As Ottawa prepares for the 150th year anniversary of Canada where there will be many events - probably costly ones from the way the advertising has already begun on it despite being a year away there are six free things you can do in Ottawa that are vastly worthwhile whether you are visiting as a backpacker at a hostel or with your family.
A stone's throw from Parliament Hill, easily the most iconic image of not only Ottawa but all of Canada, is Canada's Supreme Court. You can take free tours of the building where important cases are contested and can change the way the rest of Canada's legal system thinks. Surprisingly the art deco designed building is more important than Drake to Canada.
Aside from being the place where the very handsome Prime Minster Justin Trudeau spends a lot of his time working, Parliament Hill is the main attraction for Ottawa. Inside the historical building you'll be able to see the many portraits of Canada's previous Prime Minister's as well as the remarkable portrait of Queen Victoria which somehow survived the original parliament building burning down during WWII as well as two other earlier fires. That portrait is proof that fire cannot kill a dragon. You get to see this and more thanks to the free tour that is put on by government employees. Depending on the time of year you go you can get a completely different tour to anyone else.
The Rideau Canal is famed for the sheer size of it. During winter Canadians will strap on their skates and glide along the canal - it's famed to be the world's largest skating rink - where you can get a delicious Beaver Tail (don't worry it's not actually a Beaver Tail, it's sugary dough) or see the intricate ice sculptures. In the warmer months the Rideau is perfect to walk or bike along as it's an interesting piece of Canadian history as it took six years to create and is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
If you don't have skates, you can rent them for a small fee at a number of skate shops near the canal in the winter. Similarly you are able to rent bicycles for a reasonable fee too.
Whether you go to Ottawa in winter or summer there is always something going on. Most important is the cultural creativity of the city as there is outdoor art. Sometimes in ice while others are in steel. Artist Louise Bourgeois created a well-known large spider that is reminiscent of Tim Burton's iconic artistry. The piece is entitled 'Maman' and sits outside of the National Gallery of Canada. Some pieces aren't as obvious, however. On a parking garage on Murray Street there are fourteen alley cat sculptures. There are more than just these two pieces and the best part of this it being able to find it all yourself through your self-directed tour through the city.
If you're like me, stargazing is your jam. In a city it is nearly impossible without a lot of money, right? Wrong because Ottawa's Science and Technology Museum offers free use of their telescopes to patrons. Go to Ottawa and see the stars!
The Peace Tower is a free addition to the already free tour of Parliament Hill where you are able to take an elevator to the 360 degree view of the city and hear the bells chime from the iconic building. The tower signifies remembrance of past wars and a vow to keep peace in future wars and is the greatest cultural marker of the Canadian people because while it may seem like a call to arms the Peace Tower is about the 'Victory of Peace' with figures showing us how to be peaceful including a quote from the iconic poem In Flander's Fields. If the historical important of the building doesn't matter much to you (no judgement, seriously) you can great photos from the top of the whole city where you could do six things for free!