25 Holiday Family Friendly Activities To Do Around Ottawa

| November 25, 2016 | 22 Comments

The holiday season is upon us! With all of the hustle and bustle of upcoming celebrations before you, there should also be time to spend with your family to enjoy the season. Not sure what to do? There is so much to see and do in Ottawa during this time of year with your family. To take some of the guess work out of where to start to look for fun activities to do with your family in the Nation’s Capital, here is a list of 20 + things you can go out and experience during the holiday season with your family!

Holiday Family Friendly Activities

Twinkling Light Displays

 Christmas Lights across Canada

Photo credit: Bruce MacRae via Foter.com / CC BY-NC-SA


1. Christmas Lights across Canada, Parliament Hill – December 7, 2016 – Jan 7, 2017 from 4:30 pm-2 am
For the past 32 years, Parliament Hill has come alive with illumination. Starting in 1985, this celebration was created to display landmarks and sites along Confederation Boulevard such as Parliament Hill, national museums, monuments, embassies and other important institutions. It also brings light to the Ottawa during the winter months and helps to get the holiday season started in Canada’s Capital Region.

2. Christmas Tree Lighting, National Gallery of Canada, December 8, 2016 at 5 PM

Gather the family to kick off the holiday season as their light up their soectacular Christmas tree. This event begins with family-friendly activities, take in the Christmas carols performed by the violin ensemble Stellae Boreales and sip on hot chocolate. The tree will be on display in the Scotiabank Great Hall until January 9, 2017.

3. Taffy Lane in Orleans – Throughout December
Is visiting neighbourhoods to see how they have decorated their homes one of your family traditions? Take in what the citizens in this part of the city do to transform their homes into a sea of illuminated Christmas wonder. You can stroll through this neighbourhood and enjoy the sights of the season.

4. 18th Annual Trees of Hope for CHEO,  Fairmont Château Laurier – November 28, 2016 – January 4, 2017
During a day downtown, pop into the Fairmont Château Laurier to view The Trees of Hope. These trees are decorated to benefit the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario and then are left on display at the hotel for visitors to view.

5. Stittsville Parade of Lights – November 26, 2016 at 6 PM

Come out to see festively decorated community floats that lead up to the arrival of the man in red at the end of the event. Once Santa has made his arrival, revelers are able to make their way to the lighting of Village Square Park and to warm up with festive treats.

6. Santa’s Parade of Lights in Orléans – November 26, 2016 at 6 PM

Bring the family out to the Parade of Lights hosted by Ottawa Professional Firefighters Association to watch the floats. The Firefighters will be collecting toys and cash donations along the route.


Getting Out and About in the Region

7. Christmas in the ByWard Market Weekends – Until December 30, 2015
The holidays have arrived in a fun way to this district of Ottawa.Take in one of Ottawa’s oldest neighbourhoods while enjoying free wagon rides, drinking hot apple cider and singing Christmas carol.

8. Coulonge Falls Park – Various days in December until December 30, 2016
Bundle up the family for a day outside as you take in Coulonge Falls Park at their Festival of Lights! Over 10 000 sparkling lights and amazing special effects illuminate the path to the majestic waterfall. There will also be a one-of-a-kind craft market on hand for those who want to find a special gift for a loved one this holiday season. You can also snuggle up to get warm or roast some marshmallows around the bonfire!

9. Family fun Activities at the Fairmont Le Château Montebello – Throughout Decemeber
The Fairmont Le Château Montebello has put together a unique and memorable holiday package that includes a visit from Santa, a dinner dance, and a Yule log. There will also be a wide range of winter activities such as sleigh rides, curling, skating and more!

10. Festival of Carols, Centrepointe Theatre – December 11, 2016 3 PM & 7 PM

The Festival of Carols with the Salvation Army is celebrating its 31st year of thanking donors and supporters in the community for what they give throughout the year. Listen to their brass, organ and choir as they come together to entertain the audience this Christmas.

