Still no plans for the weekend Here are 9 ideas to enjoy your weekend in Ottawa for free!

Still no plans for the weekend? Here are 9 ideas to enjoy your weekend in Ottawa for free!

If you suddenly find yourself free during the weekend and want to go out and do something without breaking the bank, Ottawa certainly has different options for you!

From touring historical landmarks to watching live performances or seeing performers in a bustling street, there are many budget-friendly activities to do in the city. 

So grab your planner and jot down all these fun weekend plans to try out with family, friends, or a significant other whenever you have a free Saturday and or Sunday!

1. Explore Parliament Hill.

Explore Parliament Hill

Address: Wellington St, Ottawa, ON K1A 0A9, Canada

One of my go-to budget-friendly activities in Ottawa is exploring Parliament Hill, which is an enriching and cost-free experience that offers a glimpse into Canada’s political heart. 

Here, you can visit several key attractions like the Centre Block, which houses the iconic Peace Tower

Although access to the Centre Block’s interior varies, guided tours are often available when Parliament isn’t in session. These tours provide a fascinating look at Canada’s political history, art, and architecture, and they are usually free of charge.

During the summer months, witnessing the Changing of the Guard (Where to watch changing of the guards in ottawa) ceremony is a highlight. 

It takes place on the front lawn of Parliament Hill and features a meticulously choreographed performance by the Governor General’s Foot Guards. 

It’s also accompanied by a regimental band, and it’s a colorful and patriotic tradition that attracts visitors and locals alike.

Apart from these activities, Parliament Hill itself is a scenic spot to relax and take in the view of the Ottawa River and Gatineau Hills. The grounds are often used for festivals, events, and picnics. 

2. Take a tour of Rideau Hall.

Take a tour of Rideau Hall

Address: 1 Sussex Dr, Ottawa, ON K1A 0A1, Canada

If you’ve yet to explore Rideau Hall, the official residence in Ottawa of both the Canadian monarch and the governor-general of Canada, it’s about time you do! All you need is a free afternoon, maybe a friend or two, and you’re all set! 

Besides, taking a tour of Rideau Hall is an excellent way to delve into Canada’s rich history and explore the official residence of Ottawa’s governor, all for free. 

These guided tours typically last 20-45 minutes, offering a fascinating glimpse into the building’s impressive staterooms. 

These rooms are where the governor conducts official business and hosts dignitaries and are adorned with a remarkable collection of Canadian art and exquisite furniture.

The knowledgeable and friendly guides provide insights into the significance of Rideau Hall and its role in Canada’s governance. They’ll share anecdotes and historical facts that bring the place to life. 

The interiors reflect the elegance and heritage of Canada, making it a captivating experience for history enthusiasts and anyone interested in Canadian culture.

Outside, the historical gardens of Rideau Hall provide a peaceful and picturesque escape. 

When you stroll through these gardens, you’ll encounter a variety of attractions, including trees planted by dignitaries, sculptures, totem poles, and rose gardens. This outdoor oasis offers a relaxing and scenic setting for a leisurely walk.

Aside from exploring the elegant interiors and gardens, visitors may also have the chance to witness official ceremonies or events, depending on the timing of your visit. 

3. Shop at the farmer’s market in Lansdowne.

Shop at the farmer’s market in Lansdowne

Address: 1000 Exhibition Way, Ottawa, ON K1S 3W7, Canada

For foodies who love seeing tons of fresh produce and handmade products, visiting the local farmer’s market is both a free and fun activity to do!

Ottawa boasts several fantastic farmers’ markets, and the one in Lansdowne, situated in the vibrant Glebe neighborhood, is a standout option for both locals and visitors.

At the Lansdowne farmers’ market, you’ll have the opportunity to immerse yourself in a vibrant atmosphere filled with stalls brimming with the freshest local produce. 

It’s a fantastic place to explore the region’s agricultural bounty and discover a wide array of fruits, vegetables, artisanal cheeses, baked goods, and other delectable treats. 

Many of the vendors are passionate about sustainability and offer organic and locally sourced products.

One of the highlights of the Lansdowne farmers’ market is the opportunity to sample these fresh and flavorful goods. 

You can indulge in cooking demonstrations and tastings, expanding your culinary horizons and getting inspired to try new recipes with your market finds.

Additionally, the market offers a chance to relax and enjoy lunch in the Glebe neighborhood. You can savor a meal prepared with the very ingredients you’ve just explored in the market, further enhancing your connection to the local food scene.

It’s a place where you can experience the true essence of Ottawa’s culinary culture, support local farmers and artisans, and enjoy the sights, sounds, and tastes. The best thing is that you can experience it all without spending a dime on admission!

4. Watch buskers and buy souvenirs at Byward Market.

Watch buskers and buy souvenirs at Byward Market

Address: Byward Market, Ottawa, ON, Canada

Byward Market is a bustling place filled with both food and entertainment, and it’s also a fantastic, cost-free way to spend a weekend day in Ottawa! This vibrant outdoor marketplace stands as one of Ottawa’s premier destinations for both locals and visitors. 

This lively commercial hub offers a multitude of attractions that make it an exciting place to explore. Byward Market also features an array of charming shops where you can discover unique local souvenirs.

However, one of its most captivating aspects is the spontaneous street performances by talented buskers. These performers come from various artistic backgrounds, encompassing musicians, magicians, acrobats, and more. 

Their captivating and often mesmerizing acts add to the market’s vibrant atmosphere. But more importantly, you don’t need to spend a dime to enjoy these live performances!

