There are tons of fun things to do in Ottawa, Canada, and the 2 days that my wife Anna and I just spent there didn’t give us enough time to do nearly all of them.
Even though it is directly in the middle of winter, we still had a blast on our first trip to Ottawa!
If you are going to visit Ottawa most people would probably suggest that you go during the summer time, but Anna and I found it to be special type of beautiful; especially for Valentine’s Day.
Since we didn’t get to visit some of the major attractions in the city this time, we already decided we will need to make another return trip!
Luckily for us, it’s only about a 4-hour drive.
The ride from our home in the Syracuse area to Ottawa was beautiful itself! It was a smooth ride up to Ottawa, and I would happily do that drive again.
Anna and I already know it was a great decision to travel to Ottawa, and I am sure you would think so too!
Want to know what I thought were the best sites and food in Ottawa while I was there?
Just read the rest of this article!
Fun Things to Do in Ottawa During the Winter: Day 1
Overall, we spent about 48 hours in Ottawa, Canada during this trip, but we could have used more time.
I have always been a history junkie, so I am pretty disappointed that we missed out on having time to go to the Canadian Museum of History, even though we walked past it 3-4 times on the way to the center of the city from our hotel.
We stayed at the Crowne Plaza-Gatineau, which was a comfortable hotel about a 35-minute walk from ByWard Market and the center of Ottawa.
We drove in to Ottawa at about 2 p.m., checked in to the hotel, and headed out towards the center of the city.
Since I have been out of basketball for about 4 months now, I’ve started to miss living in Europe in a lot of ways.
Seeing just the simple architecture and design of Ottawa reminded Anna and I about living in various parts of Europe, which was a fun experience for us.
The first night we came in to Ottawa was February 13th, the day before Valentine’s Day.
Temperatures were in the high “teens,” but on top of the Alexandra Bridge it was much cooler!
In the middle of the bridge it had to be well below 0 degrees Fahrenheit, or at least it felt like it!
The walk itself is beautiful though, and totally worth it. By the time we left, we were already missing this walk and the view!
Day 1) Food on Our First Trip to Ottawa
After we made it over the bridge and closer to the center of the city, our first thoughts were immediately Poutine.
For those of you who don’t know, Poutine is basically French fries with gravy and cheese curds on top.
It is as delicious as it sounds!
I’m not positive but I believe it is originally a Montreal dish, but it is served widely across Canada as far as I know.
Anna and I eat Poutine every time we are in Canada, and I don’t think that tradition is going to stop soon.
Well, we didn’t get fries yet.
Instead, we got cake!
We headed over the Alexandra Bridge which stretches from Gatineau to Ottawa and headed for the ByWard Market district.
As soon as we got near the market area, we discovered the Oh So Good Desserts & Coffeehouse.
Yes, it was that good.
Coming off that frigid bridge our only concern was hot tea and something tasty, and we found the right spot.
We ordered a dairy/gluten free carrot cake, as well as a matcha tiramisu.
Both these pieces of cake were awesome, and I would highly recommend anyone to check out this shop if you are in Ottawa.
I don’t know what the best dessert shop in Ottawa is, but Oh So Good should definitely get some consideration!
We walked around the ByWard Market district for a little while after we left the cake shop, but we still needed some real food.
It was cold and a little bit snowy outside, but the city still looks great. I was very impressed with the city of Ottawa, it was something of a mixture of different European cities I have seen.
The ByWard Market district is filled with great little food and assorted item shops, you could easily spend hours just walking and looking around at the stores.
We decided to just head over to the Rideau Centre to escape the cold, because we knew on Valentine’s Day it would be much warmer and we could walk a lot more.
The Rideau Center is a large mall in the center of Ottawa (as I understand it), and it has a very nice selection of stores.
We still wanted to eat some “real food,” so we opted to go to the food court and buy doner (as much as that counts).
For those of you who don’t know, doner is a type of shaved meat which is common in Turkish cuisine, and other ethnic cuisines of that region.
I honestly don’t know who came up with it first, but it is amazing. I ate it first when I was playing basketball in Kazakhstan and have been hooked ever since.
The food court in Rideau Center was impressively clean, and I was surprised to see so many health options around.
Us in the United States would absolutely benefit from having more healthy options available like they do in Canada.
We ate doner and baklava, which was enough food for us for the night!
On the first night of our trip to Ottawa we enjoyed wandering around the small amount of the city we could find and enjoying some nice food.
I’m sure there were other fun things to do in Ottawa on this night, but Anna and I were happy to head back to the hotel and relax for the night.
Because of my basketball schedule and routine for training we don’t often get to take vacations but deciding to take a trip to Ottawa for Valentine’s Day was a great decision!
