17 Romantic Things to Do in Ottawa
We may endure chilly weather in winter, but the season is full of romance with twinkly lights and cozy fires. After friends told us about Ottawa’s growing tourism scene, we decided to return to our hometown for a winter getaway to Canada’s snowy capital. Spending the last five years living abroad, Jugo and I haven’t been back for a Candian winter since we left, and were shocked by the changes (and the cold!) when we got back. Whether you are luxury or budget travelers, outdoor enthusiasts, cultural buffs or foodies, you can find it all here.
Check out our full guide for ’17 Romantic Things to Do in Ottawa in Winter’ for every type of traveling couple!
1. Nordik Spa-Nature
Spend the day pampering yourselves at the Nordik Spa Ottawa, one of the most romantic places in Ottawa. A lovers getaway surrounded by nature and trees, with Scandinavian baths to soak in, and wooden hut saunas to relax in. On our visit, Jugo and I tried the 2000-year-old relaxation Nordic ritual.
The Nordic Ritual
This begins by entering a warm pool or sauna and sweating out toxins for 10-15 minutes. We really enjoyed doing this in the Mongolian yurt-sauna and the panorama pool, where you can take in the city view. Even more, it’s especially nice at night with glowing lights on the trees and surrounding the entire area.
The second step involves braving the cold where you have to quickly jump into one of the cold pools or ice waterfalls for 10-15 seconds. This will close your pores and release adrenaline. Although we didn’t enjoy this step, we did feel a sudden burst of energy after jumping into the ice waterfall!
Finally, the last step was our favorite where we got to grab a cup of tea and relax for at least 20 minutes. There are many great spots for relaxing like the heated hammocks, mini chalets with a toasty fire, or the yoga and meditation room. We tried them all but reading our books by the fire in the chalet was our favorite.
After going through this cycle several times, we felt a lot more relaxed and stress-free. We recommend spending a full day here since there are so many different pools, saunas, and relaxing areas to try. Also, there’s a wide variety of body treatments and you can get a couples massage in their tree-top, heated wooden chalets. Don’t worry about getting hungry because there are four places to dine on site with many tasty things to eat like charcuterie boards, buddha bowls, and cheese platters.
Fun Couples Activity Tip
Relax together in the Banya sauna which is a traditional Russian sauna. It’s very humid inside and you will sweat instantly. After, you can go to the exfoliation room and have some fun getting each other smoothy smoothe by rubbing lavender or eucalyptus infused salts on each other. Lastly, don’t forget to snuggle up to a cozy fire and a glass of wine.
On Sussex drive, you’ll find high-end clothing boutiques with unique designs and chic style (sorry guys, this one’s more for your ladies). If you like shopping visit these trendy retailers:
- Trustfund 493 Sussex Drive
- m0851 531 Sussex Drive
- Roadtrip 24B York Street
- Milk another noteworthy Canadian designer on William street
- Maker House Co for handmade Canadian goods by local artisans (987 Wellington St West)
3. National Arts Centre (NAC)
Another spot that you’ll want to dress up for is a performance at the NAC. The NAC has many different types of events including orchestra, theatre, and dance performances.
We went to see an orchestra performance which featured Haydyn and Beethoven symphonies. It was fascinating to see all the violinists move their bow in unison on the violin. If you visit in December there are some great Christmas performances and also some special events in February for Valentine’s.
For more five-star experiences loved by locals check out
- Atelier– Fine-dining at it’s best with a 12-course tasting menu.
- Luxury retreat at The Moulin Wakefield Mill Hotel & Spa. A four-star boutique hotel located 30 minutes outside downtown Ottawa.
- Stay at the Fairmont Chateau Laurier or enjoy an afternoon of elegance with their high tea at Zoe’s Lounge.
Tobogganing makes for a fun, light-hearted activity with an excuse to get real close to each other. You’ll find plenty of hills in Ottawa. Our recommendations for downtown include:
- Hog’s Back Park
- Vincent Massey Park
- Seneca Avenue
- Windsor Park
Pick up a sled at Canadian Tire for just $4.50.
5. Ice Skating
Holding hands and ice skating together is a perfect date and Ottawa offers a ton of options.
- From December 7 2017 to the end of February 2018, check out the free ice skating at the Canada 150 Rink on parliament hill with Christmas lights illuminating the parliament buildings.
- If you are visiting in the new year, don’t miss out on the world’s largest skating rink at the Rideau Canal Skateway from January-February.
- For additional skating options, check out recommendations by Ottawa Tourism.
- Skate rental options are available around the city but you can find a cheap option at Cyco’s Sport. Rentals start at $10 for two hours and they are seconds away from the Rideau Canal.