11. Canadian Pacific Holiday Train – November 27, 2016

This will be the 18th year that the Canadian Pacific Holiday Train makes a stop to raise money, food and promote the need for food banks across North America. With numerous LED lights and a boxcar that has been transformed into a traveling stage for performers, this Train is one to visit! Performers Dallas Smith and Odds. Below are the stops this Train will be making:

Finch – 2:30 – 3:15 PM

Merrickville – 4:45 – 5:30 PM

Smiths Falls – 6:20 – 7 PM

Perth – 7:40 – 8:30 PM

12. Mayor’s Annual Christmas Celebration, Ottawa City Hall – December 3, 2016, 1:30 PM – 6:30 PM

Ice skating, horse-drawn wagon rides on Marion Dewar Plaza and treats to keep warm are all parts of the celebration the Mayor has in store for Christmas holiday revelers. Inside City Hall, visitors can meet Santa and Mrs. Claus, create Christmas crafts in Santa’s Workshop, take in live performances in Santa’s Theatre and snack on treats from various vendors.

Museum Fun

Cumberland Heritage Village Museum- Vintage Village of Lights

Photo credit: Cumberland Heritage Village Museum


13. Vintage Village of Lights, Cumberland Heritage Village Museum – Fridays-Sundays from December 4-20 from 3 pm-8 pm
More than 30 000 lights are used to transform this village into a sea of illumination. You can tour the village horse-drawn wagon ride, learn about the tradition of writing letters to Santa, and decorate gingerbread cookies. There are also activities to engage in like playing street hockey, sledding and seeing Santa!

14. National Gallery of Canada – Throughout December
The National Gallery of Canada has some holiday activities for the family to enjoy. From the Christmas Concert performed by the National Capital Concert Band, to making art inspired by their national collection and current exhibitions, there is something for everyone in the family to enjoy.

15. A Nepean Christmas – Nepean Museum – December 12 from 10 am to 4 pm
Find out about the Christmas traditions and customs of the early European settlers, including a Christmas card printing station, a gingerbread house decorating area, and a doll-making station. Carolers will sing carols and Santa will make an appearance to read stories to the children.

16. Elves of the EstateBillings Estate National Historic Site – December 19 From 10 am-4 pm
Children attending this event are able to dress up like and elf, meet Santa, read stories with Mrs. Claus, and create a secret gift for their parents!

17. Christmas Tea – Billings Estate National Historic Site – December 13 and 20 from 11 am – 4 pm
Bring the family to enjoy a Christmas-themed high tea. Tea will be served in the ballroom and in Sally’s Kitchen. There will also be carollers dressed in Victorian costumes to help set the tone for this event as tea is being served.

18. Victorian Christmas – Fairfields Heritage House – December 19 from 10 am -4 pm

The family can take part in an old-fashioned Christmas celebration. Kids can create ornaments, taste Christmas treats and listen to carolers as they sing traditional Christmas carols. This event looks at Christmas traditions that were celebrated in Canada when the Bell family lived on this estate during the 1840s.


Santa with kids at Bayshore Shopping Centre

Photo credit: Ross Dunn – 5 million+ views! via Foter.com / CC BY-SA

19. Santa Photos

Still haven’t visited the big guy in red yet? Below is a short list of shopping centres you can visit to get your photos with Santa.
Bayshore Shopping Centre
Carlingwood Shopping Centre
Place d’Orleans
Rideau Centre
St. Laurent Shopping Centre

20. Toy Mountains Across Ottawa – Until December 23, 2015
Okay, so this one is not so much an activity, but more of a charitable act if you were wondering where you could drop off an unwrapped toy to give to a child this year. Below are the drop-off locations to leave your donations.
Toy Mountain Warehouse, 361 Queen Street
Carlingwood Shopping Centre
Participating TD Canada Trust Locations
Davidson Hearing Aid Centres

After Christmas Day

The holidays don’t end once the presents have been opened! Below are some other activities you and your family can take in until school reopens on January 4th.

21. Museum of Nature
Once the presents have been unwrapped, you can get the kids outside to learn and have fun at the Museum of Nature! They have various activities to help pass the time between Christmas and the New Year that are offered in English and French from learning about bugs and pollination to handling fossils.

22. Music at the Museum: Holiday Favourites – Canada Aviation and Space Museum – December 4, 2016, 2 – 3 PM
Three musical partners provide holiday tunes for visitors to enjoy in the Museum for an afternoon of fun!

New Year’s Eve Celebrations

23. Rick Chiarelli’s Alcohol-free Family New Year’s Eve, Ben Franklin Place – 6 PM – 10 PM

Want the kids to enjoy the festivities of New Year’s Eve? This event has plenty of fun planned to bid a fond fare well to 2016 and to start 2017 in a magical way! Party-goers can enjoy events such as a skating party, sleigh rides, talent show, gingerbread building, bouncy castle and much more!

