Sweater weather is here! and the outdoors is still a great place to be with all the fall colours and warmer days. BUT since our weather in Ottawa is usually super cold during the winter, as beautiful as it sometimes can be, it keeps us cooped up at home and we can tend to get stir crazy. I have compiled a list of the top 10 kid-friendly indoor things to do in Ottawa during the winter so we can adventure out into the wild without worrying about the frigid Canadian cold. I’ve also got a bunch of honourable mentions that are great for date-night or out with friends sans-children.
For the purpose of this article “in Ottawa” means within an hour’s drive, including the Quebec side, and the outer towns of the National Capital Region (NCR).
Top 10 Kid-Friendly Indoor Activities To Do In Ottawa During The Winter
As a new mom, things can get pretty lonely. It becomes exponentially worse in the stir-crazy department when you have a baby in the winter and can’t go outside. Yes, we Canadians still take children outside, but I refused to take my newborn into the minus 20-degree weather unless it was to walk to-from the car, and let’s face it, that’s pretty much all we get from November through April! We will be experiencing our second winter together this January, so I have done some serious scouting on things to do so I can prevent a second round of cabin fever.
This is my list of activities to do during the winter with a baby (under 2) that can easily be done with an older child as well. I’ve done many of them, before and after baby (when you’re allergic to the cold like me, indoors is your only option!), and a few others that I am very excited to do. Bring on the adventures!
Kid-Friendly Indoor Outings
- WildChild Coffee Project. Need I say more? This place was literally designed to allow parents to enjoy a hot beverage while it is still hot, while their child plays in an enclosed filled-with-safe-toys place. Sure you could go on a solo coffee date somewhere else or meet up with a friend, but your kid couldn’t crawl around or run off their energy before nap time could they…? Nope. This place is the bomb. Go try it out! –> www.wildchildcoffeeproject.com [UPDATE 2024: Opened under a new name in Almonte]
- Parent&Kid Classes. These come in all shapes and sizes, to fit every interest, lifestyle, and budget. You can join a simple mommy&me class, you can register for mom&me rumba, or you can sign up for a class to learn french or sign language with your baby. Here are some of the ones I did and loved! (tell them I sent you, and they might just have a surprise for you)
- Indoor Kid Gyms. If you’ve got a little mover or even a big one, these allow for them to burn off that extra energy, while you can sort of relax while supervising them. Most serve some food and beverage options, but if you plan it as a group activity, it’s a great mini social event as well. There are many across the city, but the most popular are My Gym (Barrhaven), A Gym Tale (Barrhaven), and Bubblesea Adventures (Nepean). Know of another? Please let me know!
- The Library. Seriously, this might seem counter-intuitive with children (who are often loud), but most public libraries in Ottawa (and other towns) have age-specific storytime events. They run weekly during the school year, and monthly during the summer. They are free to attend and do not require advanced registration, so if your walk to the park planned for today turned into a ‘crap it is raining, what do I do’ scenario, odds are that one or more locations have one. If not, head to the children’s section of the library anyways and host your own reading as you pick out books to bring home. I personally love the Centerpointe location for the large selection of board books (by the way, if you register baby for a library card, you qualify for a free book to keep forever!). –> www.biblioottawalibrary.ca/en/Book-for-your-Baby
- Playgroups or Drop-Ins. There are dozens upon dozens of drop-in playgroups across the city for babies and young children, at different times on different days so you are bound to find something if you’re feeling antsy and need to escape the house on any given day. Yes, some even run on the weekends! It’s a little outdated, but this list of local Ottawa playgroups is a great place to start.
- The Mall (Bayshore, Rideau, St Laurent, Place d’Orleans). As much as this one is super cliché, it works. You don’t have to buy anything, you can use it as an excuse to exercise or just to be able to say you did (thousands of steps worth!), and you can easily do this at a thrift store too (this would normally have counted as it’s own point, but I resisted!).
- IKEA Scavenger Hunt. This one could easily be treated like a mall trip because of how humungous the store is, also there is food and a play centre, but making it into a fun activity with a group of friends is so much better!
- Stars & Strollers (Movie Theatre). This one is something that I was not previously aware of, but they literally have matinées specifically for parents and babies to come enjoy so that you get that theatre experience, without having to worry about your kid screaming and disturbing everyone. Don’t get me wrong, they probably will fuss, and you’ll need to run out for a feed or change at some point, but every single person in attendance will get it, no judgement. Now that is worth the effort to make it out of the house! In Ottawa, this is offered at the Carling and Barrhaven Cineplex locations.
- Museums (Civilisations, Nature, Science & Technology, War, etc.). This one is best enjoyed with an older child so that they can get some enjoyment out of it too, but who’s to say you don’t want to go learn a few things to keep your brain cells working. Mom brain is real!
- St Albert Cheese Factory. Now that the factory has been rebuilt, you can actually go in for a tour, see the machines at work, and sample some yummy cheese. I mean, do I need to say more than fresh cheese curds!? Sidenote: they also have the summer festival on-site every year, which has bands, shops, free cheese, and kiddie rides so even if you don’t make it out there this winter, keep an eye out for that fun summer activity. See you there! –> www.festivaldelacurd.ca/en/
- BONUS! Arcades. Yes, this one is totally more of a parent-enjoyed activity, but just because you have to be a responsible adult now doesn’t mean you can’t break loose every once in a while. Just maybe stay off the DDR if you’re wearing your babe. Have older kids, they will enjoy it just as much! Even though I am sad Midway is gone, FunHaven is a popular one, and smaller ones exist around the city–some movie theatres even have a dedicated arcade game section (Carling does for sure!).
Honourable Mentions: Great For Date-Night or Moms’ Night Out
These are reminiscent of my pre-baby days, but deserve the opportunity to be enjoyed. Because once your baby grows out of that sleeping-all-the-time newborn phase, the judgy eyes come out to play. But also, you want to escape those little buggers sometimes–even if only long enough to enjoy a kid-free dinner at an actual sit-down restaurant.
- In-Person Workshops
- Aquatopia Cafe (inside but looks like it’s outside!)
- Board Game Cafe (try The Loft downtown!)
- Trampoline Jumping (try Sky Zone near Elmvale)
- Tour a Brewery
- Paint Nite
- Pottery (or other DIY crafts)
- Indoor versions of sports like paintball or archery
- Escape Rooms
- Lazer Tag
- Indoor Rock Climbing
- Le Spa Nordik
Cheers!This post does NOT contain any affiliate links, but I totally wish I could make a few bucks for sharing my favourite things!