Rushing rapids, 10,000-year-old sand dunes and miles of mountainous forests: you would be forgiven for thinking yourself in the remote Canadian wilderness. Yet as Canada's capital city, Ottawa boasts all this natural beauty right on its doorstep...
Whitewater Capital of Canada
The Ottawa River is recognized as one of the best whitewater destinations in Canada and indeed the world. From sceaming high adventure to gentle float trips suitable for all ages, the magic of being in Canada's nature in the Ottawa Valley lasts a lifetime. These three companies offer rafting on the Ottawa River and are located approximately 90 minutes by car west of Ottawa. Half-day, full-day and even multi-day adventures are possible. Some have camping or cottage accommodations.
- OWL Rafting www.owl-mkc.ca
- Wilderness Tours www.wildernesstours.com
- RiverRun Rafting www.riverruners.com
"The Ottawa River is one of the world's best whitewater rivers, with a long history of exploration and - more recently - fun through rafting, kayaking, etc."
"Don't be afraid and don't be complacent - there are beautiful, tranquil float trips suitable for families and people of all ages... but if you're the 'been there, done that' kind of person, you'll be put in your place by the river. Yes, there are definitely high-adrenaline, edge-of-your-seat options"
Some advice: in spring (May and early June), the runoff from the melting snow means that water levels are quite high and the resulting waves are awesome! In July and August, the water is nicely warm for swimming - yet still challenging.
Whitewater Kayaking in Downtown Ottawa
Want to learn how to whitewater kayak in downtown Ottawa? The Madawaska Kanu Centre's MKC in the City program offers whitewater kayak instruction in downtown Ottawa, at the Pump House. The Pump House is a tributary of the Ottawa River managed by the Ottawa River Runners Club, located near LeBreton Flats and the Canadian War Museum. ‘MKC in the City' offers entry level whitewater classes right below the Parliament buildings from early June to the end of September. All equipment is provided. www.owl-mkc.ca/mkc/
Yoga on Parliament Hill
From June to September, visitors and locals alike can enjoy free 'guerilla yoga' classes on the lawn of Parliament Hill each Wednesday at 12:00 noon, weather permitting. Lulumon Athletica coordinates the classes, which are appropriate for all levels. www.lululemon.com/ottawa/rideaucentre/events
Urban Scavenger Hunt
Test your knowledge of Ottawa and learn more along the way during an UrbanQuest scavenger hunt. It's a race against your friends and family, a tour of the city landmarks, a new way to have dinner on the town or just a fun way to spend an evening. www.urbanquest.com
Ottawa By Air
What better way to see the capital than in on an open-cockpit biplane or helicopter ride at the Canada Aviation & Space Museum. Several different air tours are available. Located just east of downtown, the Canada Aviation & Space Museum showcases the country's aviation history, from the inaugural Canadian flight in 1909 to the Canadian Space Agency's highlights. www.aviation.technomuses.ca
Located just 15 minutes north of downtown Ottawa, Gatineau Park offers over 165 kilometres of trails for hiking, biking, or cross-country skiing, as well as water activities on its lakes-something for everyone-year-round! The fall coloirs are especially impressive. www.canadascapital.gc.ca/gatineau
World's Largest Naturally Frozen Ice Rink
This winter marks the 42nd season of organized ice skating on the frozen Rideau Canal Skateway! It has officially been designated by Guinness World Records as the largest naturally frozen ice rink. Maintained by the National Capital Commission, the Skateway stretches 7.8 km (4.8 miles) through downtown Ottawa and has a surface area equal to 90 Olympic sized rinks. Some locals even skate to work or school! The Skateway usually opens in early January and operates until sometime in March. During the first three weekends of February, it is an official site for the great winter festival, Winterlude. www.canadascapital.gc.ca/skateway / www.winterlude.gc.ca
Canada's Capital Region is truly a first-class destination for cyclists (as well as runners!), having one of North America's most extensive recreational pathway networks and parkways. Hundreds of kilometres of paved pathways meander next to the Rideau Canal, Rideau River and Ottawa River. During the Alcatel Sunday Bikedays, hop on your bike, lace up your inline skates, and hit the parkways-they're closed to motor vehicles every Sunday morning from Victoria Day weekend in May to Labour Day in early September. More than 50 kilometres of pure fun await along the Ottawa River Parkway, Colonel By Drive, Rockcliffe Parkway and Gatineau Park Parkways. www.canadascapital.gc.ca/biking
Bike rentals for every size, shape and experience are available through RentABike, located right next to the Rideau Canal.