Don’t get us wrong, the holidays are a truly magical season. But, between gift-buying and various other social obligations, your budget can take a serious hit this time of year. Don’t worry though; despite your financial situation, you can still have a good time in the capital. With so many festive free things to do in Ottawa this December, you can experience all of the fun without the cost.
Of course, the capital in December is likely to be a snowy mess, but with all that white stuff comes some seriously beautiful views for you to soak in and enjoy.
From free skating to live music, festive markets, free movies, incredible light displays, and so much more, there really is fun to be had by all.
So if you’re just as obsessed with the holidays as we are, then you’re going to love the list of activities and events that we’ve gathered for you.
You won’t even believe that some of this stuff is totally free. But, it is. So put those wallets away and get ready for some festive Ottawa fun.
All that’s left to do is start planning your epic December bucket list ASAP.
Christmas Lights Across Canada
When: December 4 until January 7
Address: Parliament Hill, Wellington St., Ottawa, ON
Why You Need To Go: You can take in a breathtaking light and sound show any night of the week.
Skating on Rideau Canal
When: Weather permitting
Address: Downtown Ottawa, ON
Why You Need To Go: The infamous canal is a winter staple that's sure to put you in a festive mood.
Explore Sir John A. Macdonald Winter Trail
Address: Ottawa River Pathway, Ottawa, ON
Why You Need To Go: You can bust out all of the festive winter activities on this gorgeous trail. From skiing to snow biking and more.
Tobogganing at Greens Creek
Address: East end of Ottawa, ON
Why You Need To Go: Nothing says holiday vacation like spending the day zooming down epic toboggan hills like the one at Greens Creek.
Escape The Cold at the Museum of Nature
When: Thursdays from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Address:240 McLeod St., Ottawa, ON
Why You Need To Go: During those extra cold winter nights, you can pop into the museum and stand under the moon.
Christmas Classics At Cineplex
When: December 7 from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m.
Address: Scotiabank Theatre Ottawa & Cineplex Cinemas Ottawa, ON
Why You Need To Go: You can take in one of your favourite holiday classics for free this season. From Elf to National Lampoons Christmas Vacation and more indulge yourself in festive nostalgia.
Browse the Ottawa Christmas Market
Price: Free entry
When: Now until December 22
Address: 1015 Bank St., Ottawa, ON
Why You Need To Go: You certainly don't need to buy anything to have some festive fun at Ottawa's incredible outdoor Christmas Market. Take in the lights and sounds and get all of the festive photos with your besties.
Window Shopping at Tinsel Town Emporium
When: Weekdays from 10 a.m., Saturdays 9 a.m. to 7 p.m., Sundays 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Address: 1096 Somerset St. W., Ottawa, ON
Why You Need To Go: If you're obsessed with all things Christmas, then window shopping at this magical emporium is a must.
Drive Down Taffy Lane
When: Throughout December
Address: Taffy Lane, Orleans, ON
Why You Need To Go: The residents of Taffy Lane are known for their spectacular holiday light displays. You can walk or drive around to take in all of the festive views.
Soak Up The Views at Nepean Point
Address: Behind The National Gallery of Canada, 380 Sussex Dr., Ottawa, ON
Why You Need To Go: The views from here simply can't be beaten. Especially in the winter when the snowfall makes the parliament buildings look like a snowy castle.
Skating at Sens Rink of Dreams
When: Daily from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m.
Address: 110 Laurier Ave. W., Ottawa, ON
Why You Need To Go: If the canal is a little too much for you, you can enjoy smaller-scale skating at the charming Sens Rink of Dreams. They even have colourful lights in the evening.
Wander Through Experimental Farm
Address: 960 Carling Ave., Ottawa, ON
Why You Need To Go: The farm is beautiful any time of year, but it transforms into a true magical winter wonderland with a little snow.
Winter Hike Through Mer Bleue Bog
When: Daily from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Address: Ridge Road, Ottawa, ON
Why You Need To Go: This enchanting wintry forest feels like a real-life fairytale, complete with birds who will eat right out of your hands.
Christmas Carols At Sunset
When: Sunday, December 8 from 5 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.
Address: Watson's Mill, 5525 Dickinson St., Manotick, ON
Why You Need To Go: You can head out to the adorable Watson's Mill and listen to charming live Christmas carols to get you in the spirit.
Share A #WhereHolidaySpiritLives Selfie To Win
When: Until December 18
Address: Various locations, Ottawa, ON
Why You Need To Go: Just by sharing a festive photo of yourself at one of three locations in the city, you could win one of three $500 Rideau Centre gift cards. To find exact rules and locations be sure to check the website.
Holiday Tunes at CF Rideau Centre
When: Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. until December 19
Address: Nordstrom court, CF Rideau Centre, 50 Rideau St., Ottawa, ON
Why You Need To Go: You can enjoy a live free festive DJ performance every Thursday to get you feeling holly and jolly.
Contribute to the Wishing Wall
When: Until January 2 from 6 a.m. to 12 a.m.
Address: National Arts Centre, 1 Elgin St., Ottawa, ON
Why You Need To Go: If you have a special holiday wish, why not write it down and add it to the wishing wall? The paper is embedded with seeds and in the spring, all of your wishes will be planted so they can grow into beautiful gardens around the National Arts Centre.