If you’re sick and tired of the usual touristy things to do when you’re somewhere new, we totally get you. Tourism has become such an unimaginative industry that people are actively seeking different ways to be entertained.
Why should you choose to go down the predictable route if you’ve done it several times before, anyway? There’s no real reason to get bored in a strange place if there are quirky ways to sample what it has to offer.
So today, we’re going to talk about weird things to do in Ottawa. And by “weird”, we mean exciting, exhilarating, off-beat, amusing, enjoyable, unique, and unforgettable.
Unique Things to Do in Ottawa: Are They Costly?
Being a tourist usually means you’re expected to splash out on tourist-related activities. But if you have a budget set aside for immersing in another culture, why not spend it doing something unusual?
And it’s not just for visitors of the city, either. Locals who have “been there and done that” can also find bizarre things to do in Ottawa whenever they feel like it.
You can even mix it up and do one usual touristy activity if you absolutely must (like when you’re with family or a group of other holidaymakers). But for the rest of the day or week, try falling down the rabbit hole of extraordinary entertainment for a change.
There’s no need to break the bank just to do these activities. All you need is out-of-the-box thinking, research, and this list.
Because we’re living in interesting times, most of these activities might not be as readily available as they were pre-pandemic. But to give you an understanding of how much they cost, here’s a table showing the estimated price for each peculiar venture.
|Mermaid swimming lessons||Discovery class $60 per hour|
Private party rate $300 for a group of 5
Lessons package $200 for 4 weeks
|Anti-gravity exercising||Private sessions around $65 per hour|
Semi-private sessions around $45 per client
|Battleaxe throwing||BATL Casual|
50 minutes $26 per person
110 minutes $44 per person
1.5 hours $38 per person
|Walking with ghosts||$30 for 75 minutes|
|Eating gigantic burritos||The Big Juan (1-kilogram burrito) $30|
|Sleeping with wolves nearby||Wolf cabin for 4 people $549|
Wolf chalet for 6 people $749
Wolf lodge for 6 people $849
|Putting yourself in jail||Shared accommodations|
8-person “cell” around $34 a night
2-person “cell” around $85 a night
Single-bed cell around $60 a night
Suite with double bed, kitchenette, and bathroom around $95
As the table above illustrates, the price range for doing off-beat activities can vary from affordable to expensive. But it also shows which ones might appeal to you and how much you need to save up for them.
Some Weird Things to Do In Ottawa
Hopefully, the preliminary list of activities mentioned here has given you a glimpse of what non-traditional tourism has to offer. Now let’s go deeper down the rabbit hole of unusual things to do in Ottawa, shall we?
1. Transform Into a Mermaid
|SERVICES||Mermaid swimming lessons, mermaid tail rentals, swimming lesson packages, private swimming lessons, kids birthday parties, bachelorette parties, leisure swim, swimming lessons for kids, teens, and adults, corporate events, gift cards, certification|
|ADDRESS||Taggart YMCA (Indoor Pool) 180 Argyle Ave, Ottawa, ON K2P0N2|
|CONTACT DETAILS||1-866-279-2767 |
|OPERATING HOURS||Regular classes on weekends|
Advance appointments needed for classes outside the regular schedule
Now here is what we call a reverse-Ariel dream. Disney’s Little Mermaid might want to be part of our world, but the people behind AquaMermaid want you to feel at home underwater.
AquaMermaid offers different classes ranging from basic to incorporating trick movements for various age ranges. This is a great activity for those who already know the basics of swimming but want to add some flair to it.
Classes are usually held at the YMCA indoor pool. But if you prefer some privacy, there’s an option to have the lessons at your private pool or hotel.
All-inclusive packages are available for fixed prices, with mermaid tails thrown in. You can opt for solo hourly or weekly plans, or book lessons for you and four of your friends under the private party package.
Fancy being a mermaid? Check out what these Princess Ariels have to say about AquaMermaid:
“I attended a class just recently and absolutely loved it! It was exactly what I expected and more! I wanted to see what it was like to swim like a mermaid, the class allows you to try on a fabric mermaid tail which also has a monofin to allow you to swim in the water. I’m a pretty strong swimmer so it didn’t take me too long to get used to it, it was also a pretty good ab workout. My childhood dream might become my grown-up hobby! I’m looking forward to buying my first tail soon! Thank you so much for this opportunity and I’m looking forward to being a mermaid again!” – Sophie Nicholas
“I think AquaMermaid is doing amazing things for the mermaid community and I full-heartedly support this. I love that “mermaid classes” are becoming a thing and taught at public pools. Make sure to check them out and dip your toes into the sport, and go take a class! It’s super fun to feel like a mermaid for the day.” – Molly10
2. Defy Gravity to Keep Fit
|SERVICES||Anti-gravity pilates lessons, live virtual lessons, online personal training, on-demand video lessons, online small group lessons|
|ADDRESS||195 Trainyards Drive Ottawa, Ontario K1G 3X8|
|CONTACT DETAILS||613-789-5600 |
|OPERATING HOURS||(Club hours)|
Monday to Friday 5 AM – 10 PM
Saturdays and Sundays 7 AM – 7 PM
Online virtual sessions conducted for the meantime
If you’re the type who feels confined in stuffy indoor hotel gyms, here’s an open-space workout activity for you to try. MovatiAthletic offers a unique take on pilates with its anti-gravity version.