Fun Things Anna and I Discovered to Do in Ottawa During the Winter: Day 2
I’m not sure how many of you other couples do with this, but Anna and I are lucky enough to travel very well together.
One of the traits we have in common is that even we when do go on vacation, we both prefer active vacations instead of passive vacations.
To me, passive vacations are the type of trips where you relatively hang out and lay on a beach somewhere.
Although that is obviously still enjoyable, we both would rather be moving or exploring a whole new place.
Our 2nd day in Ottawa, Canada, started with us waking up at about 7 am, which is probably earlier than most people on vacation wake up.
I wake up early on days even when I don’t have to, so I can stay in a routine, I feel more efficient and productive that way.
On normal days I wake up between 4:55 am and 6:00 am, so sleeping until 7 was a pleasing change for the day.
Even when I am on vacation I always try to treat my body right, so I woke up and directly did about 25 minutes of morning yoga.
I’ll explain more about this below but doing yoga while traveling is one of my biggest types for staying fit while traveling.
Things to Do When You Visit Ottawa, Canada, on Valentine’s Day: Day 2 of Our Trip
After I got done with my morning yoga, we headed out towards ByWard Market again to get a nice breakfast.
It was now Valentine’s Day, and the weather was great for Ottawa in the Winter.
By the middle of the day the temperature reached over 40 degrees Fahrenheit, and in the morning, it was already warmer than the day before.
Our 40-minute walk to the ByWard Market district seemed much shorter this time, and the view from the bridge to Parliament Hill was amazing.
For breakfast we decided to go to Dunn’s Famous, because whose wife doesn’t want to go to a diner-style restaurant and eat their body weight in Poutine and breakfast foods on Valentine’s Day morning?
We each had a big breakfast meal that they had offered, and we had a full side of Dunn’s Class Poutine.
100% great decision.
The service was very fast, and the food was excellent.
Living in Belgium last year for my basketball season made us somewhat of “frites” connoisseurs, so we really appreciated these Canadian fries!
Our total meal came out to about $60 Canadian, which I believe is about $50 USD. The portions were so surprisingly big that we didn’t even finish everything we ordered!
The price was very reasonable for the quality of the food and service, I would go back myself.
They had some local beer on the menu I was interested in, but I decided 10 am was a little too early to make that decision.
Best Comic Book Shop to Checkout on Your Ottawa Visit
After we finished eating our next plan for the day was to take the 20-minute walk from the ByWard Market, over to a shop called the Comic Book Shoppe on Bank Street in Ottawa.
The temperature was already getting warm, and the walk was very enjoyable.
Anna and I have been slowly building a comic book collection from shops all around the globe (kind of literally).
Our goal is to have comics in as many languages, and from as many different countries as possible.
So far we picked up comic books in Amsterdam, Brussels, Toronto, Stara Zagora (Bulgaria), and a few other cities along the way.
I can’t say we have a huge collection at the moment, but we enjoy it.
I couldn’t tell you exactly what the best comic book shop in Ottawa is, but the Comic Book Shoppe on Bank Street was great.
They had some vintage comics including a couple very old Superman and Barbie editions we were really impressed with seeing.
They had a great collection of figures as well, overall it was a cool shop to go in.
We bought a couple which we liked to add to our collection, it was a great shop to visit in Ottawa!
Sights to See While Walking Around on Your Trip to Ottawa
Aside from the museums and other more notable attractions in Ottawa, Canada, there is a lot you can see by just wondering the city for the day.
Walking around the ByWard Market you can find a ton of different shops and vendors, which are all very fun to look through.
Anna and I ended up buying some Ontario maple syrup and maple butter, which is amazing.
I proudly represent the fact that my high school here in New York produces what I consider to be the best maple syrup in the world, but this maple syrup and maple butter from Ontario was as good as it gets!
While we walked from Dunn’s Famous to the Comic Book Shoppe we passed the Rideau Canal for the first time, which was a beautiful sight to see.
The Rideau Canal connects Ottawa to Lake Ontario and the Saint Lawrence River down in Kingston, Ontario.
During the winter when it is frozen over, the canal turns in to one of the coolest skating rinks in the world.
Anna and I are not ice skaters, but it was nice enough just to stand on a bridge overlooking the canal and just watch.
We also passed by Parliament Hall during this time, and a couple other impressively built buildings which I don’t exactly know what they were.
Walking around this section of Ottawa was a treat in itself.
Anna and I were humored to see another creation of the Mannaken Pis boy on top of a roof in downtown Ottawa.
This was the 3rd Mannaken Pis boy that we have found. We saw the “original” Mannaken Pis in Brussels, Belgium, and surprisingly found another one in Stara Zagora, Bulgaria.
