll find Crust & Crate Fast Fired Pizza Pub, which has a modern pub atmosphere with an outdoor patio. While known for its many pizza options, you’ll also find various appetizers like nachos, pastas including lobster mac, handhelds such as the Nashville Hot Chicken, and other dishes.   

Craving unique pizza toppings like shaved prosciutto and raw pear, broccoli and charred zucchini or mini potatoes with goat cheese? You’ll want to check out the variety of pies. With a CAA Membership, you can get two fast-fired pizzas for $35 at Crust & Crate when you dine in. 

Catch a game at TD Place

Ottawa’s TD Place arena and stadium is a hub of sporting events where you can cheer on the home team no matter your favourite game. Throughout the summer and into fall, you can catch Ottawa REDBLACKS football matches, Ottawa Blackjacks basketball games, and Atlético Ottawa soccer matches.  

Feel the excitement of fans around you, decked out in some variety of red and black, whether your eyes are focused on a field, court or pitch. While most football and basketball games begin at 7 p.m. or later, soccer match times range throughout the afternoon, so plan your itinerary accordingly. 

As a CAA Member, you’ll enjoy discounts on tickets to watch all three Ottawa sports teams. Save 10% on select Ottawa Blackjacks home games, 10% on Ottawa REDBLACKS games, and up to 20% on Atlético Ottawa game tickets.   

Post-game dessert

End your first day visiting Ottawa with a sweet treat. There are many dessert options near Lansdowne, including Roll’d Up dessert lounge with rolled-up ice cream and cheesecake, Delysées Luxury Desserts offering mini cakes and other deluxe treats, Haven’s Creamery serving small batch handmade ice cream and Marble Slab Creamery for ice cream mixed your way.  

Present your CAA Membership when getting your ice cream, and you’ll save 15% on regular-priced items at Marble Slab Creamery. 

Day 2

Breakfast on your way to the museum

Enjoy a meal at Cozy’s Express for a simple, affordable breakfast in a diner-style atmosphere. This family-run spot is a hidden gem within an industrial park and is just a five-minute drive to the Canada Science and Technology Museum. They serve breakfast sandwiches, omelettes, eggs Benedict, French toast, pancakes, and all the classics.   

There are multiple brunch restaurants and cafés between the city center and the museum, where you can enjoy a bite before continuing southeast of downtown. Check out the cozy diner Wilf & Ada’s, the Ottawa institution Elgin Street Diner or Figaro Coffee House, where you’ll find fresh pastries and light meals such as avocado toast.    

Canada Science and Technology Museum

Ingenium
Ingenium

Did you know that the electron microscope, the snow blower and the Ebola vaccine were all invented in Canada? Discover Canada’s innovations and technological advancements at the Canada Science and Technology Museum. Explore a range of Canadian relics in Artifact Alley, the museum’s centre from which other exhibits connect. Listen to the absence of an echo in Sound by Design’s Quiet Cube, step back in time as you admire grand locomotives and enjoy the museum’s oldest interactive installation, the Crazy Kitchen.    

Bring your kids to ZOOOM – Children’s Innovation Zone, a playful hands-on exhibit for little ones eight years old and younger. Don’t miss experiment times for shows taking place on the Demo Stage.   

Book your museum admission using your CAA Membership and save 25% on single-day tickets and 10% on memberships at all Ingenium Museums, including the Canada Science and Technology Museum. 

Lunch around Vanier

There is no shortage of lunch options on the east side of Vanier between your museum stops. Aladdin Bakery is a Middle Eastern shop and bakery with multiple locations in the city, and it’s an excellent stop for a quick bite. It is best known for savoury hand pies, and cheese and meat with cheese flavours are among the most popular. You can also grab sweets and drinks.  

Does one family member want a kale salad and the other a flatbread pizza? Head to Farm Boy, an Ontario-based grocery chain, for various meal options with some healthier sides. In addition to fresh produce, you can browse the hot food bar and salad bar for lunch meals to enjoy a picnic style.  

The Canada Aviation and Space Museum has picnic tables next to the building during warm weather. For those who prefer a quick café lunch stop with indoor and outdoor tables, head to Ten Toes Coffee House for pastries and sandwiches.   

Canada Aviation and Space Museum

Ingenium
Ingenium

Located on a former military air base, the Canada Aviation and Space Museum lets you soar through Canada’s interesting air travel history. The main exhibition hall is where you’ll find over 130 military and civilian aircraft and related artifacts. The numerous planes, helicopters and the like are organized in thematic islands and interactive galleries related to early air travel, the First and Second World Wars, the Cold War, commercial flights and more.  Take off to space at the museum within the exhibitions Life in Orbit and Canada in Space. Satellites that connect us, robotics that help keep the International Space Station (ISS) operating safely, and what it’s like for astronauts to live in space, are just some of what you’ll discover.   

Save 25% on single-admission tickets and 10% on museum memberships at Ottawa’s Ingenium Museums, including the Canada Aviation and Space Museum, with your CAA Membership.  