24. TD Hogmanany: A Family-Friendly New Year’s Eve Party – Aberdeen Pavillion/Horticultural Building Lansdowne Park – December 31, 2015, from 5 pm-Midnight
The Scottish Society of Ottawa is in its fourth year of ringing in the New Year by hosting this free family-friendly event! There will be dancing, live bands will play, and a food court and scotch whiskey tasting will be available in the Aberdeen Pavilion. For the kids, entertainment such as storytellers, face painting and balloon sculptors will be available in the Horticultural Building. At midnight, fireworks will light up the night sky to make the start of 2016!

25. New Year’s Ever at Sparks Street  8 PM – 12:10 AM

Join in the festivities as crowds gather together for live music until the fireworks end the countdown at midnight!


Hopefully, this list of family-friendly holiday activities around Ottawa and the Outaouais region allows you to make some time to spend with your loved ones, and to make some fun and lasting memories. Enjoy and happy holidays!

What activities do you and your family like to do over the holiday season?






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Category: Attractions, Holiday, Ottawa & Surrounding Area, Ottawa Events, Stuff of Interest, Themes

About the Author ()

My name is Lian Wright. Born in Toronto, I came to Ottawa as a student to study Political Science at Carleton University, and came away with an Honours Degree, and decided to stay. I'm a huge sports fan, have a love of reading, and like experiencing new things whenever I can. I am now a mother of three children (11, 1 and 7 months old) and am kept constantly on my toes. My blog, Pieces of Me, is my way of sharing what I have enjoyed and encountered in my life so far as a mother. So far, being a mom has had it's expected ups and downs, but that's what makes being a parent so fulfilling for me. I've loved and learned from what's happened so far, and I can't wait to see what's in store for me next. I hope you enjoy the journey with me!

Comments (22)

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  1. kathy downey says:

    I enjoyed the read and the photo,so many events to attend in the City,living in a small town we only have a few for the whole season.Enjoy.

  2. Elizabeth Matthiesen says:

    What a great time of year to be in (or near) Ottawa, a great list too. I especially like the Christmas Lights, they are beautiful 🙂

  3. loriag says:

    So many activities, wish I lived in Ottawa.

  4. loucheryl says:

    I really want to visit Ottawa one day with my family. There is so much to see and do. It would be an amazing family trip for us.

  5. Meg says:

    Ottawa looks like a great place to be for the holidays. I’ve only driven through once, with no time to stop, sadly. But I did see the Parliament Buildings and was amazed at their size- they must look incredible all lit up. Have a happy holiday!

  6. Danni says:

    Great Ideas. Thank You

  7. Char says:

    If you are already at the Place d’Orleans mall, they have a miniature Christmas village, complete with moving trains, and other moving pieces. I believe it is free, although they accept donations. (located next to the food court on the 2nd floor). My little one spent an hour gazing at all the different people and trains moving around.

  8. kathy downey says:

    What a great time of year to be in Ottawa,all the lights must be beautiful

  9. Judy Cowan says:

    It has been years since I have last been to Ottawa. One of these days we will have to plan a trip. Sounds like there was lots to do around the holidays.

  10. Elizabeth Matthiesen says:

    As always there will be big celebrations in and around Ottawa, wish I lived closer. 🙂

  11. Nate says:

    Lots of activities around the city

  12. Cheryl says:

    Great list!! There sure are a lot of amazing things to take in. Wish I was closer 🙂

  13. jan says:

    Ottawa is a city I’d love to viist, and even more so during the holiday season. Great list.

  14. loriag says:

    Seeing Christmas lights is always a highlight for our family and so low budget!

  15. Brenda A says:

    How lucky to live in a city such at Ottawa to have access to so many amazing Christmas activities! We have never been to Taffy Lane and hope to this year!

  16. Lynda Cook says:

    Sounds like an awesome time to go and visit Ottawa, lots to do and see!!

  17. Chandra O'Connor says:

    So many activities, I’d love to go to see the Victorian Christmas!

  18. Stephanie LaPlante says:

    Wow I wish we had this many events in my city!

  19. Linda Manns Linneman says:

    This sounds awesome. What fun things to do around the holidays. Thank you so much for sharing. I am sure everyone enjoyed this

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