A child’s liveable city

Archived content

This page has been archived and will not be updated. It can be used for reference purposes but it is possible some links no longer work.
Published on
December 13, 2023
Recreation and parks

Feature story

This feature story is part of the City of Ottawa Service Reviews: an initiative aimed at ensuring our services are meeting your needs. Visit ottawa.ca/YourIdeas today.

With inflation and the slowing economy, many families are dealing with a higher cost of living – including rent, mortgages, groceries and everyday necessities. As a result, more families are in need of support and more options for cost-conscious activities. Many free recreational activities for all ages are offered by the City throughout the year. For families in need, subsidies for registration fees are also available.

For a child in Ottawa, there are many ways to explore, learn and grow in an affordable manner. Click the links listed below to learn more about these services and how to access them.

Recreational programs and activities

: Image 1: A group of children wearing Canadian Tire hockey jerseys skate at the SENS Rink of Dreams at Heatherington Park. Image 2: A group of children sitting on a gymnasium floor as they participate in an activity with basketballs.

Through the City’s recreational programming and activities, children and youth learn new skills that will last a lifetime.

We recognize that some sports and activities can be more expensive than others. The City offers low cost and free access opportunities to children, as well as subsidies to those who qualify.

  • Play Free: Children, youth 17 years old and under and accompanying parents can drop into activities, like swimming and skating, at recreation facilities across the City for free. The free drop-in activities at each facility are different and vary throughout the year.
  • Try It: A fitness pass for individuals 13 years old or older, Try It provides three free visits to weight and cardio rooms, squash and racquetball courts and various fitness classes at participating facilities.
  • Youth weight and cardio: As part of a new partnership with Tony Graham Automotive Group, free weight and cardio summer memberships are offered to youth at select facilities.
  • I Love To: In partnership with Canadian Tire Jumpstart Charities, these programs organize dancing, swimming, skateboarding and other activities for over 3,500 children and youth in Ottawa.
  • Ottawa Hand in Hand: This program provides fee support for individuals and families with a low-income or a family member with a disability, among other eligibility requirements.
  • Payment plans: All families registering their children into summer camps, before and after school programs and yearly inclusive recreation programs have the option of spacing their registration fees out with a payment plan.

Inclusive recreation

Image 1: An individual with a disability seated in a beach-ready wheelchair being wheeled through the water by a support person. Image 2: Three individuals with a disability ride exercise bikes as they participate in an Inclusive Recreation fitness class.

People with disabilities and their support persons are welcome in all City of Ottawa recreation programs. The City’s Inclusive Recreation unit helps individuals with disabilities to take part in community recreation, whether it be through integration services or specialized programs.

  • Integration support: The City offers one-to-one shared care integration support to children with disabilities, helping them to successfully participate in their chosen summer and/or PA Day camps. An integration support worker will help to guide them through their days at camp, lending a hand or guidance as needed. In addition, Inclusive Mentors are available to provide peer support, training and resources to recreation programs to help with the integration of all children with exceptionalities.
  • Specialized programs: Children, youth and adults with developmental and/or cognitive disabilities can participate in inclusive social, therapeutic, fitness and art programs at various facilities across the city.

Recreational opportunities for all

Image 1: A child holding a tennis racket while participating in a summer camp. Image 2: A child skateboarding on a flat asphalt surface at a skateboard park.

There are also so many activities that are completely free for everyone!

The City manages more than 1,300 parks and outdoor spaces, including 2,000 play structures. Many parks and outdoor spaces are open to all residents, year-round, no matter the weather. While others, like splash pads and tennis courts, close during the cooler months. Many of these sites are close to multi-use pathways for walkers and cyclists, public transit or free parking.

This winter, adventure to the parks in your neighbourhood with:

  • Nature trails: Many conservation areas around Ottawa with hiking and snowshoeing trails are open year-round, giving you a chance to explore our local flora and fauna in every season.
  • Outdoor skating rinks: Ottawa has more than 250 outdoor skating rinks. Some outdoor rinks are refrigerated and are open later into the season.
  • Sledding hills: There are about 20 sledding hills in Ottawa. The hills that have been identified as sledding hills have special safety measures on them.

When the weather warms up again, the parks in your community have even more to offer! Some outdoor spaces have designated areas for picnics and barbeques, and some can be rented out for private or community events.

  • Beaches, outdoor pools, wading pools and splash pads: There’s always a spot to cool off at one of the City’s four public beaches, nine outdoor pools or dozens of splash pads and wading pools. Access to beaches, splash pads and some wading pools are free to use.
  • Outdoor basketball courts: With over 300 outdoor basketball courts in neighbourhoods throughout Ottawa, there’s a public court for everyone.
  • Skateboard and BMX parks: Practice your tricks at one of Ottawa’s 15 dedicated skateboard and BMX parks, featuring flat asphalt surfaces, concrete bowls and more components, like a large quarter-pipe and grind rails.
  • Tennis and pickleball courts: The City owns and operates over 500 tennis and pickleball courts across Ottawa, which can be rented but are otherwise available on a first-come, first served basis.

Your city, your ideas!

This is just a glimpse of our recreation services offered in hopes to make your lives better. Do you have ideas about how we can continue to make these and other services more effective and cost efficient? Visit engage.ottawa.ca to share your ideas.

For more information on City programs and services, visit ottawa.ca, call 3-1-1 (TTY: 613-580-2401) or 613-580-2400 to contact the City using Canada Video Relay Service. You can also connect with us through Facebook, X (formerly Twitter) and Instagram.

Fact sheet

If you’re looking for more recreational programs and activities for individuals of all ages, the City also offers:

  • City-wide sports: There are a variety of sports leagues and clubs in Ottawa, join an existing team or create one of your own!
  • Swimming: Swim City is the City’s swimming lesson program with classes and skills levels for all ages. Aquafit, Powerswim and lifeguard certification programs are also offered.
  • Older adult activities: From dance to fitness, the City offers many programs and activities customised for individuals over the age of 50.