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Free (or super cheap) outdoor fun in Ottawa

By Katie Marsh on July 18, 2012

Want to have some summer fun, but are pinching your pennies to feed your daily gelato habit? The following list of free or very cheap outdoor activities is a work in progress by Fiona Marshall. Fiona is working on the list for the Money Skills workshops offered by the Canadian Mental Health Association to people with severe and persistent mental health issues, a program sponsored by the TD Financial Literacy Fund.

Help out Fiona (and your fellow cheapskates) by suggesting free or cheap recreational activities that we may have missed in the comments!


There are numerous soccer, basketball, ultimate frisbee, and football pick-up games throughout the city. All it takes is the initiative to ask if a game is a league game or a pick-up game and if you can join.

We have included a sampling of pick-up games around town:


The Ontario Soccer Association’s (OSA) Soccer and Settlement project runs several soccer programs in different communities across Ottawa. Contact Javier Clavelo at or at 613.233.6561 ext 228 for more details.

Held on the last Sunday before Canada Day, the Community Cup is a day-long event designed to engage the community and reduce isolation and challenges faced by many newcomers. It is recreational co-ed soccer tournament bridging and connecting cultures, ethnicities, and generations.  More info: Tel (613) 232-9634.

There’s also several regular pick-up soccer games happening around the city:

  • MacDonald Garden Park (Wurtemburg & Heney St), Mon-Wed, Fri, 6pm to 8pm
  • NRC (Montreal Rd. and Blair Rd.), Sun, from 1- 3pm
  • Chamberlain Park (Chamberlain Ave. and Lyon St.), Sun 1- 3pm
  • NRC (Montreal Rd. and Blair Rd.), Tues-Thur, 12:30- 2pm
  • Brewer Park (Bronson Ave. and Brewer Way), Fri, 6-8pm
  • Ottawa U Sports Complex (Templeton St.), Sat, 11am- 1pm



Ottawa has a great network of bicycle paths.  You can pick up an affordable refurbished bike from Cycle Salvation ($40-$70 473 Bronson Avenue (near Gladstone,) or  sometimes on you can get your hand on a free bike from someone who no longer rides it.

Useful links:

MEC hosts a free Cycle Meet up every Thursday at 6:30pm, starting from 366 Richmond Road. Call 613.729.2700 for more details


Ottawa has numerous routes that are fun to jog including the experimental farm, along the rivers or in the greenbelt or simply the streets in your neighbourhood.  The main cost is a good pair of running shoes, you don’t want to scrimp on those because you could pay for it later in foot or knee injuries.

There are also a number of Group Runs taking place around town:

  • Euro-sports, 13 Bullman (off Parkdale Ave) Street ,  Mon 6 pm start, Website:
  • Mountain Equipment Coop, 366 Richmond Road, Ottawa, Ontario  K2A 0E8, 613.729.2700, Thu 6:30PM
  • Running Room Glebe, 901 Bank St. , Ottawa K1S 3W5, 233-5617, Wed.: 6:00 p.m. & Sun.: 8:30 a.m
  • Running Room Downtown, 160 Slater, Ottawa, K1P 5H8, 613-233-5165, Wed.: 6:00 p.m. & Sun.: 8:30 a.m
  • Running Room Kanata, 484 Hazeldean K2L 1Z4, 613-831-4409, Wed.: 6:30 p.m. & Sun.: 8:30 a.m
  • Running Room Orleans, 260 Centrum Blvd. K1E 3P4, 613-830-7539, Wed.: 6:30 p.m. & Sun.: 8:30 a.m


Walking is a great activity you can do it alone or in a group, all you need is a reasonable pair of shoes. Most walking groups are free.

  • Merivale High School, Get W.I.T.H. It  613-727-7070, Tues and Thurs,  Nov- May, 6 to 8 pm
  • Dempsey Community Centre Indoor Walking Club, 613-247-4846, Mon, Wed, Fri 10:30 – noon
  • Hintonburg Walking Indoor Walking Club, 613-798-8874, Mon-Fri 9- 10 am
  • Superdome at Ben Franklin Park Indoor Walking, 613-829-3663, Mon, Wed, Fri,  8-10 am,Tues, Thurs 2- 4 pm
  • Superdome Bearbrook Road Indoor Walking, 613-590-1660, Mon, Wed,   Friday 8-10 am,Tues, Thur 2-4 pm
  • Ottawa-Carleton Volkssporting Association, 613-824-1583, Special walk outings weekly
  • Ottawa Voyageurs d’Ottawa Walking Club, 613-824-7332, Special walk outings weekly
  • Richelieu-Vanier Walking Club, 613-580-2424 ext. 36058, Tues, Thurs 9-10 am
  • Sweet Beat Walking Group McNeil Pharmacy Carling Ave, 613-722-7679, Friday noon to 1 pm
  • Sweet Beat Walking Group White Cross Dispensary Elgin St, 613-233-4029,Tues, noon to 1 pm
  • Nepean Nomads, 613-828-3216, Special walk outings weekly
  • Centretown CHC Outdoor Walking Group Cooper Street, 613-233-4443, Friday 1 to 2:30 pm
  • Rideau Trail Association Ottawa Club, 613-825-2225, various (Membership $25/yr)