This was the largest one out of the 3 we have seen, and I guess now I am adding Mannaken Pis photographs to the “things I am collecting” list in my life!
We also found a pretty great statue of a bear and a young bear eating salmon, which I obviously loved because bears are my spirit animal.
Great statue Ottawa, great statue.
From the morning until about 1 p.m. we amassed about 12,000 steps around Ottawa, which was enough to tell us that we needed a small break.
We took a (very affordable) Uber ride back to the hotel to put our feet up for a little while, satisfied with out trip to Ottawa so far.
How to Spend Valentine’s Day Night in Ottawa During the Winter: Night 2 Of Our Visit
After showering and lounging in our hotel room for a couple hours, we headed back out on our walk from the Crowne Royal in Gatineau, over to Ottawa.
The walk across the Alexandra Bridge was a little colder this time, but it was still very comfortable outside.
The lighting in Ottawa was absolutely great, I have a feeling it is like this across a lot of Canada.
Our main goal was to find more Poutine (we really love these Canadian fries), but we wanted to soak up as much of Ottawa as possible on our final night.
2 nights was clearly not enough for this city, but we got the most out of every minute in my opinion.
It was Valentine’s Day night, but that didn’t mean we we’re looking for a high-end restaurant.
After we got back to the ByWard Market district we walked around for a while looking for a restaurant that had both Poutine and Crepes on the menu, but for some reason we struck out on that request.
We ended up stopping at Zak’s Diner, because who doesn’t love more diner food?
We ordered a classic Poutine with extra smoked meat, a Reuben with Montreal smoked meat and onion rings, buffalo dip with tortilla chips, and a strawberry milkshake.
The Poutine was great as always, and I don’t think that I could recommend one compared with the other.
I have heard that Montreal smoked flavoring is unique, and I can say that certainly is true. The Rueben was delicious, and the Montreal flavoring was very cool for a first experience.
I’m anxious to try Montreal smoked meat in Montreal now!
It was already starting to get a little bit late as dinner ended, which meant our trip was slowly coming to an end.
Anna and I are not too much for bars or clubs most of the time, so there were no late-night activities for us this time.
I am sure Ottawa has some great night life, next time we might have to check it out a bit more!
We decided to walk the whole way back to our hotel for some additional exercise after that big meal, which turned out to be a gorgeous walk.
Parliament Hall looks incredible from the Alexandra Bridge as the sun is going down, I would recommend this as something to do for anyone on their visit to Ottawa.
We got back to our hotel after totaling about 25,000 steps for the day and feeling like we did everything we wanted to do.
Overall, it was a great trip to Ottawa.
Staying Fit in Ottawa: Training While Traveling
When we returned home from our last walk of the trip, the first thing we did was change and head to the hot tub.
With as much walking as we did, both our legs and backs we’re fatigued and sore.
The hot tub was excellent for helping us to relax after a full day of exploring, and it was just what we needed this night.
A lot of people enjoy using the hotel weight room while traveling, and I believe that it is a great idea in most cases.
However, I am much more partial to just consistently doing yoga while traveling.
One of the main reasons that I prefer to do only yoga is that generally when I travel, I am already walking a ton.
If I do weight lifting along with this, odds are I’m going to tire myself out.
Yoga on the other hand helps to increase energy levels, while also keeping my body loose and healthy.
To me, yoga is clearly the best form of exercise while traveling.
Since Anna and I do not vacation often due to time constraints, we don’t really watch our diets in any way while traveling.
If you’re going to experience something for the first time, there shouldn’t be too many restrictions!
Neither of us are drinkers, so our only alcohol is the occasional local drink when we are traveling.
Along with yoga, push-ups and planks are my only other forms of exercise while I travel.
My goal for my body when I am traveling often is not to increase size or strength, but instead to improve my flexibility or mobility as much as possible, and just not gain too much body fat if I can help it.
This is occasionally difficult, but I don’t stress about fitness too much when I am on vacation.
Final Thoughts on Our First Trip to Ottawa, Canada
I can easily say that Anna and I will come back to Ottawa, whether it is in the winter or not.
I was surprised by how much I enjoyed the city despite the wintry weather, and it even made it more enjoyable in some ways.
Walking through the cold really gives you a different feel of the city, and I was very happy with our experience.
If you are going to visit Ottawa any time soon, I recommend you check out all the places I listed above!
I am sure that there are many other fun things to do in Ottawa, Canada during the winter or any time of year, but we truly enjoyed the things we picked to do.
Next time we decide to come I believe we will check out the Canadian History Museum and other museums in the city, because I am a bit disappointed we missed out on those.
Overall though, I am sure that any of you out there will enjoy visiting Ottawa if you follow a simple plan like we did!
Happy traveling everyone!