Monday, June 17, 2024

12 things to do in Ottawa for free this spring

Must read looks at 12 things you can do for free in Ottawa this spring.

Walk in the tulips

Checkout the colourful tulips across Ottawa this spring.

The National Capital Commission has planted close to one million tulips across the region, featuring 100 varieties in 120 beds at 30 sites.

The top places to see the tulips are:

  • Commissioners Park
  • Along the Rideau Canal
  • Major’s Hill Park
  • Confederation Boulevard

The Canadian Tulip Festival runs May 10 to 20 at Commissioners Park. Admission is free.

For more information on the festival, visit

The tulips in bloom at Commissioners Park in Ottawa in 2023. (Josh Pringle/CTV News Ottawa)

Play Free with the city of Ottawa

The city of Ottawa is inviting children and youth to ‘Play Free’ this spring and summer, with several activities available.

Free drop-in swimming sessions will be held on Saturdays for children and youth, aged 17 and under. View a list of participating recreation and community centres with pools on the city of Ottawa’s website.

Children and youth, aged 17 and under, can participate for free at drop-in sports. View a list of all drop-in sports activities on the city’s website.

Free admission to museums

The city of Ottawa is inviting children and youth to explore municipal museums for free.

Children and youth, aged 17 and under, and accompanying adults can access the Cumberland Heritage Village Museum and Billings Estate National Historic Site for free when they are open.

Visit the city’s website for more information about the museums and historic sites.

NCC Weekend Bikedays

The National Capital Commission opens up the parkways along the Ottawa River and Rideau Canal for active transportation use this spring and summer.

The NCC’s Weekend Bikedays run from May 11 to October 14 on Saturdays, Sundays, and holiday Mondays.

The westbound lanes of the Kichi Zībī Mīkan will be closed to vehicles between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. on weekends.

The Sir George-Étienne Cartier Parkway will be closed to vehicles between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. The closure is from the Aviation Parkway to St. Joseph Boulevard.

Queen Elizabeth Driveway will be open for cyclists, runners and pedestrians from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. between Fifth Avenue and Somerset Street on weekends. In July and August, Queen Elizabeth Driveway will be closed to vehicles seven days a week, 24 hours a day between Somerset Street and Pretoria Avenue.

Gatineau Park

Enjoy the sights and sounds of spring in Gatineau Park.

The largest green space in the region, occupying more than 361 square kilometres, features several trails and pathways to explore.

Access to the hiking and cycling trails are free, but some parking lots are paid parking.

For more information on cycling and hiking trails, visit

An entrance to Gatineau Park. (CTV News Ottawa)

Beach Day

You can visit beaches in Ottawa for free this summer.

Lifeguards are on duty daily at Ottawa’s beaches from mid June to the end of August.

Ottawa’s four public beaches are:

  • Britannia Beach: 2805 Carling Avenue
  • Mooney’s Bay Beach: 3000 Riverside Drive
  • Westboro Beach: 234 Atlantis Road at Kitchissippi Lookout
  • Petrie Island Beach: 727 Trim Road,

There will be no lifeguards on duty at Westboro Beach this summer.

Mooney’s Bay on Friday, May 14.

Visit a museum

You can visit a museum for free during the following periods this spring.

Doors Open Ottawa

Take a look inside some of Ottawa’s most beautiful and historic buildings during the first weekend of June.

Doors Open Ottawa is June 1-2, providing free access to some of Ottawa’s buildings.

For more information on Doors Open Ottawa and a list of buildings, visit the city of Ottawa’s website.

Parliament of Canada Tours

Guided tours of the Senate at the Senate of Canada Building, the House of Commons in the West Block and the East Block are always free.

For tickets and tour times, visit

Parliament: The Immersive Experience

Explore the main Parliament Building, also called Centre Block, in this new innovative experience.

Parliament: The Immersive Experience at 211 Sparks Street includes an exhibition and a 360-degree multimedia show that takes you on a tour through Centre Block, which has been closed since 2019.

The self-guided tour is 45 minutes.

Tickets are available at no cost at visit

Rideau Hall

Take a tour of the historic mansion and expansive landscaped grounds at Rideau Hall this spring.

All tours and activities at the official residence and workplace of the governor general are free.

For more information, visit the Rideau Hall website.

National Arts Centre

The National Arts Centre offers several free activities. For more information, visit the NAC’s website.

  • Toddler Tuesdays are held every Tuesday at Peter A. Herrndorf Place.  Arts and crafts, singing, dancing, stories and more for children ages 18 months to 4.
  • SoulRhythms every Tuesday
  • May 9 – Sarah Howard hosts Jukebox Lunch Concerts
  • May 9 – Montero’s Latin Concerto
  • May 14 – Powwow Life Drawing
  • May 16 – Alanna Sterling hosts Jukebox Lunch Concerts
  • May 23 – Jana Salameh hosts Jukebox Lunch Concerts
  • May 27, June 3, June 10, June 17– French story time with Luana
  • May 30 – Jessie Simmons hosts Jukebox Lunch Concerts
  • June 13 – Jessy Lindsay hosts Jukebox Lunch Concerts
  • June 27 – Jukebox Lunch Concerts with Lucila X Maracle

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