If you prefer the indoors, there are plenty of “mall walking” groups you can join

  •  Bayshore Shopping Centre – Heart Walk , 613-829-7491, Everyday 7 to 9 am
  • Billings Bridge Shopping Centre – Pacesetters, 613-521-6740, Mon to Fri 7:30-10 am
  • Carlingwood Shopping Centre – Walk A Mall, 613-725-1551ext. 231, Everyday 6:30- 9:30 am
  • Lincoln Fields Shopping Centre Walking Club, 613-828-3783, Please call
  • Merivale Mall – Trekkers Walking Club, 613-226-1290, Mon-Sat 7- 9 am, Su 11 – noon
  • Hazeldean Mall Walking Club – In Club Mall Walkers, 613-591-1294, Mon- Fri,7:30-10:30 am
  • Place d’Orléans – Mall Walking Club, 613-824-9050, Tues, Thur 8:30-10:30 am Oct- May
  • St. Laurent Centre, – Wild About Walking Program, 613-580-6744 ext. 26189, Mon, Wed, Fri mornings – Year round
  • Westgate Shopping Centre Walking Club, 613-722-3433, Please call


Geocaching is a high-tech treasure hunting game. Serious geocachers will probably want to use a GPS unit, which can be pricey, but if you have a smartphone there are many geocaching apps you can download for pennies (some are even free). They’ll do the trick if you’re just after an afternoon of fun! The pastime involves using GPS coordinates to find hidden containers, called geocaches, and then logging your finds online. The containers contain a logbook for you to sign, and sometimes a small, inexpensive prize. Each time you take something from a geocache, you should leave something behind for the next person. Geocache coordinates can be found at a number of websites, the most prominent one being Basic membership to is free and lets you search for nearby geocaches using your postal code.

Website: Ontario Geocaching Association.


There are over 100 free tennis courts in Ottawa.  You can get ahold of an affordable secondhand tennis racket through kijiji, garage sales or second hand sports stores.

Check this list of public courts: or phone 311



The City of Ottawa offers help with program fees so that all residents can take part in recreation and culture activities regardless of their ability to pay. If you are already a participant in a community or social service agency program, or if you are an individual or family with a low-income, you may qualify for the Ottawa Hand in Hand recreation and culture fee support program. For more information on the Ottawa Hand in Hand, Recreation and Culture Fee Support, please click here or phone 311

Recreation Guides

Recreation centres:



The National Capital Region YMCA-YWCA is Ottawa’s leading resource for health, fitness and recreation, child care, camping and outdoor education, and social services. Subsidized rates based in income are available

Taggart Family Y: 180 Argyle Avenue, Ottawa, ON K2P 1B7 / Tel: 613.788.5000

Carlingwood Y: 200 Lockhart Avenue, Ottawa, ON K2A 4C6 / Tel: 613.729.7131

Downtown Y: 99 Bank Street Sun Life Financial Centre, Level B1 Ottawa, ON K1P 6B9 / Tel: 613.233.9331

Kanata Y: 1000 Palladium Drive (Scotiabank Place) Kanata, ON K2V 1A4 / Tel: 613.599.0280

Nepean Y: 1642 Merivale Road (Merivale Mall), 2nd floor Nepean, ON K2G 4A1 / Tel: 613.727.7070



The City of Ottawa offers Standard Category public swims at the following indoor facilities, year-round. Swims in the Standard category are ($10 or less for a family of four). Standard swim prices: family admission (maximum 2 adults) $1.90 per person (tots 2 and under get in for free).

The City of Ottawa also offers Leisure category public swimming year-round. Leisure swim prices: $2.90 per person, tots 2 and under get in for free.



City arenas offer public skating, family skating sessions, adult skating sessions, 50+ skating sessions and pick up hockey for adults.

Schedules vary by arena. All arenas offer skating from October 1 to March 31; some arenas offer skating year-round. See website for details. Check individual arena listings prior to going as schedules are subject to change. Public skating fees are $6.75/family (2 adults, 2 children).

Website: List of City of Ottawa Arenas:   Search Public Skating Schedules:

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