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(2019 - Spring/Summer Issue)


“Adventure” might not be the first word that springs to mind when you think of Ottawa.

With a little more research, you soon realize you can paddle frothing whitewater rapids, take a haunted walk or fly in a vintage biplane in the nation’s capital.


Ottawa Biplane Adventures’ flights are some of the city’s most unusual tours. Starting from the Canada Aviation and Space Museum, these trips in an open-cockpit biplane conjure up visions of Snoopy fighting the Red Baron as they take visitors over Parliament Hill and other popular sites. Depending on the tour, time in the air varies from six to 35 minutes.

If non-motorized open-air flight is more your speed, several companies—including Sundance Balloons and Ottawa Hot Air

Balloon Rides—provide hot-air balloon rides. To fly in the company of dozens of other colourful craft, visit during the Gatineau Hot Air Balloon Festival (August 29 to September 2), when you can book a flight at dawn or in the late afternoon.


Back down on the ground, cycling is another way to work some adventure into your Ottawa visit. Escape Tours and Rentals offers scheduled tours of the city lasting between two and five hours, taking in destinations such as Rideau Falls and the Central Experimental Farm. Visitors can also customize an itinerary to their own interests. Just beyond Ottawa, Heritage Bikes in Perth provides bike rentals and tours of the pretty town and surrounding Lanark County.

If you’d rather travel on foot, you can learn about Ottawa’s ghostly past on a tour with the Haunted Walk of Ottawa. Caped guides carrying lanterns lead you through the city’s dark streets and past historic buildings, while spinning spectral tales. At the former Carleton County Jail, you’ll see the country’s last working gallows and hear about the trial of the man convicted of assassinating Father of Confederation Thomas D’Arcy McGee.

History buffs will also delight in the tours of a very different sort of facility in the city’s far west end. Built deep below a farmer’s field in rural Carp and finished in 1961, the Diefenbunker was meant to shelter Canada’s government during a nuclear war. Thankfully, it was never used for that purpose, and the decommissioned 9,300-square-metre facility is now a museum. Visitors can see the vault designed to hold the Bank of Canada’s gold bars, the cafeteria with its cheerful murals of Canadian landscapes, and a vintage X-ray machine in the infirmary. Along with basic tours, the museum holds all sorts of special events, such as escape room nights and a zombie-themed Halloween adventure.

History enthusiasts can also delve into Canada’s past on tours of Parks Canada’s many sites in the region. At Fort Wellington in nearby Prescott, for instance, you can take a walking tour, then dress up in a reproduction military uniform and fire a very loud 19th-century cannon.


In Ottawa itself, people who have never even held a paddle before can clamber into a large voyageur-style canoe for a guided tour of the Rideau Canal, where they’ll learn about ecology and sing voyageur songs.

An hour south of the city, at Chaffey’s Lock, Rideau Tours organizes guided kayak and canoe trips along the Rideau Canal lasting anywhere from an afternoon to two days. Most of these trips feature a gourmet picnic of local meats, cheeses and baked goodies.

For paddlers looking for a more challenging adventure, Ottawa also delivers. Even most Ottawans are surprised to learn that whitewater rafters can paddle the roiling Ottawa River within sight of the Peace Tower with Ottawa City Rafting. The three-hour trips start at Britannia Beach in the west end, and the current helps bring rafters into the downtown core.

While lively, the river inside the city limits is relatively tame. For wilder rapids (up to Class V), you’ll need to head 90 minutes west of the city to the Foresters Falls area. There, companies such as Wilderness Tours, RiverRun Rafting and OWL Rafting offer a range of adrenalin-pumping rafting trips, from three-hour outings to multi-day adventures.

Speaking of multi-day excursions, you might want to consider a six-day, five-night cruise on board the Canadian Empress, a river steamboat operated by St. Lawrence Cruise Lines. The company’s Capital South itinerary explores the Ottawa and St. Lawrence Rivers between Ottawa and Kingston, Ontario.

With its scenic parks, recreational trails, World Heritage Site canal and unspoiled rural surroundings, Ottawa offers countless tours for those eager to venture beyond Parliament Hill and the ByWard Market. Just bring your sense of adventure!

Travel Planner

For more information on visiting Ottawa, go to ottawatourism.ca. St. Lawrence Cruise Lines itineraries can be found at stlawrencerivercruise.com.

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