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8 Free things to do in Ottawa this fall

Jump into Ottawa’s sweater season without worrying about what’s in your bank account. Canada’s capital city has many seasonal activities and events, including some that won’t cost you a dime. Free cultural festivals, foodie events and urban hikes await. Check out these free things to do in Ottawa this fall. 

Taste of Wellington West

Each autumn, the Taste of Wellington West event takes place on the streets of Hintonburg and Wellington Village. More than 100 local shops and restaurants participate in turning the neighbourhood into a giant sidewalk-style party.  

Tons of food samples, discounts, sales and entertainment take place in support of charity. Various activities and performances happen at different times with a new feature artist each hour and giant board games to play. Visit Hintonburg Park on September 23, 2023, between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. to taste and celebrate the afternoon away.

Mer Bleue Bog Trail

Mer bleu at fall
Claudia Lalonde | iStock

Walk through the glowing autumn colours along a wheelchairaccessible boardwalk in Ottawa’s East endMer Bleue Conservation hosts more than 20 kilometres of trails through a unique boreal landscape filled with wildlife. Mer Bleue Bog Trail is the most popular due to its accessibility and storytelling route, but all the hikes within the area are free to use. The trail begins from parking lot P22, where you’ll find free parking, picnic tables and an outhouse washroom. 

Miller’s Farm and Market

Manotick has a pumpkin paradise that you can visit free of charge. Explore the pumpkin patch, watch your kids play on the hay bales, check out the cute animals and have your photo taken in the pumpkin hut. You’re sure to find the perfect Halloween pumpkin if that’s what you’re after, and you can also browse other autumn decor, fresh veggies and baked goods. Wagon rides and the corn maze have an additional fee.

Day Of The Dead Festival

Traditionally held November 1 and 2nd, you can celebrate the spooky season and Mexican culture early at this exciting festival in the ByWard Market. From October 27 to 29, 2023, there will be food, market vendors, music and dancing, beverage tastings, craft workshops and children’s contests.  

While in the historic area, check out the giant pumpkin and other festive decor. Throughout October, grab a photo op with a monstrous pumpkin, typically weighing more than 1000 pounds, and watch it carved right before Halloween. 

Hike the stairs behind Parliament

Aerial autumnal view of the forest and Ottawa river in Canada
Wirestock | iStock

You don’t need to leave the city to experience the vibrant seasonal colours. Get your steps in and enjoy the almost 300-step climb up the staircase behind Parliament Hill. Find these stairs behind the West block, connecting down to the river pathway. Not only is it a great workout, but you’ll be able to admire views of bright fall leaves popping against the backdrop of the Ottawa River.  

Continue your autumn walk and admire the reds and yellows in Majors Hill Park on the other side of the Rideau Canal.  

Tagwàgi Festival

Mādahòkì Farm is home to a market store, a herd of rare Ojibwe Spirit Horses and seasonal Indigenous experiences. The Tagwàgi Festival is a fall celebration where you can learn about Indigenous traditions during the change of season. There are authentic cultural performances, craft workshops, a maker’s market, farm play structures and hot meals.  

Fall Rhapsody

Beautiful abbey ruins in autumn

Every autumn, the National Capital Region is ablaze with seasonal colours. While there are urban hikes and parks in downtown Ottawa to enjoy, you can also immerse yourself in vibrant forests and experience epic views in Gatineau Park. On weekends and holidays during Fall Rhapsody, hop aboard the Free NCC Shuttle to popular hiking routes, including Pink Lake, Mackenzie King Estate and King Mountain. There are multiple pickup spots, including one in downtown Ottawa, and the shuttle runs every 15 to 20 minutes until the final departure back to the city. 

The poppy drop on Parliament Hill

Each autumn, leading up to Remembrance Day, Parliament Hill turns into a beautiful display of falling poppies. The thousands of poppy images in the visual installation represent fallen Canadian veterans. The light projection typically runs each evening from the end of October until November 11, from 6:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. 

Looking for other great ways to save?

CAA Members can save on everything from tickets to sporting events to entertainment and dining. There are many perks to being a CAA Member, and Memberships start from just $30 per year. View the list of 126,000 partner locations worldwide online. 

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