Experience the culture of Canada’s capital, with flights from Chicago to Ottawa.
Ottawa may be the political centre of Canada, but this capital city still knows how to have a good time. From skating down the Rideau Canal to racing an F-16 flight simulator in the Canadian Aviation and Space Museum, there are always fun things to do in Ottawa.
The politics themselves are anything but boring. Take a tour through the Centre Block of Parliament Hill to see the Senate and House of Commons at work. Watch from the viewing balcony as politicians face off in fiery debates.
See more Senators face off at the Canadian Tire Centre. Ottawa’s NHL team, the Senators, takes to the ice in hopes of hockey glory. If you’re lucky, you might even get to cheer on your home team, when the Ottawa Senators play the Chicago Blackhawks.
After bonding over ice hockey, get to know your neighbours to the north a little better at one of Ottawa’s many museums. Canadian arts and culture are on display at the National Gallery of Canada. Along the Rideau Canal, the Bytown Museum will take you through the past of Canada’s capital.
Ottawa’s history is planted in the wilderness at the Vanier Museopark. Part museum, part park, the Vanier is dedicated to Ottawa’s francophone heritage. During tree-tapping season, sweeten the deal with a taste of the maple syrup goods made from the park’s trees available in the gift shop.
Before you go back to Chicago, be sure to visit Major’s Hill Park. Enjoy the outdoors and cultural events of the park, before heading to some of Ottawa’s other attractions like the ByWard Market and Royal Canadian Mint, both within walking distance of the park.
When you’re in town from Chicago, be sure to see one of Ottawa’s top attractions, on Parliament Hill.
Guided tours through Parliament Hill’s Centre Block building will take you through the building’s hundred-year history. After a fire in 1916 destroyed the old building, the current gothic revival style structure was built. All that remains of the old structure is the Library of Parliament. This 1876 building was spared from the flames, providing a window into the old structures architecture.
On your tour, you can pass through the quiet Victorian halls of the library’s reading rooms before heading to the heated debates of the Senate and House of Commons.
To the east of the Centre Block, you’ll find the aptly named East Block. Inside this Victorian High Gothic building, there are faithful recreations of the offices of past residents. In the office of Canada’s first Prime Minister, Sir John A. MacDonald, his original horsehair sofa and a double desk are incorporated into the decor. If you’re visiting from Chicago while tours are not in season, the exterior architecture is still worth a few photos.
From the East Block, head west to the Supreme Court of Canada. Take a walk through the court’s library and art gallery, or sit in on a hearing. This is the highest court in Canada and well worth a tour, even if only to see the intricate portraits of judges past.
After your visit to the Supreme Court is adjourned, it’s time to traverse the Trans Canada Trail. Also known as the Great Trail, this 24,000 km path stretches across Canada, from sea to shining sea. You’ll only have to take a small section of the trail to pass by the Ottawa River and the Bytown Museum, situated along the Rideau Canal.
After leaving the Hill, make your way to Sparks Street for some of Ottawa’s best shopping. If you’re here in the evening, the Haunted Walk of Ottawa will take you from Sparks Street to some of Ottawa’s darkest history. Walk through the past, listening to stories that will leave chills up your spine long after you’ve gone back to Chicago.
Enjoy the getaway of Gatineau Park on your visit from Chicago. Just 15 minutes away from Ottawa, the wilderness of neighbouring Québec is waiting to be explored.
If you like to hike, get your walking shoes ready for over 165 km of trails that run throughout the park. Try your trekking skills at the 290-metre climb up the Eardley Escarpment along the Luskville Falls Trail. At the top, your efforts are rewarded with a sweeping view over the Ottawa River Valley. For a low-effort amble, the 1 km Des Fées Trail leads to some of Gatineau Park’s best bird watching.
After watching the skies, take to the water at one of Gatineau Park’s swimming spots. Between the park’s three lakes (Meech, Phillipe, and La Peche), there are six swimming beaches. Whether you relax at the popular Breton Beach or set out to see all six, the lakeside is always lovely.
When the waters freeze over, Gatineau Park is still a lively place to visit. Cross-country skiers cut through the snow along 200 km of trails, including 100 km of skate trails, and 45 wild km of backcountry trails. Ranging in length from 8 to 40 km, there are ski trails for every level of ambition and cold tolerance.
After a long day in Gatineau Park’s great outdoors, stay the night at one of the many camping options available. Get cozy in a yurt, or rough it in the tent campsites. After a good night’s sleep, you’ll be ready for another amazing day on your trip from Chicago.
Fly from Chicago Midway International Airport (MDW) to Ottawa Macdonald-Cartier International Airport (YOW), with a quick connection in Toronto. Chicago to Ottawa flight time is 2 hours and 35 minutes on average. Connection times vary. The distance from Chicago to Ottawa is around 1,054 km / 655 mi.
Enjoy complimentary drinks and snacks along the way.