Fun Couples Activity Tip
Warm up from the winter cold with a hot mug of chocolate or coffee at Bridgehead Coffee. You’ll find many locations downtown and when you register with their rewards program, you will receive a free cup of coffee!
6. The BeaverTails
Don’t miss out on trying a Canadian delicacy: the beaver tail. According to the official BeaverTails website, there have been at least 31 marriage proposals made with the beaver tails.
The beaver tail is a pastry made from frying dough, shaped like the tail of Canada’s national animal. The classic version is topped with cinnamon and sugar, but if you have a real sweet-tooth you can have them served with Nutella, Reese’s Pieces and more!
7. The Laff
Start your night at Ottawa’s oldest tavern. Opened since 1849, this place is older than the city of Ottawa named in 1855 and Canada which was founded in 1867. The menu is made up of old Scott family recipes and you can share snack plates like the famous Canadian poutine (another of our delicacies), deep fried pickles, corn dogs and pizza pouches for $8/plate.
Jugo and I decided to visit this tavern since it really reminded us of the pubs we’d been to while living in London. We enjoyed a couple pints of the local beers which cost $7.50. Jugo got the Moonlight Porter from Waller Steet Brewing and I had the Bonfire Black Lager from Perth Brewing Company. We sat by a cozy fire (though not real) and spent a couple hours playing board games they had which was a lot of fun.
8. Gatineau Park
Gatineau Park offers a lot of winter activities for the outdoorsy couples. You’ll find one of the largest networks of trails in North America with over 200km of trails and heated shelters for cross-country skiing along the way. There’s also the option for snowshoeing, ice climbing and snow biking.
- Fresh Air Experience offers XC ski rental for $20 and winter bikes for $40 half–day and $60 full day.
- You can also visit MEC Ottawa which offers cross-country country package rentals for $20/day, snowshoes $15/day, and crampons for ice climbing at $10/day.
Jugo and I tried a winter hike on the Lauriault and Waterfall loop which had ruins of an old estate, a waterfall, lake, and a gorgeous city lookout along the way. The route is 3.9 km and took us a couple hours to complete.
Fun Couples Activity Tip
One of my favourite romantic things to do in Ottawa is to go on a winter hike and picnic. Pack a warm blanket, some snacks, and a hot thermos of cocoa. You can warm up next to each other while sitting in nature and catching some stunning views. There are picnic tables with BBQs by Mulvihill Lake, so you could even make some smores to go with your hot cocoa!
9. Additional snowshoeing & Coss-Country Skiing
In the heart of the city, try the Sir John A. MacDonald Trail. This path is 16 km and runs from the Canadian War Museum to Westboro beach and runs alongside the Ottawa River.
10. Dog Sledding
For a memorable experience visit Escapade Eskimo where you can drive a dog sleigh with huskies. Their ‘Adventure Package’ allows you to spend a half day riding a 15km trail for $139/adult.
11. Canadian Museum of History
The most visited museum in all of Canada, the Canadian Museum of History does not disappoint. We were able to see the Canadian History Hall which is a fascinating exhibition showcasing the dawn of habitation in Canada through to the present day. We especially enjoyed seeing the replica scientists made of what a family of First Nations looked like from the skeletal bones they found in an old burial ground. A ticket to the museum also gives you access to their Cine+ theatre which shows films on Canadian history in 2D and 3D.
12. Canada Science and Technology Museum
Recently renovated and reopened in November 2017, this museum showcases 11 exhibitions of Canadian achievements in science and technology. There’s a lot of interactive features that appeal to all the senses which makes a fun date. Try the virtual reality cab which allows you to test your driving skills as an engineer in the Steam exhibition, step inside the quiet cube in the Sound by Design, or play the gaming classics like super Mario bros, guitar hero, Pacman, and Tetris in the Game Changer exhibition.
13. National Gallery of Canada
Before you even enter the museum, grab a cup of hot cocoa and take a walk to Nepean Point at the back of the museum. There you can take some stunning shots of Parliament and the Ottawa river as your backdrop, which looks amazing. There’s also a stainless steel sculpture outside that measures 30.48 meters tall.
Afterwards, warm up inside and check out some of the country’s finest art. Jugo and I enjoyed The Canadian and Indigenous gallery which had over 800 pieces from across Canada and dated back from 5,000 years ago to 1967. Another cool exhibit is the Canadian Biennial with my favorite piece from the entire gallery, the Soundsuit.
Fun Couples Activity Tip
Create a music playlist for each other to listen to while looking at the art. You can also take pictures of each other imitating the art or bring a small notepad and write what you think is going on in each art piece and compare your notes after. Jugo and I had a few laughs at our notes.
