When my road trip with dogs series got WAY too big to house in a single blog post, I separated each dog-friendly destination in favour of producing a post for each individual city. This is the Ottawa edition! Here, you’ll find everything you need to visit the nation’s capital with your dog — including an amazing Ottawa pet-friendly hotel option for two budget ranges, plus all of the best places to take your Best Furry Friend while you’re there.
Looking for a different pet-friendly city? Maybe you’ll find it in my road trip with dogs post, brimming with ideas thanks to snapshots of many dog-friendly destinations. It also links to more detailed pet-friendly trips (like this one) for each city I’ve covered — with more coming as fast as we can get there to experience them firsthand.
Dog-friendly destinations — Ottawa
When we got our first road trip with dogs to Lake Placid planned, I decided it would be wise to look at our route to pre-determine pee breaks (for both the kids and Duchess). I mentioned aloud that Ottawa would be a good spot, despite it being a minor detour. The kids heard and begged us to hang out in Ottawa en route home.
So, we did even better than that and decided to add an entire weekend in Ottawa at the tail end of Lake Placid. Sure, it meant stopping to buy extra dog food and underwear, but what the heck? Because apparently we are crazy.
If you’re travelling in the warmer months, you’ve gotta check out these 9 weekend getaways in Ontario — one of which is Ottawa.
Ottawa pet-friendly hotel + things to do with your dog in Ottawa
Every time I’ve visited Ottawa — Canada’s capital for those of you non-Canucks — I feel like I could live there, very happily, for the rest of my life. It has everything: arts and culture, great restaurants, more museums than I can count, festivals galore and so much more.
Now that we’ve been to Ottawa with Duchess in the winter and summer months, I’m even more convinced of its awesomeness (with or without your pooch).
Ottawa pet-friendly hotel No. 1: The Westin Ottawa
We’ve stayed at Westin hotels many times, including Blue Mountain and Mont-Tremblant, but never Ottawa. This is the first time we’ve even been conscious of just how dog-friendly the chain is. The Westin Ottawa was also a really good test for Duchess’s housetraining, because we were up on the 20th floor; that meant, after holding it in all night, she had to wait for an elevator and then cross the road to reach a patch of grass. (Happy to report that she passed with flying colours!)
Here’s what you need to know about bringing your pooch to The Westin Ottawa:
- Dogs up to 80 pounds are welcome, but you do need to add them to your reservation ahead of time
- You’ll need to sign a waiver at check-in before your dog goes anywhere in the hotel
- Your room will be set up with a Heavenly Bed specifically for your dog, along with food and water bowls
- All animals must be on-leash and in their owners’ control while in the hotel’s public areas
- Pets are not allowed where food and beverages are being consumed throughout the hotel
- If you leave your room, your pet must be with you
- You will be charged a fee for any room damage
We really appreciated the Mirror Lake Inn’s rule that allowed dogs to stay in guest rooms alone, provided they’re crated. At The Westin Ottawa, we had to split up to eat breakfast in Daly’s Restaurant onsite since someone had to be with Duchess at all times.
Pet-friendliness aside, we absolutely loved The Westin Ottawa’s location, which put us within easy walking distance of the ByWard Market, Sparks Street, the Parliament buildings and so much more. I have to say, though, perhaps my favourite bit is that it’s connected to the Rideau Centre (fab shopping mall), which meant that even though it was snowy AF outside, we could put on our flip flops and saunter coat-free to the mall! My kids, however, would tell you that the pool was their favourite part of staying at The Westin Ottawa.
Ottawa pet-friendly hotel No. 2: The Fairmont Château Laurier
For our second dog-friendly trip to Ottawa, we wanted to get a balance of content so we planned it for July to take advantage of patio season. Despite visiting Ottawa for decades, I have always wanted to but never stayed at the Château Laurier. It was a thrill to finally be a guest at Ottawa’s most iconic — and most expensive — hotel. And it’s an Ottawa pet-friendly hotel, at that!
Don’t be surprised if hotel staff offer your dog some freshly baked treats while you’re there. Our experience at the Fairmont Tremblant is that this chain is extremely happy to have dogs onsite.