The exercise is designed to make clients feel weightless while toning their muscles. It’s like doing yoga and pilates while suspended in the air using silk hammocks or cloths.
Apart from having the feeling of total freedom, you’ll get a different perspective without your feet planted on the ground. Anti-gravity pilates also offers a range of physical benefits including spinal decompression, stress reduction, and a good cardio workout.
If you want to indulge your Cirque du Soleil fantasies while working out, MovatiAthletic can help you make them come true. There are virtual training classes and videos to try in case the club of your choice is temporarily closed.
Learn what other MovatiAthletic clients have to say about the anti-gravity workout:
“Elite gym for sure, best in the city. The facility is top-notch and very up-to-date. Yes, it is a tad pricy but if you go to the gym on a regular basis then you will see that it is worth the price and more. Very clean, large, and classy in this gym. Very satisfied here.” – Blair L.
“Staff & members are friendly & helpful. The spaces keep me active, engaged & ever improving my physical health. The yoga classes are awesome.” – Kristen Catherine Smith
3. Work Out Your Rage With Battleaxes
|SERVICES||Axe throwing targets, bar and food services, private axe throwing packages, league nights, indoor and outdoor axe throwing, private events, birthday parties, bachelor and bachelorette parties,|
|ADDRESS||2615 Lancaster Rd., Unit 29, Ottawa, ON|
|CONTACT DETAILS||+1 (613) 686-6642 |
|OPERATING HOURS||Mondays and Tuesdays 6 PM – 9 PM|
Wednesdays and Thursdays 5 PM – 9 PM
Fridays 5 PM – 9 PM
Saturdays 12 PM – 9 PM
Sundays 2 PM – 8 PM
Got an axe to grind with someone? BATL offers you the chance to release your pent-up rage, stress, or even unspoken joy by doing something cathartic — like throwing axes, for instance.
But instead of resorting to violence with battleaxes, BATL wants you to enjoy its urban indoor axe throwing experience. The business has been around since 2006 and is now a favourite activity for corporate team events and even bachelorette parties.
You can book several ways for yourself or with a group of friends for private lanes. This allows you to throw from 50 to 110 minutes, or you can book a private party complete with a coach for a full hour and a half.
A same-day online booking system makes it easy for you to channel your inner Paul Bunyan. There’s a refundable deposit required to reserve your preferred lanes and date.
Are you ready to pick up an axe and start throwing? Here are some testimonials from past BATL customers:
“It’s great to take away office structure for team bonding. Axe throwing was the perfect activity to loosen everyone up and get into a collaborative mood.” – LinkedIn sales team
“Axe throwing was perfect for building and growing our National team and overall morale. The axe throwing tournament allowed Red Bull to raise money for Wings for Life by seeking donations from the team members that qualified for playoffs during the competition.” – Red Bull National team
4. Walk With a Ghost
|SERVICES||Haunted walk tours, group tours, interactive storytelling workshops, news and haunted talks podcasts, online paranormal adventures, online gift shop, gift cards|
|ADDRESS||46 ½ Sparks Street Ottawa, ON, K1P 5A8|
|CONTACT DETAILS||[email protected] |
|OPERATING HOURS||Refer to site calendar for tour dates|
The ghost tourism niche isn’t really new especially for places steeped in macabre history. But a walking ghost tour like the one offered by the Haunted Walk is always promising if you’re already in the area.
You can sign up for ghost tours, which are now considered an Ottawa tourist tradition, for just $30. A guide will lead you by lantern-light through some of the creepiest spots in Ottawa while you are regaled by local ghost stories.
There are no fixed schedules for these ghost tours, so you’re going to need to check on the next available one on the website. Private daytime and night-time group tours are also on the menu.
Strictly not a Halloween tradition, there’s always a creepy activity offered by The Haunted Walk all year round. There are also virtual paranormal adventures on The Haunted Walk website for those who prefer to enjoy the tours at home.