You can simply soak up the lively ambiance, be entertained by the talented buskers, and immerse yourself in the dynamic street scene. It’s a perfect way to spend a leisurely weekend in Ottawa, offering entertainment and culture without any cost.

5. Skate at Rideau Canal in winter.

Skate at Rideau Canal in winter

Address: Rideau Canal, Ottawa, ON, Canada

One timeless free activity in Ottawa is skating at Rideau Canal, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, in winter. It stretches over 200km and connects Ottawa’s downtown hub to Dow Lake, making it the oldest functioning waterway of its kind in North America.

During the summer, the canal offers various recreational opportunities, including boat cruises and kayaking trips, making it a popular destination. However, it truly comes to life during the winter months when the canal transforms into the world’s largest ice rink.

When the temperatures drop and the ice thickens, Rideau Canal becomes a magical wonderland for skaters. The frozen canal, stretching as far as the eye can see, provides a unique opportunity to glide across the ice while taking in the picturesque scenery.

And as you can expect, it’s absolutely free, so no money is needed unless you’re planning on buying snacks at the food stands available or maybe renting some skates. You can also bring your own skates if you already have a pair!

After skating the day away, we recommend warming up with a cup of hot cocoa or indulging in a BeaverTail pastry from one of the food vendors along the canal.

6. Take in the sights at Gatineau Park.

Take in the sights at Gatineau Park

Address: 33 Chem. Scott, Chelsea, QC J9B 1R5, Canada

Whether you’re a seasoned photographer or just someone who loves filling up their social media with tons of beautiful pictures, Gatineau Park is like a paradise! 

Because it’s located just across the river, exploring the natural beauty of Gatineau Park is an absolute must when you’re in Ottawa! This park offers a pristine escape into the wilderness that’s both refreshing and picturesque without costing a single dime.

Here, you’ll discover a network of moderate forest hiking trails, perfect for a leisurely stroll or a more invigorating hike. One of the park’s standout features is its captivating waterfalls. 

Several trails lead you to these natural wonders, and witnessing the rushing waters cascading down is a sight to behold. 

And as the seasons change, Gatineau Park transforms into a winter wonderland with so many new photo opportunities unseen during the warmer months!

7. Swim at Mooney’s Bay Beach.

Swim at Mooney’s Bay Beach

Address: Mooney’s Bay, Ottawa, ON, Canada

For those who are fond of going swimming but don’t want to pay a fee to get into a private resort or a waterpark, Mooney’s Bay Beach is the perfect free option! 

It’s a fantastic spot to soak up the sun and enjoy a refreshing swim during the summer weekends in Ottawa. The beach is located in Mooney’s Bay Park and is a popular destination for families and those looking to make the most of the warm weather.

The park boasts spacious, well-manicured grounds with a large playground, making it an ideal location for a family day out. Children can have a blast on the playground equipment while parents relax and enjoy the serene surroundings.

However, the sandy beach along the eastern bank of the Rideau River is the best part of the park. The beach offers a perfect setting for swimming in calm waters and catching some summer rays on the sandy shoreline. 

What makes this spot even more special is the variety of events that take place throughout the summer. 

8. Take a walk through Ottawa’s historical monuments.

Take a walk through Ottawa’s historical monuments

Address: Wellington St, Ottawa, ON K1P 5A4, Canada

If you like learning a bit of history without going to a museum, taking a leisurely stroll through Ottawa’s historical monuments is a wonderful and cost-free activity!

Ottawa is home to numerous landmarks and memorials that offer a glimpse into Canada’s past and its contributions to the world. One of the most significant sites is the National War Memorial, located on Wellington Street. 

This imposing monument features a tall granite arch adorned with a series of striking bronze sculptures depicting Canadian soldiers from World War I in various poses. 

It serves as a solemn tribute to the sacrifices made by Canadian servicemen and women throughout history.

The National War Memorial is situated in Confederation Square, a central location that lies between Parliament Hill and the iconic Château Laurier.

As you explore this area, you’ll encounter several other memorials that pay homage to different aspects of Canada’s history and the people who have played vital roles. 

These include the National Aboriginal Veterans Monument, the Peacekeeping Monument, and the Valiants Memorial, each with its unique significance and symbolism.

So, walking through these historical monuments not only provides an opportunity for reflection but also allows you to appreciate the architectural and artistic craftsmanship. 

Moreover, the close proximity of these sites makes it convenient to explore them on foot!

9. Visit Ottawa’s annual fairs and festivals.

Visit Ottawa’s annual fairs and festivals

When you live in Ottawa, one of the things you can’t help but be grateful for is its many annual fairs and festivals that take place throughout the year. 

And if you’re a visitor, it’s an especially fantastic way to immerse yourself in the city’s vibrant cultural scene and experience a wide range of events, often at no cost! 

One of the most iconic winter events is Winterlude, typically held in February, which offers visitors the chance to skate on the picturesque Rideau Canal. 

In Confederation Park, just a short 5-minute walk from Confederation Square, you’ll encounter mesmerizing ice sculpture exhibitions that showcase such incredible artistry.

As spring arrives, Ottawa bursts into color with the Canadian Tulip Festival, usually taking place in May. 

Commissioner’s Park and city promenades are transformed into a breathtaking sea of tulips, thanks to the gift of tulip bulbs from the Netherlands years ago.

Summer in Ottawa brings a host of festivities to Mooney’s Bay Park and Beach, including the highly anticipated Ottawa Dragon Boat Festival

This event not only features thrilling dragon boat races but also incorporates cultural presentations along the scenic Rideau Riverbank. It’s a celebration of athleticism, art, and multiculturalism that draws in countless people.