14. Nature Nocturne at The Canadian Museum of Nature
Once a month, The Canadian Museum of Nature opens its doors at night to live music, dancing and the chance to see all the exhibits. Each month has a new theme and the event runs from 8:00 PM-Midnight. Tickets are $25. Just make sure to dress up!
Other noteworthy places to check out
- Parliament of Canada – Free admission and tours offered
- Diefenbunker – Canada’s Cold War Museum. Admission cost $14/adult.
- Bytown Museum – Located in Ottawa’s oldest stone building the museum showcases the history of Ottawa’s early years. Admission cost $6.50/adult.
- Royal Canadian Mint – Learn how Canadian coins are made. Admission $6 on weekdays and $4.50 on weekends.
15. Play Food & Wine
For romantic things to do in Ottawa involving food, dine at Play Food & Wine. They offer small plates prepared from scratch with local and seasonal products whenever possible. They have an open concept kitchen on the second floor so you can watch the chefs at work! Best of all, they’ve got wine to match each and every dish. The waiters are knowledgeable about menu and wine options which were very useful for me since I can’t decide on anything.
Typically, 4-6 plates will be good for a couple, and with wine, your bill can easily go over $100. If you are on a budget, they offer a special lunch menu where you can get any two plates for $22.
Jugo and I went for a Friday night dinner which really met our foodie expectations. Our top three favorite dishes were the gnocchi, grilled octopus and Nutella chocolate bomb for dessert. Eating the gnocchi was like eating fluffy clouds. It was served in a sauce full of flavor, with mushrooms, olives and a few other ingredients we didn’t know. It was delicious!
The grilled octopus was served on an onion relish, with a raisin puree, and topped with crushed nuts. This dish tasted very different from the Mediterranean octopus we were used to which was a delicious surprise.
The Nutella chocolate bomb was deliriously chocolatey and difficult to share!
16. Brew Donkey
In recent years many local breweries have started up in Canada’s capital, which makes this city a hotspot for all craft beer enthusiasts. A great way to explore the local craft beer scene is to go on a tour with Brew Donkey. They offer many different tours, year-round, on Saturdays and Sundays. Each tour has at least three breweries that you’ll visit with many samples of craft beer to taste. They also collaborate with other local businesses, so other tours offer craft beer sampling with escape rooms, ax throwing games, and archery!
Jugo and I were on the Hop On Board tour which was over 5 hours long and involved three craft breweries visits. They picked us up on a bus with a tour guide who told us all about brewing beer on route.
Breweries On The Tour
Our first stop was to Bicycle Craft Brewery which opened up in September 2014. This place is run by a husband and wife duo who quit their jobs to follow their passion for craft beer and bicycling. I loved the scotch ale there.
Our second stop was at Level One which combines craft beer with awesome boardgames! We literally could have spent the day there.
The last stop on the tour took us to Gatineau at Gainsbourg. We had three generous samples of beer and got a tour of their facilities. The Bonnie Parker was my favorite.
If you are interested in exploring more of Ottawa’s craft beer scene check out
- Lowerton Brewery – pre-Prohibition cocktails, craft beer and comfort food (73 York St)
- Mill Street Brew Pub – Located in a beautiful stone building on the Ottawa River that was built in 1850. (555 Wellington St)
- Waller St. Brewing – Located in the basement of a heritage building with craft beers galore.
- Clocktower Brew Pub – They’ve got 6 different locations around the city but all beer is brewed in-house at their original Glebe location.
17. ByWard Market
In the heart of downtown Ottawa is the ByWard Market, packed will all kinds of foodie shops and restaurants. The open-air market where items like meat, produce and flowers have been selling since the 1840’s.
Some noteworthy shops to check out include BeaverTails, The House of Cheese, The Cupcake Lounge, and Le Moulin de Provence for the Justin Trudeau cookies. If you want an insiders guide to the ByWard Market, check out the ByWard Market Contemporary Food & Wine Tour.
For other foodie things check out
- C’est bon – They offer a couples cooking class every month for $105/per person.
- Art Is In Bakery – A tantalizing bakery with the best bread in town.
- Blue Gypsy Wines – Run by a husband and wife duo, this vineyard offers wine tastings for $5. You will need a car to get here as it is 45 minutes south of Ottawa.
- The Vanitea Tea Room – Live out your Downton Abbey fantasy by going for high tea. Breakfast tea is $30 from 9:00 -11:30 AM and afternoon tea cost $40 and runs from 12:00-4:30 PM.
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This blog post has been sponsored by Ottawa Tourism. As always, all opinions and travel tips are my own.