Alternate afternoon activity: NCC River House

When the sun is shining, and one museum visit is your limit for the day, a substitute itinerary stop is the NCC River House. This century-old heritage building along the Ottawa River was recently renovated with a spacious patio from which guests can enjoy drinks with a bite and a public dock from which guests can swim or launch kayaks. It’s open daily from June 1 to August 31, so you can relax outside watching your kids use the enclosed swimming area. Spend your afternoon hanging out on the water.

When you’re done swimming but are hoping for another waterfront patio to relax on, drive to Tavern at the Falls. On one of the most scenic outdoor patios in Ottawa, munch on a hotdog, taco or sharing plate as you soak in the view of Rideau Falls and the expansive river scene.    

Ottawa Titans game

Hit your fun day out of the park and catch an Ottawa Titans baseball game at Ottawa Stadium. Treat yourself to some stadium snacks if you’re hungry, and keep your eyes peeled for Cappy, the mascot. You may be lucky enough to catch a special summer event at the stadium where you can watch fireworks, enter giveaways, or your kids can play in bouncy castles.   

Buy Ottawa Titans tickets online using your CAA Membership and save 30% on home games.   

If the Titans are not playing, or you prefer a sport like football or soccer, another local team may be playing at TD Place. You can check out the schedules of the Ottawa Titans, Ottawa REDBLACKS, Ottawa Blackjacks, and Atlético Ottawa to see which games best suit your visit to the city. 

Dinner on Elgin Street

As you head back to the city centre (or prepare for an evening show at the NAC), head to Elgin Street for dinner. By simply strolling down this street, it would be easy to stumble into a restaurant, or you can make a reservation depending on your mood and plans.      

If you’re craving a quality yet casual burger and fries, find a seat at Gitanes Burger. Offering fast-food favourites, they make burgers from scratch and serve them in a diner-like location. Its original sister restaurant, Gitanes, is just down the street if you want a fine-dining restaurant. Items like oysters and lamb often adorn this French-inspired menu.   

Beckta Dining is another popular place on Elgin Street for an upscale dinner experience. Enjoy meals like duck confit or beef striploin while nestled in a historic building. For a nice dining experience that is less fancy, look at restaurants like Giulia for pizza, Pure Kitchen for a vegetarian menu, or Whalesbone for seafood.    

Alternate evening plan: National Arts Centre

Ottawa’s home of performing arts, the National Arts Centre (NAC), is where you can experience unique shows, from comedy sets and orchestra music to dance troupes and theatre productions. The artists, workshops, and performances lineup rotates frequently, so you should check the upcoming schedule before travelling to Ottawa.   

Broadway Across Canada presents their elaborate productions to the NAC so you can immerse yourself in theatre. There is always a popular show on the horizon. Les Misérables is performing in Ottawa in August 2024, Disney’s The Lion King is coming in October 2024, and you can look forward to the musicals Beetlejuice and Hamilton in the summer of 2025.   

Day 3

Breakfast in Carleton Place

Your first excursion for the day is in Carleton Place, just west of Ottawa, so have your first meal in this quaint town. Sip on your favourite coffee drink in Foundry Coffee Bar, a cozy, modern space filled with natural light. Pick from the featured menu stacked with creative breakfast sandwiches like avocado toast with goat cheese, the tree hugger with tofu and cucumber or the classic breakfast wrap with scrambled egg and spinach.  

Rather eat close to your downtown accommodation? Head back to Ottawa’s Byward Market, Elgin Street or Bank Street to pick your preference from a wide variety of dining options. 

Marked Adventure Park

Prepare for an action-packed morning and get your adrenaline pumping at Marked Adventure Park. The outdoor adventure park offers many different activities to enjoy the summer weather and play like you’re a kid again — or with your kids. Challenge your loved ones to a paintball game on a spacious outdoor course that maximizes fun and skill. A low-impact paintball, with a lower calibre paintball and lighter gear, is also available to reduce intensity and fear of the unknown. Other games include disc golf, laser tag, archery tag, water gun fights, axe throwing, dodgeball, laser combat and an obstacle course. You can add a campfire package to your thrilling day.  

If you have your CAA Membership ready when booking, you’ll save 15% on all activities at Marked Adventure Park.   

Lunch in the town of Almonte

Ottawa is surrounded by beautiful small towns, so if you are already at Marked Adventure Park, Almonte is practically on its way back into the city. Wander down Mill Street, where you’ll find several restaurant choices, including Joe’s Italian Kitchen. In a stone mill building with an outdoor patio overlooking stunning waterfalls, you can indulge in the popular pinsa — a hand-pressed Roman-style pizza. Made with flour and tomatoes imported from Italy, the rest of the ingredients are locally sourced for a dining experience that will transport you to Italy.   

You could easily extend your visit to Almonte. Explore the quaint shops, cafés, historic buildings, and nearby walking trails.   

