7 Can’t-Miss Ottawa Activities

We started our trip to Ottawa in the depths of the travel blogging underbelly. More often than not the long travel days get summarized into a cute Instagram story we’re all familiar with.  A quick walk down the jetway, cute in your seat selfie and ta-da, we’re there! In reality, that is almost never how it goes nobody wants to read about my nap on the floor, Meg’s 5th cup of coffee or our fight over the last gummy bear. Travel, it isn’t always pretty but it’s always worth it. 

What I love most about those long travel days is the uninterrupted time for more research on the area. For me, the planning is fully part of the adventure. I spent hours looking at Ottawa activities, restaurants and shopping. With so many fun things to do in Ottawa, the time passed quickly. I was so excited when our last flight touched down. I walked out of the airport, list in hand ready to explore. With all that information I put together this list of  7 LGBT friendly Ottawa experiences you can’t miss.

Take a Bicycle Ottawa City Tour

This was my first bike tour ever and I’m hands down buying what they’re selling. We took a took the two hour Ottawa Express Tour offered through the fantastic LGBT Owned and Operated Escape Bike Tours & Rentals. Truly I was blown away by the amount of the city we were able to see in such a short amount of time. We are huge fans of exploring new places by walking because there are so many nooks and crannies you just miss in a car. However, there are obvious limitations a major one being simply the amount of ground you able to cover in a day. The two-hour tour took us to about 10 stops including Rideau Canal, Rideau Falls, and even across the Bridge into the Province of Quebec.

Delve into History at the Ottawa Museums

Meg’s a low key history buff so she was pumped to visit some of the Ottawa Museums including the Canadian Museum of History, and the Canadian War Museum. The history museum was our first stop of the trip and provided incredible insight and context to everything else we ended up seeing. What jumped out to me was the dedication to inclusion throughout the museum. There was so much attention paid to recognizing all the people that make up the population of Canada in a way that I’m not used to experiencing in American Museums. There was a significant LGBTQ section browse and our guide was incredibly sweet and thoughtful in being sure we had enough time to take it in. From there we headed to the war museum when you visit be sure to take the windows placed in morse code. The museum itself had some super interesting pieces and was laid out beautifully. What we did notice is that the museum is significantly more graphic than what we’ve experienced in the states. We truly felt the heavy intense significance of war walking through each exhibit.

Get Romantic at the Nordik Spa

I love a good spa day, never did I ever think I’d be writing that sentence but it’s true and I am not ashamed. We spend a whole evening soaking in the pools, lounging in the hammocks and steam rooms. The Nordik Spa, located in Quebec is only about 20 minutes from downtown Ottawa. The spa is huge and offers cold pools, various saunas, steam rooms and areas to just relax. We enjoyed and meal and then spent the remainder of the evening trying out all the different options. I can’t stress enough just how big this place is there is literally something for everyone. It was the perfect date night if you’re looking for romantic things to do in Ottawa I can’t recommend the Nordik Spa enough. They do offerer various packages some including a hotel stay and all including the fluffiest of bathrobes. The changing rooms are gendered but all of the other spaces are mixed. We had an overwhelmingly positive experience even when showing small amounts affection.  

Tour Parliament and Rideau Hall

Ottawa is, of course, the Capital of Capitol of Canada so at least if you’re visiting for the first time you have to check out some for the government buildings. We explored the grounds and took a guided group to of the Parliament building. Our tour guide was energetic, informative and proudly displaying a Pride Flag pin on his suit. There was also a Canadian LGBT couple comfortably holding hands throughout the tour. It was great to feel so welcomed as an LGBTQ person in a place of government.

We also visited the Rideau Hall, the official residence of Governor General. We learned about the history of the home as well as more about the role of the Governor General. Make sure you give yourself to explore the grounds. There are trees planted in honor of various world leaders who made official visits to the residence.

Experience Chateau Laurier High Tea

We had a tea party at the Fairmont Chateau Laurier and it was everything. A real life adult version of every little girl’s dream complete with steaming teapots, soft scones, and delicate china. The French Gothic Chateauesque style downtown Ottawa hotel feels like you’re walking through a castle and a history lesson at the same time. We arrived at the newly renovated Zoe’s Restaurant for high tea and were blown away by the mix of classic elegance with large chandeliers and a more modern sleek grey interior. We went a bit after 4 o’clock so added a glass of happy hour champagne into the mix. The whole experience was lovely, it felt elegant but not pretentious. The servers were also fantastic about walking these first-time high tea going queers through the menu. Keep in mind that you are paying not only for the delicious food but also for the total experience. I had so much fun I found a tea house while visiting Kissimmee, Florida so that I could show my Mom a little glimpse of the fun we had.

Enjoy the Best Farm to Table Ottawa Restaurants

Two of my biggest takeaways from visiting Ottawa we’re why can’t more cities understand the need for gender-neutral bathrooms like this and good lord the food is incredible. The amount of good food we had was insane. For me, the coolest part is how diverse the options were. We started with some of the great Byward Market Restaurants since they were literally across the street from our room at the Andaz Hotel Ottawa, talk about ideal location. We also visited Riviera located in an old bank for an elegant meal featuring local delicious food and cocktails. It’s easy to see why a reservation is needed. We also visited Fairouz an uber stylish, farm fresh Lebanese spot. We were hungry and the whole menu sounded good so we ordered what felt like everything. The Muhammara with warm pita was my absolute favorite dish, like possibly ever. Sorry pizza, it’s not you, it’s me, I should have called.

Last but not least we visited Fauna, for an early lunch featuring their small plates with local ingredients. Meg ordered the special of the day including a caribou sausage that she loved. The vibes are super trendy and modern it’s the kind of place you’d want to hang out and have a couple drinks. Fauna is also the perfect spot to start the Village Legacy Project Walking Tour which is a historical LGBT preservation project. The walking tour highlights neighborhoods, businesses, and people that have been influential in the movement.

Sip Cocktails with a View

A good rooftop speaks to Meg’s New Yorker heart so we were pumped to find out the Andaz Hotel is home to Cooper’s Spirits and Sights. The 16th-floor rooftop bar has floor to ceiling windows inside and an outdoor portion for when the weather is nice. We enjoyed some cocktails at sunset one evening and couldn’t help snapping some selfies as the whole place lit up. The modern stylish vibes of the Andaz is clearly carried up to the bar. This space is first to come first serve and fills up super quickly.