As the cooler winter weather arrives, Canada’s charming capital gets into the holiday spirit with a flurry of special events. From beautiful colourful cityscapes created by thousands upon thousands of twinkling lights, to festive theatre presentations and culinary delights, you’ll easily be enchanted by the magic of the season in Ottawa. Here are just a few activity suggestions, ordered by start date, that are sure to get you into a jolly holiday mood!
Magic of Lights: Nov. 17, 2017 – Jan. 6, 2018
Head just west of Ottawa’s downtown core to Wesley Clover Parks for Magic of Lights, a drive-through holiday light display. Nearly one million LED lights are spread over two kilometres, including a 200-foot light tunnel and large LED displays of your favourite winter characters like snowmen, elves and more. Select proceeds from each carload admission benefit the Ottawa Senator’s Foundation.
20th Annual Trees of Hope for CHEO: Nov. 27, 2017 – Jan. 8, 2018
Head to the historic Fairmont Château Laurier hotel to see several beautifully decorated Christmas trees throughout the holiday season during Trees of Hope! Opt to enjoy Afternoon Tea or a meal at the hotel followed by a stroll through the lovely trees located throughout their storied halls. This is a holiday season tradition for many.
Christmas at the Casino du Lac-Leamy: Dec. 1 – Dec. 23, 2017 (and beyond)
Take photos with Santa Claus, the Grinch and other festive characters in the Casino’s main entrance (Dec. 1-23; free). In December and January, special menus will be offered at on-site restaurants (including the CAA-AAA Five Diamond Le Baccara), Casino bar areas will feature live music and the theatre will host great events. And don’t forget to party at Aléa Nightclub and enjoy 24/7 gaming!
Christmas in the Market: Dec. 2 – Dec. 17 (select dates)
The ByWard Market neighbourhood is always a festive place to be, especially during their Christmas celebrations. For the first 3 weekends in December, you’ll find Christmas choirs caroling and complimentary wagon rides around the historic area.
Ottawa Farmers’ Market – Christmas Market: Dec. 2 – 23, 2017 (select dates)
At this Christmas Market, you’ll find over 120 producers from the Ottawa area and beyond presenting their food, arts and craft products. The event takes place Saturdays and Sundays between Dec. 2 and 23 at the Aberdeen Pavilion at Lansdowne, except Dec. 16-17 at the EY Centre. Free admission.
The Nutcracker at the NAC: Dec. 6 – 10, 2017
The Royal Winnipeg Ballet adds delightful twists like Mounties, hockey and reindeer to this popular show. For more family fun, show up one hour before the show time for dress-up, arts and crafts, dancing, and more!
Alight at Night: Dec. 1, 2017 – Jan. 6, 2018 (select dates)
Just a 45-minute drive south of Ottawa’s downtown core in Morrisburg, Ont., you’ll find 1860’s Upper Canada Village adorned with nearly one million twinkling lights, holiday music, carollers and festive snacks. Stroll through the heritage village, take a horse-drawn wagon ride, or ride the life-size, family-friendly Toy Train that winds its way around the village. For a more private experience, reserve a ride in a romantic Pommier Carriage for two – a perfect occasion to propose to that special someone or to celebrate an anniversary!
Nightmare Before/After X-mas tour: Dec. 5 – 30 (select dates)
Join the Haunted Walk on this special walking tour as they explore the darker side of the festive season. Hear about strange and frightening holiday traditions from around the world and creepy Christmas-themed ghost stories. Most of the tour takes place inside the spooky Bytown Museum, one of Ottawa’s oldest and most haunted buildings!
A Christmas Carol at the NAC: Dec. 5 – 24, 2017
This beloved holiday classic by Charles Dickens is a popular production by the National Arts Centre’s English Theatre. The one and only Andy Jones as Ebenezer Scrooge brings the story to life! Also make sure to take time to explore the NAC’s beautifully renovated spaces.
Christmas Lights Across Canada: Dec. 7, 2017 – Jan. 7, 2018
Join the fun Dec. 7, 2017 on Parliament Hill for the Christmas Lights Across Canada illumination ceremony, complete with carollers and hot chocolate. From then until Jan. 7, 2018, Ottawa’s downtown streets and several monument sites are lit up with hundreds of thousands of dazzling coloured lights. Plus, don’t miss the magical Winter Lightscapes show projected on Parliament’s Centre Block!
Skating on Parliament Hill: Dec. 7 – 31, 2017
Something new for the bucket list: skating on the first ever skating rink in front of Parliament Hill! Canadian Heritage, the Ottawa International Hockey Festival and the Ottawa Senators have partnered to offer free skating as well as a variety of special winter events, including Canada 150 Skating Day on Dec. 10!
Originals Ottawa Christmas Craft Sale: Dec. 7 – 17, 2017 (except Dec. 11)
The Originals Ottawa Christmas Craft Sale is a popular annual event with 200 vendors offering one-of-a-kind items that are perfect for your holiday shopping list. The event takes place Dec. 7-17 at the EY Centre, except for closure on Dec. 11.
National Gallery of Canada’s Christmas Tree Lighting: Dec. 7, 2017
The Gallery will be lighting its giant tree and offering special activities! Make a beaded swirl ornament to take with you, listen to Stellae Boreales, Ottawa Suzuki Strings’ violin ensemble, and enjoy complimentary hot chocolate and a treat. The tree will be on display until January 7, 2018.
The Nutcracker: Dec. 8 – 10, 2017
See a performance of the classic ballet The Nutcracker by the Linda Jamieson Dance Company of Ottawa at the Algonquin Commons Theatre, just west of Ottawa’s downtown core.
Christmas Candlelight Service: Dec. 10, 2017
Looking for a special way to remember loved ones? Head to Beechwood National Memorial Centre for this outdoors candlelight memorial, which features carols and a tree-lighting ceremony.
Chamberfest Christmas Concerts: Dec. 14 – 15, 2017
The Ottawa International Chamber Music Festival invites you to their Christmas concerts at St. Joseph’s Parish Church near downtown Ottawa. Enjoy Gerald Finzi’s In Terra Pax and sing along to your favourites carols and English folk melodies of Ralph Vaughan Williams’s Fantasia on Christmas Carols.