6 Free Things to Do in Ottawa This Winter

Family Winter Fun

The winter can be hard enough to get through, and after an expensive December, you may be looking for ways to spend time together with the kids without breaking the bank. Luckily, there are many free activities across Ottawa and the Ottawa area that will help fill your days with winter fun and not empty your wallet in the meantime.

1. Head to the Ottawa Public Library

The Ottawa Public Library has many free events for kids across the city all winter long. The library is a fantastic place to warm up from the winter cold, but one event that caught our eye is the Choose Your Own Adventure Book Club. Kids aged 7-12 can drop in at the Nepean Centrepointe Branch every Thursday beginning January 31 for a discussion about books based on the monthly theme and to complete a craft.

2. See the RCMP Horses

Join the RCMP horses on February 2 for their Musical Ride open house and Ottawa Food Bank Drive. Tour the stables and take in the displays while providing a cash donation or non-perishable food item to the Ottawa Food Bank.  If you aren’t able to make it to the fundraiser, you’ll love stopping in for a quick visit throughout the winter. The stables are open for a guided tour all winter long on Tuesdays and Thursdays every hour between 10 am and 1 pm.

3. Participate in Winterlude

Photo: Ottawa Tourism

Many of the activities during Winterlude (February 1-18) are free, like the slides at Snowflake Kingdom or the special activities taking place on Sparks Street. Winterlude is Ottawa’s biggest celebration of winter and there are so many activities happening across the city during it. For example, the Ottawa Art Gallery has a free drop-in program filled with winter activities during Saturdays and Sundays while Winterlude is running, and on February 2, at the beginning of Winterlude, Shenkman Arts Centre has Fete Frissons, a free family event with music, crafts, activities, and delicious food.

4. Visit a Local Outdoor Community Event

You may not have to travel very far to find a free outdoor event this winter. Many community organizations are putting on special events to keep your family active and happy. We think this is a great way to get out and get to know the neighbours better! The Cantebury Community Association is hosting a day-long Family Fun Frost Fest on February 2 with special skating ice times for kids of all ages. The Carlingwood Community Association is hosting the Carlingwood Winter Carnival on February 3 with wagon rides, snow games and crafts and Dovercourt’s Winter Carnival is happening January 26 and will host families for skating, sledding, sleigh rides and hot chocolate.

5. Go Skating

If you’re looking for a free skating experience, look no further than your local neighbourhood rinks. While some were slower to get started, the city has a variety across Ottawa, likely within walking distance or a short drive, to a rink. You can visit the City of Ottawa website to find out where free public outdoor rinks are (including the City Hall Rink of Dreams) or rinks with access to a community centre skate change building (this may be easier if you are taking out little ones).

Better yet, make plans to go skating on the world’s largest skating rink – the Rideau Canal. The Canal, or portions of the Canal will be open depending on weather, and it’s one of the Ottawa bucket list activities local residents and tourists alike try to do.

6. Take the family sledding

We’ve shared with you some amazing places in Ottawa to go sledding, and the great thing is that these hills are free. You just need a sled and to bundle up to enjoy free sledding fun all winter long.




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