Get ready for some scary moments with The Haunted Walk ghost tour as these past clients experienced it:
“Very well done..we took the evening tour on Sunday (Labour Day W/end). Very atmospheric. Suited the mood. The storyteller was considerate and spoke loudly. We didn’t miss a thing. Would highly recommend it as a good history lesson, as well, as being a tad creepy!” – Barbara G.
“My husband and I decided to take this tour on a whim. I study history and have always found the paranormal interesting. We bought tickets about 5 hours before the tour. Because of covid, there was a limited number of tickets available. Out of 12 available tickets, we were the only ones who purchased any for 9 pm so we got a really personalized experience and had a great time chatting with our tour guide, Allie. If there is any possibility for a positive in this really crazy time, it’s getting a more personalized and intimate experience. Allie did a great job not only explaining the ghosts that haunted this historic city but giving us a cool history lesson along the way. I absolutely recommend visiting, especially with the limited group sizes.” – Beth R.
5. Eat a Burrito Bigger Than Your Face
|SERVICES||Homemade Mexican food, catering, delivery, takeout, cocktails, beer, wine, beverages|
|ADDRESS||(Current location)170 Queen St, Ottawa, ON K1P 5E1|
|CONTACT DETAILS||[email protected] |
|OPERATING HOURS||(Takeout and delivery only)|
Tuesdays 11 AM – 2 PM
Wednesday to Saturday 5 PM – 9 PM
Closed on Sundays and Mondays
Your gustatory experience doesn’t have to be confined to the complimentary breakfast you get with your hotel stay. Being a tourist also means getting to indulge in the best food available locally.
So if you’re in the mood for authentic Mexican food and tequila, hop on over to Burrito Borracho. It’s moved from its original Byward Market location to somewhere still accessible at Mercadito on Queen Street.
The same mouthwatering menu is still available for takeout and delivery only. The Big Juan, which is a 1-kilogram burrito stuffed with Chipotle steak, chicken bacon, pulled pork, vegetable fajitas, Chipotle mayo, and spices, is definitely a must-try.
Because of COVID restrictions, only takeout and delivery options are currently available. We recommend checking what’s available on the menu on the website or referring to Burrito Borracho’s social media pages.
We know you’re hungry, but you must read how past Burrito Borracho customers found their Mexican fare:
“We enjoyed the tacos and burritos (neither came with sides despite similar pricing to other such dishes at other Mexican restaurants), disappointed that chips and salsa weren’t complementary as they are at so many other Mexican restaurants. The flavours were great… I’ll give them that. There was no indoor seating due to the pandemic, which was fine on this beautiful almost-fall day.” – AmyTravels
“Solo female staying near Byward Market, looking for a healthy option in an area of loud obnoxious “pubs”. The spot is quiet and cozy, you can actually have a conversation. Food was delicious. Service great. A gem in an area of tourist traps. I went back again for takeout. Highly recommend.” – A D
6. Vacation with Wolves
|SERVICES||Lodge, cabin, chalet group accommodations, camp accommodations, online booking, one-day tickets, online and in-store gift cards, annual memberships, night tickets, online gift shop, group reservations, lunch boxes|
|ADDRESS||399 Route 323 Nord, Montebello, Québec J0V 1L0|
|CONTACT DETAILS||[email protected] |
|OPERATING HOURS||One-day tickets 10 AM – 6 PM (last entry at 4 PM)|
Other prices and opening hours depending on the season
Here’s a howling activity to deviate from the usual sightseeing and bird-watching. Parc Omega actually offers an accommodation package called “Sleep With The Wolves”!
You won’t literally be sleeping with wolves, though, because that would be tragic. But it’s still a different kind of camping adventure with wolves involved, only with rustic and comfy chalets, lodges, or cabins securing you from getting mauled.
Wolf-watching can also be done on guided bus day or night tours. Parc Omega has many different wild animals to be observed in their natural setting: wolves, deer, bison, bears, boars, goats, rodents, and birds abound.
A guided bus tour is available for those who want an in-depth knowledge of the protected wildlife encountered along the way. One-day tickets can be booked online and are good from 10 AM to 6 PM.
If you think you’re ready to see wolves up close at Parc Omega, read how others who went through with it have fared:
“We spent the day at the park followed by a night in one of the Wolf chalets. We had a great day feeding the elk and deer but were amazed at our evening in the wolf chalet. The chalet itself was amazing, everything you could wish for, the heated floors were an awesome touch. It was super clean and we did not have any COVID fears. The boardwalk was awesome, and the wolves around the chalet were amazing… it was cool to watch them roam around the enclosure, through the trees. I loved listening to the howl. We also had a deer that frequented the front yard and would come to the door for a carrot… amazing experience… thank you Park Omega.” – Wheelsanti
“We spent the night in a Wolf Chalet at Omega Park. What an amazing experience!! The entire back of the chalet is a large panoramic window with the wolves just on the other side of the glass. You can sit in the living room or at the dining table and just watch the wolves all day and night. At night time, the wolves howl so loud, it is incredible.