Alternate morning: waterfront activities

Alternatively, keep your adventures closer to the city centre and out under the summer sun, with an activity on the water. The world’s first interprovincial zipline runs between Ottawa and Gatineau, so you can enjoy stunning downtown views as you soar over the Ottawa River. Reach speeds up to 40 kilometres per hour with Interzip, feeling the rush as you look down on Parliament Hill, the Rideau Canal locks and other monuments.  

Coast the historic Rideau Canal between the Fairmont Chateau Laurier and Dow’s Lake on a Rideau Canal Cruise. Discover the region’s rich history, featuring many landmarks you’ll pass lining the canal. Cruise departures range throughout the day from 10 a.m. to sunset.   

Canada Agriculture and Food Museum

Ingenium
Ingenium

A unique feature of Ottawa is that it is home to a working farm in the heart of a capital city, the Canada Agriculture and Food Museum. Your little ones will especially love seeing diverse breeds of farm animals that hold agricultural significance, both past and present. Spot horses, pigs, goats, rabbits and even honeybees, but don’t miss checking out the herd of Dairy Cows. You’ll find seven breeds of cows in the heritage Dairy Barn, including Holstein cows and heritage breeds like Canadienne dairy cows. Check the schedule for the Demonstration Kitchen to learn some seasonal recipes as you watch a live cooking presentation and sample some fresh cuisine.  

This working farm and museum in the city is one of the three Ingenium Museums, where CAA Members can save 25% on single admission tickets and 10% on memberships.    

Dinner in Little Italy

Visit the city’s Little Italy to walk down Preston Street and find something delicious for dinner, whatever you’re in the mood for. Take in the sparkling water view of Dow’s Lake as you eat dinner on Umbrella Bar’s tropical patio. Eat comfort dishes like hamburgers, nachos, chicken tenders, a rice bowl or gnocchi.  

Searching for a quirky atmosphere? Vintage lovers and treasure hunters delight in your chance to buy anything you see on display in Ward 14 Consignment Bar. Eat a sub or light snack, then head to Pub Italia to continue the eccentric dining experience. This Italian restaurant is decorated like a church, with pews, murals and religious statues. The street is lined with different outdoor patio options and Italian joints, so take your time stumbling along to find dinner if you’re not picky. 

Alternate Day 3: OWL Rafting in the Ottawa Valley

Prep for an early breakfast

The whitewater rafting excursions begin in the Ottawa Valley at 8:30 a.m. If this is your planned activity for the day, you’ll want an early start. Buy some simple groceries ahead of time or visit a nearby coffee shop for a quick morning bite unless you have reserved an overnight stay at OWL Rafting (which includes breakfast). 

OWL Rafting

Immerse yourself in nature as you seek unbeatable thrills at OWL Rafting in the Ottawa Valley. Embark on a full-day or multi-day whitewater rafting experience on world-class rapids about 1.5 hours from downtown Ottawa.  

With three intensity level trips available, you can float down the river on a soft adventure as you descend eight kilometres of gorgeous views along a tumbling river, increase the journey to a medium intensity raft where there is the possibility of falling out into the water or book a sport whitewater rafting package which is the wildest experience offered, on a smaller sport raft.   

Floating and cliff jumping are possible on all excursions, depending on the river. After you’ve navigated the last rapid, you can relax on the pontoon boat to enjoy a grilled BBQ meal. A professional guide, all required rentals (including helmets) and access to the waterfront resort are all included in each rafting package. 

Spend the night at OWL Resort for convenient access as you begin your morning rafting journey. It includes breakfast and use of all resort facilities, such as beach games, borrowed kayaks, and a fire pit.  

Book your rafting excursion using your CAA Membership since Members save 10% on whitewater trips and packages with OWL Rafting Sundays to Fridays.  

Dinner in Arnprior

You’ll pass through the riverfront town of Arnprior on your way back to Ottawa from your whitewater rafting spot in Foresters Falls. Walk down John Street North to discover quaint shops, vintage stores and multiple dining options.   

One such restaurant is Lumbertown Ale House, a gastropub that locally sources its ingredients whenever possible. One of the most popular menu items is the fish n’ chips, with other menu options including handmade burgers, salads with homemade dressing, tacos and more. Save room for a sweet butter tart as dessert.  

Krave Bistro is another tasty, cozy local spot serving daily specials and seasonal desserts in addition to its standard menu. For dinner, enjoy egg rolls, smoked meat sliders, mixed salads, savoury crepes, handhelds (from prime rib beef dip to a veg quesadilla), or pasta options.   

End with a sunset view

If you still have energy after hitting the river rapids and grabbing dinner, search for beautiful sunset skies near Arnprior. Relax overlooking the water at Robert Simpson Park beach or visit the hiking trails in Morris Island Conservation Area, finding the best viewpoint from the bridge. 

Start saving before you reach Ottawa

CAA Members receive discounts from travel partners, including VIA Rail, Ottawa Airport Parking, Park N’ Fly, Alamo, Enterprise and National car rental companies, and over 30 hotel partners. Your Membership can bring savings before you even get to the city.   

There are also discounts on restaurants, shopping and activities from over 126,000 Rewards partners, including the many mentioned above.  

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