Here’s what you need to know about bringing your pooch to The Fairmont Château Laurier:
- The Château Laurier accepts dogs (and cats!) — a maximum of two per room
- There’s additional fee of C$50 per room (per stay, not per night), plus taxes — $5 from which is donated to a local animal-related charity
- The official word is that your pet can’t stay alone in your room, but when we spoke to the front desk they said it was fine as long as Duchess is quiet when we leave. Management has authority to remove noisy dogs from rooms if owners leave them unattended, so proceed with caution
- Pets must be leashed at all times and are not allowed in onsite restaurants or the lounge; we waited in the lobby for UBERpet a few times without issue
- Service dogs are always welcome and exempted from all restrictions
- Major’s Hill Park is essentially the hotel’s backyard and the perfect spot for that first-morning potty break
- The Château Laurier’s complete pet policy can be found here; the BringFido site mentions there’s a 25-lb. per pet weight limit at the hotel but I don’t see anything about that noted in the official policy
Things to do in Ottawa with dogs:
Did you know that Ottawa is ranked one of North America’s most dog-friendly cities? (Learn more in this article from Doggos.ca)
I’m so glad we had the opportunity to revisit this post after a recent summer visit to Ottawa, because there was so much more to see, do and enjoy with Duchess. Winter weather with a puppy that tires quickly is a tad limiting, but you can definitely cover a lot of ground. City exploration, though, is just so much more enjoyable with kids and dogs in warmer weather.
Here’s what we loved:
- In summer (and perhaps winter, too, for the hardcore dog owners), head to Bruce Pit dog park for some off-leash fun. It’s not enclosed so your dog will need good recall, and we did have one bad encounter with a German shepherd and her owner — who warned us her dog wasn’t friendly but quizzically had her off-leash; she made a dash for Duchess and I had to get between them to protect my dog. Not cool German shepherd lady owner — NOT COOL. Note that we did hear from several people that the tick situation here is bad, but if you can keep your dog out of the tall grass, and you have him or her on tick preventives, you should be fine
- In summer or winter, walk along the Rideau Canal — especially once it’s frozen and becomes a huge outdoor ice skating attraction! You can access the Canal simply by walking across the street from The Westin if you’re staying there, or heading down the outdoor stairwell at the Château Laurier, which sits alongside the locks
- In winter, visit the Rink of Dreams — set up in Marion Dewar Plaza, just outside Ottawa City Hall, this rink is lit beautifully at night and enjoys a long outdoor skating season (about mid-November to mid-March) thanks to a
refrigerated surface. During this time, it operates seven days a week and, aside from the LED lighting, it also features a heated change hut, picnic tables and benches. Best of all? It’s FREE if you bring your own skates! Skate rentals are available onsite if you don’t have your own. Obviously, your dog can’t go on the ice but if you’re taking your kids, you and your furry friend can watch together from the sidelines
- In summer, do a Haunted Walk! We’ve done these in Toronto and Kingston as well, and the Ottawa one is my personal favourite. Steeped in history and some of the spookiest, creepiest stories, the Haunted Walk is about 75 to 90 minutes long and requires good mobility. And you can bring your dog along! Just keep in mind it’s at night and dark, and be sure your dog is OK with a stop-and-go tour
- In summer or winter, wander around the Parliament Hill grounds — see the Centennial Flame that bursts out of a fountain (it never freezes!), marvel at the spectacular architecture and remind yourself that you’re in the nation’s capital by breathing it all in
- In summer or winter, explore Sparks Street — it’s pedestrian-only, making it an amazing space for dog-owners. While we were there in wintertime, Sparks Street was adorned with Christmas trees, lamppost garlands and a light court for its Winter Wander festival, but there are permanent art fixtures and installations there, too. In summer, it’s a great place to grab a coffee or a snack and sit down for some people-watching
- In summer, stroll through the ByWard Market — with its open-air stalls and myriad restaurants and a huge cafe, plus the cutest BeaverTails setup you ever did see, you can shop and eat away the day with your pup
- In summer, do a guided bike tour or rent bikes with Escape Bicycle Tours — just be sure to bring along your own doggy trailer (we have the Burley Tail Wagon), because your dog is not allowed to sit in the child bike trailers that Escape rents. I strongly recommend renting one of the eBikes if you’re the one with the pet trailer; it will make the various hills along your route much easier to manage!
- In summer, get your bearings and visit several of Ottawa’s most famous landmarks and attractions via the hop-on-hop-off double-decker bus (or the super-fun Amphibus Lady Dive Tour, which is on land and water). Dogs up to 40 lbs. are welcome to join you for either tour! Book through GrayLine or Lady Dive
- In summer or winter, check out Major’s Hill Park — it’s behind the Fairmont Château Laurier hotel and has a nice, loop-style path with beautiful views of Parliament, the Ottawa River and the National Gallery of Canada. And it’s the perfect place for a poop. (For your dog, not for you!)