As if the experience was not enough, the chalet itself is out of this world. Massive cathedral ceilings, huge panoramic windows upstairs & downstairs, heated floors, beautiful wood beams & logs. The decor is perfectly paired with the experience and your surroundings, they did not miss a beat.
The chalet is full of all the amenities that you need, including a fully equipped kitchen and a stunning washroom. Bunk beds on the main floor and 2 beds on the loft level. Then, of course, the drive through the park is always a highlight. The animals are so friendly and eat right out of your hand.
The Wolf Chalet is pricey, but it truly is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. It worth every penny. TIP: There is no TV or WiFi (which is a good thing), so bring books and board games.” – Elgan2010
7. Land Yourself in Jail
|SERVICES||Tourist accommodations, guided tours, reservations, free WiFi, bike rentals, kitchenette, shared rooms, private rooms, authentic jail cell rooms, family rooms|
|ADDRESS||75 Nicholas Street Ottawa, Ontario|
|OPERATING HOURS||Open year-round|
Check-in from 3 PM
Check-out before 11 AM
You can still end up in jail even if you’ve been good during your entire stay in Ottawa. Just make sure the jail has the kind of amenities to make the accommodations worth it.
The HI Ottawa Jail Hostel used to be a prison that ran for more than a hundred years. It’s the only one of its kind that employed adaptive reuse for tourists who want to get the thrill of sleeping in what used to be jail cells.
There are guided tours that could accompany your stay if you want in-depth knowledge of how the prison operated. Some of them coincide with Death Row and haunted tours for a truly immersive experience.
If macabre and haunting histories are your thing, this is something you must check out. And if you want to be voluntarily incarcerated minus the discomforts of a real prison, consider checking in at the HI Ottawa Jail Hostel.
Ready to get yourself jailed by choice? These jailbirds have a lot to say about their Jail Hostel experience:
“A great historical place to spend a night or a few. Thank you staff for a room/cell upgrade. We had celebrated my boyfriend’s bday there this time and it was definitely a memorable one 🙂 Clean, affordable and definitely interesting place that makes you want to come back and learn more about it.” – beyondsalsa
“Staying overnight in a jail cell was such a unique experience. We stayed in a cell with bunk beds and it was surprisingly spacious for two people. The location is centrally located close to Byward Market, Parliament, and the shopping mall. The hostel also offers historical tours of the jail (join a walking haunted tour company if you’d like to learn about the ghost stories). Definitely would recommend staying here for the experience.” – Carlo F.
8. Tourist Scavenger Hunt
|SERVICES||2-3 hours self-guided walking tour with challenges along the way|
|ADDRESS||2 Rideau Street, Ottawa, ON, K1N 8X5, across the street from the Chateau Laurier|
|CONTACT DETAILS||514-949-5201 / [email protected]|
|OPERATING HOURS||Open year-round, no time limit or required start|
What’s better than a good ol’ fashion scavenger hunt?
Next on our list is Ottawa Tourist Scavenger Hunt, a wild search that takes tourists from Chateau Laurier to the Supreme Court and the Byward Market, passing by the Parliament Hill, Confederation Park, and Major’s Hill Park!
Two other new scavenger hunts are now available.
The Rideau River tour takes you from the Rideau River Falls park to Green & Maple islands, Rideau Hall, and 24 Sussex Drive.
Meanwhile, The Embassies tour takes you from Strathcona Park to MacDonald Gardens Park and back to the Cordon Bleu Culinary Institute, and over 20 embassies.
Solve challenges at every step to discover your next destination and earn points. Learn a little history as well as interesting facts about what surrounds you. Discover why things were given specific names.
Once you’ve bought your package online, do the activity when it suits you. Stop or pause at any time and continue when ready, even if it’s a different day/week.
Here are some reviews left by previous customers:
“Did it as a family of 4 with kids age 9 and 12. We separated into 2 groups to make it more exciting for the kids, so mom+son vs dad+daughter. (So we bought 2 coupons). The kids really got into it and loved it. We got through it in about 3 hrs on a beautiful spring day. Walked 10km all in all without any kid complaining!! Some of the hints/questions were a bit confusing so we just skipped those. I had some technical difficulty to set it up on the cell phones after the Groupon purchase but I called the scavenger hunt support number and they were very helpful.“
“My husband and I were in Ottawa for 2 nights and looking for something to do for a day. The scavenger hunt was so much fun and a great way to see the city, learn some history and get out steps in. It was well organized and kept us entertained and thinking. It would be a great activity for a family with children. Would love to try it in another city as well!“