Ottawa, Canada’s beautiful capital city, experiences four distinct seasons, with temperatures that can reach beyond 90 degrees Fahrenheit in summer and fall far below freezing in winter. And while Ottawa embraces each one, no season is more anticipated than spring, when migrating birds return from their winter ranges in the South, flowers start pushing up in beds across the city, and visitors return in droves to enjoy seasonal and year-round attractions and experiences. Here are five of the top things they come to see and do:
Held each May since 1953, this perennial favorite celebrates the return of spring against a backdrop of a million tulips blooming in massive gardens across the region. Centered at Commissioners Park next to the Rideau Canal, the 2023 festival will run May 13–23 and feature live entertainment, garden tours, activities for young and old, and a closing fireworks extravaganza. The festival traces its origins back to the Second World War, when the Dutch royal family escaped to the safety of Ottawa. When Queen Juliana (who had given birth to a baby princess while in Ottawa) returned to the Netherlands, she thanked the city and Canada with a gift of 100,000 tulip bulbs. Today, their annual blooms attract flocks of photo enthusiasts.
2. Camp Fortune
Located 20 minutes north of downtown Ottawa in the breathtaking Gatineau Park, Camp Fortune is a four-season resort offering adventure experiences that will take your breath away. Once the snow melts from its ski runs, the resort offers exciting spring, summer, and fall experiences. Its Aerial Park is for those with no fear of heights, with activities that take them into the treetops, across bridges, and through the air on ziplines. Its new Mountain Coaster departs from the top of the chairlift and plunges down a monorail track through the forest and onto ski runs, reaching speeds of up to 25 miles per hour (though riders can control the speed). And for something even more exhilarating, Camp Fortune will open in May 2023 an all-new, 4,478-foot zipline that will zig-zag from peak to peak across the resort. Strap in and take the plunge!
Ottawa is happy to be home to over 50 craft breweries that produce a diverse array of locally crafted beers. And there is no better way to see how they’re made and sample them than with Brew Donkey Tours. Founded in 2013, Brew Donkey offers a wide range of curated craft brewery tours on its distinctive tour bus. Each tour stops at three to five breweries and includes beer sampling, presentations and Q&A sessions with brew masters, food, and, of course, a designated driver to transport participants safely between samplings. Custom tours can be created for groups on request, and there are also walking tours for a change of pace.
Ottawa is filled with national sites, landmarks, museums, and attractions, and Lady Dive Tours offers a variety of ways to see them. In spring, it brings out its open-top, double-decker bus to offer hop-on/hop-off guided tours that run in a loop to every major attraction in the central part of the city. Spring is also when it launches its Amphibus for one-hour guided tours on land and on the waters of the mighty Ottawa River for a different view of Parliament Hill, the National Gallery of Canada, and other landmarks. Lady Dive guides have deep knowledge of the city and keen senses of humor to make every ride a fun and memorable experience.
Ottawa’s Parliament is the seat of Canada’s federal government and perhaps the most iconic building in the country. It includes the House of Commons and the Senate of Canada. The main part of the building—the Centre Block that includes the Peace Tower—is currently undergoing significant renovations, so both the House of Commons and the Senate have been temporarily relocated. The House of Commons now sits in the West Block in a special chamber capped by a spectacular glass roof. And the Senate meets in a lovely building that was Ottawa’s central railway station in the first half of the 20th century. Happily, both offer guided tours that immerse visitors in their history and respective roles and can be easily booked online.
Check out our springtime Itinerary here.
For more information, reach out to Ottawa Tourism’s Kelly Dean.
Top photo by James Peltzer