Where to eat/drink in Ottawa during your road trip with dogs:
- If you find yourself on the outskirts of Ottawa or you’re looking for a place to eat on your way in or out of the city, there’s an AH-mazing restaurant in Manotick — the Black Dog Bistro — just 30 minutes from downtown Ottawa. There’s a covered patio with fans, so even in the searing heat or rain, you can still enjoy a meal with your dog beside you. We’d barely been sitting two minutes when a doggy water bowl appeared, filled to the brim; love that! Whatever you do, get the short rib (OMG)
- The Ottawa Bike Cafe is GOLD! Not only do they have a nice little patio on Sparks Street, but your dog is also allowed inside — where it’s air conditioned. So if it’s a hot day, take your pup and have an iced coffee inside while you ogle all of the cool retro bikes
- EVOO Greek Kitchen — in Ottawa’s Little Italy neighbourhood — has two small patio areas, both of which welcome dogs, but I’d hesitate to suggest eating here if your dog is on the larger side because there’s just not enough space. However, for small and medium dog owners, tuck in your napkin and get ready for some of the city’s best food. Hand on heart, the steak entree for two here was second only to Jacob’s Steakhouse in Toronto; it was that good. I have to be honest…I wasn’t expecting to be WOWed but every single thing we ordered was outstanding
- Say hello to something out of restaurant fairy tales at Tavern at the Gallery. It’s so, so gorgeous and offers both casual and traditional seating, so don’t feel like you have to go for a big ole meal. Located just behind the National Gallery, Tavern is breathtaking and such a hidden gem. It feels like something you’d find in or near Central Park in NYC and it’s got the most space by far of any restaurant patio we’ve ever visited, so your pooch can really set up camp. (Time your visit on a Thursday night and send the dog back to your hotel with someone so you can take advantage of free entry from 5-8 p.m. at the National Gallery)
- Looking for artisan cocktails in a historic building within easy walking distance of either Ottawa pet-friendly hotel featured here? Then look no further than Starling Restaurant & Bar in the ByWard Market. It has a dog-friendly patio smack in the middle of all the action and the drinks are *chef’s kiss*!
- Beyond the Pale Brewing Company — who were willing to bring out a picnic table had the weather decided to co-operate, and are super-duper dog-friendly when patio season is in full swing! The food at the Smoque House here was excellent; get the poutine, deep-fried Brussels sprouts, jerk chicken egg rolls (the best!) and pulled-pork mac n cheese. If you’re not eating onsite, grab some beer for a DIY flight at home or your hotel. I’m not even a beer drinker and thought the Pink Fuzz, a grapefruit wheat beer, was delicious. Big B tried a smorgasbord of beer and couldn’t even decide on a favourite
- The Ottawa Farmers’ Market — farmers from eastern Ontario and west Québec (within roughly 100 km) gather here each Sunday all year; from May through October, it’s an outdoor affair but between November and April, it’s housed in the Aberdeen Pavilion, a beautiful heritage building. Even when it’s held indoors, well-behaved pets on leashes are
allowed inside! We nabbed some serious goodies here, so come hungry! There’s also a small (and free) skating rink behind the Pavilion and a leash-free area for dogs, the Sylvia Holden Dog Park, about a four-minute walk away. Don’t leave the market area without grabbing a mocha from the Indigenous-owned Beandigen Café
- Altcetera Cafe — in Ottawa’s Alt Hotel, which is also dog-friendly, this is the one-and-only cafe I could find where Duchess was welcome to stay for a dine-in experience. It’s part of the Happy Goat Coffee Co. chain, which I wrote about in the Ottawa section of my weekend getaways in Ontario post (because it’s really, really good coffee), but don’t go thinking all of the other locations will let your pooch settle in while you enjoy your java onsite. That’s reserved for this location only, though the others will let you pop in with your pup for takeout
Have you already done Ottawa with dogs? No problem…perhaps it’s time to check out a Toronto pet-friendly hotel and list of things to do there!? Hop to it!
DISCLAIMER: Ottawa Tourism compensated me for this content, but we also explored on our own and paid for a number of experiences listed here. Destinations are not invited to review or approve anything in this series and all opinions and suggestions are my own.